Title: Of Mice and Men
Author: John Steinbeck
Point of View: third person omniscient
Setting: Soledad, California
Main Characters: Lennie - A large, lumbering, childlike migrant worker. Due to his mild mental disability, Lennie completely depends upon George, his friend and traveling companion, for guidance and protection. The two men share a vision of a farm that they will own together, a vision that Lennie believes in wholeheartedly. Gentle and kind, Lennie nevertheless does not understand his own strength. His love of petting soft things, such as small animals, dresses, and people's hair, leads to disaster.
George - A small, wiry, quick-witted man who travels with, and cares for, Lennie. Although he frequently speaks of how much better his life would be without his caretaking responsibilities, George is obviously devoted to Lennie. George's behavior is motivated by the desire to protect Lennie and, eventually, deliver them both to the farm of their dreams. Though George is the source of the often-told story of life on their future farm, it is Lennie's childlike faith that enables George to actually believe his account of their future.
Themes: The Predatory Nature of Human Existence, Fraternity and the Idealized Male Friendship, The Impossibility of the American Dream, Loneliness and Companionship
Short Summary: Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck tells the rather eccentric story of two men who travel
together to work and make a living. These men, George and Lennie, are not family, but they are
just as close as any. George takes care of Lennie, a massive man who behaves like a child. As the
men travel through California during the time of the Great Depression, they find work on a
ranch. The two share a dream that they will someday get to own their own ranch and live happy,
carefree lives. Lennie has been known to cause trouble due to his sheer size and inability to fully
comprehend the world around him. He gets into trouble again when Curley, the boss's son,
grows a hatred for him. This is only the beginning, though, for Lennie starts to get infatuated
with Curley's wife. When he begins to play with her hair and accidentally starts to hurt her,
things escalate quickly and she ends up dead. So, Lennie flees into the woods where George told
him to run if he was to get into trouble. When the workers on the ranch learn what has happened,
they all begin to search for Lennie to kill him. George goes ahead of the men, already knowing
where Lennie is. When he gets there, he tells Lennie to talk to him about their dream, and
George shoots Lennie.
Personal Response: Of Mice and Men is an eccentric story which has a prominent theme of the loneliness of human existence. This is apparent by the backgrounds of each character as well as the sorrowful ending. However, it is still a wonderful novel with an unusual plot.
Perfect Quote: "'With us it ain't like that. We
got a future. We got somebody to talk to that
gives a damn about us. We don't have to sit-in
no bar room blowin' in our jack jus' because
we got no place else to go. If them othernguys
gets in jail they can rot for all anybody gives a
damn. But not us.'
Lennie broke in. 'But not us! An' why?
Because . . . . because I got you to look after
me, and you got me to look after you, and
that's why.' He laughed delightedly."
Author: Mary Shelley
Point of View: First person, limited
Setting: Russia then transitions to Geneva, Switzerland
Main Characters: Victor Frankenstein - The doomed protagonist and narrator of the main portion of the story. Studying in Ingolstadt, Victor discovers the secret of life and creates an intelligent but grotesque monster, from whom he recoils in horror. Victor keeps his creation of the monster a secret, feeling increasingly guilty and ashamed as he realizes how helpless he is to prevent the monster from ruining his life and the lives of others.
The monster - The eight-foot-tall, hideously ugly creation of Victor Frankenstein. Intelligent and sensitive, the monster attempts to integrate himself into human social patterns, but all who see him shun him. His feeling of abandonment compels him to seek revenge against his creator.
Robert Walton - The Arctic seafarer whose letters open and close Frankenstein. Walton picks the bedraggled Victor Frankenstein up off the ice, helps nurse him back to health, and hears Victor's story. He records the incredible tale in a series of letters addressed to his sister, Margaret Saville, in England.
Themes: Dangerous Knowledge, Sublime Nature, Monstrosity, Secrecy
Short Summary: In 1794, in the Arctic Sea, Captain Robert Walton is a man obsessed to reach the North Pole, pushing his crew to exhaustion. When his ship hits an iceberg, it is stranded in the ice. Out of the blue, Captain Walton and his men overhear a dreadful cry and they see a stranger coming to the ship. He introduces himself and Victor Frankenstein and he tells to the captain the story of his life since he was a little boy in Geneva. Victor is a brilliant student and in love with his stepsister Elizabeth, an orphan that was raised by his father Baron Frankenstein. In 1793, Victor moves to Ingolstadt to study at the university and he promises to get married to Elizabeth. At the university, Victor befriends Henry Clerval who becomes his best friend. Victor gets close to Professor Waldman and decides to create life to cheat death, but Waldman advises him that he should not try this experiment since the result would be an abomination. When Waldman dies, Victor steals his notes and tries to create life. He succeeds and gives life to a strong Creature, composed of parts of deceased persons. However he realizes that his experiment is a mistake and he abandons the Creature expecting that it will die alone. However the Creature survives and learns how to read and write, but he is a monster rejected by society and his own creator. The Creature decides to seek revenge from Victor by killing everyone he loves.
Personal Response: Frankenstein is an intriguing novel in which the main character is traumatized by his own creation. I find it a metaphor on life of how Victor's own creation is what causes his death.
Perfect Quote: "One man's life or death were but a small price to pay for the acquirement of the knowledge which I sought, for the dominion I should acquire and transmit over the elemental foes of our race."
Title: The Awakening
Author: Kate Chopin
Point of View: Third Person
Setting: Grand Isle and New Orleans
Main Characters: Edna Pontellier - Edna is the protagonist of the novel, and the "awakening" to which the title refers is hers. The twenty-eight-year-old wife of a New Orleans businessman, Edna suddenly finds herself dissatisfied with her marriage and the limited, conservative lifestyle that it allows. She emerges from her semi-conscious state of devoted wife and mother to a state of total awareness, in which she discovers her own identity and acts on her desires for emotional and sexual satisfaction. Through a series of experiences, or "awakenings," Edna becomes a shockingly independent woman, who lives apart from her husband and children and is responsible only to her own urges and passions. Tragically, Edna's awakenings isolate her from others and ultimately lead her to a state of total solitude.
Mademoiselle Reisz - Mademoiselle Reisz may be the most influential character in Edna's awakening. She is unmarried and childless, and she devotes her life to her passion: music. A talented pianist and somewhat of a recluse, she represents independence and freedom and serves as a sort of muse for Edna. When Edna begins actively to pursue personal independence, she seeks Mademoiselle Reisz's companionship. Mademoiselle warns Edna that she must be brave if she wishes to be an artist—that an artist must have a courageous and defiant soul. Mademoiselle Reisz is the only character in the novel who knows of the love between Robert and Edna, and she, thus, serves as a true confidante for Edna despite their considerably different personalities. Mademoiselle Reisz is also a foil for Edna's other close female friend, Adèle Ratignolle, who epitomizes the conventional and socially acceptable woman of the late nineteenth century.
Adèle Ratignolle - Edna's close friend, Adèle Ratignolle represents the Victorian feminine ideal. She idolizes her children and worships her husband, centering her life around caring for them and performing her domestic duties. While her lifestyle and attitude contrast with Edna's increasing independence, Adèle unwittingly helps facilitate her friend's transformation. Her free manner of discourse and expression, typical of Creole women of the time, acts as a catalyst for Edna's abandonment of her former reserved and introverted nature. Adele is also a foil for Mademoiselle Reisz, whose independent and unconventional lifestyle inspires Edna's transgressions.
Robert Lebrun - Robert Lebrun is the twenty-six-year-old single man with whom Edna falls in love. Dramatic and passionate, he has a history of becoming the devoted attendant to a different woman each summer at Grand Isle. Robert offers his affections comically and in an over-exaggerated manner, and thus is never taken seriously. As the friendship between Robert and Edna becomes more intimate and complex, however, he realizes that he has genuinely fallen in love with Edna. He is torn between his love for her and society's view that women are the possessions of their husbands.
Themes: Solitude as the Consequence of Independence, The Implications of Self-Expression
Summary: When the book opens, Edna Pontellier is an obedient wife and mother vacationing at Grand Isle with her family. While there, however, Edna become close to a young man named Robert Lebrun. Before they act on their mutual romantic interest in each other, Robert leaves for Mexico. Edna is lonely without his companionship, but shortly after her return to New Orleans (where she usually lives with her family), she picks up the male equivalent of a mistress. Although she does not love Alcee Arobin, he awakens various sexual passions within her.
Concurrent to Edna's sexual awakening is her determination for independence. Instead of spending her days concerned with household matters, Edna pursues her interest in painting. Rather than depending financially on her husband, Edna moves into a house of her own. By the time Robert returns, professing his love for Edna and his desire to someday marry her, Edna can no longer handle societal strictures - particularly marriage. Without finishing the conversation about their future, Robert leaves Edna. Heartbroken, she returns to Grand Isle. Once there, she swims far out to sea and presumably drowns.
Personal Response: I found this novel to be unique in the sense that it told from a perspective of a woman who was not okay with not being able to be her own person. Then, when it tells of her story and how she suffered for her search of individuality, it gives insight to exactly what society was like in this time.
The Perfect Quote: "Looking at them reminded her of her rings, which she had given to her husband before leaving for the beach. She silently reached out to him, and he, understanding, took the rings from his vest pocket and dropped them into her open palm. She slipped them upon her fingers."
Author: William Shakespeare
Point of View: third person
Setting: Scotland, Europe
Main Characters: Macbeth - Macbeth is a Scottish general and the thane of Glamis who is led to wicked thoughts by the prophecies of the three witches, especially after their prophecy that he will be made thane of Cawdor comes true. Macbeth is a brave soldier and a powerful man, but he is not a virtuous one. He is easily tempted into murder to fulfill his ambitions to the throne, and once he commits his first crime and is crowned King of Scotland, he embarks on further atrocities with increasing ease. Ultimately, Macbeth proves himself better suited to the battlefield than to political intrigue, because he lacks the skills necessary to rule without being a tyrant. His response to every problem is violence and murder. Unlike Shakespeare's great villains, such as Iago in Othello and Richard III in Richard III, Macbeth is never comfortable in his role as a criminal. He is unable to bear the psychological consequences of his atrocities.
Lady Macbeth - Macbeth's wife, a deeply ambitious woman who lusts for power and position. Early in the play she seems to be the stronger and more ruthless of the two, as she urges her husband to kill Duncan and seize the crown. After the bloodshed begins, however, Lady Macbeth falls victim to guilt and madness to an even greater degree than her husband. Her conscience affects her to such an extent that she eventually commits suicide. Interestingly, she and Macbeth are presented as being deeply in love, and many of Lady Macbeth's speeches imply that her influence over her husband is primarily sexual. Their joint alienation from the world, occasioned by their partnership in crime, seems to strengthen the attachment that they feel to each another.
The Three Witches - Three "black and midnight hags" who plot mischief against Macbeth using charms, spells, and prophecies. Their predictions prompt him to murder Duncan, to order the deaths of Banquo and his son, and to blindly believe in his own immortality. The play leaves the witches' true identity unclear—aside from the fact that they are servants of Hecate, we know little about their place in the cosmos. In some ways they resemble the mythological Fates, who impersonally weave the threads of human destiny. They clearly take a perverse delight in using their knowledge of the future to toy with and destroy human beings.
Themes: The Corrupting Power of Unchecked Ambition, The Relationship Between Cruelty and Masculinity, The Difference Between Kingship and Tyranny
Summary: In the beginning Macbeth was a Thane of Glamis. He met three witches that told him "you will become king." He didn't believe this, but the witches also told him he would become the Thane of Cawdor, which did happen. Then Macbeth began to believe them (a little). Next he thought "Being King wouldn't be too bad," so he and his wife, Lady Macbeth, planned to kill King Duncan. They did and put the blame on the King's gaurds. That plan went successfully.
The King had two sons, Malcolm and Donalbain. They fled after they heard of their father's death. Once Macbeth became King, he thought he had no worries. But Macbeth knows that Banquo knew of his plan to kill Duncan, so Macbeth hired three murders to kill Banquo and his son Fleance. They killed Banquo, but Fleance got away. After Macbeth heard of the success of the murder he became insane.
Macbeth went to the witches to see what he had to fear. The witches showed him some apparitions, which told him what to fear. There were three of them. The first one said to look out for the Thane of Fife, which was Macduff. The second apparition said that none born of a woman would kill him. Last the thrid one said to not worry until Great Birnam (the forest) comes to your castle. Macbeth thought he had it made from what the apparitions said.
Just to be safe, Macbeth tried to find ways to get Macduff to come back so he could kill him. Macbeth had Macduff's family murdered. Once Macduff heard of this, he wanted Macbeth's head. So Macduff went to his friend Malcolm, who was in England. They talked and came up with a plan to get Macbeth. Macduff said "I want to kill Macbeth." Malcolm and Macduff got an army ready and left for Macbeth. Macbeth heard of the plan Malcolm and Macduff made and was planning to hold them out. Well once Malcolm's army got to the castle they planned to cut branches off trees from Birnam forest and use it as cover. Macbeth's army started leaving him and going to Malcolm's side.
Macduff got inside and was on the look for Macbeth. Once he found him they began to fight. Macbeth said "You can't defeat me. None born of a woman can harm me." But Macduff wasn't born of a woman, he was cut out of her womb early. So Macbeth knew he was doomed. After the fight Macduff cut off his head, and the castle was back in the right hands. Malcolm became the new king.
Personal response: I found this story disturbing in the sense that Macbeth, the main character, goes from being an honest and noble character to brutal and terribly selfish, with the assistance of his wife. I find it disappointing that he is killed, thought justifiably, so the kingdom would not end up in his hands.
Perfect quote: MACBETH
"My thought, whose murder yet is but fantastical,
Shakes so my single state of man
That function is smother'd in surmise,
and nothing is but what is not."
Title: A Midsummer Night's Dream
Author: William Shakespeare
Point of View: First person; varies per scene
Setting: A Wood Outside of Athens
Main Characters: Puck - Also known as Robin Goodfellow, Puck is Oberon's jester, a mischievous fairy who delights in playing pranks on mortals. Though A Midsummer Night's Dream divides its action between several groups of characters, Puck is the closest thing the play has to a protagonist. His enchanting, mischievous spirit pervades the atmosphere, and his antics are responsible for many of the complications that propel the other main plots: he mistakes the young Athenians, applying the love potion to Lysander instead of Demetrius, thereby causing chaos within the group of young lovers; he also transforms Bottom's head into that of an ass.
Oberon - The king of the fairies, Oberon is initially at odds with his wife, Titania, because she refuses to relinquish control of a young Indian prince whom he wants for a knight. Oberon's desire for revenge on Titania leads him to send Puck to obtain the love-potion flower that creates so much of the play's confusion and farce.
Titania - The beautiful queen of the fairies, Titania resists the attempts of her husband, Oberon, to make a knight of the young Indian prince that she has been given. Titania's brief, potion-induced love for Nick Bottom, whose head Puck has transformed into that of an ass, yields the play's foremost example of the contrast motif.
Lysander - A young man of Athens, in love with Hermia. Lysander's relationship with Hermia invokes the theme of love's difficulty: he cannot marry her openly because Egeus, her father, wishes her to wed Demetrius; when Lysander and Hermia run away into the forest, Lysander becomes the victim of misapplied magic and wakes up in love with Helena.
Demetrius - A young man of Athens, initially in love with Hermia and ultimately in love with Helena. Demetrius's obstinate pursuit of Hermia throws love out of balance among the quartet of Athenian youths and precludes a symmetrical two-couple arrangement.
Hermia - Egeus's daughter, a young woman of Athens. Hermia is in love with Lysander and is a childhood friend of Helena. As a result of the fairies' mischief with Oberon's love potion, both Lysander and Demetrius suddenly fall in love with Helena. Self-conscious about her short stature, Hermia suspects that Helena has wooed the men with her height. By morning, however, Puck has sorted matters out with the love potion, and Lysander's love for Hermia is restored.
Helena - A young woman of Athens, in love with Demetrius. Demetrius and Helena were once betrothed, but when Demetrius met Helena's friend Hermia, he fell in love with her and abandoned Helena. Lacking confidence in her looks, Helena thinks that Demetrius and Lysander are mocking her when the fairies' mischief causes them to fall in love with her.
Themes: Love's Difficulty, Magic, Dreams
Summary: Theseus, the Duke of Athens, is preparing for his marriage to Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons, A courtier seeks the Duke's intervention because his daughter, Hermia, will not agree to his choice of Demetrius as a husband: she's in love with Lysander. The Duke tells Hermia to obey her father, or either die or accept a life as a nun in Diana's temple. Lysander and Hermia plan to elope, and they tell Helena, who is in love with Demetrius, but he hates her and loves Hermia. The lovers run away from Athens but get lost in the woods. They are followed by Demetrius, and then by Helena, who has told him of their intentions.
Oberon, king of the fairies, who lives in the woods, has quarrelled with his queen, Titania, over an Indian boy she refuses to give him. Oberon overhears Helena and Demetrius arguing and sends his mischievous servant, Puck, to get a flower whose juice has the power to make people fall in love with the first creature they see when the juice is placed on their eyelids while asleep. He instructs Puck to put some drops on Demetrius' eyes. Mistaking the Athenian he seeks, Puck puts the flower juice on the eyes of the sleeping Lysander so that when he is woken by Helena he immediately falls in love with her and rejects Hermia.
Some artisans are rehearsing a play about the tragic love-story of Pyramus and Thisbe to present before Theseus on his wedding day. Bottom, the weaver, is to play the lover, Pyramus, while Flute, the bellows-mender, is to play Thisbe. The others play the parts of the Moon, the Wall and the Lion and they are directed by Quince, the carpenter. Puck overhears their rehearsals in the wood and he plays a trick on them by giving Bottom an ass's head which frightens the others away. Bottom is lured towards the sleeping Titania whom Oberon has treated with the flower juice. On waking, she falls in love with the ass and entertains him with her fairies, but when Bottom falls asleep beside her, Oberon restores Titania's sight and wakes her. She is appalled at the sight of what she has been in love with and is reunited with Oberon.
Puck removes the ass's head and Bottom returns to Athens and rejoins his friends as they prepare to perform their play. Meanwhile the lovers' arguments tire them out as they chase one another through the woods and when Demetrius rests, Oberon puts magic juice on his eyes so that both he and Lysander pursue Helena until the fourlovers fall asleep, exhausted. Puck puts juice on Lysander's eyes before the lovers are woken by Theseus and Hippolyta and their dawn hunting party. Happily reunited to each other, Lysander with Hermia, Demetrius with Helena, they agree to share the Duke's wedding day. The rustics perform the play of Pyramus and Thisbe before the wedding guests. As the three couples retire Puck and the fairies return to bless the palace and its people.
Personal Response: I found this play to be lighthearted and humorous. It was a nice spin on a traditional romance, and it was fun to read.
Perfect quote: "THESEUS
Hippolyta, I wooed thee with my sword
And won thy love doing thee injuries,
But I will wed thee in another key,
With pomp, with triumph, and with reveling."
Summary: John Wright has been strangled to death with a rope in his mega-creepy Midwestern farmhouse. The main suspect of the grizzly crime? His wife. As the County Attorney, Sheriff Peters, and a neighboring farmer named Mr. Hale investigate the house for clues, the real sleuths turn out to be Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters. Though the menfolk constantly make fun of the women for worrying about female things, like Mrs. Wright's unfinished quilt, it's the ladies' attention to "woman stuff" that allows them to crack the case.
When the ladies discover Mrs. Wright's pet canary with its neck wrung, they immediately put the mystery together. Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters know that the harsh Mr. Wright snapped the canary's neck, and that, after years of neglect and emotional abuse, Mrs. Wright repaid her husband by giving him a taste of what her pet bird got. (And we don't mean birdseed.)
The play comes to its spine-tingling conclusion when the ladies hide the bird from the male authorities, denying them the evidence of motive they need to convict Mrs. Wright. In the end, we're left with lots of juicy questions about the true meaning of justice for women... and oppressed people everywhere.
Personal response: I found this play to be a bit morbid. The implications of the murder and motifs are extreme. Even so, it was an unusual read.
Perfect quote: "HALE: [...] I thought maybe if I went to the house and talked about it before his wife, though I said to Harry that I didn't know as what his wife wanted made much difference to John— (10)"
Title: The Grapes of Wrath
Author: John Steinbeck
Point of View: Third person omniscient
Setting: The setting begins in Oklahoma then the family begins to travel to California
Main characters: Tom Joad - The novel's protagonist, and Ma and Pa Joad's favorite son. Tom is good-natured and thoughtful and makes do with what life hands him. Even though he killed a man and has been separated from his family for four years, he does not waste his time with regrets. He lives fully for the present moment, which enables him to be a great source of vitality for the Joad family. A wise guide and fierce protector, Tom exhibits a moral certainty throughout the novel that imbues him with strength and resolve: he earns the awed respect of his family members as well as the workers he later organizes into unions.
Ma Joad - The mother of the Joad family. Ma is introduced as a woman who knowingly and gladly fulfills her role as "the citadel of the family." She is the healer of the family's ills and the arbiter of its arguments, and her ability to perform these tasks grows as the novel progresses.
Pa Joad - Ma Joad's husband and Tom's father. Pa Joad is an Oklahoma tenant farmer who has been evicted from his farm. A plainspoken, good-hearted man, Pa directs the effort to take the family to California. Once there, unable to find work and increasingly desperate, Pa finds himself looking to Ma Joad for strength and leadership, though he sometimes feels ashamed of his weaker position.
Jim Casy - A former preacher who gave up his ministry out of a belief that all human experience is holy. Often the moral voice of the novel, Casy articulates many of its most important themes, among them the sanctity of the people and the essential unity of all mankind. A staunch friend of Tom Joad, Casy goes to prison in Tom's stead for a fight that erupts between laborers and the California police. He emerges a determined organizer of the migrant workers.
Themes: Man's Inhumanity to Man, The Saving Power of Family and Fellowship, The Dignity of Wrath, The Multiplying Effects of Selfishness and Altruism
Summary: The Grapes of Wrath is the story of the experiences of the Joad family from the time of their eviction from a farm near Sallisaw, Oklahoma to their first winter in California. The novel has little plot in the ordinary sense. It has thirty chapters, fourteen of which deal with the Joad story. The other sixteen chapters, called interchapters, are not part of the narrative about the Joads. They are, instead, essays dealing with the larger significance of the situation in which the Joads find themselves. These chapters utilize the material that Steinbeck had found in his visits to the migrant camps and his observations of the general situation of drought and depression.
Personal Response: I enjoyed this book because I gained insight of the struggles Americans faced in this time period. It was a more personal version of a historical view. However, the ending did not settle well with me. It was a strange way to hint to the reader that the Joad family would be okay, despite all of their tragedies.
The perfect quote: "Fella gets use' to a place, it's hard to go," said Casy. "Fella gets use' to a way of thinkin' it's hard to leave."
Title: Romeo and Juliet
Author: William Shakespeare
Point of View: first person, third person, shifts throughout play
Setting: Verona and Mantua (cities in northern Italy)
Main Characters: Romeo - The son and heir of Montague and Lady Montague. A young man of about sixteen, Romeo is handsome, intelligent, and sensitive. Though impulsive and immature, his idealism and passion make him an extremely likable character. He lives in the middle of a violent feud between his family and the Capulets, but he is not at all interested in violence. His only interest is love. At the beginning of the play he is madly in love with a woman named Rosaline, but the instant he lays eyes on Juliet, he falls in love with her and forgets Rosaline. Thus, Shakespeare gives us every reason to question how real Romeo's new love is, but Romeo goes to extremes to prove the seriousness of his feelings. He secretly marries Juliet, the daughter of his father's worst enemy; he happily takes abuse from Tybalt; and he would rather die than live without his beloved. Romeo is also an affectionate and devoted friend to his relative Benvolio, Mercutio, and Friar Lawrence.
Juliet - The daughter of Capulet and Lady Capulet. A beautiful thirteen-year-old girl, Juliet begins the play as a naïve child who has thought little about love and marriage, but she grows up quickly upon falling in love with Romeo, the son of her family's great enemy. Because she is a girl in an aristocratic family, she has none of the freedom Romeo has to roam around the city, climb over walls in the middle of the night, or get into swordfights. Nevertheless, she shows amazing courage in trusting her entire life and future to Romeo, even refusing to believe the worst reports about him after he gets involved in a fight with her cousin. Juliet's closest friend and confidant is her nurse, though she's willing to shut the Nurse out of her life the moment the Nurse turns against Romeo.
Friar Lawrence - A Franciscan friar, friend to both Romeo and Juliet. Kind, civic-minded, a proponent of moderation, and always ready with a plan, Friar Lawrence secretly marries the impassioned lovers in hopes that the union might eventually bring peace to Verona. As well as being a Catholic holy man, Friar Lawrence is also an expert in the use of seemingly mystical potions and herbs.
Mercutio - A kinsman to the Prince, and Romeo's close friend. One of the most extraordinary characters in all of Shakespeare's plays, Mercutio overflows with imagination, wit, and, at times, a strange, biting satire and brooding fervor. Mercutio loves wordplay, especially sexual double entendres. He can be quite hotheaded, and hates people who are affected, pretentious, or obsessed with the latest fashions. He finds Romeo's romanticized ideas about love tiresome, and tries to convince Romeo to view love as a simple matter of sexual appetite.
The Nurse - Juliet's nurse, the woman who breast-fed Juliet when she was a baby and has cared for Juliet her entire life. A vulgar, long-winded, and sentimental character, the Nurse provides comic relief with her frequently inappropriate remarks and speeches. But, until a disagreement near the play's end, the Nurse is Juliet's faithful confidante and loyal intermediary in Juliet's affair with Romeo. She provides a contrast with Juliet, given that her view of love is earthy and sexual, whereas Juliet is idealistic and intense. The Nurse believes in love and wants Juliet to have a nice-looking husband, but the idea that Juliet would want to sacrifice herself for love is incomprehensible to her.
Themes: The forcefulness of love, love as a cause of violence, the individual versus society, the inevitability of fate
Summary: Romeo and Juliet fall in love at a party. But they come from families which hate each other. They are sure they will not be allowed to marry. Nevertheless, helped by Friar Laurence, they marry in secret instead. Unfortunately, before their wedding night Romeo kills Juliet's cousin in a duel, and in the morning he is forced to leave her. If he ever returns to the city, he will be put to death.
Juliet's parents told her she must marry Paris. Her parents do not know she is already married. She refuses in the beginning, but later agrees because she plans to fake her death and escape to be with Romeo forever; again with the help of Friar Laurence.
Frair Laurence designs the plan. He gives Juliet a sleeping potion. She appears to be dead and was put in a tomb. However, Romeo does not know about the plan, visits her grave, thinks she is dead, and kills himself. When Juliet finally wakes up, she discovers that Romeo is dead and then kills herself.
Personal Response: Romeo and Juliet has become one of my favorite works of Literature. The tragedy of this romance is original in itself, as is Shakespeare's writing style.
Perfect Quote: "BENVOLIO
[...] What sadness lengthens Romeo's hours?
Not having that, which, having, makes them short.
Out of her favor, where I am in love."
Title: Animal Farm
Author: George Orwell
Point of View: third person, impersonal and omniscient point of view
Setting: a farm in England around the time of the Russian revolution
Main characters:Napoleon - The pig who emerges as the leader of Animal Farm after the Rebellion. Based on Joseph Stalin, Napoleon uses military force (his nine loyal attack dogs) to intimidate the other animals and consolidate his power. In his supreme craftiness, Napoleon proves more treacherous than his counterpart, Snowball.
Snowball - The pig who challenges Napoleon for control of Animal Farm after the Rebellion. Based on Leon Trotsky, Snowball is intelligent, passionate, eloquent, and less subtle and devious than his counterpart, Napoleon. Snowball seems to win the loyalty of the other animals and cement his power.
Boxer - The cart-horse whose incredible strength, dedication, and loyalty play a key role in the early prosperity of Animal Farm and the later completion of the windmill. Quick to help but rather slow-witted, Boxer shows much devotion to Animal Farm's ideals but little ability to think about them independently. He naïvely trusts the pigs to make all his decisions for him. His two mottoes are "I will work harder" and "Napoleon is always right."
Squealer - The pig who spreads Napoleon's propaganda among the other animals. Squealer justifies the pigs' monopolization of resources and spreads false statistics pointing to the farm's success. Orwell uses Squealer to explore the ways in which those in power often use rhetoric and language to twist the truth and gain and maintain social and political control.
Old Major - The prize-winning boar whose vision of a socialist utopia serves as the inspiration for the Rebellion. Three days after describing the vision and teaching the animals the song "Beasts of England," Major dies, leaving Snowball and Napoleon to struggle for control of his legacy. Orwell based Major on both the German political economist Karl Marx and the Russian revolutionary leader Vladimir Ilych Lenin.
Themes: The Corruption of Socialist Ideals in the Soviet Union, The Societal Tendency Toward Class Stratification, The Danger of a Naïve Working Class, The Abuse of Language as Instrumental to the Abuse of Power
Summary: Animal Farm begins with a very drunk Mr. Jones (owner of Manor Farm) doing a really crummy job of, you know, his job. Luckily, there's a wise pig on the farm: Old Major. Old Major encourages the neglected animals to rebel and run the farm themselves with one important qualification: everyone should be equal.
Then he dies.
This seems like a grand idea to everyone except Benjamin, a cynical donkey whose main job in life is to be, well, cynical. So, they rebel. The pigs, being the smartest animals, naturally take the leadership role. So much for that equality business. So much for Old Major's vision of a peaceful coup, too, because there's immediate conflict between two pigs, Napoleon and Snowball. Napoleon wants to sit around and be in charge of everything, while Snowball wants to teach the other animals and build a windmill. Obviously, Snowball's plan is way better, so he wins.
Not. Instead, Napoleon uses his private army of nine ferocious and enormous dogs to become the All Powerful Dominant Boss Leader Chief Pig. Okay, he doesn't call it that, but you know it's in the back of his mind somewhere.
With Snowball is out of the picture, the other pigs blame everything on him. They exploit the other animals shamelessly, breaking all the rules about equality that they had established after the Rebellion. Life on the farm gets worse and worse, the animals forget old Major's original dream, and the pigs make some poor management decisions when dealing with the neighboring farms. The culminating miserable moment comes when the pigs send Boxer, a hardworking and loyal horse who is ready for retirement, to his death. Ouch.
In short, the pigs are starting to look a lot like the horrible human owners that we started with at the beginning of this whole mess, walking on two legs and everything. In fact, they may even be worse.
Hm. It looks like grumpy old Eeyore—we mean, Benjamin—was right after all.
Personal Response: I enjoyed this novel and its references to totalitarianism. The metaphors furthered the opinion of Orwell and the impacts he felt took place on society.
Perfect Quote: "The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which."
Title: The Great Gatsby
Author: F. Scott Fitzgerald
Point of View: first person narrator
Setting: Long Island and New York City in the Early 1920s
Main Characters: Nick Carraway - The novel's narrator, Nick is a young man from Minnesota who, after being educated at Yale and fighting in World War I, goes to New York City to learn the bond business. Honest, tolerant, and inclined to reserve judgment, Nick often serves as a confidant for those with troubling secrets. After moving to West Egg, a fictional area of Long Island that is home to the newly rich, Nick quickly befriends his next-door neighbor, the mysterious Jay Gatsby. As Daisy Buchanan's cousin, he facilitates the rekindling of the romance between her and Gatsby. The Great Gatsby is told entirely through Nick's eyes; his thoughts and perceptions shape and color the story.
Jay Gatsby - The title character and protagonist of the novel, Gatsby is a fabulously wealthy young man living in a Gothic mansion in West Egg. He is famous for the lavish parties he throws every Saturday night, but no one knows where he comes from, what he does, or how he made his fortune. As the novel progresses, Nick learns that Gatsby was born James Gatz on a farm in North Dakota; working for a millionaire made him dedicate his life to the achievement of wealth. When he met Daisy while training to be an officer in Louisville, he fell in love with her. Nick also learns that Gatsby made his fortune through criminal activity, as he was willing to do anything to gain the social position he thought necessary to win Daisy. Nick views Gatsby as a deeply flawed man, dishonest and vulgar, whose extraordinary optimism and power to transform his dreams into reality make him "great" nonetheless.
Daisy Buchanan - Nick's cousin, and the woman Gatsby loves. As a young woman in Louisville before the war, Daisy was courted by a number of officers, including Gatsby. She fell in love with Gatsby and promised to wait for him. However, Daisy harbors a deep need to be loved, and when a wealthy, powerful young man named Tom Buchanan asked her to marry him, Daisy decided not to wait for Gatsby after all. Now a beautiful socialite, Daisy lives with Tom across from Gatsby in the fashionable East Egg district of Long Island. She is sardonic and somewhat cynical, and behaves superficially to mask her pain at her husband's constant infidelity.
Tom Buchanan - Daisy's immensely wealthy husband, once a member of Nick's social club at Yale. Powerfully built and hailing from a socially solid old family, Tom is an arrogant, hypocritical bully. His social attitudes are laced with racism and sexism, and he never even considers trying to live up to the moral standard he demands from those around him. He has no moral qualms about his own extramarital affair with Myrtle, but when he begins to suspect Daisy and Gatsby of having an affair, he becomes outraged and forces a confrontation.
Themes: The Decline of the American Dream in the 1920s, The Hollowness of the Upper Class,
Summary: Nick Carroway, the protagonist, has recently moved from the midwest to get his career started in New York. He lives on the island of West Egg (which is poorer) across from East Egg (richer) where his pompous friends Tom and Daisy live. They gossip and party a lot, and Tom is cheating on Daisy with a lady named Myrtle Wilson. Everyone knows except for Daisy and Mr. Wilson.
Nick lives next door to a mysterious man named Gatsby, who throws legendary parties, but no one knows anything about him. Nick becomes friends with him and learns that he is in love with Daisy. They almost married when they were younger, but he was too poor and decided to wait. He gets with Daisy again, and they have an affair.
Tom is suspicious of this, and he tries to prove that Gatsby is not who he seems. Daisy becomes enraged at Tom's condescending, superior, chauvenist attitude, and says that she will leave Tom for Gatsby. However, she then finds out that Gatsby is not the respected pharmacist he claims to be. He gets his money through bootlegging.
Daisy then refuses to leave Tom for him, and makes him drive her home. Daisy is at the wheel when the car hits someone- coincidentally, Myrtle Wilson, Tom's other woman.
Mr. Wilson discovers his wife's affair, and asks around about the car that hit her (it is bright yellow and immediately recognizable). So, thinking that Gatsby hit her, Mr. Wilson goes to Gatsby's house and shoots him, and then shoots himself.
Gatsby dies alone, because no one shows up to his funeral except for Nick and his father. Tom and Daisy go to Chicago and Nick never sees them again.
Personal Response: My immediate response to this novel was sympathy and sadness for Gatsby. His total dedication to someone he loves all to end up alone and dead is heartbreaking. However, the theme of the hollowness of the upper class is exemplified through this.
Perfect Quote: "I am still a little afraid of missing something if I forget that, as my father snobbishly suggested, and I snobbishly repeat, a sense of the fundamental decencies is parceled out unequally at birth."
2nd EditionLawrence Scanlon, Renee H. Shea, Robin Dissin Aufses 1st EditionCarol Jago, Lawrence Scanlon, Renee H. Shea, Robin Dissin Aufses 3rd EditionDarlene Smith-Worthington, Sue Jefferson 3rd EditionDarlene Smith-Worthington, Sue Jefferson