Saturday, March 12, 2011

Death of a Salesman

Death of a Salesman is the story of Willy Loman a business man in New York City. Even though he is 63, Willy must work every day making little money to support his family. The story begins on a night when Willy returns to Brooklyn after a failed business trip to Boston. Willy now old has a hard time traveling far distances for his job and it is wearing on him. Willy who has worked at the company for almost his whole life hopes that his boss Howard will take pity on him and give him a job in New York. Willy’s sons Biff and Happy are home for a visit causing Willy much grief. Biff who Willy invested all his hope in has failed to live up to his father’s expectations. Throughout the story Willy relives the past through a series of day dreams or hallucinations; this is the first clue to readers get that Willy is not mentally stable. Willy cannot except the future and is stuck reliving memories of the past. Willy is never more than a meagerly successful salesman and this kills Willy. Willy’s dream is to become a rich and successful salesman and he has the same dreams for his sons. He and his sons are both unsuccessful so far but Willy believes he is always on the edge of a break through. Willy cannot understand how Biff became a failure after being a high school football star with potential. In his childhood Willy saw Bif as a sucess but now he was a lazy failure. Willy wanted Biff to become like his older brother Ben who Willy frequently day dreams about throughout the story. Ben became rich at a young age and became the envy of Willy. Biff and Willy constantly fight and Biff seems to care little for his father. After one of their fights Linda tells Happy and Biff that she is worried about their father. She says he now talk to himself a great deal and has attempted to commit suicide. The boys become worried and try to and a way to cheer up their father. One day Happy comes up with the idea that him and Biff go into work together in the sporting goods business. Happy tells Biff to ask his employer in high school Bill Oliver for a business loan. Willy seems excited by the idea and immediately begins giving Biff all the tips he can think of. Willy believe things are looking up and when he wakes up the next morning Linda tells him the boys want to take him out to dinner that night. Excited, Willy announces that he is going to ask Howard Wagner give him a New York job. Willy goes to work and asks Howard for the job but Howard declines. Even though he has worked there for almost his whole life and was good friend with Howard’s father, Howard declines and ends up firing Willy. Willy is crushed and doesn’t know what to do so he decides to visit his neighbors son Bernard who was about Biffs age and hung around with him as a child. Bernard is now the successful business man Willy wished Biff would become. He asks Bernard why Biff turn out to be such a failure. Bernard asks Willy what happened in Boston that made Biff decide not to go to summer school. The audience sees in one of Willy flashbacks when Biff caught Willy with a mistress in Boston. Before the incident Biff wanted to go to summer school and still play football in college but after he didn’t care about anything anymore. Biff finally realized the problems with his father’s ideals and didn’t want anything to do with them. In the back of his mind Willy fells responsible for ruining Biffs life and it haunts him daily. Willy leaves Bernard’s office and heads to the restaurant looking for a little good news. Happy and Biff arrive at the restaurant before their father and Biff tells Happy that Bill Oliver didn’t even remember him. Upset at his father’s unrelenting misconception that he, Biff, was a salesman for Oliver, Biff plans to relieve Willy of his illusions. Willy enters, and Biff tries gently, at first, to tell him what happened at Oliver’s office. Willy blurts out that he was fired. Stunned, Biff again tries to let Willy down easily. Happy cuts in with remarks suggesting Biffs’ success, and Willy eagerly awaits the good news. Biff gets mad when he tries to tell his father the truth but he won’t listen. Willy goes to the bathroom and Happy starts flirting with some girls and leaves with them. Biff gets mad and storms after them leaving Willy alone in the restaurant. When the boys arrive home later that night Linda is furious at them for leaving their father. She tells them to stay away from their father who seems to be going crazy. Biff and Willy have a touching conversation where Biff expresses his love for his father. After this Willy is filled again with hope for his son’s success. Willy decides to himself the only way he can help his son is to kill himself so his son will receive the insurance money. Willy then gets in his car and commits suicide. Barely anyone show up to Willy funeral leaving his family to greave over his unfortunate death. Biff says he feels sorry that his father had the wrong dreams and never knew himself.
1) Do you think it is does more harm then good to chase after dreams that you can never seem to achieve?
2) Do you think it dangerous to force your ideals on others, trying to shape them to become like you.

Friday, March 11, 2011


Moby-Dick, by Herman Melville, starts out on land with the narrator Ishmael. He decides to go whaling to get away from his depressing thoughts; he says the sea always helps him. At an inn, he is asked to share a room with Queequeg, a savage covered in tattoos. This makes him uneasy at first, but he soon finds that he is a good friend. Queequeg is a kind, generous man, even if he does have "savage" ways. They board the same whaling vessel, the Pequod. The captain of this ship is Ahab. Ahab, while doing his job, has another motive to go whaling. He hopes to catch the white whale; it had taken off his leg a while back, and he wanted revenge. For a long time no whales are spotted at all. On the first hunt Pip, a cabin boy, goes crazy after a harrowing experience. He becomes a prophetic, symbolic character. Soon, Queequeg falls ill and expects to do. He orders a coffin made for himself, but he makes an amazing recovery and the coffin is not needed. Ahab becomes crazy about finding the white whale and killing it. To him, it represents all evil in the universe that he must destroy. Even after being warned by other ship captains, he refuses to forget about his vengeance. When they encounter the whale, it ends in disaster. Ahab insists on pursuing the whale as it flees. This turns out to be a terrible mistake, and Ahab does not think clearly about what is best for all the crew members. He is described as a monomaniac throughout the novel. In the end, Ahab leaps out of the boat to attack the whale. He uses a special harpoon that was made to be cruelly painful for the whale, but it ends up being to no avail. Ahab gets caught and tangled in the ropes while on the whale's back. The white whale drowns the caught captain and destroys the ship. Ishmael ends up being the only survivor of the disastor; he uses the coffin as a lifeboat. This is an ironic ending; the thing that is meant for the dead becomes a tool for survival.
1. Ahab dies as a result of his battle/revenge against the whale. This symbolizes Melville's belief in man's insignificance in the unverse and that he will inevitably be defeated by it. Is man significant? Does one human's will mean anything?
2. At first glance, Queequeg seems like a foreboding man. He has dark skin and is covered in tattoos. During the time this novel was written, the Civil War was taking place; slavery was soon to be abolished. What is significant about Ishmael's respect for Queequeg?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner

As I Lay Dying is a novel about the Bundren family traveling through Mississippi to fulfill their mother and wife’s last request. The novel is set up as The Poisionwood Bible was, each character telling their side of the story. As I Lay Dying begins with the Bundren family preparing for Addie’s death. When Mrs. Bundren says her last request is to be buried across the Mississippi country side in Jefferson, the family accepts her request. As they travel across towns, each family member shares their part of the story, how they feel about their mother’s death, and the difficulties they are going through. As the journey continues, more tension grows between family members. Darl, one of the sons, constantly talks about his “obsession” with his brother Jewel and how Jewel was the favorite child. Also, the only alive female speaker in the book Dewey Dell, the daughter is pregnant and wants an abortion. The father Anse has problems with his family and the fact that Addie had an affair, and although Addie is dead she too has several chapter were she is talking about her life before when things were good. Once the family reaches Jefferson, they bury Addie. Once Addie’s last request was accomplished the story ends with Mr. Bundren, Anse, approaching the children with shocking news of their new mother. He states, “Meet Mrs. Bundren.”

  1. Mr. Bundren never forgot about the affair Addie had, and Dewey Dell was the only female chacter in the story who refused to do chores. Do you think Mr. Bundren got a new wife for revenge on Addie for having an affair, or do you believe that Mr. Bundren thought the family needed a mother to take care of the children and housework?
  2. If someone that hurt you in your life had a dying request would you fulfill it even though you never forgave them? Why or why not?

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens

A Tale of Two Cities takes place in London and Paris and takes place before and after the French Revolution. The first book takes place in 1775. Jarvis Lorry, an employee of Tellson's Bank, is travelling from England to France to bring Dr. Alexandre Manette to London. He meets 17 year old Lucie Manette and reveals to her that her father, Dr. Manette, is not dead, as she had been told; instead, he was a prisoner in the Bastille for 18 years. They travel to meet him where Monsieur Defarge, who was once his servant, is taking care of him. At first he does not recognize his daughter, but then realizes it is her. Five years later they are both witnessed to a trial accusing Charles Darnay for being a spy. He was acquitted when a witness said he would be able to recognize Darnay anywhere cannot tell him apart from a person present in court, Sydney Carton, who looks almost identical to him. In Paris, Marquis St. Evemionde, Darnay's Uncle, runs over and kills a little boy, and throws a coin to the father to compensate for his loss. Darnay meets with his uncle and is disgusted with the family name tells him he is keeeeping the name Darnay to not be associated with them. Darnay gets Dr. Manette's persmission to marry Lucie, but Cartson confesses his love to Lucie as well. Darnay is imprisoned for emigrating and is tried a year and three months later. Madame Defarge has charges against him and reveals who he truely is. She reveals that Darnay's father and uncle imprisoned Dr. Manette because he was going to reaveal their secret. Darnay's Uncle had become infatuated with a girl, whom he kidnapped and raped, then killed her husband. Before he dies, the brother of the raped peasant had hidden the last member of the family, his younger sister. Darnay is sentenced to death. Carton wanders into the Defarge's wine shop, where he overhears Madame Defarge talking about her plans to have the rest of the Darnay family condemned; Lucie and her daughter. He discovers that Madame Defarge is the surviving sister of the peasant family. Cartson visits Darnay in prison the next day and drugs him. He stitches clothes with Darnay and has decided to be executed in his place. Darnay's family and Lorry flee to Paris and France. The novel concludes with the guillotining of Sydney Carton.

1. Would you rather grow up thinking that your father is dead or know that he is in prison and you will probably never get a chance to see him?

2. Carton dies in place of Darnay because of his love for Lucie, if you had the chance would die in place of someone to help the one you love or die in place of the one you love?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

A Clockwork Orange

A Clockwork Orange, written by Anthony Burgess, takes place in a futuristic city governed by a repressive, totalitarian super-State. In this society, ordinary citizens have fallen into a stupor of compliance, blind to the angsty youth they are creating. The protagonist of the story is Alex, a fifteen-year-old boy who narrates in a teenage slang called nadsat. Alex leads a small gang of teenage criminals, Dim, Pete, and Georgie, through the streets, robbing, beating men, and raping women.

Alex begins his narrative from the Korova, a local bar that laces milk with drugs, where the boys sit around drinking. When Alex and his gang leave the bar, they go on a crime spree that involves mugging, robbery, a gang fight, auto theft, breaking and entering, and rape. The boys travel to the countryside with their stolen car, break into a cottage and beat up the man inside before raping his wife while making him watch. They then head back to the Korova, there, the team gets into quite a row and Alex is chained there and left for the police.

Alex is sentenced to fourteen years in prison. At first, prison is difficult for him. The guards are merciless and oppressive, and several of the other prisoners want to rape him. After a few years, though, prison life becomes easier. He befriends the prison chaplain, who notices Alex’s interest in the Bible. The chaplain lets Alex read in the chapel while listening to classical music, and Alex pores over the Old Testament, delighting in the sex, drinking, and fighting he finds in its pages.

One day, after fighting with and killing a cellmate, Alex is selected as the first candidate for an experimental treatment called Ludovico’s Technique, a form of brainwashing that incorporates associative learning. After being injected with a substance that makes him dreadfully sick, the doctors force Alex to watch exceedingly violent movies. In this way, Alex comes to associate violence with the nausea and headaches he experiences from the shot. The process takes two weeks to complete, after which the mere thought of violence has the power to make Alex ill. As an unintended consequence of the treatment, Alex can no longer enjoy classical music, which he has always associated with violence. This side effect doesn’t bother the State, which considers Alex’s successful treatment a victory for law and order and plans to implement it on a large scale.

After two years in prison, Alex is released, a harmless human being incapable of vicious acts. Soon, however, Alex finds he’s not only harmless but also defenseless, as his earlier victims begin to take revenge on him. His old friend Dim and an old enemy named Billyboy are both police officers now, and they take the opportunity to settle old scores. They drive him to a field in the country, beat him, and leave him in the rain. Looking for charity, Alex wanders to a nearby cottage and knocks on the door, begging for help. The man living there lets him in and gives him food and a room for the night. Alex recognizes him from two years ago as the man whose wife he raped, but the man does not recognize Alex, who wore a mask that night. Alex learns later in the night that the man’s wife died of shock shortly after being raped.

This man, F. Alexander, is a political dissident. When he hears Alex’s story, he thinks he can use Alex to incite public outrage against the State. He and three of his colleagues develop a plan for Alex to make several public appearances. Alex, however, is tired of being exploited for other people’s schemes. He berates the men in nadsat, which arouses the suspicion of F. Alexander, who still remembers the strange language spoken by the teenagers who raped his wife. Based on F. Alexander’s suspicion, the men change their plans. They lock Alex in an apartment and blast classical music through the wall, hoping to drive Alex to suicide so they can blame the government.
Alex does, in fact, hurl himself out of an attic window, but the fall doesn’t kill him. While he lies in the hospital, unconscious, a political struggle ensues, but the current administration survives. State doctors undo Ludovico’s Technique and restore Alex’s old vicious self in exchange for Alex’s endorsement. Back to normal, Alex assembles a new gang and engages in the same behavior as he did before prison, but he soon begins to tire of a life of violence. After running into his old friend Pete, who is now married and living a normal life, Alex decides that such a life is what he wants for himself. His final thoughts are of his future son.

What theme or themes do you believe Burgess was trying to convey?

Do you think the doctors "fixing" Alex was morally right, even if he no longer was violent?

The Handmaid's Tale

The Handmaid’s Tale takes place in the theocratic-totalitarian state that used to be the United States. Handmaids are women that are assigned to live with a commander and his wife. The Handmaids are forced to carry out two jobs: shopping and having meaningless sex with the commanders. After all of the chemical spills in the United States, fertility rates decreased, so handmaids are only used for having children. If they do not have children, then they are sent away to either clean up the chemical spills or be killed. Handmaid’s names consist of the word “of” followed by the commander’s name to show who each handmaid belongs to. The main character’s name is Offred- Of Fred.

Before the theocratic-militaristic group took over the United States, Offred lived a normal life. She had a relationship with a previously married man named Luke, and together they had a kid. Offred often remembers her mom and best friend, Moira, as being strong and independent women. Her mom was a single mom and feminist activist, while Moira was an independent lesbian woman. About four years after Luke and Offred's marriage, pollution and chemical spills start to lower fertility rates. Around this time, the military group assassinated the President and all of congress, and declared that the constitution would be suspended temporarily while they tried to reorganize and “fix” the government. This new government slowly started to take more and more rights away from women, like not allowing women to have access to their own money or hold jobs. Offred and Luke decide to quietly run away to Canada with their daughter, but right before the border, they are caught and separated. Offred has not seen Luke or her child since then but often thinks about them in her new life.

After Offred was captured, she was sent to the Red-Center to be taught all of Gilead’s views on how women should live their lives and how they should interact with men. Shortly after she is taken to the Red-Center, her friend Moira is brought in. Moira can’t stand being confined and told what to do so she escapes by attacking one of the women in charge (one of the Aunts), and taking her clothes so no one will recognize her as she walked out the front door. After her time at the Red-Center, Offred is sent to live with the commander and his wife Serena Joy. Serena doesn’t like Offred because she knows she will have to have sex with her husband. Although Offred is uncomfortable in her new life, she knows she must adapt to survive. She is allowed out of the house once a week to go on short shopping trips with her shopping partner Ofglen, and no matter what the weather is like, the handmaids must wear long red dresses that covers the entire body and a white hat that covers the face. Offred and Ofglen are not allowed to talk to each other on their trips except for using the “proper” pre-approved greetings. One day, Offred gets a mysterious message from the commander’s chauffeur Nick. Nick tells her that the commander wants to have a secret meeting with Offred. Offred knows how dangerous this is, because if she gets caught, she could be sent away to the colonies and work as an “Unwoman” and clean up the chemical spills. Despite this possibility, Offred goes to meet with the commander, and when she gets to his office, he asks her to play Scrabble with him. Even playing Scrabble is against the law because women are not even allowed to read. After she leaves, he asks her to kiss him and she does. Once every week, Offred goes to the commander’s office to play Scrabble with him and then gives him a kiss at the end of each night.

One day, Serena Joy asks Offred to have sex with Nick because she thinks the commander is infertile. She tells Offred to pretend that the baby is the commander’s child. Offred agrees to have sex with Nick later that night. That night, Offred is summoned to the commander’s office, where he asks Offred to go to an underground strip club with him. When the two get to the club, Offred sees Moira working there. Moira tells her that the club is where the commanders go after work to have sex with the women working there. Offred ends up going into a room with the commander at the club and having sex with him. When Offred gets home she meets with Nick and they also have sex. Nick and Offred agree to meet whenever they can to have sex, but Serena catches the two together and I won't reveal the end of the story so anyone who wants to read the book can. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes suspense stories because little bits of the story are given at a time so you have to piece it together yourself.

1. Why do you think the author chose to make Gilead in the future, and do you think it's possible that Gilead could ever really happen in the United States?

2. How would you feel if you were forced to live this kind of life (being forced to have sex with men you didn't know and having no real freedoms)?

3. Do you think it's possible to make a "perfect society"?

Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens

In Charles Dickens Oliver Twist, Oliver is a boy raised in an orphanage in the Victorian age with no known background at all. As he grows up he is soon taken to a work factory but is soon tried to be sold into another profession after a outrage at a factory during a meal when he says, " Please sir, I want some more" (Dickens 12). Some of the people that show up to take him off his hands is a chimney sweeper but knowing of how chimney sweepers were back then, Oliver is scared to death and pleads to stay. However he is soon taken by a coffin maker in which he founds out his new family resents and hates him. He runs away eventually traveling towards London where he meets The Artful Dodger (aka Jack Dawkins). Artful introduces Oliver to Fagin's also called The Jew who turns young parent less children into thieves and robbers for his own personal greed. Outraged by the moral standards of Fagin's and the actions of the children during a day when Jack robs a man, Oliver is soon wrongfully accused as the theif. As his dilemma continues Mr. Brownlow who accused him takes him in due to a fever and Oliver has never known such kindness to him before seeing as everyone treats him like dirt due to him being an orphan. One day Oliver is asked to take books back to the store and is trusted with this task even though Mr. Brownlow's friend warns him he wont come back. Oliver on his way is soon captured by Fagin's and Sikes leaving Mr. Brownlow who took him in betrayed thinking Oliver left him. As Oliver is Captured he wonders if he will ever see Mr. Brownlow again.

1.If you did not know your own background would you try to find out what it was or would you leave it be.

2. Based on Society back then how were children treated back then and how is it different to how society treats them today.