Saturday, May 7, 2011

1984 by George Orwell

1984 is a novel written from the point of view of Winston Smith, a citizen of London, Oceania, where a new kind of government has taken over. In this new system, any kind of rebellion or freedom is restricted, including sex, free speech, or even free thought. No one is pemitted to speak badly or against the government. Although the consequences that come with breaking these rules could be fatal, Winston still rebels. He purchases a journal to write down all of his illegal ideas even though he could be killed if it is found. Winston continues to rebel against the Party thoughout the book, as he engages in an affair with a woman named Julia and continues to write in his journal. Eventually, he and Julia are caught by the Thought Police, and Winston finds that people he believed to be against the Party actually work for it. For example, a man named O'Brian was thought to be a part of the Brotherhood, a group of indivuals headed by the infamous Emmanuel Goldstein, who rebelled against the Party. However, once Winston and Julia are caught, it is revealed that O'Brian is actually a member of the Party and he eventualy tortured Winston in the hauntingly unknown Room 101. By the end of the novel, Winston has become completely brainwashed and has dedicated himself to the Party and its leader, Big Brother.

1. People sometimes think that the government has too much control over what the people of its country do. Do you think this holds true in America? Consider things that affect kids our age (drinking age, driving age, curfew, etc) and explain why think so.
2. In your opinon, is it better to have an extremely strict government that keeps order or a loosly thrown together government that lets havoc occur without interfering?
3. At the end of the novel, O'Brian tortured Winston in Room 101. O'Brian tells Winston he plans to face him with his worst nightmare - rats - by strapping a cage of them to his face and letting them eat it off. Winston, however, begs that O'Brian does this to Julia instead. If you were in this situation, would you have faced your worst fears or would you have sold out someone you loved to avoid them?

Friday, May 6, 2011


Night is the story of Eliezer who is a Jewish boy growing up in Hungary. Eliezer has three sisters Hilda, Béa and Tzipora and lives in a family the closely follows its Jewish religion and culture. The plot begins when Moshe, a teacher of Eliezer, is kicked out of Hungary along with other foreign Jews. After months Moshe returns having escaped from the Gestapo. He tells everyone how his train was handed over to the Gestapo and how they were systematically murdered. No one in the town believes him and everyone thinks he’s gone crazy. Short after the Nazis totally invade Hungary and Elizer’s family and other Jews are oppressed and forced to live in small ghettos in the town. Soon Eliezer and his family along with the other Jews in Sighet are loaded into trains to travel to Birkenau. The Nazis told them it was a labor camp where they could stay with their families but soon after arrival Eliezer and his father are separated from his mother and sisters. Eliezer and his father meet many others just like them and one man who they befriend tells then to lie about their age because they learn at Birkenau if you are unfit to work you are immediately killed. In the camps Eliezer and the other Jews are treated cruelly, are barely feed and forced into slave labor. Eliezer does all he can to keep faith under these horrible conditions. Soon after their arrival in Birkenau he and the other workers are forced to march to Buna the main work camp. After weeks of bad conditions and seeing the death of countless others many Jews including Eliezer, start to give up hope in others and begin to lose their humanity. After months in the camp Eliezer hurts his foot and is forced to undergo foot surgery. While he is still recovering the Nazis get notice that the Russians are closing in and they decided it a good time to evacuate the camp. Eliezer along with the other prisoners are forced to run many miles through a blizzard to another camp called Gleiwitz. This is very hard for Eliezer with a bad foot and there are other countless Jews who die along the way. At Gleniwitz Eliezer and one hundred other Jews are forced to board a train to the concentration camp Buchenwald. When the train arrives in Buchenwald only twelve of the one hundred prisoners survived including Eliezer and his father. Eventually Eliezer’s father dies in the camp from sickness and abuse. Eliezer continues to hold on and is saved when the Americans liberate Buchenwald and defeat the Nazis.
1) Do you think you would be able to keep faith and survive facing the severe cruel treatment Jews had to endure throughout the Holocaust?
2) How would you feel if one day like Eliezer you were separated from your family knowing you would never see them again?

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger is a famous novel of teenage loneliness and breakdown. In it, The protagonist Holden is held up in a mental institution. He doesn’t say this directly but it is inferred by his sarcastic and vague remarks. He goes to tell the story of what led up to him being there, but does so in a very roundabout way. He tells of how he failed out of his prep school, Pencey, not because of his lack of intelligence but his refusal to apply himself in any of the subjects he found to be uninteresting, which was all but English. Before he leaves Pencey he is confronted by his roommate Stradlater who is the picture of a perfect American youth, but in reality he is a gross and arrogant boy who takes advantage of Holden’s former girlfriend, Jane. This angers Holden very much and so he leaves the school and runs away to New York City. In New York Holden can not escape the “Phoniness” that he was surrounded with at prep school. The older people he meets in bars do not impress him as he finds them arrogant as well. Through out the book Holden finds himself attracted to things that are innocent and not tarnished by societies rules. His sister, the ducks in central park, and the museum are some of the only things Holden enjoys. About the museum he says, “The best thing though, in that museum was that everything always stayed right were it was.” Another example of Holden’s fondness for innocence is ironically when he has a prostitute called to his room, but when she gets there he only wants to talk and then pay her in an effort to make her leave. He tries to be interested in the societal world but find himself disgusted with it. When he returns home he visits his sister again, and after a few more sign of mental breakdown like passing out and seeing his dead brother, it is assumed that Holden is taken to the mental institution in which he now resides. Holden exemplifies the feelings of unhappiness that most adolescents have with the world around them, however, he is so affected by this that he is driven mad.

1. What would you do if you felt feelings of loneliness and distrust with the world as Holden does? Keep them to yourself or seek help?

2. Do you think Holden is right to be angry about the society he sees around him or should he just put up with it in order to live a happy, though somewhat false life.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Pride and Prejudice is a great novel, dealing with the effect society has on people and the status of women. Elizabeth Bennet is the protagonist in the novel. She has four other sisters, and in that time period, marriage was all that mattered, since women could not make a living on their own. The novel starts off with a new, wealthy man moving into town named Mr. Bingley. Mr. And Mrs. Bennet are thrilled to hear the news, since all five of their daughters are unmarried. Mr. Bingley is amused by Jane the oldest daughter. His friend Darcy is also amused by Elizabeth. However, Darcy is prejudiced and his pride does not allow him to get to know her. He is perceived as haughty and the women are appalled by him. Darcy degrades Elizabeth at the first ball when he refuses to dance with her. As time progresses, Elizabeth overcomes her prejudice and sees another side to Darcy. Darcy even helps the Bennet family out when the youngest sister, Lydia, elopes with a cruel man. Eventually Darcy and Elizabeth let go of their pride and prejudice toward one another and fall in love.

1. Mr. Bingley's sister is a wealthy snob. She looks down upon the Bennet girls because they do not have money like herself. What influence does money have on the way that people perceive other people and the world around them? Is the situation the same now as it was in the past?

2. Marriage is all that mattered to Mrs. Bennett. She wanted all of her daughters to be happily married so that they could be accepted socially? Is there still pressure today for women to marry?

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Moby Dick

The narrator travels to Massachusetts where he says he intends to board a whaling vessel. At an inn in Massachusetts, he meets a harpooner named Queequeg. They travel together to Nantucket, where they intend to find work together as walers. There, they become part of the Pequods crew. The ship sets off to sea when they meet its captain. The peg-legged man says he intends to pursue moby-dick, the whale that took his leg. Around the tip of Africa, Ahabs private harpooning crew shows themselves because they were smuggled unto he ship. As they travel throught he Indian ocean, they meet a prophet who prophesies ill fortune for whoever hunts moby-dick. Around this time Qyeequeg saves a man that falls into the water by diving in and saving him himself. Later on the whaling vessel meets Boomer, another whale-boat captain. Boomer says that he lost an arm with his encounter witht he great white whale.
Fastdellah prophesizes Ahabs death and three sailors fall to their deaths. They finally encounter Moby-Dick and the whale attacks their harpoon boats. The captain Ahab dies during this encounter. The whale sinks the boat and a whirlpool is created which drags all sailors into it killing them except Ishmael. Ishmeal floats on Queequegs coffin untill he is saved by Rachel.
Is revenge worth dying for?
Have you ever felt the need to get revenge such as Ahab?

The Road

The Road, by Cormac McCarthy, is the story about a man and a boy trying to find civilization. The man and the boy (father and son) are some of the last survivors of a past apocalypse that wiped out most of the world's civilization. The other survivors are a group of cannibalistic people that the father and son are constantly avoiding in order to save themselves. On their journey they are trying to find more "good people" like themselves in order to keep mankind going. During the story the reader is told about the boys mother who, after giving birth, commits suicide, leaving the father alone with their new born. This event has taken a toll on the father and is one of the reasons that pushes him to continue his journey even though he is dying. Also, the only source of protection they have is a gun that only has one bullet in it. Throughout the course of the book the man contemplates using this on his son in case they get taken by cannibals. At the end of the novel the man eventually dies leaving his son alone in the apocalypse. Eventually a family of what is believed to be "good people" comes and offers the boy a place in their family in order to find more of the good civilization.

1. If you were the last of mankind, would you try to find more people, or would you take the easy way out?
2. Death is one of the main themes of the novel. Why do you feel authors use death as a main struggle that their characters must overcome?

1984 by George Orwell

The novel 1984 by George Orwell takes place in the year 1984 in a fictional place called Oceania. The novel is written so that Oceania is supposed to be a futuristic state where the government has complete control of its citizens lives. This government is referred to as the Party. The leader of the Party is Oceania's dictator called Big Brother. The protagonist in the novel is Winston Smith. Smith work in the Ministry of Truth where it is his job to change events of the past as the Party sees fit. Smith hates the party and the complete control it has over society. So, he begins to secretly and illegally write in a diary to record his thoughts against the Party in. Smith risks quite a lot by writing in a diary. If he gets caught by the Though Police, he will most likely be killed.
At Smith's work, he meets Julia. They begin their love affair when she gives him a note saying that she loves him. If they are caught having this affair the consequences are severe, relationships between Party members is strictly enforced against. Julia and Smith try to be sneaky by renting a room above a shop owned by a man named Mr. Charringtion where they believe it will be safe to meet each other.

Soon after, a man by the name of O'Brien gives Smith his address so that he and Julia can come visit him. Smith is very intrigued by this, O'Brien is a high up member in the Party and very rich. Smith has always suspected that O'Brien is secretly against the Party and may be a member of the Brotherhood. The Brotherhood is the party that works secretly to try and overthrow Big Brother. When Julia and Smith go to O'Brien's he makes them members of the Brotherhood. Once they leave, Julia and Smith go to their rented room where the Thought Police come rushing into their room. It turns out that Mr. Charrington is a worker for the Thought Police and O'Brien was just setting them up to commit a crime against the Party.
Julia and Smith are both arrested and taken to the Ministry of Love. At the Ministry of Love, O'Brien is the man who wants to take charge of "fixing" Smith so he is acceptable for society. Smith is tortured and brainwashed by O'Brien. The final step of Smith's torture was facing his worst fear. O'Brien put Smith's head in a box full of rats. O'Brien was going to let the rats eat Smith's face until Smith begged for his life and wished that it was Julia facing this fate instead of him. O'Brien released Smith at this point because he got what he had wanted. Smith had betrayed Julia. Smith no longer had feelings for Julia and was released into society to live as a brainwashed man until the Thought Police will put him to death. Smith was successfully brainwashed into accepting Big Brother.

1) The power the government in 1984 has over its people is overwhelming. People are not even allowed to think freely in this society. The Party even alters history to conform to its ideas. Do you think that a society this controlling could ever come about today or in the future?

2) Smith tries to rebel against the Party by writing in a diary even though he knows it is illegal and could be executed for it. He also tries to join the rebellion group called the Brotherhood who works to overthrow the leader of the government. If you were in a society that had complete control over its people would you be brave enough to rebel even if it meant possible death?

Kindred by Octavia E. Butler

Kindred tells the story of a black woman named Edana who is unpacking books into her new house with her white husband, Kevin, when she is overcome with dizzyness and finds herself somehow transported away from her home to a lake where a young boy is drowning. She runs to save the boy, young and white, and once he is breathing again his father comes up and attempts to shoot Dana in the head. As he pulls the trigger, however, she is immediately transported back to her home. Her husband says she had only been gone for a few seconds, but that couldn't be possible: Her encounter had taken minutes, not seconds. A few hours later Dana is pulled again to the young boy, by in the short hours between their encounters the boy has aged several years as he is trying to burn down his house to get back at his father selling the horse he hoped to get. She learns that they are in 1815 Maryland, at a very high point in slavery. She also learnsh the boy is named Rufus Weylin, the name she recognizes as her great great great (etc.) grandfather. Her fear is peaked, but she doesn't disappear. Instead she has to sneak away into the night to the house of a woman named Alice, her great great great (etc.) grandmother. While there she encounters a group of white men. One of them tries to rape her, but she fights him off and knocks him unconscious. When she begins thinking of how he will surely kill her when he wakes up she is again overcome with dizzyness and returns home. On her next visit, Keivn grabs onto her when she is leaving. They arrive right after Rufus has fallen and broken his leg. When they meet Rufus's father Kevin pretends he owns Dana and they live on the Weylin plantation for nearly a year before Dana is caught trying to teach one of the slave boys to read and is caught. Mr. Weylin takes her outside and whips her until she feels her life is in danger, and before Kevin can reach her, she disappears, leaving him behind. Due to the difference in time between her home and the plantation, the eight days she spends recouperating amounts to about four year by the time she returns. She is accepted onto the Weylin plantation again as a slave, but Rufus is much older and is beginning to take over. Kevin left several years earlier to go up north and explore, so Dana is left hoping he will come back. Rufus called her back because he raped Alice and her husband found out about it. Dana arrived as Rufus was being killed by Alice's husband. Dana persuades them to leave and takes the unconscious Rufus back home. After two letters that Dana attempted to write to Kevin recieved no reply, she went looking in Rufus's room and found both, unsent. That night she attempted to escape and was immediately caught, but Kevin was summoned and they returned to 1976 when Rufus tried to kill Dana for leaving with Kevin. Dana returns one last time to find Mr. Weylin dying, Rufus turning into a brutal slaveowner, and Alice, Rufus's wife, having hung herself after having had Dana's Great Great (etc.) Grandmother. As Rufus attempts to rape her, later, Dana takes out her knife and stabs him twice, killing him, but when she returned home the place from which he was holding her arm was severed.

1. If you were a black woman having lived your life up through 2011 with full rights of an american citizen, do you think you could survive going back into 1815 and encountering slavery?
2.Would you conform or fight?
3. As happened to Dana and her husband, "if" you were somehow magically transported to another year with someone and THEY returned home, but you were left behind, would you stay forever in the same place, waiting hoping they'd come back, or would you leave and try to go on with your life knowing it could be years and years before they ever returned?

This is an AWESOME book. It took like 3 days to read, i absolutely couldn't put it down. When Enlgish class is over and we're done with all this Hamlet nonsense everyone should read this book, even if you don't like to read....during the summer..

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes

The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, by Arthur Conan Doyle, is a collection of some of the first Sherlock Holmes stories. They were originally published as single short stories in the Strand Magazine, but have now been placed conveniently together in one novel.

The first story in the book, “A Scandal in Bohemia,” has Holmes and Watson trying to solve the King of Bohemia’s case. The king explains that he is engaged to a Scandinavian princess, but at one time of his life was with an Opera singer named Irene Adler, who is now blackmailing him and has evidence of their relationship that could potentially ruin his engagement. He asks Holmes to find and destroy whatever evidence Adler has, and Holmes agrees to attempt to help him with his case. He disguises himself in order to enter Adler’s house, where a party is being held, and with the help of Watson, attempts to find the evidence. Whether he is able to succeed or not, you will have to read to find out.

In another short story, titled “A Case of Identity,” Sherlock Holmes is asked by Mary Sutherland to help her find her fiancée, who disappeared the day they were to be wed. Throughout all the stories, one is able to see how Holmes has a gift for reading into people and piecing things together about them through observation. In this story, he is able to figure out exactly who Mary’s supposed fiancée is solely by knowing that he works in an office on Leadenhall Street. By matching the typewritten letter of the fiancée to one written by someone in her family, he learns that maybe the fiancée is really a family member in disguise.

1. In these stories, Holmes is a master at solving simple problems through observation. He says, “Perhaps I have trained myself to see what others overlook” (32). Do you think that we sometimes overlook simple things in our daily lives? For example, if someone were to ask you what the person who sat across from you at lunch on Friday was wearing, would you be able to remember the details?

Dune By Frank Herbert

Over 20,000 years in the future, the human race has grown and multiplied as it controls countless planets, planetary systems and galaxies. They are Ruled by the Aristocratic houses that report to the emperor himself. Technology has progressed to where computers are not needed anymore as some humans have the brain capacity to act as a computer. Spice is the resource which fuels most of the human empires resources as it fuels space travel and many other things. Some humans have developed a link to the spice giving them new mental abilities. However the emperor has come to fear House Atreides as he begins to grow more powerful with the love and support of the people. Their rivals House Harkonenn who despise House Atreides are enlisted to destroy them so the Emperor prevails. Paul Atreides the son of Duke Leo Atreides, is said to have been very special as he was young and is trained all his life for greatness. He repeatedly has visions of things to come of their family and his future but remains confused on what it means.Their House travels to Arrakis the main planet of the story, and the only planet which contains the spice needed for all they work for. As House Atreides rules over the planet they are attacked by House Harkonenn where they slaughter everyone and enslave them. Only Paul and his mother escape the carnage as they use their mental abilites to trick and knock out the guards on a ship. As their ship crashes they remain stranded in the deserts of Arrakis. They immediately seek shelter on a rock as the massive sand worms of dune sense the vibrations. They soon meet up with the Fremen gaining their trust. The Fremen are human tribes on Arrakis with the beliefs of it would become a hospitable planet. They value the spice as something else than the emperor and the aristocrats and have become so accustomed to Arrakis their blood clot's faster than an average human to preserve water. Paul shows them the mental weapons to the Freman and new powers they can use. They soon claim Paul as they're messiah as he soon gains the ability to control the sand worms. As Paul leads attacks On the Harkonenn spice bases he frees former House Atreides Soldiers and begins to plot his revenge on House Harkonenn and stop the emperor's tyranny once and for all.

1. In Dune, The spice is a major objective for everyone to control. How does the spice relate to resources of today.

2. How does Paul Atreides relate to many religions of today.

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley is a novel taken place in the future. It starts off by explaining the process of how people are "created." With a scientific process called the Bokanovsky process, hundreds and thousands of identical human embryos are created every single year. But, everyone has a different caste. For example, if you are born an Epsilon, you are destined to become a laborer. Each caste is conditioned throughout the first couple of years of their lives so that they can become what they are destined to be and so they will abide by society's strict rules. No one is allowed to have relationships, only sexual ones. They are also allowed to take a drug called soma, which causes them to forget their troubles and sadness. If they are feeling any sadness whatsoever, they take this and they become happy and oblivious to the strict world around them. Lenina Crowne, a person who works at one of the nurseries for the conditioned children, is a typical citizen in this strange futuristic world. She knows the rules, and she abides by them. But she cannot help but be attracted to the strange character Bernard Marx. Bernard seems like a normal person, to us. He refuses to take soma and he sees the faults in his government. But when Bernard and Lenina take a trip to another country, he discovers that he impregnated a women there many years ago who ended up having his baby, named John. This country is very different from his own, though. It is not modernized. It is comparable to an Indian reservation. So when Bernard goes home, now everyone is looking at Bernard with weary eyes. They notice his differences easily now and see that he is not like them. But everyone is extremely intrigued by John. He is so different from the people they are used to being surrounded by. Even Lenina is attracted to him and tries to seduce him. But will John be the downfall to their Utopian society? Or will the citizens of this Brave New World learn to accept his differences and learn to integrate new things into their world?


1. How would you feel if you were not allowed to have relationships with other people?

2. Describe your perfect Utopian society.

3. What do you think will happen to John after being exposed to such a different world? Do you think he will end up living there and adapt to their rules and customs, or do you think he will go back to his "Indian reservation?"

Night by Elie Wiesel

The story starts out in Sighet, Transylvania and takes place during World War II. The narrator is a thirteen year old, Jewish boy named Eliezer. Elie is part of a well known family that practices strict Jewish customs. He lives with his parents and three sisters. In his free time, Elie studies the Talmud and the Cabbala under his teacher, Moshe the Beadle. Shortly after, the Hungarians create laws that expel some Jews, and Moshe is forced to leave. Moshe returns and tells everyone in Sighet about the Gestapo, and how they forced the Jews to dig their own graves, but everyone thinks that he’s crazy. Rapidly after Moshe returns, the Jews become more and more oppressed and eventually, they are compelled to live in ghettos. After living in the ghettos for a short time, the Jews are transported to Auschwitz and told that it is a labor camp and all the people will be able to stay with their families. This is done to keep the prisoners calm and orderly on the train. Then they arrive at Birkenau to be sorted into groups of who is able to work and who is not. Here, Elie and his father are separated from his mom and sisters and never sees them again. After they are separated they meet a man who advises Elie and his father to lie about their age so they aren’t deemed unable to work and immediately killed. They are also advised to keep their faith and not rebel against the Nazis. This is important because after being in Auschwitz, many of the Jews are discouraged and feel hopeless. Later on, Elie and his father are transported to Buna. At the new camp, Elie becomes a different person and instead of focusing on his faith and keeping hope, he cares more about his own survival. He even gets mad at his dad for getting beaten by one of the officers at the camp. Also, Elie and the other prisoners witness a small child being hanged and Elie wonders how God could exist and believes that God was hanged with that child. Later, the Jews are transported again, but this time they are forced to run in the middle of a blizzard. Once they arrive at their new location, Elie meets a Rabi who is trying to find his son. Elie lies and says he hasn't seen his son, even though he saw his son abandon his father during the run when he didn't think his father would make it. From this point on, Elie vows to never leave his dads' side. Unfortunately, about three months away from being liberated, Elie's dad dies from dysentery and being beaten to death. The story does not have a happy ending, it ends after his dad’s death and being liberated. This novel is about keeping your faith and never giving up hope even in the most desperate times, because those are the things that kept Elie and his father alive for so long. This book is also meant to remind people about the tragedies the Jewish people faced on a daily basis in these camps so they did not die in vain.

1. If you were in this situation, do you think you would be able to keep your faith and survive?

2. The story, Elizer gives his dad some of his food, but other people in the camp discourage him and tell him to let his father die. Would you sacrifice your chances of survival for someone you loved?