Tuesday, May 17, 2011


The book starts off with Ishmael, a young lad who turned to the sea because he's all lonely. He decides to journey with a whaling boat after some merchant marine experience. He becomes good friends with this chill dude with tattoos named Queequeg. The two fellas join aboard a vessel named Pequod whose captain is quoted as a "grand, ungodly, godlike man." The captain is the famous Captain Ahab who got his leg bitten off by a whale and in it's place is a whale bone. Although the crew wants to hunt whales for their oil, Ahab wants to hunt down the whale called Moby Dick, the one that bit off his leg. The crew and various boats that have had injury and even death warn Ahab about attempting to get his revenge on the whale but they are close to it now and he persists in his revenge. After a 3-day pursuit one crew member is already dead yet Ahab "madly" seeks out revenge. He throws 2 harpoons at the whale, the second of which tangles Ahab to the whale and he is subsequently dragged down to the depths with Moby Dick. All of the ships are destroyed by Moby Dick and everyone dies except Ishmael who uses his dead bro Queequeg as a buoy to float for a while until another ship rescues him.

It is easy to see that the motive of Ahab was revenge, if the rest of his crew did not have to suffer for Ahab's actions, do you think it was better for him to take revenge against the whale rather than do nothing?

To me it is very curious as to why the crew didn't take physical action against Ahab when they were all telling him to discontinue his quest for revenge, why do you think they stuck with him? Do you think it's the possibility of glory, the adventure, the loyalty in your captain, or something else?

Dante's Inferno (Translated by John Ciardi)

Nothing is more chilling to the bone than a story about one’s descent to hell and back. Dante’s Inferno is just that. Scary, riveting, revealing, intriguing, and appealing to the human condition, Dante takes the reader on a luxury tour of hell with the ancient poet Virgil as his [our] tour guide. He tells all about the gruesome and horrific punishments that lie ahead for the future damned. Each punishment has its own “ring” of hell. The rings, in order of least sinful to most sinful, are: Limbo, Lust, Gluttony, Greed, Anger, Heresy, Violence, Fraud, and Treachery. What is interesting about each of these rings is the punishment is the most ironic thing that could be, not necessarily the most painful. For example, gluttons are forced to eating their own waste for eternity, where as the greedy are continually singed by molten gold they try to grab with their hands, etc… Although he shows the world how scary and ironic God can be, Dante’s main purpose in writing the novel lies in the portrayal of Dante’s modern day characters. Most of the characters Dante encounter in hell are either famous sinners, or politicians of the time that Dante did not particularly like. He displays them suffering the wrath of God and their own sins only to embarrass them. From Dante’s beautifully crafted word working (it is a poem, and not a novel after all) to his ironic hell, Dante’s Inferno is a great read and I recommend it to anyone and everyone who is willing and able to understand its literary value.

Discussion questions:

1. What sin do you believe should have the worst kind of punishments: sins of the flesh (physical sins, lust, gluttony, greed, violence), or the sacrilegious sins (sins against God, lying, working against the salvation of souls)?

2. What is the most ironic punishment you can think of for any of the nine rings of hell?

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Mr. and Mrs. Bennet are considered to not be rich but not be poor as well. They have 5 daughters who Mrs. Bennet urgently wishes to marry the girls off. Mr. Bennet, however, isn't as enthusiastic as his wife. Nearby, a young gentlemen named Mr. Charles Bingley moves into a new estate. He's very wealthy and just the man Mrs. Bennet has been looking for to marry one of her daughters. At a ball, Mr. Bingley brings his sister and his friend Mr. Darcy. The eldest daughter of the Bennets, Jane, falls in love with Charles as well as he fell in love with her. The protagonist, Elizabeth Bennet, an outgoing an independent woman of her own and nothing like the lady she should be and represent English society, takes a disliking towards Mr. Darcy as he isn't very fond with her either. Society deems him arrogant and proud. As the story progresses, Mr. Darcy eventually begins to find an interest in Elizabeth and later she realizes her love for him as well. But Mr. Darcy, because of his pride, finds it hard to accept his feelings because Elizabeth isn't from a very rich and classy English family.

1. In English society, it was a custom for women to be married off, especially to statuses of their own or higher in order for their family to have a good name. If they married someone who was of lower status, it was a disgrace to their family name. Seeing the marriage situations back then, how do they differ today?

2. In your own opinion, do you believe status is important? Why do you believe this?


1984, a novel written in 1949 by George Orwell follows Winston Smith, a member of a "utopian" society called oceana, was a member of the party. He worked to continue on the propaganda that the party had put in place, this involved deleting or editing old documents. All of this was done in the name of Big Brother. Big brother was an idea that was perpetuated by the party to help unite the county. Many things are done in the name of big brother. Anywhere from Winston's simple task of altering documents to totally erasing a persons identity. The party also takes people away and teaches them to love Big Brother. This happens when they take the persons worse fear and the party uses it to convince the person that big brother is the o ly one that can save them. Unfortunately Winston is convinced to love Big Brother despite his struggle throughout the story against him. This struggle is one against an oppressive government that doesn't even allow free thought to occur. With what they called new speak, which is a way to condense the language into just a few words. Another way they are oppressive dis the role of the proles, which are nonparty members. They are forced to live life In the slums, not that the low ranking party members are much better off in their situation. Most citizens struggle with poverty and all have to deal with the constant eye of big brother watching over them via the telescreens in every room.

Would you follow a totalitarian government if it meant that you were able to lead a "normal" life?

Considering the time period it was written do you. Thin Orwell was pulling from anything in particular when he wrote this book?

The Old Man and the Sea by Earnest Hemmingway

Santiago, a Cuban fisherman, has had a streak of bad luck and has not caught any fish. On the 84th day without a fish Santiago returns to land to find that he is being ridiculed by other fishermen for his bad luck. His apprentice, a young boy named Manolin, also tells him that his father will no longer allow him to fish with Santiago because he has no luck. Throughout all of this hardship, Santiago remains optimistic. The two return to Santiago's shack and Santiago offers to make dinner for Manolin. He declines, knowing that Santiago has nothing and will go hungry for the day. The two then talk about baseball. When the boy finally leaves, Santiago goes to sleep and dreams about lions and the beaches of Africa which he once saw as a boy.
The next morning, Santiago goes to the boy's house and wakes him. The two take Santiago's fishing gear to the boat and Santiago leaves the boy to go out to sea. When Santiago gets to the point at which he can no longer see the shore, he finally gets a bite. The giant marlin begins pulling Santiago farther and farther out to sea. He is pulled throughout the night and into the next morning. The next day, as Santiago still fights with the fish, a small bird lands on his line. suddenly the marlin begins pulling harder and the bird leaves. Santiago notices that his hand is cut from the line. He then decides to eat the fish he caught the previous day in order to gain strength for the fight that will most likely go through the next day. he also decides to put out another line so that he may catch another smaller fish to eat. as he does this, the marlin jumps out of the water and Santiago sees it for the first time. It is almost two feet longer that Santiago's boat. The marlin then begins slowing down. Later that evening, Santiago catches a dolphin on his second line and is able to pull it in and kill it while holding on to the marlin. That night he is able to sleep. he is woken up by the marlin pulling the line. He can tell that the fish is making his final stand against Santiago. after a few more hours of fighting, Santiago is finally able to pull the marlin to the boat and harpoon it. He cannot put the marlin in the boat because it is too big. as he is returning, the marlin is attacked by sharks. by the time he returns to the harbor, there is almost nothing left of the marlin. He takes down his sail and returns home to sleep. The next day, other fishermen gather at Santiago's boat to see what is left of his fish. they measure it to be 18 feet. He talks to Manolin who tells him that he will fish with Santiago again regardless of what his parents say. Manolin then leaves and Santiago goes back to sleep.

1. Santiago is very optimistic after going nearly 3 months without catching anything. If you were in his situation would you give up or would you keep fishing as he did?

2. Do you think you would be able to fight a fish for nearly three days as Santiago did or would you give up before you could catch it?