Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Things They Carried

The Things They Carried, by Tim O’Brien, is a novel centered around a group of American soldiers fighting in Vietnam. The protagonist of the story, Tim O’Brien, tells the story of the things that he remembers from the war through a series of vignettes. The book is extremely poignant, as one of the first things to occur is the death of one of his squadmates, and the effect that the death has on the whole dynamic of the squad. The author O’Brien concentrates more on the soldiers and less on the political or moral aspects of Vietnam, and throughout the novel he uses everyday objects and actions to help humanize the characters that he has created for this story. One of the most important recurring themes in the story deals with the emotions of the soldier, and it is evident how Vietnam has had a profound effect on the protagonist O’Brien as he is haunted by the ghosts of his former brothers in arms whilst he tries to rationalize the war to himself. Eventually, he is forced to return to Vietnam to face his demons and finally become at peace with himself, although it is ambiguous whether he shall succeed or be forever tormented by grief.

1. If you went to war and you saw your friends die as O'Brien did, do you think you would ever be able to recover?

2. Do you think it's important for novels like The Things They Carried to be written to help better understand war, or is it a waste because it is fiction?

Angels and Demons
By Dan Brown

In Dan Brown's novel Angels and Demons, the prequel to The DaVinci Code, Robert Langdon is a Harvard symbologist who is called to the scene of a violent murder. The Man who was murdered, a physicist at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), was branded with the symbol of an ancient organization called the illuminati. The murderer also took a canister of antimatter from the lab. This canister, basically a time bomb, has a 24 hour battery life which, when over, will create an explosion comparable to that of a small nuclear bomb. This bomb has been placed somewhere inside the Vatican and Robert is sent to find it. this bomb, however, has been planted at the worst possible time: conclave. The former pope has recently died and new one is being picked from cardinals around the world. To make matters worse the four preferiti, or those who are most likely to become pope, have been kidnapped and threatened to be killed once an hour until the bomb goes off. Langdon must follow the path of the kidnapper in hopes of finding the bomb.

1. This novel like many of Dan Brown's other novels deals with the idea of forbidden knowledge and knowledge used for the wrong purpose. Do you believe there are some things man should not know?

2. What are some examples of knowledge or technology once thought to be great being used for the wrong purpose?