Life and Society in The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby was written by F. Scott Fitzgerald and published in 1925. I liked the fact that this novel accurately depicts what life was like in the 1920’s, and the types of people who lived it. The setting of this novel takes place in New York, and the area in which the main character, Nick, lives is set in West Egg and East Egg. Both of these cities are considered to be wealthy cities. West Egg, where Nick has a home, is considered to be “new money,” while East Egg, where his cousin, Daisy and her husband Tom Buchannan live, is thought to be “old money.”

West Egg is the type of city in which people have earned their money and East Egg is where people have inherited their money from older generations. However, Nick’s neighbor, Jay Gatsby, is known to be the wealthiest of them all. He lives in a humongous mansion and throws parties almost every weekend where anyone is free to attend.  An example of how this novel reflects the conventions of the time period, the 1920’s was known as the “Roaring Twenties,” and the types of parties held signified how careless people were about spending money and that they did not care about ruthless behaviors.

Another example would be that one of the important characters in this novel, George Wilson, lives in an area known as the “Valley of Ashes,” a place where the poor working class live. In the Valley of Ashes, the eyes on a billboard of one of the wealthiest citizens, Dr. T.J. Eckleburg, seems to always watching the entire city. George Wilson believes that Eckleburg is a God after stating “God sees everything” while looking at the billboard. This signifies that the national religion of the United States during the twenties was business and wealth instead of God Himself.

Overall, I enjoyed this novel as this precisely described how life was like in the “Roaring Twenties” with many people becoming wealthy due to the economic boost and how those people were being careless with their money and behaviors. Also, George Wilson believing that the wealthiest are like Gods was also interesting and accurate. However, due to many careless spending, this would ultimately lead to the crash of the stock market and the rise of the Great Depression starting in the 1930’s. I would recommend this book because of how it relates to the accurate history in the United States that occurred and the outcome.

-Matt J

The Great Gatsby is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download from Overdrive and Hoopla

Passion For Reading

There was a time in my life when I talked about books as though they were sustenance, as though they were essential to my survival. I devoured stories and inhaled pages. I vividly remember checking out four, five, six books at time and somehow finishing them all before the two weeks were up.

Though that experience is shared with many people, a majority of adults fail to make time for reading.

I often wonder where that passion goes.

To most people, reading is thought of as a chore, or something for the forgotten bottom end of a to-do list. Reading is a fizzling New Year’s Resolution. Reading is a Barnes & Noble credit card but dusty shelves.

When people talk about getting back into reading, it is as though they are starting a new project at work, as though they are radically changing their schedules.

New units of time have to be carved out of a schedule, clearly labeled “READ” in blocky black lettering. Books fill shopping bags, along with all the obviously necessary accessories to reading – fancy bookmarks and clip on lights and slogan-laden tote bags – because now, you are a Reader.

There is something lost in this frenzy. In this sort of Oprah’s Book Club, unbroken-spine kind of reading, books are a status symbol.

I find myself in this rut occasionally. Rearranging and rearranging the same shelves with an obsessiveness, buying War and Peace and Les Miserables because they’re the sort of books a pretentious academic like myself should have.

I miss that feeling that all library-bound children have. That feeling that there were an infinite amount of words in the world, and if I only read fast enough, flipped enough pages, then I would be able to drink them all in.

So many people have a desire to read; to become that excited kid again. We want to be the one who’s not only Heard of That, but Read It. We want to know authors and quotes and have worn paperbacks to pass on to friends and family. We want to feel that love and intensity that stories used to inspire.

I truly believe that feeling is still inside every adult today. Maybe it’s buried under stress and deadlines and distraction, but it’s there.

All we have to do is find the right book.

-Zoe K., 11th grade

Find your right book at the Mission Viejo Library. Titles are also available to download through Overdrive and Hoopla.

Passion

There was a time in my life when I talked about books as though they were sustenance, as though they were essential to my survival. I devoured stories and inhaled pages. I vividly remember checking out four, five, six books at time and somehow finishing them all before the two weeks were up. Though that experience is shared with many people, a majority of adults fail to make time for reading.

I often wonder where that passion goes.

To most people, reading is thought of as a chore, or something for the forgotten bottom end of a to-do list. Reading is a fizzling New Year’s Resolution. Reading is a Barnes & Noble credit card but dusty shelves. When people talk about getting back into reading, it is as though they are starting a new project at work, as though they are radically changing their schedules.

New units of time have to be carved out of a schedule, clearly labeled “READ” in blocky black lettering. Books fill shopping bags, along with all the obviously necessary accessories to reading – fancy bookmarks and clip on lights and slogan-laden tote bags – because now, you are a Reader.

There is something lost in this frenzy. In this sort of Oprah’s Book Club, unbroken-spine kind of reading, books are a status symbol.

I find myself in this rut occasionally. Rearranging and rearranging the same shelves with an obsessiveness, buying War and Peace and Les Miserables because they’re the sort of books a pretentious academic like myself should have.

I miss that feeling that all library-bound children have. That feeling that there were an infinite amount of words in the world, and if I only read fast enough, flipped enough pages, then I would be able to drink them all in.

So many people have a desire to read; to become that excited kid again. We want to be the one who’s not only Heard of That, but Read It. We want to know authors and quotes and have worn paperbacks to pass on to friends and family. We want to feel that love and intensity that stories used to inspire.

I truly believe that feeling is still inside every adult today. Maybe it’s buried under stress and deadlines and distraction, but it’s there.

All we have to do is find the right book.

-Zoe K.

The Story of Samhain

It’s finally October, and most of us can already feel the chilly autumn air, taste the pumpkin spice, and are eagerly preparing for – you guessed it! – Halloween. Whether you dress up in a costume, go trick or treating, or tell a ghost story this October, you should know that there was somebody 2,000 years ago who not only practiced these traditions, but created Halloween itself.

2,000 years ago, a group of people called the Celtics, who resided in parts of modern day Ireland, the United Kingdom, and Northern France, celebrated a pagan festival called Samhain (pronounced sow-in) that celebrated the blurring of boundaries between the worlds of the living and of the dead. On the night of October 31, they dressed in animal skins and gathered around bonfires to ward of wandering spirits that may have come through this rift between worlds. Families would leave sweets on their porches and dinner on their tables for any passed relatives that they believed would come home for the night. Samhain is thought to be the earliest noted origin of our modern Halloween.

By 43 AD, Rome had conquered most of the Celtic’s territory. As often occurs during the conquest of land, ideas and traditions were added onto the Celtic culture. Now, Samhain included two Roman holidays: Feralia, which celebrated the passing of spirits into the afterlife, and also a day in honor of Pomona, which is thought to have included bobbing for apples, as is tradition today in America. Later on, Pope Gregory the III dedicated November 1 to all saints and martyrs, otherwise known as All Hallows Day, and in the year 1000 AD, November 2 was declared All Souls Day, a day honoring the dead. It is common belief that this action was meant to change the pagan traditions of Halloween, the eve of All Hallows Day, into a holiday that was accepted by the church.

Halloween was brought to the United States as most traditions were: immigration. Before the 19th century, Halloween wasn’t a nationally celebrated holiday. However, hordes of Irish immigrants fleeing the shortage of food in Ireland, known as the potato famine, found refuge in America and spread knowledge of the traditions of Samhain. People went door-to-door asking for food or money, and teenage girls thought that they could predict their future husbands using apple peelings and mirrors. By the end of the century, the meaning of Halloween changed from superstitious beliefs to neighborhood parties and trick-or-treating in response to action taken by people to turn Halloween into a family friendly holiday. The trick-or-treating tradition likely began based off of a tradition where people were given food on All Souls Day in return for prayers for deceased family members. It was also influenced by an increase in vandalism during Halloween night, which adults hoped to avoid by offering children small candies, hoping to satisfy them enough to pass over their homes.

Halloween hasn’t always been known as Halloween. Once, it was known as Samhain, a holiday that was celebrated by the Celtics as a time when realms blurred and spirits could visit their homes once again. Ironically, many of the same traditions are used today as they were so long ago by the Celtics. Next time you go trick-or-treating or wear a Halloween costume, remember that you are living out a tradition that has stood the test of time for thousands of years!

Sources: http://www.history.com/topics/halloween/history-of-halloween

The Google Art Project

The Google Art Project is a vast collection of art and from different museums from all over the world that can be visited without leaving the house. There are many benefits to visiting this online museum, and while these benefits are very helpful, some could be improved.

As I was exploring the different features, I found many perks in visiting the Google Art Project. For example, I found a panel that grouped pieces of art by the artist, medium, art movement, historical events or figures, and places. This was nice because it allowed me to find many art pieces in a certain category. One of my favorite things while visiting this online museum was the zoom feature, which lets me see finer details, such as printed text and small, intricate designs left by the artist, I would not have otherwise been able to see had I gone to a regular museum. The drawback to this, however, was that although I could see the artwork in more detail, it took a long time to load when I wanted to zoom in very closely, so it wastes some time, too. Another helpful thing the museum has is virtual tours of some museums.

The Google Art Project, in making art and museums more accessible to the general public, allows people to appreciate art and history to a greater degree, and I believe that this is important in a society. While the Art Project could be improved and expanded, I think that it’s a good start in allowing more people who may not have the time or don’t live close to a museum to access artworks.

-Aliya A.

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.

Essay: Inevitable Death

In “The Flowers,” by Alice Walker, there are multiple symbols and themes presented throughout the short story. “The Flowers” is a short story about the innocence of a child by the name of Myop. The story starts off with Myop skipping and relaxing under the “warm sun.” Myop starts to explore, the woods behind her house. While she is exploring the woods, Myop picks blue flowers. When Myop circles back to the house, she runs into a strange man. “Myop began to circle back to the house, back to the peacefulness of the morning. It was then she stepped smack into his eyes.” The man is described as “tall”. His head laid beside him. Myop is very curious about the man and she looks around.

After exploring even more, Myop views many limbs and a wild pink rose. The rose is described as wild and Myop adds it to her collection. Finally, Myop laid down her flowers that she picked previously. The short story ends with “the summer is over.” “The Flowers” starts off with a light and happy mood and ends with a dark one.

Throughout “The Flowers,” there are many symbols and themes that are present. The most prominent symbol, would be the flowers. Myop picks a handful amount of blue flowers, the flowers themselves, represent innocence and life. When you pick a flower, it will eventually wither, no matter what, because it has been separated from its roots. Just like life, we all are born one day and we will die one day. There is no exception to this rule.

Another major symbol is the dead man. The corpse relates to the meaning of the flower in a way, how the man was described as tall and big, yet he is dead. The importance of that is, no matter what a person accomplishes, or becomes, will have no bearing on whether or not that person would die. Death is inevitable. “Around an overhanging limb of a great spreading oak clung another piece. Frayed, rotted, bleached, and frazzled–barely there–but spinning restlessly in the breeze.” The limbs show how they were once part of a man, but are now dead, along with the man.

Finally, another major symbol is the summertime. The summertime in the short story shows the innocence of Myop. By the end of the story, the summer ends. The ending of the summertime represents Myop’s transformation into an adult. She lays down the flowers that she had picked up and following that, the end of summer occurs. Which shows that Myop’s days of skipping and picking flowers are done, because she has set down the flowers and faced the hard reality, that life isn’t always fun and games.

-Satej B.