Thursday, February 17, 2011

This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald

This Side of Paradise was the first of many novels written by F. Scott Fitzgerald, who today is best known for his later novel, The Great Gatsby. Amory Blaine, the main character in Fitzgerald's This Side of Paradise, starts out as a privileged young boy, born to a prestigious and wealthy family with a bright future ahead of him. He spends his childhood traveling the world with his mother, and eventually ends up at Princeton University after nonchalantly coasting his way through prep school. However, things begin to turn around for Blaine when he reaches campus. When he fails one of his courses, he finds that he is no longer able to get away with doing the bare minimum. From that point on, he turns himself over to idleness.
As the end of his time at Princeton approaches, America enters World War Two, and Blaine enlists to fight. Things again seem to take a turn for the worst for Amory; while he is away, his mother dies. He returns soon after and falls madly in love with Rosalind Connage, the sister of an old college friend. However, this time period was very much so based on social standing in the community, and poor investments had left Amory broke. To add insult to injury, it was for this reason that Rosalind broke off their engagement - how could she ever marry a poor man?
After the engagement is broken off, Armory realizes that he needs to find out who he is. As a child he was defined by the wealth and social standing of his mother. As a young adult, he was defined as a student, a war hero, and a lover. But now as he comes of age and see the difficulties that life presents, he finds that self discovery is necessary for survival and success.

Discussion Questions:
1. This book takes place in the 20's, a time period where status was everything. It determined the clothes you wore, the people you associated yourself with, the restaurants you ate at, etc. How is the idea of social standings is different today than it was back then?

2. If you were alive in this time period and were in the shoes if Rosalind, would you choose love or money? Explain why.

3. By the end of the novel, Amory discovers that knowing who you are is the most important key to being successful. Do you agree? Why or why not?

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Pride and Prejudice, written by the very talented Jane Austen, tells the story of the many conflicts involved with finding love. The story begins with Mr. and Mrs. Bennet, the parents of five young women, discussing that a young man named Mr. Bingley has just purchased Netherfield, a home not far from theirs. Mrs. Bennet is overjoyed to hear such great news. She instantly imagines that this rich man is bound to marry one of her daughters. As the story progresses, Mrs. Bennet becomes increasingly assertive in her quest to have all of her children married off. Her daughters attend many balls and meet many men throughout the story’s plot, some of which include Mr. Bingley, Darcy, Mr. Collins and Mr. Wickham. Jane, the oldest daughter likes Mr. Bingley and he seems to really like her too. On the other hand, Elizabeth (the second oldest) meets Darcy and instantly finds him unbearable and arrogant, when he refuses to dance with her at a ball. Things start to change though as the story progresses and Darcy proposes to Elizabeth, only for her to reject him. This incident makes Mrs. Bennet furious because one of her daughters had the chance to get married, but instead turned him down. While Elizabeth is out of town visiting Darcy, she receives a letter stating that her youngest sister, Lydia, has eloped with Mr. Wickham. This news shocks everyone so Elizabeth apologizes to Darcy for leaving so quickly and then returns home. No one can find Lydia which causes the whole family anxiety because they know that if the two don’t have an official wedding the entire family’s reputation could be ruined. Luckily they are able to find Lydia and Wickham, but Wickham agrees to the marriage only if the Bennets will provide him with a small income in return. They quickly agree and Lydia marries Mr. Wickham soon afterward. Next, Mr. Bingley finally asks Jane to marry him and they soon marry, which pleases the whole family. Darcy comes to visit often, and Elizabeth finds out that Darcy is the one who found her sister and paid Wickham. This news, coupled with Elizabeth’s gradual change in feelings toward Darcy, leads Darcy to ask for Elizabeth’s hand in marriage and this time, she accepts it. Love conquered Darcy’s pride in social status, while love also proves more important than Elizabeth’s prejudice.
1. In the novel, marriage was extremely important because women were looked down upon after a certain age if they were unable to find a gentleman to marry. Women were couldn't inherit anything, therefore; women were completely dependent on men. Do you think that this way of living is more difficult than what women face today?
2. Mrs. Bennet is very critical of her daughter's choices of whom they should marry, to the point where they were practically forcing Jane to marry Mr. Bingley. Do you think that parents should have that much control over their child's life?

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Inherit the Wind by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee

Hillsboro is usually a small, quiet, Southern town, but not anymore. People from all over are flocking to see the trial of Bertram Cates. Cates is a school teacher who is being prosecuted for teaching Darwin's Theory of Evolution to his students because, despite scientific proof, it is against the law. For the prosecution, the town brings in none other than the former presidential candidate, Matthew Brady. The town is filled with excitement as it prepares for Brady's arrival, and they hold a celebration when he arrives. Brady is ready to speak out for the community and defend the Bible. In his first speech to the town, he says, “My friends of Hillsboro, you know why I have come here. Not merely to prosecute a lawbreaker, an arrogant youth who has spoken out against the Revealed Word, but to defend that which is most precious in the hearts of all of us: the Living Truth of the Scriptures!” (19). It is clear what Brady stands for, but he is not the only one ready to stir up the town. Cates writes to the Baltimore Herald for some help, and the infamous Henry Drummond is sent to be his attorney. The newspaper also sends the outspoken reporter E.K. Hornbeck, whose cynical view creates even more chaos in the town.
After everyone arrives and the jury is selected, the trial begins. Everything is against Cates' favor, but Drummond is determined to prove that he did nothing wrong. Ironically enough, Cates and the Reverend's daughter, Rachel, are school teachers together and have been involved with each other for quite some time. She begs Cates to say that he was wrong so that this can all be over, but he refuses and along with Drummond, stands up for what he believes in.
The trial continues, and there are many witnesses including one of Cates' students that says Betram told them that men descended from monkeys and mentioned nothing about the Bible or God creating the Earth and its organisms. Brady also calls Rachel to the stand, and she explains why Cates stopped going to church. Further trying to prove evolution wrong, Brady brings in scientists to share their ideas. But the turning point of the trial is when Drummond calls Brady to the stand because he is an “expert” on the Bible. Drummond weaves his way into the mind of Brady. Brady contradicts himself, while proving that everyone should be free to think what they want. The Bible is not the law of the land and should not be the basis for education in the U.S. Whether or not Cates is found guilty or not, there is a lesson to be learned by everyone in the town from this trial. Since everyone in Hillsboro believes in following the Bible, maybe they should reread the section that gave this play its name. “He that troubleth his own house/ Shall inherit the wind” (Proverbs 11:29)
1) The characters in the book overlook scientific research that has been proven and blindly follow the Bible without thinking at all for themselves. Are there any other issues, besides evolution, that people over look due to religious beliefs even though there are facts that they are real?
2) This book is set in the 1920's, but was published in the 1950's during the time of the Red Scare and McCarthyism. Why do you think the authors felt this was a good time to publish this work? Are the ideas and lessons in the play still relevant to society today?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte starts off with Mr. Lockwood, a wealthy Southerner, renting an estate called Thrushcross Grange in England. Here Mr. Lockwood meets Heathcliff, the wealthy owner of Thrushcross Grange and Wuthering Heights. Heathcliff and his family seem strange to Mr. Lockwood, so he asks his housekeeper, Nelly Dean, to tell the story of Heathcliff and the other inhabitants of the estate.
Nelly Dean was a servant years ago when Heathcliff was only a boy. Heathcliff was adopted by the wealthy Mr. Earnshaw and brought back to Wuthering Heights to live. Despite Mr. Earnshaw's hospitality, Heathcliff was rejected by Mr. Earnshaw's son Hindley. Along with Hindley was Catherine, who also hated Heathcliff but soon began to passionately love him. Heathcliff and Catherine grew very passionate about each other and could not be separated. Hindley hated this and was sent off to college for three years by Mr. Earnshaw.
When Mr. Earnshaw dies, Hindley comes back with his newly wedded wife, Frances. Hindley immediately seeks revenge on Heathcliff by treating him like a servant instead of a family member. Even though Heathcliff and Hindley have a terrible relationship, Catherine remains close to Heathcliff until she meets Edgar, a wealthy and spoiled man. When Catherine becomes engaged to Edgar, Heathcliff runs away and finally comes back three years later shortly after Catherine and Edgar get married. Heathcliff has become wealthy and Frances has died giving birth. When Hindley dies, Heathcliff inherits the Wuthering Heights and treats Hindley's son like a slave, just as Hindley has done to him in the past. Then, Heathcliff places himself in line to inherit Thrushcross Grange by marrying Isabella Linton, Edgar's sister. In the mean time, Catherine has a baby girl, which they also name Catherine, and then shortly dies. Even though Heathcliff treats Isabella very poorly, the two have a child, which they name Linton. Heathcliff gains control of the two estates and treats the children of those who have wronged him like servants in order to get revenge.
After many years pass, Linton and the young Cathering meet. They play in secret and eventually develop a romance. However, Linton is forced to be involved with Catherine by Heathcliff just so he can inherit Thrushcross Grange and get revenge on Edgar Linton, the man who took his beloved Catherine away from him. Heathcliff holds Catherine and Nelly hostage until Catherine agrees to marry Linton. Soon after, Linton dies and Catherine becomes the servant of Wuthering Heights.
1. Hindley seeks revenge on Heathcliff because his father, Mr. Earnshaw, liked Heathcliff better. Later in the novel, Heathcliff seeks revenge on Hindley and Edgar. Does the cycle of revenge ever end? If your family treated you as a servant, would you be able to forgive them or would you seek revenge?
2. Even though Catherine is deeply in love with Heathcliff, she marries Edgar because of his social status. Would you ever choose social status and wealth over love? Why or why not?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

This Side Of Paradise

THIS SIDE OF PARADISE, a novel by F. Scott Fitzgerald, is a story about Amory Blaine. Amory was born into wealth and spent his early childhood years traveling with his mother until he is sent to live in Minneapolis with his aunt and uncle. Amory slacks his way through at his new school, being far more educated than his peers, and decided to instead attend a prep school in New England. He gains admission into Princeton University. He concentrates mostly on trying to regain the hero status that he once held at the prep school, St. Regis. He makes new friends and becomes involved in a number of clubs. World War I begins in Europe at this time, but Amory pays little attention to it, being preoccupied by the many clubs and activities that he is involved in and a girl named Isabelle who he believes may be his first love. After a break up and a failed course that exempts Amory from keeping his post in the newspaper club, which his social success hinders on, he loses his motivation as a student. Shortly after, Amory's father dies. Amory is not concerned with the loss, but concentrates more on what will happen to his family financially. He continues on with his education, and soon leaves Princeton to go to war. While there, his mother passes away, leaving half of her money to the church. Upon returning, Amory falls in love with a wealthy, self-involved girl named Rosalind. He acquires a job at an advertising agency to try to earn enough money to please her. Rosalind's mother, however, talks her out of her engagement with Amory. She tells him that she would not be the same woman that he fell in love with if they were to marry without money. This leads Amory into a drunken disposition, in which he quits his job and is therefore unable to pay his rent. When the prohibition is passed, Amory relies instead on reading to numb the loss of Rosalind, who after a time, he discovers, will be married to a wealthier man. On top of this news, Amory also recieves the news of the death of his father figure, Monsignor Darcy. Being broke, Amory decides to walk back to Princeton. On the way, he is picked up by a wealthy man named Mr. Ferrenby, who is the father of a friend Amory lost during the war. They have a long discussion on politics and wealth, and Amory starts walking again towards Princeton. He passes a Civil War graveyard on the way, and reflects on the loves he has lost. The novel ends when Amory arrives at the University, pitying the students there who are still striving to fit the mold of the students before them.

1) Rosalind chooses a wealthier man over Amory because she feels that she will not be satisfied without money. Do you think that money often plays a larger part in marriage than love?

2) In the novel, Amory concentrates immensely on his social status at Princeton rather than his success as a student. In what ways do students today enforce the same concept of choosing their social life over their education?