Animal Farm by George Orwell

The book, Animal Farm, is an amazing read in many ways. If the average reader were to read this novel, there are two major points of view within.

The author wrote about a lighthearted story about animals taking over a farm. Simple enough.

If you were to read into this book a little more, you would be able to find ties to communism and political issues within the farm animals. All of the animals are divided into certain jobs that cater to their ability and are rationed a set amount of food.

Throughout the story, it is evident that the pigs are manipulating the farm animals and making them work for the pigs. The pigs bend the rules, take the food, and sleep inside leaving the clueless animals with the scraps.

This novel perfectly demonstrates how different books often are written as a lighthearted story while also masking a deeper, more relevant meaning. Overall I recommend this book and challenge anyone that reads this to try and see both perspectives within this magical work by George Orwell.

-Parker V.

Animal Farm by George Orwell is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway

The Old Man and the Sea is a short novel by American author Ernest Hemingway. The novel is about a Cuban fisherman who manages to hook onto the largest fish he has ever seen, which he struggles to haul in alive.

The novel begins with the old fisherman who had not caught any fish for the past eighty-four days. As a result, he is considered unlucky, and a young boy who used to fish with him together is no longer allowed to by his parents. The old man and the boy are very close, with the young boy often bringing the old man news and food.

The next day, the old man leaves early on his tiny boat, and he manages to hook onto the largest fish he has ever seen, an eighteen feet long marlin. Despite the fish’s massive size and strength, the old man is determined to catch the fish to end his unlucky period. The old man shows his determination after continuing to hold onto the fish for three days straight without sleep as it pulls his boat. With his determination, he eventually catches the massive fish after three days.

However, unfortunately for the old man, swarms of sharks attack his boat, eating the fish in the process, even though he desperately defends against them with everything he has.

He eventually returns home with nothing except the skeleton of the fish, collapsing onto his bed from exhaustion. The next day, the skeleton of the fish, still attached to his boat, draws crowds of people, fishermen and tourists alike, who are amazed by its size. Through all of this, the old man simply sleeps calmly, while the boy returns to take care of him, deciding he will fish with the old man despite his parents forbidding him to.

Ultimately, despite that The Old Man and the Sea is a classic, I would not recommend it due to its boring plot. The novel does contain some symbols, and the old fisherman represents Hemingway’s view on life, described as Hemingway’s “code hero.”

-Josh N. 

The Old Man and the Sea by Ernest Hemingway is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Animal Farm by George Orwell

Animal Farm takes place on a mismanaged farm in England. The animals, upset with their treatment, prepare a rebellion to take over the farm. Once the farm is taken over, the animals attempt to validate their rights by painting seven commandments on the wall; these commandments are known as “animalism,” and they set the basic laws for the farm animals. These laws are: whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy. no animal shall wear clothes, no animal shall sleep in a bed, no animal shall drink alcohol, no animal shall kill any other animal, all animals are equal, and whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend. In addition, the farm, known as the Manor Farm, is renamed into Animal Farm.

Soon after the animals seize control of the farm, the pigs, the leaders of the farm, run into management issues. The two leaders of the farm, Snowball and Napoleon, can not decide how they want to run the farm; Snowball wants a windmill to be constructed in order to reduce work hours, while Napoleon believes a hard-working, simple farm is the happiest lifestyle the animals can work.

Day after day, the pigs become more human than animal, and they begin to slowly change the seven commandments, in order to manipulate and dominate over the other animals. For instance, the law “no animal shall drink alcohol” is changed into “no animal shall drink alcohol to excess,” and as time goes on, the pigs even begin to purge the farm of opposition to their reign.

Animal Farm reflects history since it shows even a government with the noblest intentions can be corrupted. Snowball represents the idea of capitalism, while Napoleon represents communism. Napoleon controls the farm through the belief that the animals are their own rulers, and that they are better off ruling themselves than they were under the reign of humans. The reality is that Napoleon is simply deceiving the animals with words and numbers, as the pigs slowly force the other animals into submission until the animals cannot differentiate pig from human.

-Josh N. 

Animal Farm is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive

Animal Farm by George Orwell

The book is in correlation with the Russian Revolution. Each main character of the book represents real people or a group of people during that time. For example, a pig named Napoleon represents Joseph Stalin and is the main “villain” in the book, and so on.

The book is really interesting to read especially if you have an interest in the Russian Revolution but want an easier way to understand the story. It takes what let up to the Revolution and the Revolution itself and used simpler characters and situations to make the even make more sense.

I had a fun time reading this book because, in order to help us understand the book better, our teacher had different tables in the class represent different animals on the farm so what animal you were depended on where your normal assigned seat was. Every day we had English, there would be a “happening on the farm”. That meant like, if there was an animal who died in the book, that table would be “dead” too.

This really motivated me to read the book in order to see if there would be anything interesting that could happen in the classroom/farm.

Once again, if you are interested in the book Animal Farm, I strongly recommend reading it.

-Phoebe L.

Animal Farm by George Orwell

Animal Farm is a novel written by George Orwell about animals who over throw there farmer and establish a new government. This book is known as a allegory. This is supposed to depict the Russian Revolution.

They have many similarities in the book like how animalism sounds a lot like communism. Communism is the government that was first thought of by Karl Marx. The idea consists of that every one is equal.

In the book the Farmer Mr Jones just treats the animals horribly. He never feeds them and often he just shoots them and orders them around. The animals decide they have had enough of this and overthrow Jones and establish animalism.

Now in the book the pigs took power and told the half witted animals lies and the most stupidest things that you could think of. Because of course that actually happened. The three main pigs in the book are Napoleon, Snowball, and Squealer. They represent Stalin, Trotsky, and Squealer was actually the propaganda Machine.

In the book he would win every argument because he knew Ethos, Pathos, and Logos. They are known as Ethics, Emotions, and Logic. He would use these in every argument in the book. When Squealer would say something he would win the dumb animals over to him and Napoleons side.

If you know your Russian History you can probably guess what happened to Snowball because he is Trotsky. There aren’t really any spoilers in the book because these events actually happened. But when you read the book you find at least some sentiment for the things that happened to people during the Russian Revolution.

The one fact that stuns people is that how dumb the animals are. I mean you would think that they would be a little more smarter but there not. They are just plain dumb. Another main part of the book was that it also showed other countries as farms such as England and Germany as Pilkington and Fredrick who represent the farmers.

-Max U.

Animal Farm by George Orwell is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri

The Divine Comedy was written by Dante Alighieri who grew up in Florence, Italy during the Middle Ages. During this time, there was great political tension, especially between two groups. The first was for the papacy and they were called the Ghibelline. The other, which Dante was a member of, demanded of independence from the Church, and they were called the Guelph. After the Ghibelline fell, the Guelph broke into two separate sectors: the white Guelph and the black Guelph. Although initially the white Guelph were triumphant, the black Guelph returned not long after and exiled many of the prominent white leaders, Dante among them. While in exile, a vision came to him, and this is when he wrote The Divine Comedy.

There are three parts to the Comedy. It begins with the Inferno, which is probably the most widely known. The second book is called Purgatorio (Purgatory), and the third: Paradiso (Paradise). At the beginning of the poem, Dante describes how he has lost his way, and is lost in a figurative “dark wood”. Luckily, Virgil, Dante’s symbol for human reason, approaches him and explains that the only way he may return to the true way is if he makes the arduous journey through Inferno, Purgatory, and finally, Paradiso. Virgil acts as Dante’s guide through Inferno and Purgatory, but Beatrice (a character which represents divine love to Dante) leads him through Paradiso.

This book was interesting for numerous reasons. For one, I had never before read anything remotely like it. The comedy is formatted in stanzas, each with three lines. Coincidentally, there are thirty-three cantos (Italian for chapters) in each book, and there are three parts (Inferno, Purgatory, and Paradiso). There are many other elements in this book which revolved around the significance of the number three which was very interesting.

This book is packed with symbolism, analogies, and allegories. It was a bit difficult to wrap my head around some parts despite the fact that the writing itself wasn’t very extensive. I found it extremely interesting to think that all of this had come in the form of a vision to Dante. There is so much detail, and so many little complexities, which it makes it difficult to imagine how he could’ve recalled all of it in such illustrious detail.

This book was originally written in Italian, and there are many different translations, which all differ slightly depending on the translator and their take on Dante’s work. The version I read was translated by John Ciardi. I found this version very helpful as it had summaries at the beginning of each chapter, which really helped me to better understand the story.

Despite the fact that it is called The Divine Comedy, it’s not actually a comedy. The poem describes Dante’s journey through the three books as he found his way back to the true path. This book is fairly well-known, but I know few people who have actually read the entirety of it. It’s definitely not for everyone, but I still thought it was a very intriguing read.

-Elina T.

Dante Alighieri’s The Divine Comedy is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library

Inferno by Dante Aligheri

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To be honest, I didn’t expect Dante Aligheri’s Inferno to be what it is when I first picked it up. It was originally written circa 1300 before the Middle Ages truly ended, has strong Christian values embedded in them, and seemed innocuous, or at least as innocuous as a book about hell can be.

When I read the plot summary of Dante’s Inferno, it appeared as just another pedantic, abstruse epic. I only gave it notice because my English teacher assigned my class to read at least 500 pages for the quarter, and we could only choose books from a college-approved list of classics. Dante’s Inferno just so happened to be on that list, and I just so happened to have coincidentally checked it out from the library the previous week. Rather than find a book that I may have had more of a predisposed interest in, I chose to just read the translation and its sequel, the Purgatorio. I was not ready for some of the gory parts, the horrible punishments handed down to people, and how Dante seemed to care more about himself and either harass the sinners or break down crying/swooning (but ultimately doing nothing useful). Then again, this is only an allegory, so everything is symbolic and Dante is only using his imagination. Although by today’s standards Dante is ultra-conservative, at that time Dante was actually progressive, being one of the first to use colloquial Italian instead of Latin and combine both Judeo-Christian values and Greek mythology.  

The John Ciardi translation is highly compact. Somehow, he managed to fit text that normally takes up 500 pages into a tiny, 300-page book with a rather tedious font and font size. The Inferno is essentially a very long poem, divided into 34 cantos (chapters). A summary of the events precedes every canto and around three pages worth of footnotes comes at the end. These help clarify many, many fine details that would otherwise go unnoticed. As well as the translation of the poem, John Ciardi’s version of the book also features a lengthy introduction, guide to the book, translator’s notes, information about Dante’s life, etc. If you’re in for a good read, make sure to skip these parts; but if you’re reading it for school, like me, try to at least skim them over.

As far the actual book goes– being irreligious, I at first tried to detach myself from the content of the book. But a few cantos in, I realized that no sane person could possibly agree with what Dante’s view of the perfect world. What is different about the Inferno is that it is written almost in a second-person perspective; Dante is the narrator and a character in the book.

The book is essentially about Dante realizing he is straying from the “Glorious Path” towards heaven and masochistically putting himself through hell to see all the horrible things that happen to such people so that he himself wouldn’t become one of them. Along the way, he is accompanied by Virgil, a wise Greek philosopher that unfortunately ended up in hell because he wasn’t Christian. In each part of hell Dante encounters either a mythical Greek character, infamous historical figure, or somebody he knew personally. Here’s how Dante organizes hell: in the many, many circles of hell, people are handed their punishments depending on their worst sin in life.

For example, hoarders and wasters are sentenced to circle four where they eternally lunge weights at each other, each trying to win against the other side but always failing to do so. I’ll admit that this is rather clever, although more than a little drastic. However, there are also many other circles of hell made especially for some people that I believe do not belong in hell. For example, heretics, or people who did not adhere to Dante’s religion were punished by being placed in an open coffin that burns for all eternity. That would be me, and quite frankly that’s the most boring and unimaginative punishment in the entire book. 

Even worse, if you commit suicide, no matter how noble you were in life or how justified your suicide is, you ended up as an immobile tree that bleeds blood when hurt and isn’t able to talk unless someone snaps off a branch. So even if you were a humble, God-fearing, moral human being that was being tortured or tormented, you must not commit suicide and instead bear the pain because otherwise you were a coward that deserves to burn in hell. Justified? 

What may be the goriest, most horrifying part of the book is the first part of Canto 28. The “sowers of religious discord”, or essentially the proselytizers that tried to convert people of Dante’s faith, are faced with a demon. They walk around in a circle without rest, and every time they come near the demon it swings its melee weapon and cuts through the body of the “sinner”, sometimes to the extent where all the inner organs are dangling out of the body. The victim then stumbles away, only to have his/her wounds heal and repeat the cycle yet again. Dante takes extra care in describing the wounds inflicted on people and the sounds of their screams, yet doesn’t seem too perturbed. Is this justified? Because to me, it’s obvious that Dante is just letting his inner sadist take over. And people praise this as a classic, honoring Dante as the best poet to ever come out of Italy? For me, this is quite disturbing. Aside from that, there is no real progression of events for the majority of the story; Dante spends most of his time trudging through hell, swooning, walking some more, assaulting the helpless, screaming, reasserting his good Christian-ness, climbing some more cliffs, crying, and being incredibly sappy one moment and psychopathically violent the next. Hopefully the Purgatorio will include an actual plot.

What saved the book for me was how beautifully it was written. Even though I read the English translation, which meant much of the details and allusions were lost in translation, John Ciardi painstakingly translated every word, managing to keep the original terza rima rhyme scheme, preserve the wonderful imagery and most of the finer details, and create a vivid, somewhat realistic world all at once, even if much of the words and syntax comes across as rather esoteric. When you read the stanzas out loud, the words all flow together and the transitions and rhymes are both smooth and memorable. For this reason alone, I’ve actually become interested in learning a little bit of Italian to read the original. But that’s as far as it goes. 

In the end, I don’t recommend Dante’s Inferno to everyone (or even anyone) because the read can be rather slow, dull, confusing and horrifying at times, but if you want some ideas on how to write a descriptive, vivid poem, I suggest you do consult Mr. Alighieri, because he does knows how to create a work of art.

-Michael Z.

Dante Aligheri’s Divine Comedy is available for checkout from Mission Viejo Library

Animal Farm by George Orwell

animalfarm_georgeorwellAnimal Farm, a novella by George Orwell, is an allusion to the Russian Revolution and certain events in World War Two. The book begins with a boar named Old Major talking to the animals about his dream about revolution. All the animals on the farm want to overthrow their horrendous leader; Mr. Jones. As a result, when the idea of revolution is introduced, all the animals agree. A couple days later, Old Major died. However, the revolution continued. Two pigs took control when Mr. Jones left the farm: Snowball and Napoleon. Napoleon becomes power hungry and chases Snowball off of the farm. Over time, Napoleon becomes more and more corrupt and over the years he slowly changes the values of Animalism. At the end of the book, the animals can not tell the difference between the pigs and their so called better values and the humans that were ruling them before.

Having read this book as a homework assignment for school, I read it with a different approach and attitude. I put a lot of focus on what was happening and I analyzed the book much more than I would have if I was reading it leisurely. However, I believe this made the book more enjoyable due to the fact that I understood it better and I picked on interesting portions of the book that I wouldn’t have seen if I didn’t put so much thought into it. As a result, my recommendation for any interested readers is to read this book with care and thought because it makes the book much more enjoyable. All in all, I thought that this was a very well written book and I would recommend others to read it!

-Melika R., 10th grade

Animal Farm is available for check out from the Mission Viejo Public Library, Overdrive, and Axis360