Essay: A Tale of Two Cities and the Conditions Before the French Revolution

In A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens uses diction to adopt a tone of pity toward the social conditions of France during the period before the French Revolution. At the beginning of the novel a barrel of wine spills, and the people are depicted as having “devoted themselves to the sodden and lee-dyed pieces of the cask, licking, and even champing, the moister wine-rotted fragments with eager relish.” The use of the word “devoted” implies that the poor do not have the freedom to eat when they want, as once the wine cask breaks, everyone quickly drops what they are doing so that they can get a few drops of spilled wine off of the street, and they are so desperate for food that they are not letting go of the fragments of wood. Using the words “champing” and “eager relish,” Dickens demonstrates how, although it was just wood, people still excitedly bit and chewed it with enjoyment and delight, attesting to the fact that the peasants of France are so poor and starved that they have to resort to chewing on rotten wood to get a few drops of wine for nourishment, something that someone who might be even marginally better off would not have even thought of doing.

Later on, Dickens describes how “Hunger was the inscription on the baker’s shelves, written in every small loaf of his scanty stock of bad bread”. The word “scanty” to describe the baker’s stock of “bad” bread emphasizes how there is not enough food for the peasants (which eventually led to the peasant women marching to the palace and taking Louis XVI back to Paris), because although it is the baker’s job to supply the people with food, even he does not have a full larder. The fact that the baker has bad bread demonstrates that bread, which was the staple food of the French diet, is running out or is not being consumed, because the baker does not have enough supplies or resources to make fresh bread as a result of no one being able to buy the bread in the first place. These examples serve to highlight the tone of pity Dickens adopts toward the condition of the peasants in France, as they are reduced to scavenging for food and are not able to sustain themselves, and implies that they had a good reason to rebel. The author’s words serve to highlight the reality of the peasants before the French Revolution, which helped me understand to a greater degree how bad the situation had been, as opposed to just reading the facts in a textbook or article.

-Aliya A.

Manga Introduction: Ouran High School Host Club by Bisco Hatori

Haruhi Fujioka, a middle-class student, hopes to finish high school in the prestigious Ouran Academy as quietly as possible, but that is not going to happen in a school full of rich kids. She stumbles upon the Third Music Room where Ouran High School Host Club resides. The first encounter is not what would be called the most fortunate as Haruhi accidentally breaks a vase worth $80,000. To repay back this debt, she agrees to work for the host club, but to add to her misfortune the members of the host club mistake her as a boy. With this misunderstanding, she becomes the club’s errand boy.  Her story unfolds with the odd collection of high school hosts: President Tamaki Suoh, Vice-president Kyoya Ootori, Identical twins Hikaru and Kaoru Hitachiin, Mitsukuni “Honey” Haninozuka and his cousin Takashi “Mori” Morinozuka. This is the story of her adventures with these characters and how she survives in the crazy world of the rich and eccentrics. From daily costume parties to romantic adventures on a island, her life is definitely not going to be as quiet as she hoped.

First off some basic facts:

  • The manga began in September 2002 and ended 8 years later in November of 2010
  • There are 18 tankobon volumes (manga books)
  • A 26-episode anime television series aired between April 5 and September 26, 2006 (Note: The anime does not cover the entire manga series, to completely finish it you will have to read the manga. Same applies the the live action)
  • There was a live action drama and film released in 2011

This is personally one of my favorites. I can admit I’m not crazy about romance and ridiculous scenarios but this manga I would read again and again. It has a female character who has her feets more or less set on the ground. A nice contrast to the rest of the host club who has a much more eccentric lifestyle. This is the only shojo manga which most of my friends have enjoyed. This most likely because the importance the manga places in friends and family. Also in how each character is properly developed and not left without a compelling backstory.

This is one manga I would recommend to everyone, even if they are not a fan of shojo manga. It will give a unexpected surprise. Of course I can say this for everyone. So discover it for yourself.

-Sarah J., 11th Grade

 

Film Review: Light’s Out

I saw Lights Out with some of my friends thinking it would be quite scary, and I mentally prepared myself for the worst. But, after the movie, I was quite surprised on how it was a joke to call Lights Out a ‘horror movie.’

Lights Out is based on David Sandberg’s original short story film from 2013. The story of the movie was quite like a thriller novel. Which leads me to say that I think Lights Out would have been even better, if there was a novel along with it! The film contained many moments where the characters just screams. If this where a novel, the author could show what the character was actually felt on the inside. I think that if there was a book to go along with the movie, that would be even better.

Now, to give my movie review. As I said before, I think it would be a joke to call Lights Out a horror movie, because to me, there wasn’t anything scary! After watching the movie, I happened to catch the trailer again on T.V. and realized a big fact: that all the scary scenes shown in the trailer are all that was in the movie! Another big point: to advertise their movie, if you notice the trailer close enough, the studio suggests that you shouldn’t sit with anyone who would judge you. This makes you think, “Wow! I need to go with my friends because it is so scary!” In my opinion, that is a very clever advertising scheme applied.

Overall, if the movie were a little scarier and a thrilling book to go along with it, that would have made the Lights Out experience a little more scarier to me.

-Satej B.

Finding Dory Review

findingdoryOver the last 20 years, Pixar Studios has cemented itself as one of, if not the best animation studios in the business. This is due to their consistency and devotion to their franchises. One of the most successful of these franchises was Finding Nemo, which was a critical and commercial success for Pixar. After 13 years, the sequel Finding Dory has finally been released.

Set after the events of the first movie, it is now Dory’s turn to go looking for someone, with Nemo and Marlin to help. What I really liked about the film was that the characters still have the same voices after nearly a decade. Especially Ellen DeGeneres who reprises her role as Dory. She had a fantastic performance, making you truly care about Dory and her struggles. Marlin is as uptight as ever, and provides a great contrast to Dory’s recklessness. The new characters in the film are all well done also.

I found the film to be paced very well also, with fantastic writing and humor to wrap it all up nicely. There are some genuinely hilarious moments in this movie, more than I was expecting. At the same time, there are very heartfelt and emotional moments that stick with you.

However, one thing I didn’t like about the film was the lack of innovation from the first. It explored similar themes of family, forgiveness, and hope, and while different events take place, they weren’t as unique as I would’ve liked. After Zootopia, I would’ve preferred a less clichéd story along with some social commentary. But these are just small nitpicks for an overall excellent experience.

Finding Dory is one of the best animated films in years, bringing back everything we loved from the original and reminding us how great Pixar can be. Anyone who enjoys animated movies, is a fan of Finding Nemo, or wants to have a fun time should go see this movie. In fact, the last word of the entire film describes this sequel perfectly: unforgettable.

-Ahmed H, grade 12

Monster by Naoki Urasawa

monster_naokiurasawaLet’s say that you’re a doctor. You have a choice to save either one of these patients: a ten year old boy who arrived at the hospital first, or the mayor of the city. You can only save one while the other will die. Who will you choose? Now, let’s say that you choose the child: congratulations, you have now unleashed a monster onto the world.

Dr. Kenzou Tenma, a Japanese doctor working in late 20th century East Germany, saved a ten year old boy named Johan Liebert instead of the mayor ten years ago. Because of that, he lost his trust with his colleagues, his fiancee, and his promotion. To top it off, the boy he saved had murdered two people before admitted to the hospital. Now, Dr. Tenma is a fugitive framed for the murders committed by Johan Liebert after seeing this monster again.

Throughout his run on his life, Tenma tries to figure out Johan’s past. And he must consider one question: if he knew ten years ago that the boy he wants to save will turn out to be a monster, would he save the mayor? And if Johan’s life were in his hands again, would he save him?

This manga is a very good psychological story. Dr. Tenma meets a bunch of so-called monsters along his run, and proves that all of them can be forgiven. For example, he meets a soldier and a young girl. The soldier had killed the girl’s mother, and worries that he would never be forgiven, as the girl never smiles or speaks to him. However, Dr. Tenma fixes this rift, and in the end the little girl holds the soldier’s hand as if he were her father. Additionally, we hear the police’s side of the story, and through their investigations even we start to wonder if Johan is just in Tenma’s brain or not.

Additionally, Urasawa accurately depicts the historical content and geography of East Germany and Czechoslovakia throughout the story: the beautiful city of Prague, the slums of major cities, and the brutality of the underground.

Urasawa’s characters are also incredible, and it is amazing what each of them does to get the job done: Johan’s insane plans, the detective that is chasing after Dr Tenma and what he thinks in order to chase after his patients, and the motivation of many, whether if it is chasing after Johan or living a daily life. The artwork is very beautiful, and you cannot tell it’s a manga from twenty years ago: each of the characters looks widely unique and well crafted. Additionally, the backgrounds are incredible, which each scene looking realistic as if you were there yourself, whether it was in a hospital room, a restaurant, or a prison.

This was a manga that made me just say “wow” at the end, and anyone into mysteries, action, psychological thrillers, or horror would be really hooked into this series.

-Megan V, 11th grade

The Devil’s Highway by Luis Alberto Urrea

devil's highway_luisalbertourreaWe have all heard the horror stories of the border and the Border Patrol, of human beings desperate to escape their lives of suffering and cross into the land of the free. As Americans, we may hold negative opinions about such illegal immigrants, but the stories we hear from the media barely scratch the surface about the struggles these people must overcome to gain the opportunity of a better life.

Desperate to improve their own lives and their families’ lives, thousands of men unknowingly fall into the trap of corrupt Mexican lords, who promise to smuggle them out and provide them with a guide known as a “coyote” who would lead them to freedom. In May 2001, twenty-six men set out on a journey that would change their lives forever. Scrambling across the border with a few personal possessions, some food, and one jug of water each, the men reach an area in the Arizona desert known as the Devil’s Highway. Only twelve made it safely across.

The Devil’s Highway, written by Luis Alberto Urrea, details the path taken by these twenty-six men from their homes in Veracruz to what they call “the north.” Their enemies are countless: US Border Patrol, the Mexican government, rattlesnakes, the desert, hypothermia, fear, and most of all, the sun, a “110 degree nightmare” that dries out their bodies, sucks out all life, and literally fries their brains to the point of insanity.

I am personally not a fan of nonfiction, yet Urrea’s artful prose is captivating, drawing me in with the story of how only a dozen men survived and how fourteen others, labeled by the US media as the Yuma 14, did not. However, The Devil’s Highway is not just the telling of a fateful event; it is also Urrea’s way of shining a light on what he believes is a backward Mexican and US border policy, which does little to decrease the flow of immigrants. A strict border policy forces people to make the crossing in increasingly forbidden, dangerous areas, which contributes to the harsh conditions that kill those who dare to attempt it. While this book most likely will not influence immediate change in the border policy, it does bring attention to and educate the public about a serious political issue. I would highly recommend this book to those over the age of fourteen (as some descriptions can be graphic) who may be skeptical toward the nonfiction genre, as this book is highly informative and reads just like a story. Urrea certainly weaves first-person testimony, geographic descriptions and illustrations, cultural and economic analysis, and poetry into an award-winning masterpiece.

Kaylie W., 11th Grade

The Devil’s Highway is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Harmony House by Nic Sheff

harmonyhouse_nicsheffThis horror story takes place in a old manor in New Jersey. Jen Noonan and her father move to a quiet town to enjoy a fresh start after an unfortunate incident with Jen’s mother. At first, the move didn’t seem so terrible. Jen meets new friends and finds her place among the people. But as her stay at Harmony House continued, it becomes clear that anyone that stepped foot in the house was no longer safe.

The house holds dark secrets which are slowly revealed to Jen in visions and dreams beyond her control. These flashes into the past help her put together the history of the manor and discover how she is connected to it. Towards the beginning, Jen’s father is introduced as a believer of God, and as the story continues he acts in a way that even the main character fights against because it is absolutely ridiculous.

As annoying and extreme as his personality may be, it is crucial to the development of the story, so I painfully endured the character because I was interested to see where it would lead. The book was very well thought out and is a captivating read. I, personally, would not choose to read it again because when I pick up a horror story I expect to be scared and Harmony House didn’t do that for me. However, I would still recommend this story to a mature audience that enjoys this genre.

-Sabrina C., 11th Grade

Harmony House is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.