Who Was To Blame in Romeo and Juliet?

William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is often considered to be the ultimate tale of romance – two children of warring families meet, fall hopelessly in love, and commit suicide in a woeful twist of fate. However, fate itself has quite little to do with the actions undertaken by the two lovers throughout the play. Though the tragic events of Act V, Scene III of Romeo and Juliet are often attributed to the two lovers’ distinct lack of luck, the blood shed at the end of the play is truly the fault of one character: Friar Lawrence, the trusted adult who both Romeo and Juliet turn to in their time of need, only to be led astray.

Despite knowing the potential tragedy that could follow, Friar Lawrence nevertheless encourages Romeo and Juliet in their wish to wed, not because he wants to see two young lovers be happy, but because of his own desires. Though the friar appears old and wise, he does not dissuade Romeo from his course, for the friar does not seem to particularly care about Romeo’s happiness – he has an underlying motive. He later tells Romeo that he will consent to wed the two lovers not because he believes in the true love between them, but because he wants to end the feud between their families. 

The marriage between Romeo and Juliet eventually leads to ruin, when Romeo is exiled from the city and Juliet is being forced to marry Count Paris. To avoid this, Juliet visits Friar Lawrence and desperately begs him for a solution to the problem. Friar Lawrence concocts a plan, in which Juliet will fake her death to both avoid marrying Paris and reunite with Romeo in Mantua. This plan is infamously imperfect. For one, the entire plan hinges on Romeo being aware that Juliet had faked her death before Friar Lawrence retrieves her from the Capulet tomb. Unfortunately, the exact opposite occurs, and, in his grief, Romeo commits suicide. Juliet, upon waking to Romeo’s corpse, stabs herself and dies.

The irony of the play is that, in the end, Romeo and Juliet’s deaths, not their marriage, is what ends the feud between the Montagues and the Capulets, which was Friar Lawrence’s intent all along. Friar Lawrence, supposedly the wise and reasonable adult of the play, ends up being the most blameworthy character, both because of his deliberately neglectful and ignorant words and actions in regards to the lovestruck pair, as well as his continual promotion of his own overarching agenda. 

All in all, while it may appear that the tragic events of Romeo and Juliet can be solely credited to the cruel hand of destiny, the true blame for the two lovers’ deaths lies in the hands of Friar Lawrence, the trusted adult who leads Romeo and Juliet into a situation from which the only escape is death.

-Mahak M.

Book vs. Movie: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

While re-reading the fourth Harry Potter book, I found myself enjoying the story just as much as I had the first, second, third, etc. times–maybe even more so because I was picking up on details and nuances in the plot that I hadn’t noticed before. After finishing the book, I sat down and watched the movie again, which I enjoyed also. However, as much as I admire the film, there are so many scenes, subplots, details, and even some characters from the book that don’t quite make it into the movie.

In this post, I thought I’d discuss some of these aspects, as well one part in the movie I enjoyed. In no way is this meant to criticize the movie or the book, both of which I admire very much. Hope you enjoy it!

*A little note: this post is more of a commentary on the aspects of the book that did not make it to the screen :). It also contains spoilers!


While the movie jumps to the journey to the Quidditch World Cup, book-Harry doesn’t have it quite so easy. Or at least, the book expands upon his time at the Dursley’s.

In the book, an over-stamped letter, a blasted-open fireplace, and a Ton-Tongue Toffee help chronicle Harry’s “rescue” from the Dursley’s house by the Weasley family (on the topic of Ton-Tongue Toffees, Fred and George’s desire to open a joke shop was not included much in the movie, so the trick wands and Canary Creams are treats solely from the book).

Once at the Burrow, Harry meets Ron’s two eldest brothers, Bill and Charlie, for the first time. While Charlie is mentioned in the movie by Hagrid, the faces of these characters did not make it into the movie.

Fast-forwarding to the Quidditch World Cup campsite, the movie doesn’t introduce us to a few of the fascinating characters and scenes we come across in the book. The book gives us an update on Oliver Wood, who had completed his last year at Hogwarts the previous year (congrats, Oliver!); an introduction to Seamus’ mother and her shamrock-covered tent; a scene with dear old Archie, who refuses to change out of his flowered nightgown; and an introduction to Ludo Bagman.

Though his blue-eyed innocent face doesn’t make it to the screen, Ludo Bagman does give the book an interesting subplot. His losing bet with Fred and George and his ensuing inability to pay the twins back lead to his suspicious attempts to assist Harry in the Triwizard Tournament. This and his history with the Ministry also make him a suspect for the danger that seems to be lurking at Hogwarts throughout the story. While the movie completely leaves Ludo and his subplot out, I think the subplot adds so much richness and intrigue to the book.

An interesting little scene we miss in the movie is when Mr. Ollivander inspects each of the Triwizard Champion’s wands. We get to learn the wand cores and the type of wood of each wand, and Harry also gets a clue that resurfaces in the seventh book: Krum’s wand was made by Gregorovitch, who Harry dreams about three years later.

One place found solely in the book is the Hogwarts kitchens, which I find so fascinating–they provide an explanation for the magically-appearing food on the tables at Hogwarts. Additionally, the introduction of the kitchens addresses the presence of house elves in the castle, who, along with cooking delicious meals, clean the common rooms and keep the fires going. While it is unfortunate that the kitchens did not make it into the movie, it’s understandable that creating them, along with all the house elves working there, would be an enormous undertaking, also taking into account that the scenes that take place in them aren’t particularly necessary to the larger plot that the movie tells.

On that note, no house elves are seen on the screen for the fourth movie–not Dobby (Harry is helped by Neville for the second task rather than his elf friend) and not Winky, who added to the subplot with Mr. Crouch and his son. Subsequently, Hermione’s organization to support the rights of house elves–S.P.E.W., not “spew”–does not appear in the film either. While I would have enjoyed seeing the mismatched socks Dobby makes for Harry and Hermione’s valiant effort at promoting S.P.E.W., I also understand that sitting for seven-plus hours in front of a TV screen isn’t the best for one’s health.

As a side note related to the absence of house elves in the film, the movie, unfortunately, doesn’t introduce us to the Quidditch team mascots, leprechauns, and Veela; Hagrid’s Blast-Ended Skrewts (perhaps we should be thankful) and nifflers; or the sphinx Harry meets in the maze.

Another subplot unique to the book is Rita Skeeter’s. Although her embellished journalism does appear in the movie, its scope is larger in the book–which we discover (with the help of Hermione) is due to her ability to turn into a beetle. Additionally, because Rita Skeeter’s juicy journalism does not single out Hagrid for being a half-giant in the movie, Harry’s Care of Magical Creatures class does not meet Professor Grubbly-Plank, nor does it meet the pure white unicorns Professor Grubbly-Plank opts to have them work with instead of the Skrewts.

One part of the book that I loved was after the third task in the hospital wing when Mrs. Weasley hugs Harry like a mother. It’s so endearing how Mrs. Weasley cares for Harry so much, even with seven other children to love as well. By sending Harry hand-knit sweaters for Christmas, chocolate eggs for Easter, and coming to watch Harry compete in the third task as his “family,” Mrs. Weasley truly steps up as the motherly figure Harry needs.

Lastly, I wanted to mention the scene in the movie where Harry, Ron, and Hermione discuss the Yule Ball. While a similar scene takes place in the book, it does not involve Professor Snape’s attempts to get Harry and Ron to focus throughout the scene, which culminate in him forcing them to look at their paper. I also like how Fred asks Angelina to the ball in this scene (in the book he did so by yelling across the Gryffindor common room).

Phew! That was a pretty lengthy review–thank you if you read all the way (and I understand if you didn’t!). I realize this post is more about pieces found solely in the book that I enjoyed, but I hope you enjoyed it all the same.

There are so many little details and subplots that make the Harry Potter books so deep, intricate and comforting to read, and though the movies may lack the same details out of necessity, I still thoroughly enjoy them. I also love how the movie script pulls many of the lines straight from the book.

Ultimately, the movie slides over many well-loved subplots, characters, and details as a result of its fast pacing and need to capture an audience for a short amount of time. But this doesn’t make it any less interesting. Both the book and the movie are entertaining and enjoyable, as I hope they are (or will be) to you!

– Mia T.

Authors We Love: Henry David Thoreau

Henry David Thoreau - Wikipedia

Henry David Thoreau (July 12, 1817 — May 6, 1862) was an American writer, philosopher, and representative of transcendentalism.

A graduate of Harvard University, he helped edit Emerson’s quarterly review of the Sundial. He was a lifelong supporter of the abolitionist movement. He preached abolitionism everywhere and attacked fugitive slave laws. Deeply influenced by Emerson, he advocated returning to the heart and getting close to nature. In 1845, he lived by Walden Pond, two miles away from Concord, as a recluse for two years, farming and eating by himself, experiencing a life of simplicity. Walden, a long essay on this subject, became a classic work of transcendentalism.

Thoreau was brilliant and wrote more than twenty first-class essays in his lifetime. Known as the founder of nature essays, Thoreau’s prose was concise and powerful, simple and natural, and full of thoughts, which was unique among the American prose in the 19th century. Walden is considered the most popular nonfiction in American literature. His other works include political treatise on Civil Disobedience, Life without Principle, Cape Cod, A Week on the Concord and Merrimack river, The Maine Woods, etc. Walden records his reclusive life in Walden, while Civil Disobedience discusses the injustices of government and power and justifies citizens’ voluntary refusal to obey certain laws.

Thoreau was not tall but very firm with pale skin and strong, serious blue eyes, and a solemn manner.Thoreau later in his life, had a beard that suited him. His features were sharp, his build strong, and his hands were strong and swift in the use of tools. He said that he used his feet better than his eyes to find his way through the woods at night, and that he could estimate the height of two trees with his eyes very accurately; he could estimate the weight of an ox or a pig as well as a cattle dealer. He was good at swimming, racing, skating and rowing, and could probably beat any countryman in the long walk from morning to night. The relationship between his body and his mind is even more subtle than we think. He said that every step of his leg was his. As usual, the longer he traveled, the longer he wrote. If you shut him in at home, he won’t write at all.

-Coreen C.

The works of Henry David Thoreau are available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. They can also be downloaded for free from Overdrive.

Don’t Let Age Kill To Kill A Mockingbird

Harper Lee’s classic, To Kill A Mockingbird, is a beloved work of fiction that has definitely left its mark in the world of literature. That being said, many modern readers roll their eyes at the thought of reading “classic” literature and opt for more current works to fit their current palette. Classics, Little Women, A Tale of Two Cities, Tom Sawyer, etc., tend to get a bad rap for not being applicable to today’s obstacles. However, if we take these books out of their settings, they have valuable lessons to teach us. To Kill A Mockingbird is a prime example.

For Starters, The Strong Female Heroines

From Scout to Miss Maudie to Helen Robinson, To Kill A Mockingbird is chock-full of heroines. Scout, with her “tomboy” appeal and rugged attitude, throw off the social norm. Refusing to give in to the petty gossip of Aunt Alexandra’s lunch group, Miss Maudie is a strong advocate for girls. Helen Robinson going to work to support her family in place of re-marrying. All of these ladies are heroines in a town where Atticus gets to be the ringleader of morality.

Secondly, The Timeless Appeal

Despite the fact that the story is set in the time of the Great Depression, the story has minimal markers of its period. For example, if the characters were traveling in a covered wagon, we would presume that the story took place in the past. Also, the characters are not time traveling. By not adding these elements, the author shows that the story is not set in another time period. Because there are not factors that make you feel that you are indefinitely stuck in one time period or another, you can imagine the story in your own context, therefore personalizing it. When a reader can personalize a story, the theme resonates more strongly with them.

The Theme

Today, the world is undergoing major construction in the frontier of equality. The most prominent theme of To Kill A Mockingbird is to treat others as one would like to be treated. Considering the tremendous strides in activism that have happened recently, To Kill A Mockingbird will stoke the flames in today’s advocates just as it was meant to do when it was published. Now more than ever, as a society we need this energy to keep up the good fight for justice.

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee was a phenomenon in its day. Due to being deemed a classic of literature, it has lost the appeal in today’s reader’s eyes. However, it still has so much to offer from the strong female heroines, it’s a timeless theme and the way that it can empower us to keep fighting for equality.

-Ainsley H. 

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

How Fiction Can Give Us a View Into Reality

“The difference between fiction and reality? Fiction has to make sense.” Tom Clancy’s analysis on the divergence between the realm of fantasy and the confines of the real world shows us that reality and fantasy are really not as different as they may seem. One example of this is Clancy’s Jack Ryan series, which centers around the trials and triumphs of a former U.S Marine lieutenant turned history teacher as he becomes entangled in the world of international espionage and warfare.

The series’ first book, Patriot Games, depicts Ryan’s chance encounter with Ulster Liberation Army terrorists in England and sets the tone for how this will alter the course of his career and family life in the books to follow. Although this book was written for entertainment purposes, it does give us a window into the international political climate at the time of the book’s release(July 1987). The Provisional Irish Republican Army was fighting to end British influence in Northern Ireland and reunite Ireland at the time of publication. This book was not based on a true story, but it does allude to the real-life political climate in the UK at the time, which helps readers gain a greater understanding of a time period that they may not have experienced.

Another author who drew inspiration from the world around him is John Steinbeck. Steinbeck’s famous Of Mice and Men is a book many read during high school English courses. It tells the story of two close friends, George and Lennie, as they attempt to seek work in California during the Great Depression. This story is categorized as fiction, though some of the characters and events Steinbeck described were people and things he met and experienced during his time working on a ranch in central California. Of Mice and Men’s setting helps readers understand the desperation that unemployed Americans faced in trying to find jobs during the Great Depression. Lennie’s character also shows the rejection, stigmatization, and ignorance of mental illness during this time period, which was a very real and prevalent issue in the real world. Many believe that books categorized as fiction are simply nothing more than stories created to entertain literary enthusiasts on a rainy day.

History, politics, and social structure are all topics that are traditionally reserved for textbooks or newspapers. However, Clancy’s series and Steinbeck’s works are some of the many examples of how fiction can give us a glimpse into the past or present reality. It is interesting to see just how much we can learn about a past time through our favorite novels and fantasy stories and may encourage those who stick to the world of non-fiction to branch out into other genres.

-Katie A.

Resurrection

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

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

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

-Xiaoyu Z.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

-Kate L.

Silent

The silence woke her. It was all wrong, it was too quiet. Yet, the radio played in the background and there were people dancing everywhere. However, it seemed as if her brain muted the sounds and they seem to dim and eventually disappear. She was a lonely flower in the cracked, dry earth, while others were bright, warm flowers in a meadow. They were everything that she was not, and they ridiculed her, laughed at her, pointed at her. She didn’t really care. At least, she thought they didn’t bother her anymore.

She wondered what silence sounded like, as it was what woke her. As hard as she tried, her memory seemed to be muffled and covered up. She couldn’t remember what really woke her. Was it really the silence? Or was it more? At first she thought silence must sound white, lifeless, and dreary. Then she walked up to the attic. In this dusty, light-filled room, silence became something entirely different. It was placid and almost warm. It was still and it was almost beautiful. Unlike downstairs, in this attic, she no longer felt beleaguered by the dancing people and the wild party. All of a sudden, she opened her eyes and felt the lurid scene unfold in front of her. She was immediately ill and she sprinted down, turned on the Christmas music, and attempted to calm her illness. This illness defined her unlike anything else, and she let it because she lacked the courage to overpower it. It was due to this illness that she always faints and she always questioned the sounds of existence. She thought that she was insane. She had no friends and her parents are constantly fretting over her. However, what she doesn’t see was that what she has is not a mental illness. It is her own personality dying to shine through the mask that she has covered it up with. Inside, she was beautiful.

-Angela L.

Films, Animation, and Literature (oh my!)

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

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

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

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

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

-Leanne W.

Are Libraries Still Necessary?

Since the beginning of time, libraries have been an important part of human culture. For
over thousands of years, people have met to discuss, gain, and impart wisdom in
libraries across the globe.

Unfortunately, in the twenty-first century, people are starting to rely more and more on technology than on these beautiful buildings stuffed with books, and are questioning the necessity of libraries today.

The fact is, more people visit libraries every year than they do any other establishment. There was actually a study in New York that showed that the number of people who attend sporting events, museums, live performances, zoos, etc., adds up to about 30 million. Though this seems to be a rather large number, the NYC libraries counted about 37 million visitors, meaning that libraries attract more people than all other attractions do – combined!

Despite this, some people are suggesting that we do away with these wonderful libraries in favor of the internet. However, not only has overexposure to screens been
proven to damage one’s eyesight, reading books online is not nearly as thrilling
or satisfying as holding an actual library book in one’s hand.

Notwithstanding this, there are some people who still believe that libraries can be replaced with a simple Google search. What these people refuse to understand, though, is that libraries have become so much more than a place to store books. Nowadays, one can enter a library and find jobs, homework help, and many other activities, such as trivia nights and book talks, ice-cream socials and reading programs, that enrich and empower the community.

For these reasons, it is as plain as day that these power plants of knowledge are exceedingly necessary for our society and our world to not only survive, but to thrive.

-Mahak M.