The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton

I read this book in eighth grade as a reading requirement and at first, I thought it was relatively childish and boring. Nevertheless, the more I read about it the more that I thought this is an amazing book. Through reading this book, I think the biggest thing that I learned is friendship, family and the gap between rich and poor.

Greasers and Socials are two rival groups, the former representing the poor and the latter rich. Although Greasers are poor, their friendship seems to be unwavering. Their relationship is not built upon any foundation of money, social status, or family background. But merely that we all share a similar interest and intend to achieve it. For one thing, if one Greaser is in danger, all the others would risk their lives to help. But for Socials, they would just run away afraid if their parents should find out they would stop supporting them.

The Socials seem like they are enjoying their lives and they despise the Greasers, but in my opinion, they in some uncanny way also want to be like them. They were born and raised in well-off families, the education they received requires them to be aloof towards anybody who isn’t on the same social level as them. However, I believe in some way they also want to make friends who really care about them and wouldn’t just desert them if their parents’ company went bankrupt or something like that. So deep down, I think there is a piercing desperation and loneliness both from the fake worldliness they have to confront every day and the neglection from their always busy and snobbish parents.

-Coreen C. 

The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also free to download from Overdrive

Authors We Love: Saul Bellow

Saul Bellow was born on June 10, 1915, and passed away on April 5, 2005. He was born in Lachine, a small village located in Quebec, Canada and immigrated with his parents to Chicago, United States with he was eight. Due to this reason, Hyde Park, Chicago was the backdrop of a lot of his famous works because he was the most familiar with it.

Both of his parents were from Russia and were very strict Jews. They wished Saul Bellow could be a rabbi or a violinist playing in church when he grows up. However, he couldn’t overcome his passion for writing and therefore did not relinquish to these two occupations even when his mother passed away. He went to Chicago University and later switched to Northwestern University because he felt the former disliked Jews and therefore mistreated them. Bellow did his graduate studies at the University of Wisconsin.

As a Novel Prize Literature winner, Pulitzer Prize fiction winner, and the only writer to win the National Medal of arts three times, Bellow in his entire life has composed a lot of works. These include Dangling Man, The Victim, The Adventures of Augie March, Seize the Day, Henderson the Rain King, Herzog, Mr.Sammler’s Planet, Humboldt’s Gift, The Dean’s December, More Die of Heartbreak, A Theft, The Bellarose Collection, The Actual, and Ravelstein. He also wrote a lot of plays and some nonfiction as well.

One thing which marks his unique style is his philosophical views embedded amongst the paragraphs and in characters’ dialogues. It provides on his insight of life, death, marriage and other themes which he values as important. Although some critics argue that this style of approach can be very elusive and a form of digression, I thought if sociology and anthropology are vital in Bellow’s life, he should put it down to let people who he really is.

-Coreen C. 

The works of Saul Bellow are available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Jennie Gerhardt by Theodore Dreiser

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This is a relatively long novel written by the all-known American author Theodore Dreiser. It talks about Jennie Gerhardt, a poor but strikingly pretty girl who fell in love twice with two men and their story from thereon. At first, because Jennie and her mother were working at a luxurious hotel, she was working there as a laundry washer and there met the brilliant Senator Brander who fell in love with her gradually over a short period of time. Despite the huge age gap between the two of them, they got along fine and it was Senator Brander who assisted this starving family living in Ohio after witnessing the condition of their life and home. Although Jennie’s father, Mr. Gerhardt strongly expostulated against this man who is old enough to be his own brother, his daughter did not listen and thus she was pregnant when Senator Brander died after promising to marry her.

Thus Jennie met another man named Lester Kane who came from a very rich family of carriage business based in Cincinnati. Due to her pulchritude and intelligence, Lester Kane quickly fell in love with Jennie. They lived together for a short period of time before Kane knew Jennie’s daughter, Vesta’s existence. He really wanted to give up Jennie at this point but found her too attractive to do so. Moreover, their relationship at first was gossiped by the neighbors who discovered that they weren’t married after all. What’s worse, when Lester’s sister Louise found out about all of these, she spilled this all to Lester Kane’s father, Archibald, who forced Lester to leave Jennie, but to no avail and thus passed away with a small will left to Lester for his punishment.

Overall, I think this book stuns me as the social gap between the rich and poor widens in America over the years and still remains unchanged. It’s so miserable how the children cannot choose their own course of marriage and HAVE to marry into their own level. So slowly, the conception of social status is imbued in their minds and they themselves can’t even seem to persuade themselves that this person is whom they really love but that they don’t have enough money, therefore, should be relinquished as a potential spouse.

-Coreen C.

The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane

Another classic I checked out from the library this summer. This book for sure is the most well-known piece of work of Stephen Crane. It talks about Henry Fleming, a soldier fighting in the Civil War in the Union side.

Unlike some of the other war novels, this book employed succinct and vivid language to portray the brutality, fear, cowardice, and bravery in wars. It explored the main character Henry’s flight from the war, the despicable excuse he found for himself, his gradual awakening of conscience, and finally his change into a courageous soldier who transformed into an unselfish and devotional citizen willing to die for his country.

Although it was relatively short, but every detail in a battle was explained. Such as the way how the soldiers fire using their rifles, how they travel on foot from one regiment to another, how they charge forward reluctantly and in horror when their lieutenant orders them to. It doesn’t really name any battles specifically, but it does a fantastic job of expatiating everything that could occur in a battle. My favorite character is surprisingly not Henry Fleming, the main character but his friend Wilson, who was a minor character without too much of a dimensional personality. But I was deeply touched when Wilson was willing to share his bed with Henry and feed him when he fled from the battle and came back later. There was a possibility that Wilson knew Henry was lying when he said he got shot in the head, and yet his altruism melted my heart. I believe that we all need a friend like this who understands our mistakes and forgives us silently whether we admit it or not.

-Coreen C. 

The Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Maggie: A Girl of the Streets by Stephen Crane

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This is perhaps my favorite story written by the short-lived but legendary author so far. It even surpasses his most well-known novel The Red Badge of Courage. Maybe because despite my great interest in the Civil War, the main character in this story touches me the most: Maggie Johnson.

Unlike her common name, Maggie is not a common girl. Just by reading the description of her family, it was pretty easy enough to tell that she detested her family. Her mother, father, and brother Jimmy all had their own life going on. They blame the obstacles in life on her. Mary Johnson, her mother drinks and fights and curses after their father passed away. Jimmy seemed unwilling to acknowledge his family as he thought it as a burden and a disgrace to his life. And Maggie was no different. Since from a young age, her violent reactions including how she trembles and hides under the table show her extreme fear for the people she’s supposed to love the most-her parents. Everything changed when Pete came.

Because of her childhood trauma, Maggie craved more than ever to find a man who is well educated and rich, mainly to save her from her diabolical family. Pete was Jimmy’s friend, I could tell he was being like a casual friend to Maggie by taking her to see plays and eat at luxurious restaurants since he owned a saloon. However, Pete was not a person who holds a serious attitude toward love or relationship, he was simply a player. And this is when Maggie gets really hurt by his rudeness later on when they met Nell, Pete’s old sweetheart. From this point on, Maggie’s imagined glorious life starts to deteriorate.

Moreover, Mary Johnson couldn’t forgive Maggie’s not coming home every night since Pete came along. In my opinion, Mary is very absurd for her requirement for Maggie as a pious daughter when she doesn’t even qualify a single bit to be a mother. Her daughter is an adult, so it’s her right to stay wherever she wants if she doesn’t feel like going home today. Besides, the wrecked condition of the house and her manner toward Maggie, of course, disengages her desire to return home after a grueling day at the clothing factory she works at.

Lastly, this story mainly just reflects how the death of our protagonist at the end proves parental failure to be a severe issue a lot of the children face even in our present society.

-Coreen C. 

Maggie: A Girl of the Streets by Stephen Crane is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

At Fault by Kate Chopin

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This is definitely a novel which I couldn’t stop reading from the moment I picked it up. Its intriguing characters and twisting plot but eventually a happy ending reserves this art piece for one of the top-rated ones.

I personally really liked Gregor, who is Therese, the owner of the farm’s nephew. Although he was often controlled by rash actions and speaks savagely to black servants, still he was a man of authenticity. Despite the fact that he killed Jocint, who set the mill on fire. But when Melicint, his lover accused him of this murder and left him one can tell how faithful and loyal his can be to his true love.

My other favorite character is David Hosmer. Only because Therese told him that to remarry his impudent wife Fanny would be an excellent choice and one that would conform with her moral principles, his didn’t even hesitate to do that. This shows how much he cares about her opinions, even if it meant to torture himself. Moreover, when the cabin that Fanny was staying in was washed away by the rain, he didn’t falter a bit but to risk his life saving a person who never cares genuinely about him. It was that she died at last from the flood, or else Fanny could have been possibly a hindrance to the splice of David Hosmer and Therese Lafirme.

-Coreen C. 

Dangling Man by Saul Bellow

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This is the first novel of Saul Bellow and it talks about the declining lifestyle of Joseph, who believes that a spiritual satisfaction overweighs material perfection. For some reason, I think that this character has a great pride lurching in himself. He denies his slovenly condition of life by claiming that it’s austerity which is the factor that should be valued in our daily life.

What makes the entire situation worse is that Joseph’s brother, Amos is really rich. He always offers unlimited financial support for Joseph and his wife Iva, but Joseph never accepts it, again, due to his obstinate pride. Sometimes I think it won’t be a bad decision to just say “thank you” and accept the money for the simple reason that pride won’t feed you, clothe you, live with you forever. But money fulfills all three circumstances.

My favorite part of this book would actually have to be the fight scene between Joseph and his 15 year old overweening niece Etta. As a wealthy only child, she is undoubtedly spoiled by her parents. She gets whatever she wants. And as a small child, she is used to hearing how poverty has had her dad stricken, but now she is lucky because she doesn’t have to worry about it anymore. This naturally places her in a position to despise poor people, especially if they are her relative, meaning Joseph.

Etta’s disrespect for Joseph was magnified when she called him a “beggar” because Joseph was using her piano without her permission and refused to hand it over to her. In turn, Joseph was riled by this act and beat Etta up. Now, Joseph and Etta have a lot of similarities, not only do they look physically similar, but they both think that they are always right no matter what. One thinks that she is always right because of her rich parents who provide her with boundless support, one thinks that he is alright right because of his spiritual purification.

-Coreen C.