Life and Society in The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby was written by F. Scott Fitzgerald and published in 1925. I liked the fact that this novel accurately depicts what life was like in the 1920’s, and the types of people who lived it. The setting of this novel takes place in New York, and the area in which the main character, Nick, lives is set in West Egg and East Egg. Both of these cities are considered to be wealthy cities. West Egg, where Nick has a home, is considered to be “new money,” while East Egg, where his cousin, Daisy and her husband Tom Buchannan live, is thought to be “old money.”

West Egg is the type of city in which people have earned their money and East Egg is where people have inherited their money from older generations. However, Nick’s neighbor, Jay Gatsby, is known to be the wealthiest of them all. He lives in a humongous mansion and throws parties almost every weekend where anyone is free to attend.  An example of how this novel reflects the conventions of the time period, the 1920’s was known as the “Roaring Twenties,” and the types of parties held signified how careless people were about spending money and that they did not care about ruthless behaviors.

Another example would be that one of the important characters in this novel, George Wilson, lives in an area known as the “Valley of Ashes,” a place where the poor working class live. In the Valley of Ashes, the eyes on a billboard of one of the wealthiest citizens, Dr. T.J. Eckleburg, seems to always watching the entire city. George Wilson believes that Eckleburg is a God after stating “God sees everything” while looking at the billboard. This signifies that the national religion of the United States during the twenties was business and wealth instead of God Himself.

Overall, I enjoyed this novel as this precisely described how life was like in the “Roaring Twenties” with many people becoming wealthy due to the economic boost and how those people were being careless with their money and behaviors. Also, George Wilson believing that the wealthiest are like Gods was also interesting and accurate. However, due to many careless spending, this would ultimately lead to the crash of the stock market and the rise of the Great Depression starting in the 1930’s. I would recommend this book because of how it relates to the accurate history in the United States that occurred and the outcome.

-Matt J

The Great Gatsby is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download from Overdrive and Hoopla

Passion

There was a time in my life when I talked about books as though they were sustenance, as though they were essential to my survival. I devoured stories and inhaled pages. I vividly remember checking out four, five, six books at time and somehow finishing them all before the two weeks were up. Though that experience is shared with many people, a majority of adults fail to make time for reading.

I often wonder where that passion goes.

To most people, reading is thought of as a chore, or something for the forgotten bottom end of a to-do list. Reading is a fizzling New Year’s Resolution. Reading is a Barnes & Noble credit card but dusty shelves. When people talk about getting back into reading, it is as though they are starting a new project at work, as though they are radically changing their schedules.

New units of time have to be carved out of a schedule, clearly labeled “READ” in blocky black lettering. Books fill shopping bags, along with all the obviously necessary accessories to reading – fancy bookmarks and clip on lights and slogan-laden tote bags – because now, you are a Reader.

There is something lost in this frenzy. In this sort of Oprah’s Book Club, unbroken-spine kind of reading, books are a status symbol.

I find myself in this rut occasionally. Rearranging and rearranging the same shelves with an obsessiveness, buying War and Peace and Les Miserables because they’re the sort of books a pretentious academic like myself should have.

I miss that feeling that all library-bound children have. That feeling that there were an infinite amount of words in the world, and if I only read fast enough, flipped enough pages, then I would be able to drink them all in.

So many people have a desire to read; to become that excited kid again. We want to be the one who’s not only Heard of That, but Read It. We want to know authors and quotes and have worn paperbacks to pass on to friends and family. We want to feel that love and intensity that stories used to inspire.

I truly believe that feeling is still inside every adult today. Maybe it’s buried under stress and deadlines and distraction, but it’s there.

All we have to do is find the right book.

-Zoe K.

The Google Art Project

The Google Art Project is a vast collection of art and from different museums from all over the world that can be visited without leaving the house. There are many benefits to visiting this online museum, and while these benefits are very helpful, some could be improved.

As I was exploring the different features, I found many perks in visiting the Google Art Project. For example, I found a panel that grouped pieces of art by the artist, medium, art movement, historical events or figures, and places. This was nice because it allowed me to find many art pieces in a certain category. One of my favorite things while visiting this online museum was the zoom feature, which lets me see finer details, such as printed text and small, intricate designs left by the artist, I would not have otherwise been able to see had I gone to a regular museum. The drawback to this, however, was that although I could see the artwork in more detail, it took a long time to load when I wanted to zoom in very closely, so it wastes some time, too. Another helpful thing the museum has is virtual tours of some museums.

The Google Art Project, in making art and museums more accessible to the general public, allows people to appreciate art and history to a greater degree, and I believe that this is important in a society. While the Art Project could be improved and expanded, I think that it’s a good start in allowing more people who may not have the time or don’t live close to a museum to access artworks.

-Aliya A.

Essay: A Tale of Two Cities and the Conditions Before the French Revolution

In A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens uses diction to adopt a tone of pity toward the social conditions of France during the period before the French Revolution. At the beginning of the novel a barrel of wine spills, and the people are depicted as having “devoted themselves to the sodden and lee-dyed pieces of the cask, licking, and even champing, the moister wine-rotted fragments with eager relish.” The use of the word “devoted” implies that the poor do not have the freedom to eat when they want, as once the wine cask breaks, everyone quickly drops what they are doing so that they can get a few drops of spilled wine off of the street, and they are so desperate for food that they are not letting go of the fragments of wood. Using the words “champing” and “eager relish,” Dickens demonstrates how, although it was just wood, people still excitedly bit and chewed it with enjoyment and delight, attesting to the fact that the peasants of France are so poor and starved that they have to resort to chewing on rotten wood to get a few drops of wine for nourishment, something that someone who might be even marginally better off would not have even thought of doing.

Later on, Dickens describes how “Hunger was the inscription on the baker’s shelves, written in every small loaf of his scanty stock of bad bread”. The word “scanty” to describe the baker’s stock of “bad” bread emphasizes how there is not enough food for the peasants (which eventually led to the peasant women marching to the palace and taking Louis XVI back to Paris), because although it is the baker’s job to supply the people with food, even he does not have a full larder. The fact that the baker has bad bread demonstrates that bread, which was the staple food of the French diet, is running out or is not being consumed, because the baker does not have enough supplies or resources to make fresh bread as a result of no one being able to buy the bread in the first place. These examples serve to highlight the tone of pity Dickens adopts toward the condition of the peasants in France, as they are reduced to scavenging for food and are not able to sustain themselves, and implies that they had a good reason to rebel. The author’s words serve to highlight the reality of the peasants before the French Revolution, which helped me understand to a greater degree how bad the situation had been, as opposed to just reading the facts in a textbook or article.

-Aliya A.

Why Fiction Is As Beneficial As Nonfiction

The debate over fiction and nonfiction is a battle between escapism and reality. Fictional stories immerse readers in vast worlds with intriguing characters, while nonfiction books expand readers’ horizons in the real world.

There is an ongoing debate over which is more useful for readers to consume.

In our world of literature, nonfiction is often considered more educational and useful than fiction. While nonfiction deals with the more pressing matters of the real world, fiction distracts readers with entertainment. Just the word escapism carries a negative connotation. If it weren’t for some extra vocabulary, reading a story might be the same as watching a movie.

Right? Wrong.

Fiction is a reader’s lens to view the world through a different perspective. Experiencing a fictional character’s life produces empathy in a way that cold facts fail to achieve. A Canadian research group led by Keith Oatley found that reading literary fiction greatly increased readers’ abilities to assess emotions and social situations. In a world where EQ (emotional quotient) often trumps IQ, empathy is extremely important. It increases a reader’s sense of morality, often through the repeated use of poetic justice. By ending most stories with the villains defeated, fiction reinforces that justice should triumph. On the other hand, only reading about the real world can create a feeling that life is cruel, and nothing can change that fact. Fiction readers have a less rigid line of thinking, and are more adaptable and comfortable with uncertainty.

Especially in children, fiction stimulates imagination and creativity, which in my opinion are just as important as knowledge. Imagination inspires dreams, creates goals, and makes the world seem more beautiful. It transports readers away from the mundanity of life. Happiness and relaxation are good things.

Many people dismiss fiction because they think it provides no tangible benefit to the mind. They believe knowledge and facts are extracted from truth, not stories. But can’t we learn from stories too? Who would argue that 1984 didn’t teach us about the dangers of authoritarian governments? Or that To Kill A Mockingbird didn’t highlight racial tensions? My point is, fiction can educate the public as well as nonfiction, and sometimes in a more convincing manner.

To sum it all up, fiction should stay with readers throughout their entire lives. Don’t cast away the creativity of childhood as you transition into adulthood. Of course, nonfiction is equally important, and we all want a balance of dreams and reality. So read a little of both, however much longer one might take compared to the other. Collect information and insight, while cultivating creativity. Reap the best of both genres!

2001: A Space Odyssey Essay

Throughout the movie, many parts led me to believe that David Bowman, in 2001: A Space Odyssey, is most relatable to Odysseus, in The Odyssey. David Bowman and Odysseus relate in many ways. First, David Bowman is emotionless and “cold-blooded,” just as Odysseus is throughout The Odyssey. Second, David Bowman could be described as intelligent and witty, as could Odysseus could be described as well throughout the story. Lastly, David Bowman is strong-willed and strong-minded, which Odysseus is in many sections of The Odyssey.

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David Bowman could be characterized as emotionless because in order for him to open the emergency latch door to get himself to safety, he lets go of the body of his fellow scientist, Frank Poole, who he recently just picked up. He does this to ensure that he could live because Hal, the “sixth member” and computer on board, malfunctions and doesn’t let David Bowman in with the body of Frank Poole. The body of Frank Poole was held onto by the claws of the pod that David Bowman was in. Since Hal didn’t let David to enter, he had to enter through the emergency landing pod, which had to be opened by the claws of the pod he was in, so without thinking twice, David Bowman let goes of Frank Poole’s body, into space. This shows how David Bowman is completely emotionless and that relates him to Odysseus because when Odysseus returns to find that his maids have betrayed him, he makes them clean up the blood, and then he decides to kill all of them, which I think is completely unfair because he never took a second thought to consider the circumstances that the maids were in. The maids didn’t really have any choice but to betray him. So, this is a reason why David Bowman and Odysseus relate.

Another reason why David Bowman is like Odysseus is because David is intelligent. Throughout the movie, David Bowman shows his smartness in many ways. First, when Hal restricts David from entering, he thinks of another way, and succeeds. David entered through the emergency landing pod. Since he didn’t have a helmet, he had to improvise. He brilliantly lined the door to the opening of the emergency pod landing, then he jumped out grabbing the latch handle to close it. That plan that he made, in a matter of barely any time, saved his life. This is why I would describe David Bowman as intelligent and smart, which would relate to Odysseus too because in order for Odysseus to defeat the cyclops, he used his skilled mind to blind the cyclops and save his crew, quite simply from dying. Another time in The Odyssey when Odysseus shows how he is smart is when he heeds to Circe’s advice to not eat the cattle on the island of Helios.

odyssey_homerLastly, I would relate David Bowman and Odysseus with the trait of strong-willed. David Bowman, shows how he is strong-minded when he continues to Jupiter even though he lost all of his fellow scientists and cutting out Hal.This, to me, shows that he is persistent and will do anything to succeed in the mission. Whether that’s always good, or not, that’s arguable on the situation at hand, and in the circumstances, I would say that it is a good thing that David Bowman in strong-minded and strong-willed to continue to Jupiter. This attribute relates to Odysseus in many ways. Throughout, The Odyssey there were many times where Odysseus showed his courage and his strong mind. For example, when they passed by the Sirens, he sacrificed himself for the crew, he stayed tied to the mast ended up being the first man to survive the Sirens’ song. Also, he shows he is strong-minded when he is forced to stay for seven years at Kalypso’s island. He does end up staying all seven years and then is set free, so his time in the island, shows the readers how strong-willed and strong-minded he can be.

Throughout 2001: A Space Odyssey, David Bowman shows how he relates to his Greek equivalent, Odysseus. First, how emotionless he is when he lets go of Frank Poole’s body into space and how Odysseus slaughters all of his maids. Second, when David Bowman shows his intelligence, quite like Odysseus blinding the cyclops, when he finds another way to enter through the emergency landing hatch. Lastly, David Bowman’s strong mind related to Odysseus when he continues to go to Jupiter, and when Odysseus stays captive for seven years, but “toughs it out.” Overall, out of all the characters in 2001: A Space Odyssey, I would say David Bowman relates to Odysseus the most.

-Satej B.

2001: A Space Odyssey is available for check out from the Mission Viejo Library. 

Essay: Odysseus’s Dangerous Ego and Pride

odyssey_homerIn “The Odyssey,” a epic poem, translated by Robert Fagles, Odysseus represents an archetype that resonates in our culture today. I believe that Odysseus represents an archetype of a hero. Odysseus was well-known for being the King of Ithaca, his wife Penelope, occupied the suitors for many years while Odysseus went to fight at Troy. I believe that Odysseus is a hero but not an ideal one and that we should not accept his heroic conventions because many of his actions throughout the story make me believe the fact that he is too harsh at many times.

Odysseus’s actions in Book 22 represent show his cruelness to others. For example, when Odysseus trapped and killed the suitors, which is completely understandable, he also forced the maids to clean the blood and then he killed them. The maids were completely innocent, even though they sided with the suitors, they didn’t have a choice and at that moment there was no other choice then to listen to the suitors. I believe that the way Odysseus treated the maids, even after they betrayed him, was cruel and harsh and that this represent the merciless attitude of Odysseus.

Another good example of Odysseus’s non-heroic conventions is in Book 9, is when Odysseus stays to see the Cyclops, Odysseus just wants to brag about having a gift from the Cyclops. If he either stole some food, as his men persuaded him to, or just leave without food, lives would have been saved. Many men were murdered by the Cyclops because of Odysseus’s pride.

Throughout the story, Odysseus is on a journey, and his wife, Penelope, is at home keeping the suitors “occupied.” In many oppurtunities, Odysseus cheats on Penelope, which doesn’t represent and heroic attributes because honesty is one of them. Odysseus cheats on his wife many times with Circe and Calypso. Even though Odysseus was “unhappy” with Calypso, he was forced to sleep with her at night, but I’m sure he didn’t complain too much about being forced into it. To add on to Odysseus’s dishonesty, “Odysseus stayed with Calypso for seven years.” In modern times cheating is much more serious, the act of it, even back then, is nothing to be proud of and does definitely not represent honesty.

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Odysseus and Penelope by Johann Heinrich Wilhelm Tischbein

Another notable example of Odysseus’s non-heroic actions is when after he stabs Polyphemus, the cyclops, in the eye, he ends up escaping but Odysseus shouts back to the cyclops giving away his position and almost causing the ship to wreck. A hero, puts others in front of him, Odysseus put his ego and pride over his men on the ship, almost causing the death of his men to occur. His cockiness and selfishness is proven throughout the poem to be dangerous to others affiliated with him.

A trait that all heroes should have is humility. Odysseus doesn’t have any of humility. When Odysseus and his men are reflecting upon their escape from the Cyclops, Odysseus shows his true-self. “Did I not keep my nerve, use my wits, to find a way out for us.” (p.776-777) This shows how Odysseus is unappreciative of his men and that he thinks is the sole reason of success. Thinking that you are the best and everyone else is nothing compared to you isn’t the way the hero should act or think in front of his men.

Throughout the story, Odysseus proves that he is a ruthless and lying person. First, when Odysseus makes the maids at his house clean the blood and then kill them, that shows his ruthless trait. Second, when Odysseus wants to brag about a gift from the Cyclops, thats shows his big ego. Next, when Odysseus cheats on his wife, Penelope, with Circe and Calypso that represents his dishonesty and disloyalty, especially when he is “forced” to stay with Calypso, for seven long years, while Penelope is busy occupying the suitors to help Odysseus. Lastly, Odysseus shows that he has no humility when he tells his men that he is the sole reason why they escaped from the Cyclops. These traits do not represent a hero in any way, that is why it make my opinion to be in assurance that Odysseus is not a hero and that we should not accept his “heroic conventions,” because they are quite far from being heroic in many ways.

Works Cited

Homer, The Odyssey, Trans, Robert Fagles, New York: Penguin, 2002, Kindle.

“Odysseus | Greek Mythology.” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d. Web. 30 Nov. 2015.

-Satej B.