To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

This novel, published in 1960 by Harper Lee, deserves every ounce of fame it has thus far received. Although the subjects that are addressed by the novel are shrouded by controversy, it addressed issues that needed to be addressed, such as racism and the crimes that can be committed under its name.

The novel is told from the perspective of six-year-old Caucasian Jean Louise “Scout” Finch. Her father, Atticus Finch, is the most reliable lawyer in her town, Maycomb. He takes on a case defending a black man who is wrongfully accused of raping a white woman, and this sends the entire population of their town into a frenzy. Scout and her brother, Jem, experience the metaphorical splitting of the town as everyone takes a side. They are attacked and harassed for the actions of their father.

The plot deepens and thickens, unfolding with an uncanny message: racism is a real issue, and it remains as such, even though To Kill A Mockingbird was first published in 1960. In fact, Scout and Jem are attacked at night and nearly killed in retaliation of their father’s case. The town is violently over-involved in Atticus Finch’s case, and most of its citizens actually attend the trial for sport and entertainment. People are quick to take sides and are adamant and passionate about whichever one they end up on.

To Kill A Mockingbird is also semi-autobiographical- Scout’s childhood is based loosely off of Harper Lee’s. However, Lee quickly became reclusive due to her book’s fame and all the attention it received. The novel was groundbreaking, but Harper Lee hardly did any interviews, book signings, or any public event of the sort. In fact, Harper Lee was barely involved in the making of the movie adaption of the novel, which became a box-office hit (it made over three times its budget!).

Overall, To Kill A Mockingbird is a magnificent literary tapestry, with intricately woven characters and artfully spun plots and subplots. It addresses issues that were relevant in its time and, some may argue, even more, relevant today. It is a novel that has affected people’s lives, in ways that are clear but also subconscious, and has educated many on the subject of racism amid the early 1930s.

-Arushi S.

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

Its Finally Summertime. Now What?

We have all have staring at the clocks in the classrooms waiting for the minutes to slowly pass by until finally the bell rings to let us out of school. We have been staring at our calendars meticulously counting down the days until school gets out. We have all sat through the stress of finals. Gotten that last test done. Until finally that school bell rings for the last time of the year and school is officially out. Most of us have been waiting for this day since summer ended last year. Wanting some free time to ourselves, instead of pouring every extra second of the day in studying, doing homework, and reading. And the day finally comes.

It is always great for the first couple of days. Sitting around doing nothing. Not having to stress about the next test or the next big project. But yet, every summer is always the seem. We all want to get to summer but yet we get there and realize how boring it is. Sitting around all day with nothing to do, a sharp contrast to the constant motion of the school year. We get here and we do not know what to do with ourselves. Every second spent sitting around it seems as if there is a little voice in the back of our heads telling us, be productive, there is still so much to do, so much work to get done for next year. So many projects to be done to get ready for college applications.

So then comes the question, What do I do with all this free time?

Well, the best part about summer is that it is finally time to relax. Have fun, go out with your friends. It doesn’t have to be something productive. Because, you are still a teenager so enjoy being young.

But also instead of spending countless hours bored staring at a wall, pick up a new hobby. Read the book you’ve been dying to read. Find a new project to do over the summer. It can be something completely new like learning how to sew your own clothes or making things to redecorate your room. Make a bucket list of all the things you want to do. Get outside and be active.

Even though it is summer too, you should remember to get ahead a little bit for the next year of school. Don’t procrastinate on that summer reading assignment, instead read it little by little whenever you are bored and by the end of the summer it will have been finished stress free. Don’t let these nagging school projects stay in the back of your head nagging you and stressing you out while you’re also trying to enjoy yourself.  Instead just get them done before the summer all of a sudden ends.

Summer to is a time to get ahead. That SAT prep that you have been holding off from because you don’t have any time. Get it done so it is not there stressing you throughout the school year and all throughout the summer. All that volunteering that you wanted to get done to help the community out as well as make sure you graduate high school. Just get it done and over with.

Overall, summertime is a time to finally relax and enjoy yourself. It is a time to try new things and finally get to do all those activities you’ve been thinking about.  Just because it is summer it doesn’t mean you have to coop yourself up in your house and be antisocial. But still, summer time is an important time to get work done that you would have never had time to throughout the rest of the year.

-Ava G.

Authors We Love: James Agee

Image result for james agee

Born on November 27th, 1909 and died on May 16, 1955 was this brilliant American poet, novelist, and writer for and about motion pictures. Written about in Encyclopedia Britannica, Agee grew up in Tennessee’s Cumberland Mountain area, went to Harvard University, and wrote for Fortune and Time after he graduated in 1932. Although his movie criticisms weren’t widely known, his humorous comments on movies still gained a lot of support from the audience instead of merely evaluating musicals and movies like an insider.

If you don’t know yet, his book A Death in the Family actually won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Now, I think this has a lot to do with his experience as a child, as this is an autobiographical novel. Not only the name “Rufus”, who was the main character in that particular novel but moreover it was James Agee’s middle name. His father, Hugh James Agee, like Jay Follet was killed in an auto accident when he was merely seven.

In addition, just when he was ten years old, his mother enrolled him in Saint Andrew’s boarding school. Remember something now? Yes, this is exactly the same setting as his other book The Morning Watch.

Although I haven’t read or watched all his other plays and featured stories, there is one thing I can tell: James Agee is a legendary author who utilizes his own family background and experience to produce outstanding stories and mold characters into the best shapes he can.

-Coreen C. 

The works of James Agee are available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Resurrection

In A Tale of Two Cities, a historical novel which is written by Charles Dickens. Sydney Carton, one of the main character, achieved a form of resurrection by sacrificing himself. At the beginning of the novel, he used to be a drunken lawyer, lacking true care for others, but then Carton literally changes his characteristic. “I am the resurrection and the life says the Lord: he that believes in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whoever lives and believeth in me, shall never die” (Carton 372). Sydney Carton goes through several levels of spiritual renewal. His Christian sacrifice allows Charles Darnay to survive and thrive.

This selfless act and his good deeds for the world saves Charles’s life. He has never done anything good for anyone in his life, including himself. He shows his great love for Lucie. Later on, they exchange successfully. The moment when Sydney Carton stayed in prison alone gives rise to the sense of empty and fearful. “The door closed, and Carton was left alone. Straining his powers of listening to the utmost, he listened for any sound that might denote suspicion or alarm” (Dickens 417).

Sydney Carton saves Charles Darnay from being convicted and executed in England, agrees to switch places with him in the Conciergerie. Heavily religious language surround these resurrections which compare Carton’s sacrifice of his own life for others’ sins to Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. He proves the most vital character in the novel. He dies for love which fulfills the happiness for Lucie and achieves the value of his own life and spirit.

-Xiaoyu Z.

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

Recalled to Life

A Tale of Two Cities is a historical novel written by Charles Dickens. The story happened in England and France since 1775 which occurs during a period of social unrest and turbulence.

The forces that lead to the French revolution, clash with a group of people in England and lead to their fates irreversibly intertwined. The novel focuses on the resurrection through the setting of the French revolution. Thereinto, “Recalled to life” , the most significant part in each book, presents a prominent tale of resurrection. In A Tale of Two Cities, Dickens examines the theme of resurrection through the character of Dr. Alexandre Manette and the event of rescuing Charles Darnay.

Dickens elaborates resurrection with the character of Dr. Manette, who stayed in Bastille and suffered the mental pressure for 18 years. In Chapter 2 Book 1 of A Tale of Two Cities, Mr. Lorry gives a message to Jerry which Jerry will transfer to his bank. “Jarvis Lorry states, Jerry, say that my answer was, ‘RECALLED TO LIFE’”(Dickens 14). Jerry Cruncher, the messenger, gets confused about this blazing strange answer. Jarvis Lorry’s answer reveals a surprising piece of information regarding Dr. Manette. In fact, Dr. Manette reappears in public which nobody knows whether he lived or died in the past because of such a long time. His eighteen-year imprisonment has constituted a sorts of death which makes “Recalled to life” indicates that Mr. Lorry brings him back to life from the “death”.

-Xiaoyu Z.

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. 

1984 in 2019

I read the book 1984 a while ago at school and wrote a research paper. Thought I could share some of it.

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The concept of war is fascinating in itself. Does it cease to be dangerous when it is never-ending? George Orwell seems to think so, as the author of 1984, a book illustrating a dystopian, totalitarian world. In this society, a perpetual war creates infinite tension in its people. This technique is used to keep them satisfied and ignorant of the government’s true intentions. Orwell’s uncanny ability to predict the future in his book set in 1984 is extremely applicable to the constant state of war the United States seems to be in.

Is perpetual war actually applicable to 2019? The best answer comes from a report from the Center for Strategic and International Studies, “If one counts the Cold War, the United States has been at war for virtually every year since 1941”. Because there are no direct benefits of perpetual warfare, this fact alone is shocking that we have been fighting wars for almost 80 years in a row.

The only reason it is valued by the government is that it can control the mindset of the masses, like those living in the totalitarian society of 1984. They believed “the essential act of war is destruction, not necessarily of human lives, but of the products of human labor. War is a way of shattering to pieces, or pouring into the stratosphere, or sinking in the depths of the sea, materials which might otherwise be used to make the masses too comfortable, and hence, in the long run, too intelligent”. The government in this novel use the technique of continuous “battle” to control the resources available to common people, making their lives more difficult, and in turn, creating a nation constantly living in fear. In the world of 1984, war is more of an internal struggle, no longer battles of epic proportions.

It’s obvious that the Iraq/Syria and Afghan Wars, for example, are completely irrelevant to our goals as a nation. Not only is the United States constantly fighting others and draining its livelihood, but there are also real people behind the casualties of war that shouldn’t be forgotten.

Audiobooks for Shakespeare

My AP Literature class just started reading Hamlet by Shakespeare and I have come to realize how audio books can help. Like all Shakespeare plays, Hamlet’s language is difficult to read at best and sometimes people cannot understand what is going on in the story. My class read the first scene in school and my teacher played the audiobook while we read. This made it much easier to understand.

Not only are you able to grasp the tone of the situation as performed by the readers on the audio book, but voice inflection and use of the complex, old words allows for an enjoyable read. I went home and downloaded the audio book off of Amazon so that I could listen and read at the same time for homework, and it truly makes a difference.

The audio book downloads right to your phone as well so you can take it with you wherever you go. I use the Archangel audio book if anyone would like to know. I have never used an audiobook before, however I can say for sure that I understand Hamlet, and actually enjoy it as well now.

-Kyle H.

Want Shakespeare on audio? Downloadable titles are available on Overdrive and Hoopla.

Gee, Caesar, What Should We Do About the Barbarians?

The love-hate relationship (one-sided) between Rome and the Germanic “barbarians” is very complicated yet very interesting. There are so many stories about Rome’s ransack of Germanic homelands and the heroic uprisings from the barbarians who almost took over the hub of the Roman Empire. Nonetheless, while the Germanic people wreak havoc in the city, surviving Romans gathered at the hill and was able to protect themselves with cunning deceits and its disciplined military, thus originated the meme — “when you bribe a barbarian tribe you bribe to get rid of a barbarian tribe you bribe to get rid of a barbarian tribe you bribe…(you know that this is going to go on f.o.r.e.v.e.r….or…maybe not)”. And this is how the Romans annexed the barbarian lands into their own provinces.

Over the time period 753 BCE to 476 CE, Rome’s relationships with foreign peoples reversed chronologically from a dominant power an unstable and declining empire. Rome’s change in power is directly relevant to its political shifts, which closely resembles that of a roller coaster — first it went upward. The escalation towards the peaks precedes the rapid downward gradient until it crashes to the ground. The early conquering of Germanic states was gory and violent, it laid foundation of enmity in the hearts of the barbarians. It raises up from the rules of the seven kings to a republic, around 500 BCE as Rome’s early expansion.

Then in 27 BCE, the establishment of the Roman Empire made way for a golden era of peace and prosperity, and that is when the roller coaster reached its peak. Rome’s superior power has become insuppressible, and the Roman Empire has had enough of bloodshed as well as warfare. As a turning point, Rome changed their approach to its conquered peoples, granting them Roman citizenships instead of treating them as war slave. In return, the subordinate provinces were willing to fight for Rome and acknowledged the Empire’s dominance and superiority (whether forcibly or voluntarily). Nevertheless, they fear Rome.

However, Rome entered its downfall in 5th century CE. The riders and citizens of Rome alike are screaming with shock and agitation against this quick turn of events. Along the downward slope, emperors came and died and was replaced by another, whether they were barbarians or natives, they could not survive the curse of the Third Century Crisis.

But who knew that a even greater danger was coming towards Rome amidst of this chaotic era?

The entrance of Attila the HUN, famous for his nosebleed, changed the relationship between the century-old nemeses. When previously, the two groups fought each other with contempt for their ill-treatments to each other “vanished” under Attila’s banners. The once glorious Roman Empire “bowed down” to the Germanic people and “humbly” asked for alliances to defeat the horrifying monster-from-the-east.  The Visigoths consented to Emperor Valentinian’s wish. The consent signified the decline of Rome’s military power, as it was insufficient to defend itself from the Huns.

Funny thing is, Emperor Valentinian’s sister Honoria once wrote a letter to Attila for help, as she expressed her love for Attila and her desire to escape from Rome. In return, she would give half of western Europe as her dowry. This scheme was uncovered by Emperor Valentinian, but it showed that Rome was not a unified state any longer, its internal instability helped the to ensure its faltering authority.

Eventually, Rome was sacked by the Visigoths few years after their “alliance”. The once omnipotent empire collapsed at the hand of its Germanic enemies.

-Kate L.

A Bike Ride

I finally felt stable in my life; the first time in years, there weren’t different screams from different feelings yelling at each other and fighting over who would win, it was as the screams settled down, but now there was nothing, nothing shouting, nothing screaming, no fights from the different Inside Out characters, it was as a giant black hole pulled them inside its body. The black hole seemed to get bigger and bigger by the second absorbing all the thoughts I cherished and sucking them up until I couldn’t go back to them and all that remained was emptiness in my dull mind. The only thought remaining in my poisoned mind was: “Would I rather have different feelings fight over, causing me to feel too strong, or have no war and only have emptiness float through my mind?”. It’s like riding a bike through a flower field, until it begins to rain and the tires get caught in the mud and so then you fall, while your bike breaks.

When it would stop pouring, I would pick up my bike and try again, with a broken leg and a flat tire, but as soon I would do this, the clouds would flush down its water, as it were laughing at my failure. I would keep trying and trying, until everything in my body was snapped in half, and all that remaining was the bell on my bike. On the other fields, I would see kids riding the same bike, except none of them had rain being poured down and they kept peddling, until their bellies ached from laughing too hard, when would I have that? My belly would only ache from falling on it too much.

I soon realized that I couldn’t go further and would die from the aches and pain. At least my skull would be buried with the sunflowers I never had.

-Kimi M.

Films, Animation, and Literature (oh my!)

The reason we study so many older works of literature in school, so we’re told, is so that we can get an idea of the popular media that influenced the culture of that time period.  Stories like The Great Gatsby, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and Hamlet have had a significant impact on the development of both America and western culture as a whole.  These stories were either a significant part of America’s identity as a literature and cultural powerhouse, or greatly affected the public both inside and outside of America.  Many of these writers weren’t known until after their deaths, but their works became influential long before some of us were even born.

But stories are nothing new to the human race.  Oral tales, fables, and ancient religious texts are some of the oldest records of stories we still have. These stories, too, shaped the course of human development, and some are still well-known to this day.

But what about today’s great, influential works?  What kind of media shapes the culture of America today?  What kind of creative works will people in the future be studying?

Thanks to the advancement of technology, new creative works are shared with the world every day.  Many of them can be found by other authors on this blog, in fact!  But clearly there are far too many now to read them all, so how do we determine the most influential ones?  It’s simple, really; ask yourself, what media did you consume as a child?  Movies, TV shows, or books?  Many of us reflect fondly on the animation from Disney, or J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series.  These are the what shaped us, and shape many children growing up today.  Of course, something doesn’t have to be for children to be influential to our culture, but many of the most fondly looked upon pieces of our modern media are from the YA rating section of books, or are for even younger audiences.  Disney has been a driving force behind the invention of new animation techniques and basically created the animated industry as we know it – and recently, they’ve purchased more and more influential franchises to put under their name.  Harry Potter has introduced a whole new wave and understanding of magic and alchemy, and has shaped generations into viewing magic in a very different light from their predecessors.  Characters like SpongeBob and Mickey Mouse are as recognizable if not more as Gatsby from The Great Gatsby.

It’s interesting to think about a generation in the distant future that may learn about our cultural icons like how we learn about old literature nowadays in school.  People may groan about having to study Pokémon all day, like how we groan about having to study Shakespeare’s plays.  Imagine a world where people who enjoy SpongeBob are labeled “theater nerds” and people who enjoy Shakespeare are labeled “history buffs”. That may very well be what our distant future is like!

-Leanne W.