Book Review: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is a classic of American literature, dealing with the silent and prevalent plague of racism in the Great-Depression-era Deep South. Told through the eyes of young Scout and Jem, the novel created one of America’s most respectable fictional heroes- Atticus Finch, the upstanding, intelligent, and determined lawyer, dedicated to righting the wrongs of the South.

This novel deals with many complex themes- especially the theme of morality. Atticus Finch, the single father of Scout and Jem, is an upstanding, respectable, and almost irritatingly moral figure in his community. He is seen as a lone beacon of justice and light in his community because of his values. Another theme in the novel is that of humanity’s base instinct of right and wrong- beyond what is outlined in the law. This is clearly shown when Atticus chooses to defend Tom, the black man accused of raping a white woman.

Even though this book is highly lauded on many different platforms, I would not give it an incredible rating. First of all, I was not a big fan of Atticus- even though every single townsperson in the novel gushed about how Scout and Jem were so incredibly lucky to have such a moral, upstanding, and intelligent father, I did not concur. Sure, Atticus was most definitely all of those things- but he seemed more like the idea of a father rather than a real father: he was a personality before he was a person, so to speak. He was cold and aloof towards his children- he did not seem to provide Scout or Jem any real love or guidance through the novel outside of faux-profound moral platitudes. In addition, the book overall had an undertone of condescension and white saviorism that I really did not appreciate. However, this book was written in the 1960s- so it is understandably less progressive than what we would expect today. Even though I didn’t much enjoy this book, I would definitely recommend that you read it- it is still a window to not-so-past times, and can help us better understand what we need to do to confront racism in our world today.

-Vaidehi B.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is available for checkout at Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free on Overdrive.

Book Review: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury is an incredibly interesting and, at times, deeply unsettling novel on just how far humanity will go to suppress what it doesn’t understand.

The book is set in a dystopian future- the United States has become a massively powerful republic, and all news coverage and media are centered around a single event: the “War,” which the Republic is winning. It centers around a seemingly ordinary firefighter named Montag- but in this universe, firefighters do not put out fires. They light them, burning down houses which contain contraband items, usually books.

On one such night, Montag witnesses one woman refuse to leave her house, choosing to burn with her books- and is unsettled. How important must books be if she is willing to die with them? From the smoldering wreckage of the house, Montag takes a single book home with him. On his way home, he meets a teenager named Clarisse, who is out alone, walking in the night. Clarisse expresses the beauty of the night, and how the fallen autumn leaves “smell like cinnamon.” Montag is again deeply uncomfortable- primarily because he himself never thought to look up at the night sky or focus on the smell of fallen leaves. Soon, wracked with guilt about his crime of taking a book, Montag decides he will simply read a few pages to satisfy his curiosity, and then burn the book. But what he finds will change his life forever….

I, personally, have a love-hate relationship with this book. The dialogue is clumsy, the expositions are vague, and the setup and lead-ins for the plot are often simply nonexistent. However, what makes Fahrenheit 451 so memorable is the ideology rather than the imagery. There are indeed some beautifully-written passages where Bradbury fully lives up to the term “author” and beyond- but the idea that the slow eradication of culture and eccentricity is the individual citizen’s fault as much as it is the government’s really rings true in today’s society especially.

-Vaidehi B.

Fahrenheit 451 is available for checkout at Mission Viejo Library. It is can also be downloaded for free on Overdrive.

Authors We Love: Thomas Hardy

Thomas Hardy's Wessex - Wyntersea Productions Inc Wyntersea Productions Inc

“Happiness was but the occasional episode in a general drama of pain.” 

    ― Thomas Hardy, The Mayor of Casterbridge

Thomas Hardy was born on 2 June, 1840, in Higher Bockhampton, Dorset, England. While his father, Thomas Sr., was content with poverty and rural life, Hardy’s mother Jemima, who was well-read herself, encouraged her young son’s education. At 22 years old, Hardy entered the architecture field by studying the same at King’s College in London, winning prizes from the Royal Institute of British Architects as well as the Architectural Association. Despite this, Hardy despised London and its climate, and, having fallen to poor health, moved to Bockhampton to recover after five years of urban living. 

It was in this picturesque village that Hardy first tried his hand at published writing. While his first few works were not major successes, if published at all, he finally struck gold, so to speak, with Far From the Madding Crowd in 1874. Hardy’s subsequent wealth allowed him to finally marry and give up his architectural practice. While living with his wife in a cottage at Sturminster Newton, Hardy published the five major novels collectively of the theme of “Character and Environment”: The Return of the Native (1878), The Mayor of Casterbridge (1886), Tess of the D’Urbervilles (1891), and Jude the Obscure (1895), and enjoyed what he himself called the happiest years of his life. 

While Hardy had always dabbled in poetry, the public’s hostile reaction to the scandalous events chronicled in Jude the Obscure motivated him to become more involved in the poetic universe. The horrors of the First World War greatly influenced the dark, hopeless themes of his late works, including the epic drama in verse, The Dynasts, and a second verse play, The Famous Tragedy of the Queen of Cornwall. Because of these incredible works as well as others, Hardy was awarded the Order of Merit by King Edward. 

Sadly, in December of 1927, Hardy became ill with pleurisy and died on 11 January 1928. After some controversy over his burial site, it was eventually decided that his heart would be buried with his first wife in Dorset, while the rest of his body would be laid to rest in the distinguished Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey. Thomas Hardy left a lasting impact on the literary world, through both his award-winning novels and his stunning poetry, which inspired and continues to inspire many writers all around the world.

-Mahak M.

The works of Thomas Hardy are available for checkout at the Mission Viejo Library.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens, is the well-known story of a miserly old man named Ebenezer Scrooge.  Scrooge hates everyone.  He mistreats his poor clerk, Bob Cratchit.  All Scrooge cares about is making money.  To Christmas he says, “Bah, Humbug!”  On one Christmas Eve, he leaves work to return to his dark and dreary home.  Strange things begin to happen.  Scrooge is home alone as usual, but he sees and hears things out of the ordinary.  He dismisses these at first, until suddenly, to his astonishment, the ghost of his partner appears to him.  Jacob Marley, his long-dead business partner, is wearing heavy chains.  Marley explains to Scrooge that his chains were formed during his lifetime by evil and selfish deeds, and now he must carry them through the afterlife.  Marley warns Scrooge that he will suffer the same fate if he does not change his ways.

As the familiar story goes, Scrooge is visited by three additional spirits.  The spirits show Scrooge the importance of caring for other people.  Gradually, Scrooge realizes the error of his former ways, and finally resolves to change his life.  When he awakes on Christmas morning, he goes about spreading Christmas cheer, even to the surprise of Cratchit and his family.

I love this book and its inspiring message.  To me, this is a book about change.  Scrooge seemed like a person who would never change his ways.  But even he was able to change.  He learned the value of kindness toward others.  He also learned to care for those less fortunate than him.

This book is quite short compared to many of Dickens’ other books, but for good reason this is considered one of his masterpieces.  As we expect from Charles Dickens, the book is extremely well-written and wonderfully descriptive.  Take for example his description of the city streets:  “The house-fronts looked black enough, and the windows blacker, contrasting with the smooth white sheet of snow upon the roofs, and with the dirtier snow upon the ground.”

Dickens masterfully describes many contrasting images throughout the book.  On the one hand we see haunting ghosts and miserable living conditions, but we also see hope and cheerfulness, and finally the redemption of a miserly old man.  This book is highly enjoyable to read and we can learn many lessons from it.  It is great to read around Christmas, but I would recommend it any time of the year.

-Oliver H.

Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol–along with every variation–is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Authors We Love: Arthur Conan Doyle

Arthur Conan Doyle Biography - life, family, children, name, story, death,  history, wife, school, mother

His writing style can be boiled down to two characteristics: scientific and professional. The works are good at setting suspense, stimulating readers’ interest in reading, and paying attention to the overall layout. In terms of plot, there is a strong echo and strict reasoning. Rigorous causal reasoning and deductive methods are used to promote the plot of the novel and develop the story. He is famous for Sherlock Holmes. His short stories have a strong sense of painting, and their conflict settings are concentrated, with plot twists and turns, which make readers feel as if they are reading a movie story. However, in the later period of his creation, due to the gradual disappearance of enthusiasm for creation, Doyle’s depiction of Holmes became increasingly deified, showing a deliberately exaggerated plot with the so-called brand of the devil (see “The Adventure of the Devil’s Foot”, “The Adventure of the Dancing Men”).

It is no exaggeration to say that many of Doyle’s short stories, with minor modifications, are excellent movie bases. It is very rare for Doyle to have such artistic thinking long before the popularization of film art. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes is the most frequently made film novel in the world. For example, Sherlock Holmes starring Robert Downey Jr., Gene Wilder in 1975, Charlton Heston in 1991 and other films based on the detective’s records have also been produced. There have been seven TV series. His short story, El Anillo De Thoth, revolves around the theme of death and immortality in ancient Egyptian culture, presenting us with a fantasy world, which was one of the important creative sources of Hollywood mummification films.

“The Lost World” is also a cross-generational work. This novel can only be said to be enlightening for our modern adventures of ancient beasts and dinosaur types and films. Conan Doyle wrote 60 stories, 56 short stories and 4 novels about Sherlock Holmes. These stories were published in Strand magazine in droves over 40 years, as was customary at the time (Charles Dickens published his novels in a similar format). The story mainly takes place between 1878 and 1907, with the latest story set in 1914. Two of these stories are written in Holmes’s voice, two in the third person, and the rest are Watson’s accounts.

-Coreen C.

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Bernett

No matter what age you are, almost anyone can enjoy a whimsical and well-written children’s classic. In fact, my most recent favorite is The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Bernett. 

The Secret Garden tells the story of a girl named Mary Lennox who whilst residing at her uncle’s house tries to figure out how to get into the secret garden, which has been locked up for a decade. Along the way she makes friends and leaves her mark on the dull and somber manor. 

One aspect of this story I loved was the character development. When we first start out the book Mary is an insufferable, harsh brat who knows nothing about friendship because of her circumstances in the past. But once she opens up to people and learns to see the good in things and people alike, everything changes for her and she transforms into a kind and caring child. 

The character development isn’t limited to just Mary though, her uncle’s son, Colin Craven has been thought to be dying for all of his life. But with Mary’s help, everything seems to change for the better. 

The Secret Garden is very predictable, in the way almost all children’s classics are, but I am in no way complaining. In fact, the predictability makes way for you to become more attached to the characters because of all of their arcs. 

Now if you couldn’t tell I have an infatuation with children’s classics. To me, they are such simple and impacting stories that always change your outlook on life. Frances Hodgson Bernett is my favorite children’s book author right now, seeing as she’s written both of my favorites, The Secret Garden and A Little Princess. Both books which I wholeheartedly recommend. 

In short, if you’re a fellow devotee for good children’s classics like me, then you’ll love this book. 

-Asli B.

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Paperback | Barnes & Noble®

Considered by many to be the greatest novel that was ever written, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby is a masterful depiction of life during America’s Jazz Age. At a time when wealth and social status translated into parties and romance, Fitzgerald adeptly captures the essence of the Roaring Twenties in this novel that has persevered for nearly one hundred years.

The story is told through the eyes of Nick Carraway, an outsider with outside perspectives on the people living around him on the West Egg of Long Island. One particularly enigmatic resident is the fabulously wealthy Jay Gatsby, a man with a mysterious past. Over the course of his time there, Nick discovers Gatsby’s all-consuming love for the beautiful Daisy Buchanan, and how Gatsby’s endless desperation to win her love and devotion has driven all of his actions.

Using Nick to stage a reunion between Gatsby and Daisy, the two proceed to embark on a romantic relationship, despite Daisy’s marriage to Tom Buchanan. Unfortunately for the two lovers, Tom eventually finds out about the affair, and that spells out the beginning of the end for both Daisy and Gatsby.

As timeless as the time during which The Great Gatsby is set, F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel is a fantastic glimpse into America’s past, as well as into the thoughts and actions of the wealthy and the ordinary, making it relevant to every reader in modern times.

-Mahak M.

The Moon and Sixpence by William Somerset Maugham

The Moon and Sixpence by W. Somerset Maugham: 9780143039341 |  PenguinRandomHouse.com: Books

In his novels, Maugham deeply discusses the contradiction and interaction between life and art. The escapist theme revealed by the novel coincided with the pursuit of many people in the West and became a popular novel in the 20th century. Maugham’s novel The Moon and Sixpence, inspired by Gauguin, was undoubtedly more fiction than fact. For the next decade, Gauguin thought he would finally be able to enjoy the fruits of his success and reunite the family. By comparing novels with reality, we can find that Gauguin’s pursuit of painting has its causal relationship and process development. But Strickland’s departure is very abrupt and too intense. In addition to the author’s use of fictional plots and narrative techniques, he has created a so-called pure sense of the artist who is unworldly. Compared with Gauguin’s departure, Strickland’s departure is completely out of line with the logic of reality and is even more incomprehensible to the reader. There is a deeper reason why Maugham is writing this way: the virtual satisfaction of Maugham’s ego. Sixpence was the smallest unit of silver in England at that time. People often forget the sixpence at their feet when they look at the moon. The moon is the ideal high above, the sixpence is the reality. The modernity of The Moon and Sixpence is first manifested in its conceptuality. In the The Moon and Sixpence, Maugham ostensibly describes the fate and encounter of the protagonist, but in fact reflects his own thinking on the relationship between art and life.

The questions that haunt the protagonist Strickland are what is the nature of art, how to deal with the relationship between art and experience, whether traditional means of expression are reliable, and the exploration of new forms of modern thinking. After experiencing constant twists and turns, Charles Strickland finally realized that art was a thing with great autonomy and independence, and different narrative perspectives would lead to different endings. Real life is real, ugly, cruel and heartless. Therefore, the beautiful and elegant art on the surface is only the whitewash of reality, while the essence of art is false. In the novel, Strickland also showed his extreme distrust of traditional artistic means. This kind of feeling made him have many difficulties in painting performance, and he fell into the dilemma of silence and inaction, and had to find a new way of expression suitable for himself. Maugham added his thoughts on artistic issues into his novel, which gave the novel a strong conceptual nature. This conceptual nature endowed the novel with rich and complex meanings. Through the surface layer and the deep layer, the confrontation between narration and ideas, the novel has broad tension and connotation, showing the strong characteristics of modern novels. The modernity of the The Moon and Sixpence is also reflected in the fictions of the characters.

Its characters do not pay attention to the distinctive personality characteristics, nor is it the representative of a certain type of characters, but often is a symbol of passion and a spirit. The image of the character is vague and unsentimental, like the background of a distant mountain in ink painting, which is lightly blurred. The reader needs to guess and infer from the suspense, hints, details, inspirations, and general atmosphere that the author places, and then gradually discover the symbolic meaning behind the characters. This is evident in the case of Strickland. There was always an unconventionality of mystery in his conduct, a preventive abruptness, and a succession of extraordinary acts. He is taciturn in speech who always speaks with half-utterance and is short and fragmented, concise as a telegram, or simply avoids direct contact with the reader and gives indirect hints through other witnesses. This often gives people a vague impression of looking at flowers in the fog. This behavior of Strickland showed his distrust of established language. In his view, the connection between language and what it refers to has been broken by the erosion of ugly reality. Language has become a web of consciousness permeated with the bourgeois concept of utility, a withered material, unable to express their inner exploration of the true meaning of things, so he cannot speak without searching for the right words and hesitation. His behavior also shows his fear and anxiety about revealing his true self.

Every time when it came to the subject of the ego, he either hedged and dithered to conceal his true heart, or he pretended to be deaf and dumb and remained silent for a long time in deep meditation. Even forced responses were questions and answers, extremely brief, devoid of any passion for conversation or desire for expression. At the end of the novel, he tries to hide his true self by simply escaping from European civilization and fleeing to uninhabited islands. Both of these situations, whether the extreme distrust of words or the fear of revealing one’s true self, have strong modern meanings. The modernity of The Moon and Sixpence is also reflected in the exploration of the role of human irrational consciousness, especially the primitive wild force in civilized society. Throughout the 19th century it was believed that a healthy life could not be lived without a reverence for form, order, organization, and pattern. It became a fashion for writers at that time to seek for order and a certain mode of time in order to transcend the random events. Strickland in The Moon and Sixpence began to live for many years in the rational rhythm of rigid rules. But he soon discovers that in this quiet order of life he gradually drains himself of his talents, his spirit, his vitality, and his creativity. Therefore, he went to the other extreme of life, allowing irrational consciousness to overflow and attack the rational order on the surface of life with savage, primitive and merciless forces.

He had become a dark and haughty monster of unfeeling power, a voice from the threshold of eternal darkness. His whole life was encompassed with sin and wickedness. In the end of the article after constant exploration, he finally came to realize that extreme rationality and irrationality are not healthy life. A healthy life is a rhythmic oscillation and inertia, a transient equilibrium point in a constantly changing life. One should have sincere courage and a faithful attitude towards life to resist the dark, pitiless, vast and gloomy primitive forces of nature. Maugham’s application of the narrator “I” also makes his novels unique. The narrator, on the one hand, has the function of connecting several plates experienced by the protagonist in structure, connecting them, either explicitly or implicitly, intentionally or unintentionally, into a whole in structure. “I”, as the witness of the event, has a direct relationship with the characters in the book and plays a role in promoting the development of the plot. On the other hand, “I”, the narrator, also has a complex and subtle relationship with the author and the reader, which can be said to be a medium for the connection between them. The narrative examination may be either a prop for the author to convey his thoughts to the reader, or it may be a smokescreen that Maugham deliberately creates in order to bring the reader closer to his thoughts. In The Moon and Sixpence, Strickland’s wife is stricken with grief when she learns that her husband has left home.

Combined with the vitriolic, vicious and merciless abuse that the wife later hurled at her husband, Charles Strickland, it is natural that the reader would discern in the attitude of the observer, “I,” that her grief was a mask. The narrator’s manner, however, was so vague that no one dared to judge whether it concealed a deeper meaning, or whether observing the movements of the furniture might be an attempt to conceal his genuine sympathy. Because in fact the narrator, “I,” develops itself into a veritable outsider, a true observer. He has also become a victim of the vagueness and ambiguity of his own making, and has lost the power of interpretation of the life presented to him as the reader. This is the attitude of the narrator, both true and false, both believable and unbelievable, reflecting the essence of complex life. Then, suddenly confused and ignorant again, the narrator, “I,” is charged with persuading Charles Strickland to return to his family. Filled with shallow curiosity, he questioned Charles Strickland, seeking out more anecdotes, and using the exhortation as a kind of charity, trying to bring Charles Strickland back to a life he despised. The more stupid and ignorant the narrator is, the more ridiculous he seems. When the reader finally decipher the author’s trap and decipher the word “freedom” from the plot, he finds that the mad-looking narrator is only a tool for the author to urge the reader to think. In this way, Maugham flexibly adjusts the relationship between readers, author and characters by means of narrators, making readers unconsciously accept their guidance without damaging their independence and confidence, adjusting their ideas, understanding and finally getting in line with the author, and finally accepting the author’s thoughts.

-Coreen C.

The Last of the Mohicans by James Fenimore Cooper

This novel is truly my favorite novel that I have read so far, so my review might be a little long since I have so much to say. I’m not calling this a perfect novel, but the themes are very meaningful and important to Americans and people around the world today. Please bear with me and I promise you that you won’t be disappointed.

On the surface, this novel looks like a chivalric romanticism, but in essence, the first thing it tells the reader is that English and French colonialists are the root of all evil. They waged war to plunder this Indian land, and together they carried out a policy of fraud, brutality and even appalling genocide against the Indians. They bought the scalps of the Indians at high prices, anestheted their morale with “fire and water” and the Bible, deceived and coerced the Indians into using them as cannon fodder, and viciously incited the Indian tribes to kill each other to the death. Chingachgook was the great chief of the Mohican tribe, whose tribe was destroyed by the guns and treachery of white settlers. Unfortunately, even Uncas, his only heir, died by the sword of Magua, also an Indian. Like the Mohicans, the Wyandotte, who were exploited by the French colonial authorities, were completely wiped out in the last great battle on the shores of Lake George. This makes readers see vividly that the history of the development of the North American colonies is actually such a history of blood and tears of the Indians. America was originally the home of the Indians, but the white people killed and drove them away, and they found sufficient reason for themselves, that they represented God, to civilize this wild land. The author’s heart is heavy with deep sympathy and indignation over the killing of Indians and the extermination of Indian tribes. Through Hawkeye, he repeatedly admits the sins of the white men in his novels. He named the novel “The Last”, and with a sad tone describes Uncas’s heroic sacrifice and sad and touching funeral, which expresses his infinite sympathy and sorrow for the tragic fate of the Indians.

The death of the just and brave Uncas and the beautiful and good Cora is not without a deeper meaning: with their death, the virtue and purity of their hearts also died, leaving only the greed and the cruel malice and the evil thoughts that covered the land of America. Although Cooper realized the tragic fate of the Indians, he failed to break through the ideology at that time. He sympathized with the unfortunate experience of the Indians and partly attributed their tragic fate to their own ignorant backwardness. While describing the cunning and greed of the colonists, the author also makes no secret of the ignorance and savagery of the Indians. This seemingly contradictory description not only shows to the reader that the author advocates realism, but also reveals the author’s ambivalent feelings towards the Indians. In the author’s eyes, the conflict between the white people and the Indians is not only the struggle between colonization and anti-colonization, but also the conflict between different civilizations and religious beliefs. Especially in the novel, Hawkeye has a contradiction: he has a deep friendship with the “good” Indian, Uncas, and at the same time has a sense of superiority. He sympathizes with the Indians but ignores their lives. The advantage of Hawkeye in morality, knowledge and ability is also the historical necessity of whitewashing to swallow the Indian civilization. Faced with the dilemma of sympathy and disgust, reason and emotion, Cooper finally chose to use the law of the jungle to explain the miserable fate of the Indians who were almost exterminated. He called Hawkeye and the Indians forest dwellers, and the hunters living in the jungle were natural persons far away from society, who could not escape the natural law of “survival of the fittest”.

The existence of the two heroines in the book also reflects the complexity of the white hero image. On the surface, the book focuses on the capture and rescue of the two heroines. Almost all men’s actions point to them, and the book praises their nobility and grace to the utmost. On the other hand, the characters often use demeaning language. This contradiction helps to explore the meaning behind it. First, Cooper places two noble women in the wilderness, forest and battlefield. It is their “fear” and “shivering” that reflect the hero’s masculinity, though it is unrealistic. The value of heroines in the text can be said in a sense that they are the tools to express the myth of the white male. This overzealous promotion of masculinity is, so to speak, part of the whole white male myth. The author also described the Indians’ ability to survive and track in the wild in a commendable manner, but Hawkeye’s wise analysis and correct judgment always helped them to get out of danger in critical moments. In the plot arrangement, the author also fails to get rid of the influence of racial prejudice and social status on the concept of hierarchy. In dealing with Major Duncan Heyward and the Cora sisters, this thought is particularly evident. When Major Duncan Heyward learns that Cora is Munro’s child by a woman of black descent, he immediately turns to Cora’s sister, Alice. In comparing Cora with Alice, the author actually raises the question of how the white civilization views such fine qualities as intelligence, courage, perseverance, calmness and eloquence in women. By placing these qualities in Cora and arranging for her to be killed by her enemies, Cooper is likely to give the answer that in women, all these good qualities mean nothing.

After all, although Cora’s firmness, bravery, and perseverance set her apart from her vulnerable sister, on the battlefield, Cora and Alice could only be women, and both sisters were equally “defenseless.” When Magua considered exchanging Cora for the scout, the scout cautiously backed away, saying that a promising young warrior, even the best girl on the border, would not be equal. For the two sisters, it is conceivable that the surviving sister will live a happy life, because she is not only a woman, but also more white. Some even quipped that, using Cora’s special background, Cooper managed to keep Uncas from crossing racial lines to love the daughter of a British officer. Perhaps for the author, he pays attention to the status of female figures in the society, and also gives some consideration to the value of women under the domination of patriarchal culture. But he never broke through the cultural stereotypes of his own patriarchal standard, revealing his patriarchal values, believing that in the white world, a woman’s weakness is her strength, because it inspires men to fight for her. Women should give up the dangerous dream of an independent self and exist as a protectorate and appendage of men, and only in this way is there any value. The author is very good at using indigenous languages. On the one hand, he vividly embodies the characteristics of indigenous languages such as barbarism, vulgarity and non-standard. But at the same time, he also shows the vivid and multifigurative features of the native language. As the preface says, the Indians are good at snatching metaphors from the clouds, seasons, birds, beasts, and plant world. The flower symbolized the Mohican, which meant that Indian life had blossomed like a flower.

The withered leaves symbolized the death of the Mohicans. His inability to prevent his preordained fate is emblematic of the human tragedy of his inability to control his own destiny. Indians, for example, often refer to their companions by nicknames, such as Uncas, who is often called a fast-legged deer for his speed, and Chingachgook, who is called The Great Snake because he is as agile as a snake when he is lost in the jungle. Uncas with excellent reconnaissance and tracking ability, was dubbed Hawkeye. It is also argued that the frequent use of metaphors in indigenous languages reflects the lack of expressive power of the language. Cooper has succeeded in making every detail audible in a special way, through the description of native languages and gestures. Of course, this kind of combination will have some limitations, which are reflected in the incongruity of style and content, incoherence before and after speech, and incongruity of style. Hawkeye, for instance, often spoke in terms and phrases that did not coincide, and gave the impression that his speech had changed from elegance to vulgarity. Cooper has always been known for describing thrilling scenes and natural scenery, and “nature” has a special meaning here. It is the pronoun of “freedom” and “individuality liberation”; It is also the boundary of the ideal pursued by romantic writers.

In “The Last Mohicans,” he makes full use of the dense forests that threaten the unknowable and the mysterious ways of Native Americans for romance. In his writing, the forests and prairies infested by the Indians are richly colored, thus combining the romantic imagination with the material of the wild regions of America. Between the areas occupied by the English and French sides lay a vast, seemingly impenetrable forest frontier. It often takes months to climb mountains and wade through rivers, going through hardships to find a chance to play in a more intense battle. The forested frontier became the first object to be confronted, beyond the British and French belligerents. In Cooper’s works, the natural environment often plays a role of independent value. In the novel, there are high mountains, deep valleys and forests that swallow people. Nature has a majestic and fearsome sublime beauty. The grotesque branches and jagged tops of the trees dimly covered the stars, and everything below them was in a gloom. Behind them the river was winding and hidden from view by the dark trees. But ahead, a little way off, the river seemed to rise into the sky, and the water poured down into the cave. These descriptions construct the naturalness of the American frontier, where there are few people, in contrast to colonized, domesticated societies. Nature can make people feel small rather than confident in the omnipotence of civilization. When people feel fear, they will also have a sense of reverence for nature. But the description of the bleak nature of the American frontier also highlights America’s characteristic toughness, roughness and grandeur. The United States does not have a long history.

From the very beginning, the ghosts of the past linger in this country, namely the expulsion of Indians during white colonization and the enslavement of blacks brought by slavery. This pattern of hostility leads to paranoia about persecution and a loss of security. It was not only strange lands and mountains that were in danger, but nature concealed invisible enemies. The novel vividly depicts the fear of the white people through the natural environment. Even during the day, they need to tread carefully. For deep in the forest, behind every tree there might be Indians ready to hunt for their lives. The glistening wild fruit may be the glistening eyes of the natives. The wind whistling through the trees was probably an Indian gathering. The description of the natural environment in the novel is not only a nostalgia for the natural frontier. More important is the author’s historical representation of the relationship between white Americans and Indians. By this time, though, the Indians had disappeared from view, along with the jungle wilderness. However, the white people’s fear of nature and Indians in the unique frontier landscape of The United States conveyed the anxiety and uneasiness that they felt in the face of the original sin of history and overstepping, stealing and tampering. Through this description of the sufferings of the people living in this land, the landscape depicted in the novel is rather bleak. Bloody pools of water, dark skies, all bleak images remind the reader of a nightmarish world of pain. The main function of this style of writing in the novel is to reveal the uncertainty that afflicts the white man in a new and terrible environment.

They are inexperienced, insecure about their inability to understand and master the world around them, and their misunderstandings and misconceptions only bring fear, and they are the most vulnerable victims in the story. Even though the setting is an American wilderness, not a haunted castle, the enemy is a savage Indian, not a supernatural being. The fear of the Indians is the equivalent of the fear of the demons and ghosts of Gothic fiction, suggesting that Cooper has adapted the model thoroughly to the American environment. It also shows that without the vicissitudes of history, the castles and temples of European Gothic writers, the American landscape can produce Gothic works as well. The representation of American history and reality through gothic scenes and techniques is of great significance to Cooper’s creation and American literature. Cooper’s cultural system originated from the European continent. Although he tried hard to break away from it, he could not set the main characters and their destinies according to the established cultural cognition in his novels. For example, David Camus, the teacher of chants, gives readers the impression that he is a dispensary. There was a sense of incongruity in his appearance. There was no particular deformity in the figure, but it was very asymmetrical. It is not difficult to see from this that David is extremely ugly in both appearance and costume, and he is basically unable to play any active role in the development of the story. However, in literature, the composition of a narrative object, no matter how abnormal or unusual it is, is still a kind of social behavior and reflects the society behind or content of it, while what David embodies is the representative of Western culture — the Bible.

In the Indian tribe, the native people have the most primitive totem worship, each Indian warrior has the animal pattern closely related to their life to distinguish the different tribes. To the highly educated white eye, these images were ignorant, even terrifying. Cooper uses the words and deeds of David to describe the social life under the colonial environment in an acceptable and established way, and this cultural penetration in the way of Bible or hymn runs through the whole novel. In the whole work, David seems to stand outside the hero and heroine, observing the social norms of the Indian tribes and judging the people living in them according to established ways and principles. He used hymns to indoctrinate those in the “subcultural” system. After David had formally introduced his profession, Cooper praised the Bible as noble and irreplaceable. He never said anything but the thoughts and wishes of the king of Israel. This translation in the New England colonies greatly exceeds all others, and in its richness, correctness, and doctrinal purity approximates to the original greatness of the inspired writer. After expressing the worship of the Bible, in the novel, whenever there are scenes of blood or violence, the author tries to use the words of David to call these ignorant people in order to eliminate the evil nature of the wilds, as if no force can tame them except the omnipotent God. When he and the sisters fell into Magua’s hands, though the Hurons could not understand what he was singing about, out of awe of the madman, he was never in real danger and was treated better than any other captive with the right to free to move. After he and Hawkeye set Uncas free, the man in charge of Uncas found that the prisoner had been transferred and had not touched him at all.

It’s not hard to see the author’s own cultural inclinations in this far-fetched plot, and how they affect the whole book. Some of the details in the novel touch on key issues, some of the assumptions are too bold, some of the plots too stiff or quirky. For example, at the critical moment when father was defeated and captured, the sisters Cora and Alice went to visit him and gave him comfort and encouragement. It was a far-fetched assumption, but one could argue that they were motivated by father-daughter affection. But it is perverse to allow two weak women to be separated from the army and left to act alone in a wild and dangerous area, and the author does not provide a compelling motive or reason for doing so in the novel. In fact, if it weren’t for this “time travel,” there would be no novel, because the whole story is caused by it. In addition to the far-fetched coincidences and adventures, there are also many idealized factors in the characterization, such as the perfection of the positive characters and the cruelty, stupidity and malice of the negative characters. There are also some problems with character description, such as the vast majority of characters’ personalities, words and deeds are static and unchanged. They had desires, they had ideals, they had concerns, but they all stopped there. It is not because their desires and ideals, once satisfied and realized, change the things they care about and cause changes and development in their own character or words and deeds. The main character, Hawkeye, seems to be the same cool, brave “prince in the forest” from beginning to end. The novel was composed in 1826, the third year of the Seven Years’ War between Britain and France for the colonies in North America.

Britain and France expelled the Indians by force and carried out a cruel policy of genocide against them. The title of the work, “The Last”, has a strong practical significance, highlighting the theme of the extinction of Indian tribes. Cooper tells the reader the tragic fate of the native Indians. As the Native Americans who immigrated to North America, the Indians who created the glorious civilization of America became homeless due to the invasion of a large number of Europeans. They were forced to move west. Their culture is likely to wither away as external shocks dilute it. Rewriting history, Cooper expressed his sympathy for the plight of the Indians and gave them, and the world, a warning to Indians and other tribes or countries that were becoming assimilated into foreign cultures, languages, and customs. Today’s rise of the Mohican in some parts of the world may also be a reflection of the culture’s disappearance. The degree of civilization of the Indians lags far behind that of European nature, but they have formed a special coexisting relationship with nature in their long-term development. They saw the land as a common mother, and over time evolved a kind of nature worship, a worship of the mother earth that arose from the hunting and eating of the land. Like a fish swimming across the water or a bird flying through the blue sky, the Indians pass through the wilderness without leaving any trace. This harmonious relationship with nature and the Indian’s awe and worship of nature is also of significance for human civilization to deal with industrial development and environmental damage today.

-Coreen C.

The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoevsky

The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky: 9780451531520 | PenguinRandomHouse.com:  Books

Like most of Dostoyevsky’s novels, “The Idiot” has a tragic ending, but that doesn’t make “The Idiot” a work of pessimism. The tragic ending of the protagonists reflects the author’s pain caused by the yearning for a better future. The positive ideal put forward by Dostoevsky has been bankrupted, but the ardent yearning for the good ideal is forever shining with the radiance of humanism. The novel gives a broad description of the Russian upper class after the reform of serfdom, involving complex psychological and moral issues. The good, tolerant Prince Myshkin is powerless to influence or benefit those around him, a Quixotic figure whose futile efforts show the disillusionment of the author’s attempt to save the world through faith and love.

“The Idiot” develops themes of indignity and victimization. The strong rebelliousness of the heroine Nastasya Filippovna and the kindness and purity of the positive character Prince Myshkin give the novel a bright tone. But some nihilistic images used to attack revolutionaries have weakened the novel’s revealing power. The development of bourgeois social relations and the disintegration of old social relations are observed and expressed from the perspective of moral psychology. The plot of the novel takes the emotional entanglement of the hero Prince Myshkin, Nastasya Filippovna and Aglaya Yepanchina as the second main line of humanitarianism about kindness and love.

Although he was clearly called an idiot by many people around him at that time, people close to him showed to him that in the social environment at that time, people were ashamed to show their love and supreme trust and their sincere yearning for truth, goodness and beauty under the cover of false and vain appearance. The main idea of a novel is to portray an absolutely beautiful character, and there is nothing more difficult than that, especially now. All writers, not only In Russia, but all over Europe, feel powerless if they wish to depict absolute beauty. Because it’s an incredibly difficult task. Beauty is the ideal, and the ideal, whether for us or for civilized Europe, is far from being formed. There is only one absolutely wonderful person in the world – Christ. Therefore, the appearance of this incomparable and infinitely beautiful figure is certainly a permanent miracle. That’s what the Gospel of John means. He sees miracles as mere manifestations of beauty. The author modeled Prince Myshkin according to the image of Christ in his mind. He was the spokesman of Christ and the embodiment of moral beauty. As an image of pure moral beauty, Prince Myshkin embodies all the virtues of Christ — love, humility, obedience, patience, open-mindedness, selflessness, repaying good for evil, faith, keeping the suffering of mankind in one’s own heart, always ready to sacrifice for others. In Prince Myshkin, morality is religiously incarnated, that is to say, morality finds its home in faith in Christ.

The implementation of morality is guaranteed by religious belief and its system. The life brought about by the moral efforts of the inner self is also the sublimation of the soul brought about by salvation. Only the moral binding force of religion can bring people from vulgarity to sanctity, from humble to sublime. Therefore, “The Idiot” reveals that moral belief and sanctification are the only way to play the role and function of society, and the moral destination is religious faith, the Russian Orthodox Christ. The so-called “beauty” refers to the personality and moral beauty embodied in Christ, and the spirit of Christ’s beauty is the only power to save the world from suffering. Christ is the ideal entity of moral perfection, and man’s redemption in this world is Christ who is the symbol of moral perfection after the baptism of suffering, the purification of love, the removal of evil from good. In fact, the religious belief in “The Idiot” is rooted in moral necessity. Thus, on the surface, the work is a loud call for the return of religious belief and a repeated argument for the existence of God, while the real concern is that without the shadow of religious belief, morality will become homeless. If there is no God, everyone can do as he pleases. Therefore, God is needed to restrain people to realize the perfection of people and the ideal harmony of society.

At the same time, for individuals in the real society, the practice of morality should be reflected as a kind of behavior of consciously obeying the teachings and strictly complying with the moral laws of religion in the world. The core of Christ’s beauty is love, and love is the eternal content of moral law. A man should be an enhancement of Christ’s virtue. The moral concept of “The Idiot” reflects a moral ideal, which in real life is more reflected as a man-made act of peace, and becomes the state of personal cultivation and pursuit to achieve. In this state, it is assumed that being is realized in love and that the development of being is accomplished in love. Love first, regardless of logic, only then can you grasp the meaning of life. If you love life, half the battle is yours. In a society where everyone loves each other, the world is becoming more and more beautiful, and all human beings are marching towards messiah and universal harmony. This is the beauty of Prince Myshkin to save the world, and this is the heaven on earth that Prince Myshkin wants to create. “The Idiot” ends with Parfyon Semyonovich Rogozhin killing Nastasya Filippovna, thus pushing human sin to an extreme. This destructive act means salvation for both Parfyon Semyonovich Rogozhin and Nastasya Filippovna. The scene of Nastasya Filippovna’s death was somewhat similar to the crucifixion of Christ in Golgotha; her body bore a striking resemblance to the image of the dead Christ hanging in Luo’s room. Nastasya Filippovna takes her name from the Greek word Anastasius, meaning resurrection, and receives death with equanimity, exactly like Christ. To her soul, death meant resurrection. She sacrificed her life to atone for her sins and overcome her spiritual death. In addition, Parfyon Semyonovich Rogozhin’s name is most likely borrowed from Moscow Rogozhkoe cemetery where he is on the verge of death, signifying the possibility of a new life.

-Coreen C.