Fahrenheit 451

3 05 2008

Fahrenheit 451

By Ray Bradbury

Summary:

Fahrenheit 451 was written by Ray Bradbury and first published in 1953.  Bradbury projects a futuristic world in which TV replaces family and human interaction, a world in which childish wonder and curiosity is frowned upon, replaced with superficiality.  The story line follows a fire fighter, Guy Montag, whose job it is to set fires.  In this reality, all homes and buildings have been made fireproof, so the need for firefighters to put out fires had been removed.  Their job was to keep society “happy”, keep them ignorant, and burn all written material, mostly literature.  The book follows Montag’s efforts to question society, to break from the force that is gripping the world, he’s trying to break away and accept human wonder and the desire to understand.

Review:

When I initially read this book sophomore year, I wasn’t really impressed.  I thought it was a pretty straightforward read and I enjoyed some of the story line.  But having the opportunity to re-read it my senior year, I have come to see a new love for this book.  The writing is really amazing, the way Bradbury sells this reality is impeccable.  At the beginning of the book Montag is our reference point, he seems very sincere, and almost a little naïve.  But we meet Clarisse, whom I just love, and we see and take a fondness to her innocence and purity as a child.  When we start meeting the other characters that have bought into the world of superficiality, we take a dislike for them, because they are so one-dimensional, because they have no initiative to learn or to wonder or to even want to think.  The book really made me question society and today’s culture, where we are starting to move further and further away from human interaction due to increased technology.  Bradbury may not have literally projected today’s society, but the overall idea of superficiality and lack of desire to explore and question has definitely evolved in the way that Bradbury suggested.

Why is this book “dangerous?”:

This book has not been widely banned, at least not at the state or national level, but it raised controversy in a Mississippi school district in 1999.  One would think that the book would raise controversy because of the ideas it puts forth, but in this case, a parent discredited the book based upon the words “God damn” used in the text.  I believe that this book itself is “dangerous” because it proposes this world in which it would be physically dangerous.





Fight Club

2 05 2008

Fight Club

by Chuck Palahniuk

Summary:

Fight Club was written by Chuck Palahniuk and first published in 1996. Originally intended as a short story, Palahniuk expanded it into a full novel after his first attempt, Invisible Monsters, was rejected by his publishers for being “too disturbing”. The whole novel is told in the first person, and the narrator, the “I” of the novel, is never named. In the  beginning of the novel, the narrator comes home from a business trip to discover that his apartment has been blown up. Everything that he hass worked for was inside the apartment, and it was all destroyed. In despair, he calls his acquaintance Tyler Durden, whom he had just met while on a business trip. Tyler helps him out and he moves into a house Tyler is renting. Together, they start an underground club where men come each night just to fight each other. They name it “Fight Club”. They start off meeting in the basement of a local bar and anyone who shows up can arrange to have a fight. The club is wildly popular with lower to middle class men and a large and fiercely loyal group of followers starts to form. Behind the narrators back, Tyler forms a cult like organization from the most loyal Fight Club members called “Project Mayhem”. The main goal of the project is to disrupt society around then by causing chaos and destruction. As Project Mayhem becomes more and more destructive, the narrator realizes that Tyler is going crazy, and that to deal with everything he might have gone crazy too.

It is hard to give a good summary of a book like Fight Club because so much goes on, and yet one of the things that make the book so good is the suspense it makes and the interesting directions that the plot goes. There is a major twist at the end, something that people who may have seen the movie are aware of. I would encourage people who have seen the movie but not read the book to do so, because some of the major themes that the book deals with are harder to see in the movie version. Plot wise, the movie version is very accurate and it is hard to read the book without visualizing Edward Norton and Brad Pitt playing the narrator and Tyler Durden.

Review:

I liked the book because it made me think about what it means to be an individual in the world today. It’s not a bad read, and I recommend it to anyone, male or female, who is interested in reading a slightly “different” book from most of the ones we read in school.

Why is this book “dangerous?”:

It is easy to see why this novel has been considered dangerous. The novel deals with themes of anti-consumerism, masculinity, and being an individual in today’s society. The main character becomes disillusioned with the direction that his life is heading. He finds that his life is defined by the furniture and the clothes that he has in his apartment; he is defined by his job and has no real control over his life. He finds relief from this feeling of hopelessness through Fight Club, where he can prove himself and find out what he is actually made of. It is easy for the reader to identify with the protagonist, because we have all felt something like this at one point in our lives. The way that “Fight Club” suggests that we deal with it all is nothing short of a revolution. The narrator blows up his apartment after he realizes that nothing in it means anything to him. He fights in Fight Club to really discover who he is. The narrator blames the consumer culture in American society for these problems. Tyler, whom the narrator looks up to greatly, wants and in the end almost succeeds in destroying many of the buildings that house corporate America. Really, it is the story of one man breaking the Master Narrative and bringing down the rest of society with him (but we already wrote a paper on that). If taken literally, this book could be a guide on how to justify your life by lashing out and attacking modern society. As proof of the books validity, there have been numerous instances of real Fight Club’s popping up across the country since it was first published. I could not find any information on the book actually being banned. I think its popularity and movie adaptation played a major role in keeping it that way.





Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret

2 05 2008

Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret

by Judy Blume

Summary:

The story of the coming of age of Margaret Simon begins when she and her family transition from an apartment in New York to the suburbs of New Jersey. All throughout the novel Margaret is confronted with, and learns about body issues (puberty), religious issues, conformity, and the way in which she views others.  As soon as Margaret moves in she meets her neighbor Nancy Wheeler, another eleven year old in her class. Nancy invites Margaret to join her secret club “The Four Preteen Sensations”, where the girls must abide by special rules such as not wearing socks with loafers, keeping a “favorite boy book”, reporting when they get their period, and wearing a bra (which are all training bras except for Nancy’s AA). They also learn exercises to “increase their busts”. During Margaret’s first day in New Jersey she also develops her first crush on the fourteen year old boy that cuts their grass.
Margaret’s friends have trouble understanding why it is that she is of “no religion”, and Margaret must explain that her parents are of different faiths and therefore she was never subjected to a particular religion. This inquiry however provokes thought in Margaret and inspires her to attend church and temple (however, she never completely chooses).
A menstruation film at school gets the girls talking about periods, and Margaret becomes preoccupied with getting hers. She feels left behind when two other girls report getting theirs, even though one of them lies. Margaret learns about being judgmental when she argues with the “loose” girl of the class, Laura Danker. After having a fight with her grandparents, Margaret acts out by buying feminine products without actually needing them.
Throughout the novel, Margaret talks to god and asks him for help with things. After her religious upheaval, Margaret stops going to God in prayer but resumes when she (at long last) gets her period!

Review:

This novel is frequently deemed “a good read”. For obvious reasons the book is targeted at elementary and middle school girls, I however found myself wanting to continue reading it in its entirety. The novel has inspired and taught many young readers, and is recommended to anyone looking to see the start of a bold yet beneficial type of writing, as well as the start of something “dangerous’.

Why is this book “dangerous?”:

Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret is currently listed at number sixty-two on the ALA’s top 100 most frequently challenged books. The reasoning for this is based on its frank treatment of sexuality, and its dealings with religion. Author Judy Blume states that she believes that censorship grows out of fear, and because fear is contagious, some parents are easily swayed. Book banning satisfies their need to feel in control of their children’s lives. This fear is often disguised as moral outrage. They want to believe that if their children don’t read about it, their children won’t know about it. And if they don’t know about it, it won’t happen.





The Giver

1 05 2008

The Giver

By Lois Lowry

Summary:

Jonas, an eleven-year-old boy lives in a future society that has decided to regulate all means of life. This strategy is to effectively eliminate all pain, fear, war, and hatred. There are no colors, every looks and acts essentially the same, and competition is almost non-existent since everyone is allowed a “turn”. Everyone is always polite because of the public chastisement given to those who are not. Also, his society has no choice on what they do for their jobs. When they become “Twelves”, or turn age twelve, they are assigned a job to do for the rest of their lives based on what they community’s elders deem to be their interests and abilities. Couples are only allowed after an extremely complicated application process and they are only allowed to have two children, which are not their own but are given to them through the Nurturers and Birthmothers. Once grown into adulthood and given their assignment for their life-long job, the citizens spend their entire lives working in this job until they are no longer productive in the community. Once they are no longer useful, they are sent to the House of the Old until they are “released” from the community. In actuality, release is the euthanasia or people, but it is not discovered by anyone but Jonas until he starts his training to be a Memory Keeper. The community believes that being “released” is an honor and something to look forward to and that they are sent to some mystical place beyond where everything is better. Jonas, the main character, lives with his father, a Nurturer of the newborn children, his mother, who works at the Department of Justice, and his seven-year-old sister named Lily.

We begin the novel with Jonas, the main character. He is “apprehensive” about the upcoming Ceremony of Twelve, which is when he will turn twelve years old. It is at this ceremony that he will be given his job that he will do for the rest of his adult life. As he thinks about what job he will receive, he realizes that he has no preference and does not have any idea what he will be given because all his friends have demonstrated through their community service where they will probably end up. He knows he is different because he has pale eyes, while most people in the community have dark ones, and he has noticed more and more as the ceremony has approached that he has unusual powers of perception. These powers make certain objects “change”. Although he does not know what it means, he does know that he is unique. In fact, what he is seeing is color, which has been removed by the community in their quest for universal equality. At the Ceremony of Twelve, Jonas is given the highly honored Assignment of Receiver of Memory. The Receiver’s job is to be the sole keeper of the community’s collective memory. These memories include those of pain, war, and emotion from before the society went to sameness. His job is so important because someone needs to keep those memories in order to keep the society from making the same mistakes of the past. He is receiving these memories from the old Receiver who has now been deemed The Giver. As Jonas has received memories of both pain and happiness, his life has been given more meaning and understanding, but he also gets frustration with his society because he is unable to share any of the feelings he has with his fellow citizens because they gave that up for “sameness”. Throughout the time that Jonas has been going through his training, he has been helping his family take care of a problem “newchild” from his father’s work at the Nurturer station. The child’s name is Gabriel, who has trouble sleeping through the night and shares the same eyes as Jonas. Eventually, Jonas realizes that by transmitting soothing memories to the child at night allows him to sleep well. Sadly, Gabriel is still scheduled for release because of the problems that he encounters every time they take him back to the Nurturer center. The day before Gabriel’s release and the next ceremonies of the different age groups, The Giver shows Jonas what “release” really is. Jonas is shocked to find that all people that are released are killed. In response to this, Jonas and The Giver decide to make a plan to change the society forever. Jonas is to escape during the ceremonies and release all his memories on the society with his departure, but The Giver will be there to help the society cope with all these feelings bearing down upon them. The plan has been set up, Jonas and The Giver each know their parts, but Jonas is forced to leave earlier than planned when his father informs him that Gabriel will be released the next day. Jonas, having grown close to Gabriel, decides to steal his father’s bicycle and a supply of food and sets off for “Elsewhere” with Gabriel. Gradually, they encounters a landscape full of color, animals, and changing weather, but the two travelers also find hunger, danger, and exhaustion the farther they go from their controlled world. As they avoid search planes, Jonas and Gabriel travel for days and days until a snow storm makes it impossible to carry on riding the bicycle. With his last vestige of strength, Jonas warms Gabriel and mounts a high hill. When they reach the top, there is a sled waiting for them there just as in the first memory transferred to Jonas by The Giver. The two refugees ride down the hill full of joy and see something ahead of them. We are left with a description of them seeing a twinkling of lights of a friendly village at Christmas, and they hear music. Jonas is sure that someone will be waiting for them there.

Review:

The Giver does an amazing job trying to display a society without choice. Some have compared it to a communist of socialist society. It is generally considered a children’s book and I have now read it both in middle school and high school. The true concepts that I missed in middle school have become apparent to me now as the book has tried to display a criticism of a life without choice. The people in the story are all content, healthy, and productive, but that is because they have never known anything different from their controlled lives. Experiencing this world through Jonas is frustrating for the reader at first because we know there is much better for these people. Luckily, as Jonas goes through his training, his eyes are opened to the atrocities of his controlled life and that he must change it. This allows the reader to identify and choose our hero in the story. I believe that this book has good enough flexibility to provide adolescents with a moral story while also voicing a criticism on a style of living that many people already do not like. It feeds on the American hatred of all things without choice. The Giver is an interesting a short read that I recommend for all ages, even if you read it when you were younger. My second time going through the book revealed many extra things, conceptually, that I expect will happen to you as well.

Why is this book “dangerous?”:

The Giver has never been banned across the country or even universally despised across the country, but it has been challenged and banned in certain parts of the country.

In 1995, a parent in Franklin County, Kansas, challenged the book on the grounds that it is “concerned with murder, suicide, and the degradation of motherhood and adolescence.” The book was the removed from elementary libraries, but remained available to the teachers in the county.

A school board member in Wrenshall, Minnesota and two parents objected to the inclusion of The Giver on a list of books to be purchased for a high school, on the grounds of offensive language and objectionable themes. The school board ignored the objection, but released a list of books to reconsider releasing before the next school year.

In Johnson County, Missouri, complaints were charged that The Giver desensitized children to euthanasia and asked that the books “not be read in class to children under high school age.” The book is still in the high school section of the library, but is not available to children under high school age.

In 1994, The Giver was temporarily banned from classes by the Bonita Unified School District in LaVerne and San Dimas, California because four parents complained that violent and sexual passages were inappropriate for children.

The majority of the bans on this book are because of children issues instead of grown up ones. Instead of taking offense to the central theme of sending a message of no choice into children’s minds, parents were taking offense to the small sexual and euthanasia situations. Literally all of the reported complaints about the book are about sexual or euthanasia situations, belittling motherhood, belittling the family system, or calling children and the elderly useless and unproductive.





To Kill a Mockingbird

1 05 2008

To Kill a Mockingbird

By Harper Lee

Summary:

To Kill A Mockingbird is set in Alabama, three years after the Great Depression. The story is narrated through from the perspective of six-year-old Scout Finch, who lives with her older brother Jem and their widowed father Atticus, a middle-aged lawyer. Atticus is assigned to defend a black man named Tom Robinson, who has been accused of raping Mayella Ewell, a young white woman. Although many of Maycomb’s citizens disapprove with his decision, Atticus agrees to defend Tom to the best of his ability despite putting his family and himself in jeopardy

During the trial, Atticus discovers not only that the accusers, Mayella and her father, are lying but also that Mayella was making sexual advances towards Tom and that her father caught her in the act. Despite considerable evidence of Tom’s innocence, he is found guilty nonetheless.

To Kill a Mockingbird explores various significant themes. For the reason that Harper Lee chooses to tell it through the eyes of a child, the impact is a hard-hitting story about race, social class, integrity, and coming of age.

Review:

To Kill A Mockingbird is definitely on my list of favorites. I feel the book does an excellent job of portraying the extreme and blatant racism that existed in the South at that time. I feel that this book makes a very powerful statement about how the justice system can be altered through racism. I also believe that the topics portrayed in the book are still relevant in our society today and that is what makes it so remarkable.  I strongly urge every one to read this book.

Why is this book “dangerous?”:

To Kill a Mockingbird has been a source of great controversy since it became the focus of classroom study as early as 1963. Racial slurs, profanity, and frank discussion of rape have led people to challenge the book’s appropriateness in libraries and classrooms across America. It was first banned in Hanover, Virginia in 1966 after a parent claimed that the use of rape as a “plot device” was morally wrong. In the late 1990s, school districts in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, Canada attempted to have the book removed from standard teaching curriculum, stating:

“The terminology in this novel subjects students to humiliating experiences that rob them of their self-respect and the respect of their peers. The word ‘Nigger’ is used 48 times [in] the novel…We believe that the English Language Arts curriculum in Nova Scotia must enable all students to feel comfortable with ideas, feelings and experiences presented without fear of humiliation … To Kill a Mockingbird is clearly a book that no longer meets these goals and therefore must no longer be used for classroom instruction.”





The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

1 05 2008

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

By C.S. Lewis

Summary:

After Stumbling into the magical new land, the primary character Peter, and his three younger companions Susan, Edmund, and Lucy, the group is promptly greeted by a half man, half ram creature who informs them of their situation as well as the current state of the land of Narnia. The land is in the midst of great conflict, as an evil and treacherous queen is attempting to subjugate Narnia and its inhabitants under her control. The human characters then embark on a magical journey in which they encounter various fabled characters and creatures such as a Pegasus, talking beavers, and even Santa Claus, who is a key player in directing the young proponents upon their quest to save Narnia. Aside from the obvious draws of a plethora of talking animals and magical creatures, Narnia draws much of its secondary meaning from the elusions to both religion and politics throughout its story. The evil witch-queen, the primary ‘”bad guy” the reader is exposed to in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, is portrayed at first as a deceitful temptress, whom draws several of the characters into tasting the fruits of Eden (only in this case, the temptation is Turkish delight rather than an apple). The other most prominent ellusionary character is Aslon, the talking lion whom befriends the children. His actions and persona can be clearly compared to those of Jesus, up through his bodily sacrifice just before the climax of the second novel, making for an extremely entertaining story.

Review:

By reputation alone, the Chronicles of Narnia are instantly recognized as one of the premier fantasy stories, easily capable of pulling in and fully engrossing readers of all ages and walks of life. As a children’s novel, the series is quite successful in that its storyline has a good balance of adventure and lesson. The sheer scope of characters which are effectively amalgamated into the story throughout the chronicles make Narnia instantly entertaining to its younger audience; much similar to a younger reader’s Lord of the Rings, as it has similar draws, action, and enthralling nature with slightly less focus on violence and more on simple fantasy. As an adult’s story, the Chronicles can still be similarly engrossing in that picking up on the various allegories of life within the novel is entertaining in and of its self. The above truly makes it the perfect novel to be passed from one generation to another.

Why is this book “dangerous?”:

Throughout its existence, Narnia’s availability has been challenged in a variety of different settings. It has been banned in numerous public lower schools, faced criticism from various religious communities, and even faced removal from public libraries. A children’s fantasy by genre, this would at first appear extremely surprising. Christianity today, a popular Christian magazine, highlighted many of books anger arousing aspects when it said “it [Narnia] is a sullied book that attempts to animalize Jesus Christ, putting his struggles into clichéd animal characters…” On top of this, the book has often been cited for arousing children to act in mischievous manners, disobeying the conventions of their elders while looking for adventure. Even when read casually, many have dictated that the chronicles create “rebellious and unruly youth,” (Christianity Today). Although the above may be extreme situations, from it one can clearly gleam the controversial nature of this seemingly innocent and pure series of fantasies.





The Autobiography of Malcolm X

1 05 2008

The Autobiography of Malcolm X

As told to Alex Haley

Summary:

The Autobiography of the life of Malcolm X, arguable one of the most influential African Americans in American History, is a thrilling story line, which takes you back to the profound changes in Malcolm Xs life.

The Story takes you back to the birth of Malcolm X on May 19th, 1925 in Omaha, Nebraska.  Malcolm grew up in an interesting household because his mother was of fair skin while his father was an African American speaker in the community who preached the ideal of Marcus Garvey and the unification of African Americans in united Africa.  After having his Father brutally killed by white members of the community and having the police not hold those responsible, Malcolm moved around a fair bit, becoming a very different person.  Later in Malcolm’s life he adopts the persona of Detroit Red.  Malcolm sports Zoot suits and is regarded as a hustler or kind of a Pimp who experimented with drugs. After spending some time in jail Malcolm becomes more of the African American leader that we see him as today. After becoming a believer in the Nation of Islam and became a Civil liberties activist Malcolm X helped foster a civil rights movement. At a speaking engagement in the Manhattan’s Audubon Ballroom on February 21, 1965, three gunmen rushed Malcolm onstage and shot him 15 times at close range. The 39-year-old was pronounced dead on arrival at New York’s Columbia Presbyterian Hospital. Fifteen hundred people attended Malcolm’s funeral in Harlem at the Faith Temple Church of God in Christ on February 27, 1965. After the ceremony, friends took the shovels from the gravediggers and buried Malcolm themselves. Malcolm X is buried at the Ferncliff Cemetery in Hartsdale, New York.

Why is this book “dangerous?”:

This book was banned during the era of the Black Panther party and the Civil Rights movement because in the eyes of white America it promoted ideas of black equality and power with violence.  At this time, white America was afraid of revolutionary thinkers at this time such as Martin Luther King Jr. and the majority of the world was against the Nation of Islam and felt it was a threat.  Malcolm X was a revolutionary thinker who led African Americans to justice.  I would recommend this book to any reader








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