Category Archives: Classics & Modern Classics

Book Talks Using Voice Thread

For the fourth book review of the year, Honors 9 Students created “book talks”.  These book talks are located on voicethread.com, and we invite your comments and additions to our conversations about the great books we love.

http://voicethread.com/share/5068841/

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The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, reviewed by Caleb Lawson

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

From Amazon.com:

In 1922, F Scott Fitzgerald announced his decision to write “something new-something extraordinary and beautiful and simple + intricately patterned.” That extraordinary, beautiful, intricately patterned, and above all, simple novel became The Great Gatsby, arguably Fitzgerald’s finest work and certainly the book for which he his best known. A portrait of the Jazz Age in all of its decadence and excess, Gatsby captured the spirit of the author’s generation and earned itself a permanent place in American mythology. Self-made, self-invented millionaire Jay Gatsby embodies some of Fitzgerald’s-and his country’s-most abiding obsessions: money, ambition, greed, and the promise of new beginnings. “Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgiastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter-tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther… And one fine morning–” Gatsby’s rise to glory and eventual fall from grace becomes a kind of cautionary tale about the American Dream.

Imagine yourself living the dream, fortune, fame, but missing the only thing you truly care about, true love. This is the feeling that millionaire Jay Gatsby has to live with. He has everything you could ever dream of: a huge mansion in New York, millions of dollars, and large amounts of fame. The only thing he is missing is his one true love. In this 20th century literary classic, The Great Gatsby, my three favorite points were the vocabulary, the protagonist, and the plot.

In The Great Gatsby, the vocabulary was obviously of the early 20th century. This book was first published in 1925 and is set in 1922. Through the use of the wonderful period vocabulary, I was able to really immerse myself into this book. The vocabulary was very adult, however this did not make the book difficult to read. The Great Gatsby enlarged my vocabulary greatly. I love the way this book was written and would not change a word.

Another one of my favorite points was the protagonist, the one and only Jay Gatsby. Gatsby, apart from being one of the wealthiest men in America, was a very relatable character. The one thing he wanted was the one thing he could not have, true love, Daisy Buchanan. Gatsby had an adventurous life from a very young age. He ran away from home when he was only a teenager. After living a very impoverished life, he decided to join the army. He first met daisy at a military ball at Daisy’s house. Gatsby was instantly enchanted. When he left to fight overseas, Daisy got married to another man, Tom Buchanan. Gatsby was very jealous of Tom and would do anything he could to get Daisy back. Gatsby’s jealousy eventually led to his downfall.

My third favorite point of the novel was the plot. The plot is something that nearly everyone who has loved and lost can relate to. It is about the longing for something you can not have. This plot was very enticing and had no slow points. It always keeps you guessing and is never predictable. Nick Carraway, our narrator, rents a house in Long Island next to the phantasmagorical mansion of the millionaire Jay Gatsby. Gatsby is famous for throwing magnificent parties. It is known that no one is actually invited to these parties, they just kind of show up. One afternoon Nick receives an invitation to one of his parties, the only invitation Gatsby has ever given. When Nick starts attending more and more of Gatsby’s parties he discovers the true meaning of them. Gatsby is hoping that Daisy, a past love, will show up. When Gatsby finally does manage to meet with Daisy, things do not go quite as expected. After their first meeting in five years, things slowly start to fall apart for our protagonist, Jay Gatsby, and his love, Daisy Buchanan.

Overall I really enjoyed this novel. I would definitely recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys a good classic book. This book is a very sobering tale of the real world and how love may not always be what you expected. F. Scott Fitzgerald has written a true classic of the twentieth-century. Though I enjoyed the entire novel, my three favorite points were the vocabulary, protagonist, and the plot.

1984 by George Orwell, reviewed by Caleb Lawson

From Sparknotes.com

Winston Smith is a low-ranking member of the ruling Party in London, in the nation of Oceania. Everywhere Winston goes, even his own home, the Party watches him through telescreens: everywhere he looks he sees the face of the Party’s seemingly omniscient leader, a figure known only as Big Brother. The Party controls everything in Oceania, even the people’s history and language. Currently, the Party is forcing the implementation of an invented language called Ingsoc, which attempts to prevent political rebellion by eliminating all words related to it. Even thinking rebellious thoughts is illegal. Such thought crime is, in fact, the worst of all crimes.

Imagine a world where everything, even your thoughts, is controlled by a corrupt government known only as “The Party.” In George Orwell’s classic novel, 1984, this is the state of the world. This novel tells the story of Winston Smith, Julia, and their forbidden love. In 1984, everything the society thinks, does, and says is filtered by The Party. While this novel was probably one of my favorite novels I’ve ever read, my three favorite aspects of it was the setting, the characters, and the vocabulary.

The setting of the novel is a dystopian society in the year 1984. Though the year 1984 is long gone, this book was written in 1949, making this book set in the future. Though it was set in the future, society has made little or no progress. The world consists of three nations: Eurasia, Eastasia, and Oceania. Winston, the protagonist, lives in the nation of Oceania with a leader known as “Big Brother.” Big Brother controls the entire society. Oceania is in an ongoing war with one of the other nations. Who they are at war with is constantly changing, despite what Big Brother says. In Oceania, the society has to believe whatever they are told. If The Party told you “Two plus two equals five, you would have to believe it.”

The second aspect of the book that I would like to talk about is the characters. The protagonist was Winston Smith. Winston hated The Party, Big Brother, and anything related to them. “Down with Big Brother,” he would say. However, even the thinking of anything “unorthodox” was a crime, a “thoughtcrime.” Thoughtcrime was the worst crime that could be committed, thoughtcrime was a death sentence. “Thoughtcrime does not entail death: thoughtcrime IS death”.

My favorite aspect of the book was the vocabulary. The vocabulary was based on a form of speaking known as “New Speak.” New Speak had been invented to “meet the ideological needs of Ingsoc, or English Socialism. New Speak was created to make the act of crimethought virtually impossible. Once New Speak was fully adopted and Old Speak forgotten it would have been impossible to think anything unorthodox. The version in use in the year 1984 and the Tenth Edition of the New Speak Dictionary was merely a provisional one.

Overall, I really enjoyed the book and may have found a new favorite novel. I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys dystopian novels or political satire. This book is something that should be kept in mind, especially with the state the government is in now. When the government tries to start taking away our rights, who’s to say this isn’t next. George Orwell’s nightmarish vision of the world we are becoming is timelier than ever. With the use of an interesting setting, relatable characters, and unique vocabulary, this book has definitely become a timeless classic.

Animal Farm by George Orwell, reviewed by Caleb Lawson

Animal Farm by George Orwell

From Goodreads.com:

 

Tired of their servitude to man, a group of farm animals revolt and establish their own society, only to be betrayed into worse servitude by their leaders, the pigs, whose slogan becomes: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” This 1945 satire addresses the socialist/ communist philosophy of Stalin in Russia.

 

What happens when the overworked and underfed animals of Manor Farm rebel against their cruel leader, Mr. Jones? George Orwell’s political satire, Animal Farm, it tells just that. Animal Farm is a 1945 political satire about the communist ways of Josef Stalin. George Orwell tells the story of poorly treated animals who revolt for the promise of freedom. However, not everything is what it seems in this dystopian novel. Although the entire novel keeps you on the edge of your seat, my three favorite aspects were its characters, plot, and its challenging theme.

 

I enjoyed the characters of Animal Farm and their changes made throughout the story. My favorite character was the pig, Napoleon. Napoleon was not my favorite because of his nice personality, far from it. He was my favorite because of his seemingly innocent guise throughout the first part of the book. Throughout the novel Napoleon definitely makes some changes, especially in the last chapter. He starts off as a leader who appears to only want what is good for the farm, such as the building of the windmill. Towards the second half of the novel the reader starts to realize the change in his personality. However when he waltzes through the farm on his hind legs wearing Mr. Jones’ clothes, the reader will definitely know that something is amiss.

 

My second favorite aspect of the book was the plot. Though the novel mainly focuses on the U.S.S.R., Stalin in particular, I noticed some similarities to the flawed government system of the United States. The theme was about a new dawn, however things are not always what they seem. The plot was set in a barn in England where the animals were all underfed and overworked. The animals finally decided to overthrow Manor Farm and run Mr. Jones off. After the animals took over the farm everything seemed better. However, the pigs start taking more for themselves until the animals become the most underfed in all of England.

 

Lastly, I enjoyed the challenging theme. The theme was made to criticize the communist government of the U.S.S.R. The self proclaimed leader, Napoleon, represented Josef Stalin. About halfway into the book Napoleon began turning into the very powers he had overthrown, Mr. Jones. The pigs and dogs take the power for themselves and leave the rest of the animals in complete equality. With the pigs and dogs on top of the food chain Napoleon adopts a new slogan: “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.” In the end of the novel, Napoleon begins walking on his hind legs only, an act that was forbidden, and wearing the clothing of Mr. Jones, another forbidden activity. Napoleon becomes worse than Mr. Jones and it is revealed that despite what the animals were told throughout the book, they are the most underfed and overworked animals in all of England.

 

Overall, I really enjoyed the book, and plan on reading other political satire novels by George Orwell, such as 1984. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys books that have more to offer than meets the eye, books that will challenge you to think about their deeper meaning. The theme of this book should definitely be kept in mind, so as to not let this happen to such an extent. Though the book is intended to represent the U.S.S.R., I could definitely relate this to America. Using the interesting characters, enticing plot, and challenging theme, this book has surely become a timeless classic.