Saturday, March 26, 2011

For Whom the Bell Tolls By Earnest Hemmingway

Robert Jordan is an american professor who enlists in the spanish republican army during the spanish civil war. He is sent by General Golz to meet with a group of guerrilla fighters in the mountains. His task is to wait until the general's attack starts and then blow up a fascist controlled bridge. Jordan meets with the guerrillas and finds that many have become lazy and no longer wish to fight. Many are completely opposed to blowing the bridge because it means that they will be discovered and would force them to move from their hideout. A schism forms within the group with The band's leader, Pablo on one side and Jordan and Pablo's wife on the other. An argument occurs in which Jordan almost shoots Pablo but eventually things get calm and the group goes to bed. The next day, Jordan and Pablo's wife Pilar go to speak to a neighboring group of guerrillas led by a man named El Sordo. They agree to help blow the bridge and suggest that they can get some horses for the attack. As they return to camp, it begins snowing. They return to find Pablo drunk. He begins provoking Jordan and arguing about the bridge. Again Robert is prepared to kill Pablo, this time, however, he learns that he has the entire band on his side and that no one believes Pablo is still a good leader. Pablo leaves before Robert gets the nerve to kill him. Several minutes later he returns saying that he no longer wants to lead and that his wife, Pilar should. The group then turns in for the night again. The next morning Jordan wakes up to a Fascist patrol walking through the camp. He kills the man and realizes that El Sordo had tried to steal horses from the Fascist camp and were followed into the mountain by their tracks in the snow. The group gets ready for a large scale battle but the patrols pass by and attack El Sordo. Jordan realizes that neither group stands a chance so they must hide and watch as all of Sordo's men are killed. When the battle is over Jordan attempts to prepare for the next days battle with even less men than he thought. And to make matters worse, Pablo has left with the dynamite needed to blow the bridge. That night, however, Pablo returns with another neighboring band of guerrillas. The battle begins early in the morning, and Jordan has no problem blowing the bridge. Though he does lose a few men. During their retreat Jordan is on a horse. A bullet hits the ground near him and his horse falls on and breaks his leg. He tells the group to leave him. He sits alone contemplating suicide and waiting for the Fascists to find him. Several feet away he sees a Fascist officer. He takes aim, and the novel ends.

1. Robert Jordan is an american who has never lived in Spain. Would you ever fight for a country other that your own just because you believed in the principles of that country?

2. Robert is told by the general that he is essentially on a suicide mission. Would you ever go on a mission like his knowing that you were most likely going to fail and possibly be killed?

Friday, March 25, 2011

Ajax by Sophocles

Ajax is one of the earlier plays by Sophocles and displays the meaning of Greek tragedy. This piece recycles the characters from Homer’s Iliad and the Odyssey but Sophocles finds a way to twist the characters to suit his needs while not straying too far from Homer’s original creation. Characters that reappear are Ajax, Menelaus, Agamemnon and Odysseus, to name a few. The action takes place after the death of Achilles during the Trojan War staying true to Homer’s series of events from the Iliad.

The opening of the play begins by stating that the armor of Achilles will go to one of the men in the army. Both Odysseus and Ajax are men that have proved themselves throughout the war as being strong and courageous. It is left to Agamemnon and Menelaus, the leaders of the army, to choose who would receive the armor. When Odysseus is picked to have the honor of having Achilles’s armor, Ajax goes into a jealous rage. He believes he was the better of the two and that one that should be picked.

As Ajax’s anger builds, his mind starts to darken. He thinks about killing the men in the army with Menelaus, Agamemnon and Odysseus at the top of his list. As Ajax is contemplating these thoughts, Athena the god of wisdom begins to play with his mind. To save the army and protect her champion Odysseus, Athena causes Ajax to see the cattle and herds as men. Through the night he starts slaying and capturing animals believing that they were actually people. Ajax keeps a few animals tied up with the intention of torturing them before he murders them. These animals that he keeps are ones he believes to be the three he most hates.

As morning breaks news gets out as to what Ajax had done. The spell cast onto him by Athena lifts and Ajax is upset by what he has done. He speaks about how going after weak animals means nothing and gives foreshadowing as to his future actions. While this goes on the chorus and his wife Tecmessa beg him to live and do what is right.

1. Do you believe it is wrong for the Greek gods to interfere? Why or why not?

2. What do you think brought on Ajax's anger? Pride, jealousy, both, or something else?

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe

The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe is a collection put together by the company Barnes & Noble Inc. It contains every single piece of literary work that Poe had ever written. Including his only novel, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, which sadly ended up being one of the worst novels ever published. However, I decided to read several of his poems, all having a related theme: The death of a beautiful girl. I chose the following poems: "The Raven," "Eldorado," "To Helen," "Deep in Earth," "A Valentine," "Annabel Lee," and several other poems. They all hold the central plot of either a beautiful girl dying or the lost of a love one. Sub plots include simple reflection on Romance and the feeling of loneliness. Poe has commonly been looked at as been a Dark Romantic, which is a somewhat accurate description of his writings and beliefs. However, when you deeper into his work, the reader begins to feel sympathy for this man and begins to understand why so much of his work is seen as almost depressing in some cases. The poem "Annabel Lee" is usually connected to the death of his beloved wife, Virginia Clemm, who died while they were young. And "The Raven" talks of a man who has lost the love of his life and feels no need to live a happy life anymore. "A Valentine" is one of his only poems that contains no signs of depression or darkness. It's a simple, yet elegant love poem; possibly for Virginia. It should also be noted that Poe's idle, a mother of a friend, died when he was still in his younger years. This definitely contributed some grief to the hopeless romantic. Overall, his love was anything but amazing. However, the reader must keep in mind that not all great writers come from a great past. If that was the case, there would be nowhere as much amazing literary work than there is today.

1. If the love of your life died, would you be able to accept his/her death? Or would a piece of you feel broken for the rest of your life? Would you be able to fall in love again?

2. What are your views on Poe? Do you like his work? Why do you think his only novel flopped?

3. Would you consider Poe to be an 'old school emo?'

A Clockwork Orange

Anthony Burgess' A Clockwork Orange is a story about a hypothetical future, the likes of which mankind should never hope to see. The book starts off in England, in a little bar in a small city. Here we meet Alex, the protagonist of the story, and his "droogies", or friends as they say in NADSAT, the hip, Slavic rooted lingo of the teens. Alex is the boss of his three friends, a criminal boss, and they are all about to go out on a night of pillaging and ransacking. Throughout the night they commit heinous acts of violence, stealing, and Alex ends up raping a poor woman by the end of the night. After all is said and done there is a small quarrel within the group of "friends" and they decide to call it a night and continue with the shenanigans the next day. The next day, Alex is betrayed by his friends and caught by the police. In jail, the government, in their desperate attempt to quell the unstoppable crime rampant throughout the country, use a corrective behavior technique calle Ludovico's Technique. The technique strips away the ability to choose one's actions freely, instead replacing the violent action with one of benevolence. While in this helpless state, Alex is kidnapped by two police officers, one of which was his old gang rival, and one who was his own friend who betrayed him. They leave him in the country side to fend for himself. Luckily for Alex, there is a small village nearby where he finds a place the stay. This man, F. Alexander, we learn is the husband of the lady Alex rapes at the beginning of the story, we find out that this lady died from the trauma. F. Alexander soon learns of Alex's true identity and decides to use Alex to overthrow the government, driving Alex to kill himself and blame Ludovisco's Technique on his death. His suicide attempt fails, but still raises an uproar throughout society. With this uproar, the government, in an attempt to stay in power, fixes Alex. Alex then goes back to a life of crime, but soon tires from it and realizes that violence is not all there is to life. the book ends with Alex day dreaming about raising a son, the right way.

In the story, Alex is not given the right to choose between right or wrong. Is forcing good onto others a good way to fix violence?

Ludovisco's Technique also stripped Alex from one thing he truly enjoyed in life, Classical music, what would you do if you had something you enjoy stripped form you, and every time you even thought about it you were brought to your knees in pain?

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

When young Jane Eyre's parents die of disease, her kind uncle, Mr. Reed, takes her in and promises to raise her as his own. However, when he passes away as well, his wife shows that she does not feel the same way about Jane. Jane goes through her childhood unfairly being cruelly treated by her aunt and three cousins and never feels like she fits in or is respected. Even the maids disrespect her saying, "Yes, if she were a nice, pretty child, one might compassionate her forlornness; but one really cannot care for such a little toad as that" (Bronte 22). One day when her cousin bullied her for no reason, her aunt believed she was lying and sent her to be punished in the "red room" where her Uncle Reed had died. She believes she sees her uncle's ghost while in there and faints in exhaustion and fear. When she awakens, she is happy to find that her aunt has agreed to send her to school. However, once she gets there she is disappointed. At Lowood School, headmaster Brocklehurst does not treat Jane still with the respect she deserves. When Mrs. Reed was talking to Brocklehurst about getting Jane into the school, she explained to him, "...this little girl has not quite the character and disposition I could wish: should you admit her into Lowood school, I should be glad if the superintendent and teachers were requested to keep a strict eye on her, and about all, to guard against her worst fault, a tendency to deceit" (Bronte 30). He tells everyone that Jane is a liar at her school and she is shunned. Jane does manage to make one good friend, Helen, who is the ideal Christian. Unlike Brocklehurst who says one thing and then does another, Helen truly lives up to the standards expected of her. Many children get sick while in school, and Helen ends up dying of consumption. When others find out about Brocklehurst's mistreatment of the children, he is replaced. Jane stays at Lowood to teach for a few years. When Jane is ready for a new pace, she accepts a governess position at Thornfield manor and teaches a young French girl named Adele. Here, Jane secretly falls in love with her employer, Rochester. She even saves him from a house fire which was supposedly started by his drunken servant Grace Poole. However, Poole continues with her job, so Jane knows that there must be more to the story. Jane is upset when Rochester brings home a beautiful woman, but he ends up proposing to Jane. On the wedding day she finds out that he had already been married to a woman that is locked up on the third story because she had gone insane and that he had hired Poole to keep her under control. She leaves Rochester and is taken in by the Rivers family where St. John Rivers finds her a new job. He finds out that they are cousins and that their uncle John Eyre left her a large sum of money when he died. When St. John decides to go to India as a missionary, he asks Jane to go with him as his wife. Jane decides she doesn't love him so she doesn't marry him. When Jane goes back to Thornfield, she finds that the house had burnt down with Rochester's wife in it. Rochester lost his eyesight and one of his hands from the fire, but Jane agreed when he proposed to her again. At the end of the novel, Jane writes that she is happily married with a son and that her and Rochester enjoy perfect equality in their life together.

1) Jane grows up as an orphan in her disapproving aunt's house and is mistreated throughout her life. Jane was still family to the Reeds though, so what might be some reasons she was treated differently than her cousins that she lived with?

2) Jane decides to marry Rochester even after he is blind and has only one hand. If someone you loved became handicapped, would you still chose to marry them like Jane did if she didn't have to? Why does Jane chose him over St. John?

3) What would you do if you found out on your wedding day that the person you were about to marry was already married? Even if the person they had married had gone insane?

4) Although during the era this novel was written women were known to be subservient to men, Jane felt that she didn't want to marry Rochester until after proving her self-sufficiency to herself so that she wouldn't feel she was dependent upon him as her “master.” How is marriage thought to be today compared to back then?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey is a gripping novel centered around a mental facility and its patients. The novel is told in the perspective of first person, with the narrator being the protagonist. His name is Chief Bromden, and he is attending the ward because everyone thinks he is "deaf and dumb." However, Chief has simply made the realization that people do not listen to him due to his race, so he simply chooses not to talk. He fools everyone into thinking he is deaf, when really he understands everything and judges everyone. He does have a problem, however. He is a schizophrenic. He thinks that the "combine" is out to get him along with everyone else. He thinks that the combine is a society of machines that try to infiltrate everyday life to listen in on what he says and thinks. He always thinks he can hear machines. He thinks they are going to find out he is faking, and always has strange dreams. The other patients are mentally disturbed and each has different issues to deal with.
The antagonist throughout the novel is the nurse who oversees the section of the ward that the novel focuses on. Her name is Ms. Ratched, and she makes it her duty to attain total control. She creates a routine that is followed everyday that is never broken. She holds absolute power and uses it whenever possible. She gives the ward members little to no freedom, and makes it her agenda to point out their flaws in therapy sessions. Every day is the same in the ward, as the routine is followed.
One day, a new man arrives at the ward, and everything is soon to change. This man, McMurphy, was a prisoner at a work farm. However, he started many fights in order to be called insane, and transfered to the mental facility in order to get out of doing work. He does not actually have a mental disability, but says he does so that he does not have to return to jail. After seeing the total control the nurse has, he decides to make it his duty to try to break the other members free from the nurse's control. He breaks the routine whenever possible, disobeys the rules, and acts out in order to break away from her control.
McMurphy's actions have a profound effect on the other inmates. They relearn to stand up for themselves and make their opinions known. They begin to open up socially and interact in a more positive way. Cheif sees this, and wonders whether McMurphy could be the one to break the nurse's hold. One day Chief reveals himself to McMurphy, which only adds to his resolve. The climax of McMurphy's antics occurs as he sneaks the patients out and goes on a fishing trip in a stolen boat. One would think chaos would follow, but the members of the ward have fun and are able to be themselves. Nurse Ratched sees she is losing the battle, but soon comes up with a plan to regain power. McMurphy is a gambler throughout the novel. He bets the other inmates for their possessions and cigarettes. Nurse Ratched comes up with the idea to plant in the ward members' heads that McMurphy is scamming them.
The novel climaxes with McMurphy's final act. He invites prostitutes to the ward and bribes the janitor. He and the other ward members, including Chief, party all night and eventually pass out. The next morning, Nurse Ratched returns to the chaos and is furious. McMurphy is taken away and everyone wonders what his fate will be. Will McMurphy triumph over Nurse Ratched? What will become of the inmates if he does not return? How will Chief's new found self worth and confidence play out in his role in staying at the ward? You'll have to read the novel to find out for yourself.


1. All of the members within the ward are terrified by Nurse Ratched's wrath. If you were a patient and you saw a new member trying to fight the system would you try to help him? Would you have the strength to?

2. If you were in Chief's position, not thinking you had a problem when you actually did, would you stay at the institution? Would you be able to see past your paranoia to see that you are fooling yourself?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka

"As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect. He was laying on his hard, as it were armor-plated, back and when he lifted his head a little he could see his domelike brown belly divided into stiff arched segments on top of which the bed quilt could hardly keep in position and was about to slide off completely. His numerous legs, which were pitifully thin compared to the rest of his bulk, waved helplessly before his eyes."

This paragraph begins our story about a traveling salesman named Gregor Samsa who awakes to find himself transformed into an insect. He briefly lays in bed wondering how this happened to him. His thoughts lead to his job and the fact that he's already late to work. He's never been late in 5 years, so it would look suspicious if he were to be late now. Noticing that Gregor hasn't awakened yet, his mother comes to his door, to which Gregor answers her but notices something rather strange. His voice is changing. His father and sister Grete who also realize he's still home try to enter his bedroom but he locked his door the night before so they couldn't get in.

Gregor eventually gets out of bed when he realizes his boss sent the chief clerk to get him since Gregor was late. However, Gregor still refused to open the door for his family, insisting that he's ill. However, the shocked family can't understand a single word that Gregor says because his voice has changed to that of an insects. Concerned, they call a doctor and a locksmith. Gregor, however, manages to finally open the door himself.

The sudden appearence of Gregor frightens his family and the chief clerk. His father was so upset that when Gregor tried to explain himself, he kicked him back into his room when Gregor got stuck in the doorway and injured him as well. As the novel progresses, Gregor's sister would come into his room and bring him food. She would also clean his room for him as well. His family moved the furniture out as well, trying to give him more room since he liked to crawl around on the ceilings and walls. But Gregor wanted the furniture, so he came out to save a picture. The sight of him made his mother faint and when Gregor came out of his room to follow Grete to help his mother, his father started to throw apples at him, hurting him in the process. This injury, however, makes the family be more accepting of Gregor and they leave the door open.

However, as time goes by, the family begins to neglect Gregor more and more. Grete doesn't bring Gregor food anymore and when they housed lodgers, Gregor scared them to which the lodgers refused to pay the rent for the time they stayed with them. Grete believes they need to get rid of Gregor because he's nothing but a nuisance to the whole family. Gregor realizes shes right and goes back into hiding in his room, waits til sunrise, and dies.

The family is happy but also mourn for his death. They take off work and go for a stroll. Happy with their future to come, they realize their daughter is growing up and need to find her a husband. At the end of their trip, Grete is the first to stand up and stretch.

1. Gregor suddenly changes overnight and doesn't have a clue as to what happened to him. His family is unwilling to help him and neglect him. If a family member of yours suddenly changed, like they were a whole new person and you really didn't like it, would you neglect them? If not, what would you do? If so, why would you neglect them?

2. At the end of the novel, it says Grete is the first to stand up and stretch after the family's stroll and day off work. What do you think this means? Do you think it's in any way significant?

Never Let Me Go

Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro, is a futuristic tale about clones. The story focuses on three clones, Tommy, Ruth, and Kathy, with Kathy being the main narrator. In the beginning, the story tells of the three friends time at their special boarding school called Hailsham. This is when the reader discovers that the characters are clones. The clones purpose in life is to donate their organs to "real" people when they become "of age" so to say. As the novel progresses, the reader watches the three clones grow into adults. In this progression, Ruth and Tommy begin to have a relationship. During their time in Hailsham Tommy discovers a temporary way out of their fate of organ donning. He discovers that if you can prove that you are in love, true love, you can get out of donning for a short time. Unfortunately, their lives progress as expected and Ruth and Tommy become donors, while Kathy cares for them. Ruth begins to donate her organs faster than the others and reaches "complete" before the others. "Complete" means that the clone can no longer donate organs to real people. When a clone is complete, they have no other purpose in life and die. When Ruth reaches this point, she shares to Kathy and Tommy that they should fall in love in order to escape the becoming complete. After this Ruth dies and Tommy and Kathy go to find Madame, who will determine if their love is true or not. When they reach Madame they find out that Hailsham really wasn't a school and that it was actually a way to try to prove that clones were more than donors. After this, Tommy basically gives up and is completed, while Kathy begins to donate in order to reach completion.

1. One of the main themes of the novel is based on the morality of cloning. Do you think cloning humans for organ purposes is moral/immoral? why/why not?

2. Another theme is that because clones are not "original" humans, this means the clone possesses no soul. Do you think clones are just copies, or should clones be considered human with their own soul?

1984 by George Orwell

1984 is a remarkable book in which George Orwell predicts what the future off governments around the world will become. Big Brother, the leader of the party, sees, hears, and knows everything. An act as innocent as purchasing a diary is now a crime and can be punished by death. Even though Winston works for the party, he does not agree with what they stand for and he hopes to expose them as the frauds they really are. He begins to suspect an officemate of his, O’Brien is a member of the group that plans to over through Big Brother and his manipulative government.

One day at work, Winston receives a note from a lady whom he had originally thought was an informant to the party. The note reads, “I love you” and she and Winston develop a relationship that must be kept a secret from big brother. Even though Winston is sure he and Julia will be caught for their relationship, he continues to stay with her and resents the party even more as time passes.

O’Brien decides to have Winston and Julia over to his house to confide in them his hatred of the party as well. However, while the three are at the apartment, the party police break in and arrest all three of them. But as it turns out, O’Brien is a devoted member of the party who has be assigned the task of getting Winston and Julia to complete an act of open rebellion.

The Story ends with the “break-up” of Winston and Julia, due to the brain washing Winston was subjected to. While it appears as though the hero has lost in this story, Winston’s acts will lead to more rebellions just like his, which will help gain control back from the party.

1) Do you think that George Orwell was at all accurate in his depiction of what governments can develop into?

2) If Our government were as controlling as the one in 1984, do you think you would be able to recognize it and stand up for your rights, or do you think you would fall for the manipulations of the party?

Sense and Sensibility

Sense and Sensibiltiy, by Jane Austen, is a novel about the Dashwood family, mainly sisters Elinor and Marianne. The novel starts out with Mr. Dashwood dying and leaving his fortune and land to his son, Mr. John Dashwood. Mr. John Dashwood promised his father on his death bed that he would take care of Mrs. Dashwood and her daughters. John Dashwood planned to follow through on this promise by giving the women enough money to live comfortably for the rest of their lives. Mrs. John Dashwood, however, talks him out of this and says that simply helping them find a new home would suffice to keep the promise he made. Mrs. Dashwood and her daughters find a relative, Sir John Middleton, that gives them their own small home for a fair price on his land and they make quick plans to move in. They are all sad to depart the land they have lived on for so long, but quite glad to be leaving the company of Mrs. John Dashwood. Marianne, always very emotional, says on their departure, "Oh! happy house, could you know what I suffer in now viewing you from this spot, from whence, perhaps, I may view you no more!"
The Dashwoods move into their new home and are welcomed by the Middletons. The Dashwoods meet a variety of people, including Colonel Brandon, who quickly falls in love with Marianne. Marianne, however, has no interest in him, calling him "grave and dull." She instead falls in love with John Willoughby. She has ups and downs with him as she realizes that he is not quite as great as he initially seems to be.
Elinor also has a love interest in a man named Edward Ferrers. He seems to love her too, but Elinor finds out that he has a secret engagement to another woman and he feels like he cannot break his promise to marry.
In the end, both girls marry to men that will give them happiness and financial stability, which are important to both of them.
1) If you were poor and had the option of marrying for love or money, which would you choose?
2) Both of these girls have a lot of pressure from the people around them to get married as soon as possible. Is that pressure still felt in today's society?

The Road By Cormac McCarthy (Spoiler Alert)

Cormac McCarthy's The Road is a tale of a son and his father, neither of which are named, and their trek through a post-apocalyptic North America. Their goal is to reach the southern coast because the father believes it will be warmer than the almost inhabitable north and he believes that there will be more food available there. They must also survive horrible conditions and confrontations with cannibals. Most humans still living have turned to cannibalism to survive, as a result of this, the father must protect his son from anyone they come in contact with. This novel is very very VERY graphic. In fact, the director of the movie into which the novel is made (featuring Vigo Mortenson) left out several scenes at the request of McCarthy because of their graphic nature. One such scene in the novel that is not in the film is a scene in which a newborn infant (meaning hours old infant) is roasted on a fire. Along their journey the father and son find scraps of food, clothing, and other materials they use to scrape by. The most important of the items they carry however is the gun that has 2 bullets in it. One bullet for the son, and one bullet for the father in the event that they cannot escape cannibals who literally cook people alive. The father uses one bullet on a man who threatens their survival, and instructs the boy to kill himself if he is caught, the father can not bear the thought of his son being tortured by cannibals. Throughout the novel we find out that the mother committed suicide shortly after the unknown cataclysmic event, something the father can not forgive her for doing. About halfway through this novel we find out that the father has begun spitting up blood and is dying, something he refuses to tell his son, instead he continues to protect his son to the best of his abilities and to teach him how to survive without him. The father and son do eventually reach the sea through much trial, but they are disappointed to discover that there is no surplus of food like they had expected and the weather is just as inhabitable as where they had come from originally. Eventually the father does die of his illness, but before this he tells his son that he will always be with him through the boys imagination After three days of the son sitting over his father's corpse, he meets a man with a family who offers to take the boy in with his family and protect him. The boy leaves with this seemingly nice family after covering his father with a blanket, a crude burial.


Throughout the novel the boy and his son refer to themselves as the "Good Guys," and they refer to the cannibals as the "Bad Guys." There are many instances in history (recent history too not just medieval) where people resort to, in times of life or death, cannibalizing their dead companions. Do you, on a survival level, think that cannibalism is indicative of "Bad Guys?" What about on a moral level?

As stated earlier the father never forgives his wife/mother of the son for killing herself, however he keeps the gun so he can kill his son if the time arose. There are several times throughout the novel where the son and father are in danger of being tortured, killed, and eaten. (A) Would you, put in the situation of the father have killed yourself and your son instead of travelling hundreds of miles without the knowledge of whether or not your circumstances would improve? (B) If you knew that they would not improve would your answer to (A) change?

Literature by Edgar Allan Poe

Poe is widely known for his literature in the genre of horror. We will be discussing three of Poe's masterpieces: "The Raven", "The Cask of Amontillado", and "The Tell-Tale Heart", each containing its own unique way of making the reader feel uneasy.
"The Raven" begins by explaining that the narrator is "weak and tired" yet cannot fall asleep. We soon find out that the narrator is depressed because he lost his love, Lenore. He then hears a knocking at the door. He works up the courage to go to the door and see who is there, but finds nothing but "darkness." The narrator then yells, "Lenore?" hoping that his love has returned. After receiving no reply, he returns inside and opens a window. An unknown bird then flies into his home and upon closer inspection it is (you guessed it) a raven. The narrator begins to ask the bird questions and the bird always replies, "Nevermore." The narrator continues to ask the bird questions, even though he knows what the bird's reply will be. The narrator finally asks the raven whether he will ever see his love, Lenore, again. The bird obviously replies with, "Nevermore." Therefore, it is concluded that the narrator will always be without his true love, leaving his soul trapped for eternity.
"The Cask of Amontillado" is a story of revenge between Montresor and Fortunato. Montresor begins the story by saying Fortunato has inflicted a "thousand injuries and insults" upon Montresor's familly. Montresor takes advantage of Fortunato's love for wine and convinces him to come verify whether or not what Montresor possesses is true Amontillado. Fortunato follows Montresor down into his vaults. Montresor cleverly gives Fortunato several tastes of different wines along the way to the prestigious Amontillado. By the time that the two arrive at the Amontillado (that is not even present), Fortunato is drunk, giving Montresor the opportunity to chain Fortunato to the wall of the crypts. Montresor then proceeds to wall in Fortunato as they both partake in what seems to be a friendly conversation until Fortunato realises what is happening. Fortunato then begs Montresor to stop, but to no avail.
"The Tell-Tale Heart" is the story of a murder. An unknown narrator begins the story by stating he has killed a man but plans to defend his sanity. The narrator says he had been observing an old man sleeping every night for a week and is terrified of the man's abnormal eye. On the eighth night, the narrator randomly believes that it is the correct time to kill the old man. The old man awakens in terror and yelps before the narrator has the chance to kill him. The narrator quickly goes through with the task of murdering the old man. He then dismembers the body and hides the parts under the floorboards. Police soon show up, saying that the neighbors heard a yelp. The narrator remains chatty and at ease; the police suspect nothing of the man. However, the narrator then begins to hear a thumping and soon assumes its the old man's heart beating beneath the floorboards. The narrator becomes paranoid and confesses to the police, telling them to lift the floorboards for evidence. He is then convicted but believes that he is not insane, he did not act as if a mad man would.

Question: Which of Poe's three pieces invoked the most uneasiness or terror in you and why?

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel

This story begins with Tita De La Garza, the youngest daughter of the De La Garza family. Tita has worked in the kitchen with their cook, Nacha, since she could remember and has developed a love for cooking. She lives in the kitchen and uses cooking as a release from her strict mother, Mama Elena. Following a family tradition, Mama Elena will never allow Tita to marry, stating that the youngest daughter must remain single for her entire life in order to take care of the mother (Mama Elena). This tradition is difficult for Tita to follow, as a man by the name of Pedro Muzquiz has asked for her hand. Mama Elena forbids the marriage, but she does offer her second youngest daughter, Rosaura, instead. This union between Pedro and Rosaura nearly pushes Tita to a breaking point, as she has fallen in love with Pedro. She acts as though she could never forgive her mother. Tita says, "...she [Mama Elena] had been killing her a little at a time since she was a child, and she still hadn't quite finished her off" (49).

Tita tries to occupy herself by cooking up delicious dishes for her and her family, however, she is once again nearly pushed to her breaking point when she is forced by Mama Elean to prepare the food for the wedding. This nearly destroys her, but luckily she finds comfort in the whole ordeal after talking to Pedro at the wedding. He tells her that he still truly loves her and that he has agreed to marrying Rosaura so that he could be closer to her.

The marriage progresses and Tita continues her cooking, as each chapter opens with a new recipe. Rosaura and Pedro have a child named Roberto who Tita takes care of. Roberto serves as a link between Pedro and Tita. Mama Elean senses that something is going on between them, and she forces Pedro and Rosaura to leave Mexico. After their departure, Roberto dies. The death of Roberto finally pushes Tita over the top, and Mama Elean sends her to a facility where she becomes very familiar with Dr. John Brown.

Tita begins to develop very strong feelings for John Brown, and they both move back to the ranch to care for the dying Mama Elena. After her death, however, Pedro and Rosaura return to the ranch. Tita is once again reunited with her true love, and, now being free from Mama Elena, she begins to question her feelings about John. Tita and Pedro have an affair, and Tita becomes pregnant. This forces her to tell John, her new fiance, that she has had an affair. Surprisingly he is accepting of the situation and still offers her marriage. He does say, however, that the decision is hers and only she knows what she wants. In the meantime, Tita is haunted by the ghost of Mama Elena who frequently appears and curses the baby. Eventually, Tita has a miscarriage.

The story ends many years later with another wedding, this time the union of Pedro and Rosaura's second child, Esperanza, and Dr. John Brown's son, Alex. Rosaura has seemed to disappear, and Tita and Pedro are madly in love, even though they never officially married one another. Shortly after the wedding, they both die together.

Discussion Questions:

1. If you were Tita in this story, how would you handle the family tradition of not being allowed to marry, being the youngest daughter? Would you go against the wishes of Mama Elena, or would you deal with it and try to make the best out of it?

2. Tita did not agree with the family tradition, however, she never really acted out against Mama Elena, at least not during Mama Elena's lifetime. Does this make Tita a strong female figure in this story? Why or why not?