Heidi by Johanna Spyri

The book starts off as Heidi is being brought to her constantly upset grandfather who has had nothing to do with her (yet) by her aunt Dete. Heidi, an orphan, was raised by her aunt after both of her parents died a long time ago. Heidi soon meets her grandfather, who seems to be very unhappy about this situation. He doesn’t want anything to do with the girl but nevertheless takes her in. 

Heidi is a very active and happy girl. This book is the story of her being raised in the Swiss Alps by her grandfather. ‘Heidi’ follows the main character and protagonist, Heidi. She attends school and plays in the mountains with her new found friend Peter the shepherd and her grandfather’s two goats.

I really enjoyed reading this book because of the amount of details that were put into it, like how something smells or feels. The book is definitely very interesting and I would highly encourage you to read it.

I would recommend you to read this book whether you do or do not enjoy reading classics. The storyline was great, the events that took place were exceptional, and the novel remains exciting throughout the whole story. 

This book remains as one of my favorite novels. It is a good book to read if you like calm yet active storylines and characters. I also liked that Heidi is very kind to everyone she meets, whether she knows them well or not.

I would rate this book 10/10.

-Peri A.

Heidi by Johanna Spyri is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library.

Authors We Love: Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky

Fyodor Dostoevsky - Wikipedia

In the middle of the 19th century, Russian society was full of contradictions and crises. The tyrannical rule of the tsar and capitalism weighed heavily on the psyche of the people. Dostoyevsky’s novels mainly depict the misery, contradiction, hardship and desperation of people living at the bottom of the society, reveal the depravity and destruction of human nature and the split of human spirit in this pathological society, and show the darkness and filth of the Russian society under the shadow of the autocratic rule and the capitalist system. His novels depict the bullied and insulted, and try to show the misery of the characters hidden in the dark corners of the slums. Dostoyevsky describes people who are divided by themselves, reveals multiple personalities and shows the return of human nature. Dostoyevsky is an expert in psychological description. He is obsessed with pathological psychological description. He not only writes about the results of behaviors, but also focuses on describing the psychological process of behaviors, especially those abnormal behaviors, near coma and madness.

The characters’ abnormal thinking and behavior are exactly the characteristics of his works. The intensity of Dostoyevsky’s psychological description is in proportion to the bewilderment of his thoughts. Dostoyevsky mainly adopts a non – temporal narration in dealing with the timing of the novel. Because he preferred to choose the most intense, terrible and extreme events as the subject matter of the novel, and was keen to show people’s psychology in the crisis, the overall rhythm of the work was extremely unstable. In the description of characters, Dostoevsky broke the tradition of describing characters in Russian literature since Pushkin. He not only described their impoverished situation, but also revealed the soul of the characters, not only sympathizing with them, but also associating with them. The strong is a story element opposed to the weak, mainly referring to those who have money and power but disregard any moral principles. Their most important characteristic is to get their own way. The rescuer and the rescued are another pair of story elements in Dostoyevsky’s novels.

If the antagonism between the strong and the weak constitutes the first clue of the narrative of the novel and highlights the author’s humanitarian feelings, then the second narrative clue composed of the rescuer and the rescued reflects the author’s thoughts full of religious meaning, which is of more metaphysical significance in thinking about the way out of the society. The latter two narrative elements are gradually developed in his novels. The story element of the savior is the perfect Image of Christ in Dostoevsky’s novels, the embodiment of the supreme good. At the beginning of creation, the image of the savior appeared in the form of a kind of good behavior, namely self-sacrificing love. After his return from exile in Siberia, Dostoyevsky shifted his focus to religious exploration, and the rescuer began to appear in his novels as a concrete and sensible figure. His character gradually became full and distinct, and he was no longer confined to the scope of love, but had a broader social content. In the novel, this element is the external manifestation of the author’s thoughts, and the author mainly reflects his own religious ideal of salvation through it.

Therefore, such characters are flat and are the “mouthpiece” of the author’s thoughts, often giving people a sense of paleness. The rescued person is the most important story element in his novels. Compared with the rescued person, this kind of character image is more abundant. The image of the rescued first appeared as the image of the visionary in Dostoevsky’s novels. This image inherits the tradition of superfluity in 19th century Russian literature and has the characteristics of superfluity: dissociating from the society, holding a critical attitude towards the society and possessing the characteristics of thinker. So his novels end with the triumph of the savior’s mind. But as an artist, Dostoyevsky always triumphs over himself as a moralist. He was deeply aware of the social reality at that time when people still had no way out depending on religion. The contradiction of his thoughts makes the main part of the novel present an open structure, and the ending presents an open state in a closed form.

The foundation of Dostoevsky’s novels is binary opposition, mainly composed of four story elements: the strong, the weak, the rescuer and the rescued, among which a theme of “salvation” runs through. Secondly, the structure of Dostoevsky’s novels is inconsistent. The construction of elements in his novels mainly consists of three parts: the antagonism between strong and weak — the conflict between good and evil in the heart of the saved, and the conversion of the save and the saved. However, due to the mutual influence, interweaving and inhomogeneity of various contradictions, the novel is open and incomplete in content. The reason why Dostoevsky adopted such a structure pattern in constructing novels is closely related to his religious thoughts and perplexities. Dostoyevsky’s novels mainly adopt two perspectives: inner perspective and omniscient perspective. First of all, his novels mainly show people’s self-consciousness. All kinds of consciousness have a relationship of equal dialogue, so the first-person inner perspective and the third-person indefinite inner perspective are the perspectives often adopted in his novels.

This perspective reflects Dostoevsky’s religious confusion and exploration. Secondly, the omniscient perspective of Dostoevsky’s novels is mainly reflected in the beginning and the end of the novels, which has two functions: one is to serve the characteristics of the perspective inside the main body of the novels, and the other is to serve the religious thoughts of Dostoevsky, thus forming the characteristics of the closed form of the novels. In addition, there are some “meta-novel” narrative modes in Dostoevsky’s novels, which also convey the confusion in his religious thoughts, no matter for the narrator, the hero or the reader. Thus, we can conclude the perspective mode of Dostoevsky’s novels: the main body of the novels mainly narrates from the inner perspective, and the beginning and end of the novels often adopt the omniscient perspective. Dostoyevsky’s construction of the time mode in his novels is mainly reflected in the following aspects: first, he no longer places events in the process of time like traditional novels, and is keen to describe the process in detail; instead, he cuts time, adopts a non-temporal narration, and pays attention to the synchro meaning of time. Secondly, it is also reflected in the psychological time intervention in the novel. He always likes to put the characters in the two poles of contradiction and in the atmosphere of tension, so as to describe all the secrets of the human heart. Hence, the psychological time is much longer than the story time.

-Coreen C.

Authors We Love: Lewis Carroll

Lewis Carroll - Wikipedia

Charles was the third of the eleven children of Dodgson. Charles loves his mother best. He regards his mother as one of the sweetest mothers in the world. His mother is a good housekeeper and pays great attention to the children’s preschool education. At the age of seven, Charles was said to have read Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, as well as Maria Edgeworth’s Practical Education and Hannah Moore’s The Shepherd of Salisbury Plain. At the age of 12, Charles was sent as a boarder to a grammar school in Richmond, ten miles from Croft. He is diligent and eager to learn. The principal told his parents that his eloquence and the ingenuity and diction of his Latin prose proved him to be an extraordinary genius.

In 1846 he was sent to Rugby, which soon came under the rule of Thomas Arnold. When he first went there, he was unhappy and often bullied and called a “fool” (a clumsy athlete). He was often mocked because of his childhood stammer. On the other hand, when he did not receive prizes for classics, theology, mathematics, etc., he seldom went home. During the holidays, he began writing a series of home magazines for his siblings. At the age of 14, his first magazine was called an “inspiring and instructive collection of poetry.” It includes many humorous poems, some of which are in the doggerel style, while others are contemporary traditional poems written for children.

He composed poem in the form of a ballad taught people never to annoy their sisters, followed by a magazine illustrated by Charles himself. After leaving Rugby in 1850, Charles wrote his own masterpiece, The Rectory Umbrella And Mischmasch, while preparing for the Oxford entrance examination at home. The book shows that Charles was already an outstanding writer for a comic magazine. He also wrote plays for a puppet theater. His cousin introduced him to the novelist Francis Edward Smedley. He showed some of the poems to Edmund Yates, who, to compete with Punch, had started a penny magazine called Comic Times. Charles wrote four poems for the magazine.

When the Comic Times closed, he began writing for the latter Yates magazine, The train. Charles’ chief contribution to The Train was poetry. In publishing “Solitude,” Yates chose one of two pseudonyms offered by Charles: Lewis Carroll. These are the two Latin names of Charles, keeping the alphabetical order and then turning back to English. He was a priest and never married. He was very fond of children, and his favorite was a little girl called Alice Liddell. On the fourth of July, 1862, the author and a friend of his took the three Liddells and rowed up the River Thames from Oxford to Gostowe. On the boat, he told Alice a little story, which he later turned into a manuscript of Alice’s Adventures Under Ground and presented to her.

The manuscript is only 18, 000 words long, and the illustrations are by the author himself. Later, the author revised it to the present scale, changed the title to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and asked the famous painter Sir John Tenniel to illustrate it. The first edition was published on July 4, 1865, as a memorial to that trip. The story tells the story of a little girl named Alice, chasing a rabbit in a dream and falling into the rabbit hole, began a long and dangerous journey. This fairy tale breaks through the traditional moralistic formula of western European children’s literature with its magical fantasy, funny humor and high poetry, and has since been translated into many languages and travelled all over the world.

Carroll later wrote a companion piece, Alice Through the Looking Glass, which became popular in the world along with Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. In 1868, Carroll published his encryption method. This type of encryption is known as Lewis Carroll’s ciphers. Cryptography introduces the concept of a secret key, which determines which row of secret tables to replace according to the key, to counter word frequency statistics. The password’s key space size is 26m, so even if the value of m is small, using the exhaustive key search method can take a long time. For example, when m=5, the size of the key space exceeds 1.1*107, which is beyond the scope of exhaustive search by hand calculation.

Charles was writing parodies and satires. Works such as The New Belfry (1872), The Vision of the Three T’s (1873) and The Blank Cheque (1874) attacked the reforms of many colleges and universities. In 1879, he tried to study children publicly. Because he has a terrible stammer, but he can communicate with people through the camera. In his second year at the school (1856), Carroll bought a complete set of photographic equipment (The Wet Print) and photographed Tennyson, the Poet Laureate, and the Prince of England. But he was most attracted to girls around the age of 7, and he took every opportunity to photograph the girls he met. Only in front of the girls, Carol will not have any psychological barriers. The only work he did during this period was Rhyme? and Reason?

-Coreen C.

Book Review: The Iron Heel by Jack London

The Iron Heel (Penguin Classics): London, Jack, Auerbach, Jonathan ...

The novel “The Iron Heel” is written in the form of a memoir, the author is Avis. The manuscript, which was written by Ives, was hidden in a hole in a dead tree before she died and was only found hundreds of years later. Everhard, a Socialist ideologue turned blacksmith, was a guest of Avis’s father, a liberal professor, whose revelations of the cruel exploitation of the monopoly capitalists interested her, and she went herself to investigate and prove the truth. A worker who had his hand broken trying to protect a machine lost his case in court after being fired without a pension. “The Iron Heel” continues to write about the struggle between the revolution and the counter-revolution, how the counter-revolutionary cultivated the working aristocracy and destroyed the workers’ unity, how the government and army suppressed the people’s unrest, how the revolutionaries carried out open and underground struggles, and how the masses overthrew the American bourgeois oligarchy — “The Iron Heel”.

The author foresees the day when a deadly struggle between the American proletariat and the bourgeoisie, the oligarchy known in the novel as “The Iron Heel”, will break out. Jack London gives readers a great picture of the proletarian revolution through his fictional account of the armed riots that broke out in Chicago in 1917. Such scenes were seen in Paris in 1871 and in Petersburg in 1905. “The Iron Heel” is a political prophetic novel conveying Jack London’s wish for the broad proletariat to unite in the armed revolutionary struggle. “The Iron Heel” depicts the failure of the American workers’ revolutionary uprising and the establishment of bloody rule, but the novel is full of revolutionary optimism. He is convinced of the establishment of a progressive and just social system for human beings, and also believes that the future will not be a society where people oppress and exploit people. Jack London’s moderate socialist stance has been replaced by a radical revolutionary attitude in “The Iron Heel”. He predicted that capitalism would go to extremes, to evils, and advocated its overthrow by violence. “The Iron Heel” is a literary expression of Jack London’s dissatisfaction with the right-leaning revolutionary line of the socialist party members of his day.

The novel’s main story takes place in Chicago, an industrial city that, according to Avis’s manuscript, has been the center of a storm of conflict, with brutal street battles, assassinations, bloodshed, and violence. In writing about the big themes of Chicago, writers often focus on concrete examples to support the macro level of class struggle at the micro level. Jack London focuses on the tragic experience of Jackson, a representative of the ordinary working class. Jack London, through such an example, on the one hand attacked the dehumanized industrial production, which used laborers as slaves. Once the laborers lost their labor value, they were mercilessly abandoned. On the other hand, the writer criticizes the capitalist social system and the superstructure of capitalist economic production, which conspire to protect the interests of the bourgeoisie while maintaining unequal economic distribution.

-Coreen C.

Book Review: Martin Eden by Jack London

Martin Eden - Jack London | Feedbooks

Martin Eden is a semi-autobiographical novel written by American writer Jack London. The story tells about young sailor Martin Eden to get acquainted with Miss Rose of high society by chance, be inspired by her, and began his hard creation career. Despite all the setbacks, he still refused to obey Rose’s arrangement to enter her father’s office and become a promising young man. Then his fortune suddenly changed, and manuscripts that had previously been rejected were published and he became a popular writer. Friends and relatives who despised him before fell over each other to invite him to dinner, and Miss Rose who had broken up with him also came to throw herself on him. This makes him see clearly this world as a cold society; the wonderful illusion that holds him to love also is also disillusioned thoroughly.

In the real American society where Jack London lives, the United States has entered the period of monopoly capitalism. The bourgeoisie not only monopolizes the material wealth of society but also monopolizes the spiritual wealth. The bourgeoisie believes that all good things in the society belong to them, no matter in material life or in spiritual life. In the face of the underclass they turned their noses up. Therefore, in Jack London’s novel Martin Eden, the criticism and accusation of the corruption of the capitalist system, the hypocrisy of the bourgeoisie, and the inequality of class hierarchy can be seen everywhere. Through the description of the text, the reader can see different faces of the characters in the novel and feel the resistance behind feelings of the hero and heroine, their irreconcilable differences in values, and the nature each class in the capitalist society.

-Coreen C.

Agnes Gray by Anne Brontë

Agnes Grey, by Anne Bronte. I had rather low expectations for this  lesser-known Bronte novel, but it definitely exceed… | Agnes grey, Anne  bronte, Old movie posters

Agnes met the honorable curate Weston. Although both of them are equally poor, they have the good feelings of the world, and enjoy the beautiful things of nature together in helping each other. She and Weston lived an unflashy, truth-seeking life. In the face of ignorant and cruel students, selfish and hypocritical employers, Agnes showed integrity and patience. She never gave up her efforts and pursuit. She sympathizes with the weak and often visits and helps the poor. In this, Weston has done even better. In them, goodness is reflected. Compared with Agnes Gray and Weston, the ignorance, coldness, selfishness, and hypocrisy of the young ladies and gentlemen of the bourgeoisie are obvious. Standing on the progressive standpoint of that era, the author reveals the social inequality and unreasonableness.

Agnes Gray not only reflects the personal experience of a governess in the first half of the 19th century, but also highlights the characteristics of ignorance, callousness, selfishness and hypocrisy of the aristocracy and bourgeoisie in the rising stage of the British society at that time. Although they have accumulated a lot of material wealth and gained a high social status and power, readers can feel the dark side hidden behind all these grand appearances from the perspective of the author’s narration. These lords and ladies seemed to have fine manners and fine conversation, but their spiritual and material lives were far from balanced. If we cast aside that superficial appearance and go deep into their hearts, the reader will find that they are very poor in spirit.

Mr. Murray does nothing but drink and abuse, Uncle Robson is devious and takes pleasure in killing animals and insulting people, and Lord Ashby eats and drinks excessively. Even the Reverend Hatfield, the spiritual guide of these upper men, was no gentleman. From the pulpit he was eloquent, discerning and guiding, and presenting himself as the spokesman of the savior of mankind. As soon as he stepped off the pulpit, he showed his true colors. He tends to the ladies of the rich family. He is witty and talkative on the surface, but in reality he is a buffoon and a smooth talker. When he failed to court Miss Murray, he went out of his way to threaten her, and all the dignity and grace of the preacher was gone. In contrast to them were Agnes Gray, the governess, and the curate, Weston.

They all looked ordinary and came from poor families. They are indeed poor in material things, but they do not feel inferior to take the breath of the rich. They live a very full life within themselves, live by their own rules faithfully, and believe in the greatness of human love. They are striving for a balanced life, and if they have no ambition to make the world a better place, at least they want to perfect themselves. While seeking respect and love, they never forget to respect and love others. They live a life free from vanity and in pursuit of truth, which is not only their honesty to others and to themselves, but also their attitude towards life as a whole. They love knowledge and true friendship, as well as the plants and trees of nature.

They are intellectually, morally, and mentally superb to their employers or superiors. Because of their spiritual superiority, they face difficulties, grievances and injustices without deceiving themselves or feeling uneasy, and always accept the gifts of life with open arms. In this respect, the author seems to be saying that Agnes Gray and Weston’s acceptance of life is deeper and broader than that of property owners. It should be noted that in Agnes Gray and Weston, there is indeed a certain religious feeling. It is easy for the reader to relate much of the work, especially the personalities and experiences of the two men, to this background. It is true that the author measures a man’s character by the piety of his religious feelings.

The author distinguishes Agnes Gray from her employer by her faith in God and her love for humanity. But what is presented directly to the reader is Gray’s endurance, her efforts, and her pursuits in concrete life. So in this sense, religious background is only a superficial means to distinguish between the two, not the essence.

My 10th Grade Reading List

I am not particularly fond of reading a required set of novels for school, but these three below really changed my perspective on this. For my sophomore year, the literature was based upon the theme of “loss of innocence,” and I thoroughly enjoyed reading these classics for what they had to offer.

Lord of the Flies by William Golding:

It was the second time that I read this book, and I was absolutely astonished for all that I missed the first read through. Lord of the Flies is about a group of young boys who are stranded on an island. As they attempt to create order and society, their childish fears and greed thus bring out an unpredictable evilness that spreads among them. Golding walks us through the positive and negative aspects of human civilization and how it can be so easy to be manipulated by and drawn towards the dark nature of mankind.

1984 by George Orwell:

Although the hardest read out of the list, 1984 is still full of many mysterious and intriguing secrets throughout the entire novel. The protagonist Winston Smith lives in a dystopian society, where all its people praise their beloved leader Big Brother, who is never wrong and is never imperfect. The totalitarian government controls everything, including the past, present, and future, as well as strips their citizens of privacy and freedom of self-thought. Despite all this, Winston sees past the lies of his society and tries to solve the biggest mystery of his life. In his book, Orwell describes how ultimate totalitarian power can create an inhumane world of manipulation and can strip away the human identity.

Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger:

Catcher in the Rye is a lot easier to understand, but I got just as much out of it as the other classics. J.D. Salinger writes in the perspective of teenager Holden Caulfield and describes his short vacation spent in New York City after dropping out of his boarding school. Holden is a very cynical character – he believes that he is too mature and too good for anyone else. However, once Holden is exposed to the adult world and all of life’s imperfections, Salinger stresses the importance of childhood and the enjoyable experience of growing up.

-Riley W.

These titles–and other classic novels–can be checked out from the Mission Viejo Library.