So yesterday I found out that one of my best friends passed away. She was an amazing person who was kind, caring, brave, and lived life to the fullest. She packed so much into her 27 and touched so many people. She lit up a room with her laughter and personality.
I’m sharing this not to try and get responses out of you or fishing for anything, but after the denial of it, the anger at the person who caused this, I became angry at myself. I wish I had done more with her. I wish I had given her more time instead of letting life get in the way. I wish I had been more adventurous, didn’t worry so much about money, and gone on trips with her as she invited me to. But I can’t.
I worked with grieving people for years and I wish that I remembered:
Don’t let life get in the way, don’t let it keep you from making those relationships and spending that time with the people you care about.
Day 16) P is for Politics: Choose a book that is Political
Uncle Tom’s Cabin or Life Among the Lowly by Harriet Beecher Stowe
In 1852 this book was published and created a phenomena. It became the highest selling book of the 19th century, just behind the Bible. The first year it sold over 300,000 copies in the United States and three years later over a million in the U.K.
This book is credited with, like The Jungle, being a revolutionary change in the actual world.
In fact the political change they believe it started, was the helping bring about more awareness of slavery in the South and promoting abolitionism that sparked the Civil War.
Stowe was the daughter of minister Lyman Beecher, and wrote this novel to depict slavery, along with showing Christianity and being an allegory of Christ.
I started reading this book when I was going down a list of classics provided by Barnes and Noble. As I borrowed the book from the library my mom spotted it and said she loved the book, it was one of her favorites.
I wasn’t thrilled to read it at first as I had heard it was a “bad book”, you know making fun of those of African-American descent.
I don’t know…
I started reading it and became sucked in:
I was surprised as it was AMAZING! I couldn’t understand why people hated it. It was fantasticly written and such a great story.
So many people today view the novel negatively; the way it uses “sentiment” to pull at heart strings, how all the slaves “had” to be helped by white men and women, and the fact that Tom never ran away but chose to honor the “contract” of his masters.
But what they fail to see is that it is a powerful story, has some truly great African and white characters, and that Tom is supposed to represent Christ and the things he went through to save our souls.
So the book focuses on six main characters: Tom (called Uncle Tom by others), Eliza, Augustine St. Clare, Eva St. Claire, Ophelia, and Cassey; and their views, interactions, and how they are changed or shaped by slavery.
Tom is a strong, middle aged, African-American slave. He is also a devout Christian and tries to embody the scriptures and live his life for the Lord.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…” Matthew 5:43-44
“All who are under the yoke of slavery should consider their masters worthy of full respect, so that God’s name and our teaching may not be slandered.” 1 Timothy 6:1
Tom has been a part of the Shelby family for a long time, and has a family and children. As Tom knows how to read, his cabin is the place for the other slaves to go and hear about Christ along with getting individual instructions. George Shelby is the young “master” of the house and spends all his time with his “Uncle Tom”. In fact Tom is more of a father to him then his own father, and also his religious instructor.
However, the Shelby’s have debts and they have to sell somethings…or in this case some people. They choose Tom as his height and strength will get a lot and we have the incredible sadness of seeing a family torn apart because of an archaic principle.
Another slave, Mrs. Shelby’s maid, Eliza is married to a slave from another plantation. After a series of miscarriages, the two were finally able to give birth to a boy, Harry. While the Shelbys are a kind people, George’s master is cruel and he can’t stand it anymore.
“My master! and who made him my master? That’s what I think of–what right has he to me? I’m a man as much as he is. I’m a better man than he is. I know more about business than he does; I am a better manager than he is; I can read better than he can; I can write a better hand,–and I’ve learned it all myself, and no thanks to him,–I’ve learned it in spite of him; and now what right has he to make a dray-horse of me?–to take me from things I can do, and do better than he can, and put me to work that any horse can do…he puts me to just the hardest, meanest, and dirtiest work, on purpose!”
George decides to flee to Canada, earn enough money, and then return to purchase his wife and son. After he takes off, Eliza gets the news that she will be sold as well to pay the debts.
Afraid to be separated from her child, she too tries to take the long road to freedom.
As Tom is taken away, George vows to one day buy his friend back and free him.
Tom is sold to a trader and being transported on a riverboat when he spots a little girl, Eva St. Clare. He misses his own children, so he begins amuses her, and she begs her father to buy him. Augustine St. Clare loves his little girl and gives in to her every whim. He buys Tom and takes him to his plantation.
Here Tom and Eva share their love of Christ as they both have a strong faith and relationship with the Lord. We also meet St. Clare’s sister Ophelia, who is from the North, who has moved to help take care of the house. Now here we have a great critique on the North’s treatment of African Americans. Ophelia is an aggressive abolitionist, constantly lecturing St. Clare and talking about the evils of slavery, yet she can’t stand to be around those of African-American descent. She is a complete racist, but can’t even admit it to herself.
“Well!” said Miss Ophelia, “you southern children can do something that I couldn’t.”
“What, now, pray?” said St. Clare.
“Well, I want to be kind to everybody, and I wouldn’t have anything hurt; but as to kissing – ”
“N*****,” said St. Clare, “that you’re not up to, – hey?”
“Yes, that’s it. How can she?”
St. Clare, tired of her constant lecturing, buys her a slave girl, Topsy, and bets she won’t be able to help her. At first Ophelia does poorly, having to instead be lead by Eva in showing kindness.
Eva and Topsy become best of friends, even though they “should” be separated buy race and class, it doesn’t matter to Eva as all she sees is someone who needs love.
Augustine is another interesting character as he isn’t a fan of slavery, but won’t do anything. He sees the way Christianity is, how his daughter lives but won’t commit to it. He is supposed to represent the people who were against slavery but never took a stand against it, waiting for future people to decide or others to fight. When his daughter dies, he is utterly heartbroken.
He promised Eva on her deathbed to release the slaves and become an abolitionist for his daughter, but waits too long and is killed before he can do it.
Meanwhile, Eliza has been running for her life and from slave catchers, and she actually manages to find her husband. After they go through horrible hardships they manage to make it to Canada and freedom.
Tom is sold by St. Clare’s wife, while Ophelia returns to the North with Topsy, taking what she learned with her, as Topsy does the same.
Tom is sold again, this time to the incredibly cruel owner Simon Legree. He rapes and beats his slaves. He begins to hate Tom and treat him in unspeakable ways. He has a slave, Cassy, who is his unwilling mistress. He has stolen her children from her and sold them, beat her, and just given her a horrible life. She is bitter and in pain.
She is a quadroon, one quarter black, so she has a strange place in society. She is better educated than most, but is a sex slave, representing the harsh lives of female slaves and how they are at the whim of their master more than the men. Simon is planning on replacing Cassy with a young girl he just bought, Emmiline.
One day as they are picking cotton, Tom sees a woman struggling to fill her sack and looking at horribly beaten or worse. He helps her, aided by Cassy, and is then ordered to whip the women by Legree. When Tom refuses, Legree whips him and Tom has earned a permanent spot on his hit list.
Tom’s pain makes him consider turning back on his faith, but he sees a vision and remains true.
“I will sing of the Lord’s great love forever; with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known through all generations.” Psalm 89:1
Cassy knows the life that Emmeline will have and decides to run away with her. When Simon finds them gone he tries to beat the answer out of Tom, but he will not reveal anything. He is so horribly treated that he begins to die.
George arrives to buy him, but is too late. He fights with Simon and takes Tom’s body, giving him a proper burial.
Cassy and Emmeline reach Canada and find themselves with George Harris and Eliza. It turns out that Eliza is Cassy’s daughter, and the two are finally reunited.
In the end George goes home and decides to honor Tom and free all his slaves:
“It was on his grave, my friends, that I resolved, before God, that I would never own another slave, while it is possible to free him; that nobody, through me, should ever run the risk of being parted from home and friends, and dying on a lonely plantation, as he died. So, when you rejoice in your freedom, think that you owe it to that good old soul, and pay it back in kindness to his wife and children. Think of your freedom, every time you see UNCLE TOM’S CABIN; and let it be a memorial to put you all in mind to follow in his steps, and be as honest and faithful and Christian as he was.”
So this story is an amazing thing. Why would people call it horrible?
Well what I personally feel has caused this shift from honoring Uncle Tom and all the other characters to having their names now be used as derogatory terms was the over-popularity of the novel.
As this book became so sought after and was selling millions of copies; everyone wanted a piece of the pie; but when there such a wide amount of people madly grabbing to make their fortunes, they tend to forget about what the book actually stood for and was trying to change. Plays and films were being made based on the story, but instead of honoring and revealing the social issues that Harriet Beecher Stowe was writing about, these pieces became all about entertainment and cheap laughs. No longer are we shown the characters going through different trials to reveal the hypocrisies and social injustices of the time, but instead are given pure comedy or in extreme cases sexual innuendo.
Too few people actually read the novel and understood how the characters and situations can be easily relatable.
Uncle Tom is more than a slave toiling in the United States waiting for his freedom, but is a figurehead for any oppressed people. As David Reynolds writes in his book, Mightier Than the Sword: Uncle Tom’s Cabin and the Fight for America, Tom easily connected to the Russian serfs; the Chinese peasants, the Chinese immigrants in America, Jews all over the world, black slaves in Brazil, black slaves in Cuba, etc. Tom’s passive resistance to Simon Legree, as he does not listen to Legree’s warning but continues to stand up for what he believes in and aids Cassy, and Emmeline; can even connect to passive resistance done by Gandhi in India, Martin Luther King Jr. in the South, and Cesar Chavez here in California. While the unjust situations may never be the same as those that Tom or the other slaves faced, wherever trouble arises and people are suffering Uncle Tom is there struggling alongside and encouraging the oppressed that everything will be alright in the end.
Another way that Tom’s character is still so relatable and present in today’s time is how loving and willing he is to protect others. Tom lives by the mantra “the needs of the many, outweigh the needs of the few”; causing him to be the type of person we all want to be. The way Tom lays down his life so that the rest of the Shelby slaves could be spared and in the end dying to protect Cassy and Emmeline; is behavior we all admire and hope would imitate in such situations; as no one wants to imagine themselves being a Sambo or Quimbo character; betraying their fellow man to protect their own interests. We all recognize the value and honor of self-sacrifice for a person or a cause.
In Stowe’s novel she hit upon so many issues, and attempted (and in some cases succeeded) in trying to make a difference in how African-Americans were treated. While she did not completely change the way the United States worked, or resolved every issue; her novel did bring awareness and start people talking and thinking about abolition, integration, education, religion, politics, etc. This initial jolt eventually set America on a path to striving for change.
Today’s song is O Holy Night. In 1843 Roquemaure, France; the church organ was renovated. The priest asked wine merchant and poet, Placide Cappeau, to write a poem to commemorate the event. Four years later it was turned into a Christmas carol by compser, Adolphe Adam.
Ghost stories aren’t my thing so I tried to figure out what to do and thought about all the books I like, which one could possibly have a ghost in it?
And then it hit me:
I know a book I love that has not one, but four ghosts!
A Christmas Carol: Being a Ghost Story of Christmas by Charles Dickens
So I love this story.
Every year I watch a film version of this book: whether A Flintstones Christmas Carol, A Christmas Carol, Muppet Christmas Carol,Mickey’s Christmas Carol, etc.; I’ve been in plays of it, and of course: I enjoy reading it.
I love it!
A Christmas Carol was written in the fall of 1843. Originally it didn’t sell well, but became extremely popular through the public readings that Dickens did.
This book also came out at just the right time. Thanks to Queen Victoria’s German husband, Prince Albert, Christmas culture changed with a whole flurry of new ways to celebrate the holiday, becoming the traditions we currently practice. For instance Christmas trees became something now done in England.
We now see the jolly old Santa Claus, used later in stories and culture.
And Christmas cards became a tradition and were sent out in the penny post.
But not everyone had a nice Christmas. Many had to still work in the factories and poverty was running rampant; very grim indeed.
A lot of historians actually attribute A Christmas Carol as being the first thing to start the ball rolling. It opened peoples’ hearts and more reforms were adopted; such as the Bank Holiday act in 1871, making Christmas an official day of rest. 19 years later, every state in America had adopted the same practice.
Yes like Uncle Tom’s Cabin and The Jungle; A Christmas Carol was more than just a novel but changed the very world we live in.
So let’s get started with the review!
“I have endeavoured[sic], in this Ghostly little book, to raise the Ghost of an Idea, which shall not put my readers out of humour[sic] with themselves, with each other, with the season, or with me. May it haunt their houses pleasantly, and no one wish to lay it.”
Their faithful friend and Servant,
CD. [Charles Dickens]
So the story begins with stating the fact that Jacob Marley, Ebenezer Scrooge’s old partner is dead. Without him being dead then we would not have a story.
Marley has been dead for seven years, with Scrooge carrying on the business. Scrooge is a cold-hearted businessman who only cares about money. Everything from appearance, demeanor, and personality is cold, cruel, harsh, and sharp.
No one liked him and all avoided him, as who wants to poke the angry beast?
Scrooge is miserly, and one way he is tightfisted is to keep his door open to make sure that his clerk does’t try to add more coal to their fire. Poor clerk, Robert “Bob” Crachit. It is freezing outside and even colder in the presence of Scrooge.
That evening Scrooge’s nephew Fred comes to call on him. He wants to invite Scrooge to his house for Christmas, but Scrooge refuses. He doesn’t keep Christmas at all and sees no reason to celebrate.
He also pokes at Ned’s “poor” life and wife.
“What’s Christmas time to you but a time for paying bills without money; a time for finding yourself a year older and not an hour richer; a time for balancing your books and having every item in ’em through a round dozen of months, presented dead against you?”
You know I’ve seen a lot of posts lately by my age group saying the same thing. Christmas isn’t anything special but just having us be a year older, poorer, and unhappier. I think it is horribly sad.
Let’s not Scrooge around, but be Freds instead.
After Fred leaves, wishing Bob a merry Christmas, Scrooge is approached by charity workers. They appeal to Scrooge for help, but he refuses. He thinks the workhouse and poorhouse is substantial (I’m sure that sentiment was shared by many others before reading this novel.) He even goes on to say that if people die because of their poverty, than things would be better as less people on the Earth is best.
Scrooge gives Bob a whole day for Christmas (his question now making sense as I earlier stated that it wasn’t a law to give people Christmas off until 1871), although angry at missing out on the extra work. But even though he is given his day to celebrate, Scrooge warns Bob that he must be in, even earlier the next if he wishes to keep his job.
Scrooge then heads home that night and that’s when things get…a little creepy. As he goes through the foggy streets
The door knocker on his home changes until it becomes the face of Marley!
But then it becomes a knocker again, just a figment of his attention.
But later that night Marley appears. Scrooge tries to convince himself he isn’t real, but the Marley’s ghost is here!
Marley has come to him to warn him. Scrooge sees the chains wrapped around Marley and is astonished. Why does he have such horrible things on him.
“I wear the chain I forged in Life,’ replied the Ghost [Marley]. ‘I made it link by link, and yard by yard; I girded it on, of my own free will, and of my own free will I wore it…’Or would you know,’ pursued the Ghost, ‘the weight and length of the strong coil you wear yourself? It was full as heavy and as long as this, seven Christmas Eves ago. You have laboured[sic] on it, since. It is a ponderous chain!”
Scrooge tries to console Marley, that while he didn’t help others he was a good businessman. But that is not what life is all about. As the bible says:
“It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of the needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.” Mark 10:25
That love of money separates us in our relationships, as the greed consumes our soul.
“Business!’ cried the Ghost, wringing its hands again. ‘Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence, were, all, my business…At this time of the rolling year,’ the specter said, ‘I suffer most: why did I walk through crowds of fellow-beings with my eyes turned down, and never raise them to that blessed star which led the wise men to a poor abode? Were there no poor homes to which its light would have conducted me!”
Marley warns Scrooge that he still has time to change. He is to be given the gift of three spirits He leaves and the air is than filled with ghosts, all those he knew in life and all covered in chains.
The first spirit, The Ghost of Christmas Past, comes a young boy but also an old man.
He has him touch his robe and the two travel back to Scrooge’s boyhood.
Scrooge is at school and alone as everyone else is gone for the Christmas break. As he sits glum and alone, a woman comes in to the room…it is his sister Fanny! He loved his sister dearly, and she him. She has begged her father to bring him home and he has finally agreed. They leave the boarding school to spend a very merry Christmas together.
But Fanny didn’t live in the world long. She died after giving birth to her son Fred.
Later they visit his old boss Fezziwig. Unlike Scrooge, Fezziwig always liked to treat his clerks right; having them stop on Christmas eve and throwing a party for all his employees. It only cost a little, but he understood the true meaning of Christmas. To give.
“He has the power to render us happy or unhappy; to make our service light or burdensome: a pleasure or a toil. Say that his power lies in words and looks; in things so slight and insignificant that it is impossible to add and count ’em up-what then? The happiness he gives, is quite as great, as if it cost a fortune.”
Now as you can tell I love the language of this book, the characters, the moral–but I also love how when you read the book you see how the change starts in him so early in the adventure, transforming him at every step. Looking at the young boys, he wishes he was nicer to a boy singing Christmas carols. And seeing how great Fezziwig was, makes him ashamed of his own conduct with Bob.
But then he is taken on and sees the broken engagement of his fiancé, Belle. She breaks it off, as Scrooge no longer cares about her anymore. All he cares about is money.
“What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” Matthew 16:26
Man, I just think how hard that would be. To give up someone because you know it won’t work, and poor Scrooge. He really missed on a winner.
In the next scene he sees how much he missed out when he sees her, her husband, and the family all gathered in one very happy, merry Christmas bunch.
On the second hour we have the Ghost of Christmas Present. The Ghost of Christmas Present is a giant, jolly and dressed in holly chowing down on Christmas treats.
Scrooge touches his robe and off they journey. It is Christmas morning and many are at work in their shops or readying their homes. Christmas Present has a torch, that when he sees anger, quarrels, or any unhappiness; sprinkles fire from his torch bringing good humor and Christmas cheer.
They go down to the Cratchit house, a family of eight, very poor, but full of Christmas cheer and happiness. They wear threadbare clothes poorly patched: have limited food and call it a feast; thank Scrooge for providing the feast even though he is cruel; and the youngest, Tiny Tim, is crippled yet is proud that in his body he can remind others of the miracles Jesus did and the true reason for the season.
Scrooge becomes invested in the scene before him and little Tiny Tim. When he asks about whether he will live, Christmas Present tells him that looking to the future his crutch is the only thing he can see.
They visit others, and then find themselves at the home of his nephew where he is having a fun Christmas dinner. They have lots of fun laughing, singing, and playing all kinds of games.
“For it is good to be children sometimes, and never better than at Christmas, when its mighty founder was a child Himself.”
Scrooge would like to stay there, but that spirit’s time is over and he must return, the new one coming next.
The next is the Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come, truly frightening figure in a black cloak that covers him and silent as the grave.
The first place they go is to a dead man’s home who’s items are stolen by employees in the area. No one liked this man, his funeral had barely anyone and the items stolen went unnoticed. Debtors are happy that he is gone as the next master may be kinder.
They then stop by the Cratchits, who are mourning the death of Tiny Tim.
They stop by his old haunts, but he is not there. The spirit takes him to a graveyard where his tombstone lies. The man they all hated that are thrilled is gone, is him.
He pleads with the spirit for another chance, for time, to be able to be a new person.
Scrooge awakens to find himself home, in his bed. All the adventures having been done in one night and it being Christmas morning.
He decides to begin making amends as soon as possible. First he orders the hugest turkey to send to the Cratchit family; he finds the charity workers from the day before and promises to give them a lot of money; and to top it off goes to his nephew’s house for dinner. They spend a wonderful night together.
The next day he awaits Bob, who comes late to work. At first Scrooge acts angry, like he was going to fire Bob, but then wishes him a Merry Christmas, raises his salary, adds more coal to the fire, and helps all in every way he can.
“He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world.”
Scrooge becoming a new person
“Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.” 2 Corinthians 5:17
“And as Tiny Tim observed,
God Bless Us Every One!”
I love this book. From beginning to end, the characters, the language, the writing, the descriptions-oh. Just a fantastic read!
So I know the book mentions the Christmas carol God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, but I’m not going to talk about that carol as I already reviewed it last year.
So as Queen Victoria adopted her husband’s Christmas traditions, making the tradition of Christmas Trees a global tradition, I decided that is the song I am going to go with.
Except I’m going to go with the traditional German version, O Tannenbaum.
This is an old song and wasn’t originally it wasn’t a Christmas song as Tannenbaum means fir tree and is instead about its symbol of steadfastness and constantcy. However, in 1824 Ernst Anschütz updated the song, changing the words to make it about Christmas; paired at just the right time when, as said before, Christmas trees were added into the culture of Christmas instead of just Germany.
I choose the version by Celtic Woman as I think this group is extremely talented.
Day 1) A is for Apocalyptical: Choose a book with an apocalyptic theme
Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Fahrenheit 451 is one of my absolute favorite books. I first was introduced to it at the age of 10, when I came across my parents watching the German film. I didn’t quite understand it, so my mom gave me the book to read. Since then I read it at least once a year.
Or 10th, 50th, 100th….
Every time I read this book it shocks me with how accurate it is in portraying the culture of today. I was amazed at that age, but this most recent time when I read the book, it really struck me with exactly how spot on it is.
The book was published in 1953, and is set in a Dystopian future. No year is given, although it is done after 1960. In this future reading is outlawed
Books are an illegal substance,
and the firemen’s job is to burn the offensive material.
I don’t know about you all, but a world without books sounds like a catastrophic end of the world to me. After all:
Guy Montag has always lived life the way culture dictates; has a good paying job, married, no kids as they are bothersome and their are already too many, multiple wall screens to stream TV, etc.
But then one night everything changes. He meets the daughter of his new next door neighbor, Clarisse, who doesn’t like firemen.
“And you must be-…the fireman.’ Her voice trailed off.
‘How oddly you say that.’
‘I’d- I’d have known it with my eyes shut,’ she said, slowly.
‘What- the smell of kerosene? My wife always complains,’ he laughed. ‘You never wash it off completely.’
‘No you don’t,’ she said, in awe.” [pg. 4]
She starts talking about all kinds of things, like how firemen at one time didn’t burn things but helped stop fires. She even questions whether he ever reads the books he burns.
Clarisse is completely counter to the culture of the day and a throwback to the past.
For instance, she doesn’t like this obsession with everything has to be in a hurry, driving all is blur with no one taking the time to look, examine, or have have patience. In fact her uncle was jailed for driving 40 mi/hrs, as it was far too “slow”.
Clarisse also likes to go out for walks and and look at the sky, stars, or moon. Something else everyone finds as weird or odd.
This reminds me so much of our culture today. Everything needs to be instant-instant news, fast food, all TV shows, etc. No patience, no waiting. My niece and I were watching a show on Netflix, and she asked me why they would have these moments where they pause, go to black, and then do a review of what we already seen. I actually had to explain that they used to show these episodes on TV, and there would be commercials in-between. Because you might get people who just tuned in and didn’t see the beginning, and were unable to see the beginning (unless they purchased it on VHS or DVD, they would repeat it for them. And then I had to explain that streaming is something new, prior to it you had to wait a week for the next episode; and when the season ended you had to wait 6 months to a year for the next season.
Now here is a child who has grown up on the world of streaming and the internet and never, ever experienced having to wait for something.
Just like in this.
Anyways, when Montag returns home he finds his wife, Mildred, almost dead, having sucked down a lot of pills. He calls the hospital and they don’t even bother sending an ambulance. So many people these days are trying to kill themselves and end their life with pills, they have a machine like a black snake to pump the stomach.
The next day, Mildred doesn’t remember anything about what happened that night, and all she cares about is her “family” a TV show she follows.
There are all kinds of people suffering in the world or “real issues” that need to be talked about, but are all glossed over by entertainment. All people care about is the TV screens, wanting this giant Wall to Wall circuit. And the shows they watch have no real themes or content to them. Just mindless chatter.
When I reread this, it made me think of the reality shows we have that are just the same thing again and again, no real changes or real content. Keeping Up with the Kardashians for example. Or the endless dating shows looking for love like Flav O Flav, My Fair Brady, etc. Or The X Factor, The Voice, American Idol, etc, And people care more about these shows then real things.
We are strange people.
Then Montag runs into Clarisse. She talks to him, really talks just about anything and everything. Because she isn’t “normal” they force her to o to a psychiatrist.
“They want to know what I do with all my time. I tell them that sometimes I just sit and think.” [pg. 20]
In fact that is something she and her family like to do, just sit around and talk no devices, go out and walk just talking. In this world conversation is dead, no one really talks anymore. Sound familiar?
She glanced quickly over. ‘Why are you laughing?’
‘I don’t know.’ He started to laugh again and stopped. ‘Why?’
‘You laugh when I haven’t been funny and you answer right off. You never stop to think what I’ve asked you.” [pg. 6]
It gets him thinking, and thinking is dangerous in a dystopian world.
“He felt his body divide itself into a hotness and a coldness, a softness and a hardness, a trembling and a not trembling, the two halves grinding upon the other.” [pg. 21]
Clarrise is a great character because she represents a type of person that is fading out. The one who is still holding on to the values of the past. A type of person who wants to think for herself instead of being spoonfeed an idea from the Internet, government, or teachers.
“I’m antisocial, they say. I don’t mix. It’s so strange. I’m very social indeed. It all depends on what you mean by social, doesn’t it? Social to me means talking to you about things like this…But I don’t think it is social to get a bunch of people together and then not let them talk, do you?…We never ask questions…they just run the answers at you, bing, bing, bing…It’s a lot of funnels and a lot of water poured down the spout and out the bottom, and them telling us it’s wine when it’s not.” [pg. 27]
The other thing I love about Clarrise os that she is so easily relatable, at least to me she is. She is disconnected to her generation because she doesn’t have the same values as they do she is more old fashioned, and because of that she is an 80 year old in a 17 year old’s body. I know exactly how that feels. I love reading, creating things by hand, having things until they wear out, not getting the newest stuff. That’s how I been my whole life which makes it hard to find others who value the same thing. I mean I read Emily Post.
“You sound so old.’
‘Sometimes I’m ancient.” [pg. 27]
Clarrise hates this world of blandness and nothingness.
“People don’t talk about anything.’
‘Oh, they must!’
‘No, not anything. They name a lot of cars or clothes or swimming pools mostly and say how swell! But they all say the same things and nobody says anything different from anyone else.” [pg. 28]
Clarisse opens Montag’s mind up to the way the world is and how it should be, and before he knows it, she and her whole family are gone.
You question in a dystopian world and you are gone.
He asks Captain Beatty if it is true that fireman used to stop fires instead of creating them.
The rest if the firemen are uneasy, but Captain Beatty knows it is natural for at one pint a fireman to question things. He shows him the history of the firemen and when they were first established.
“Established, 1790, to burn English-influenced books in the Colonies. First Fireman: Benjamin Franklin.
Answer the alarm quickly.
Start the fire swiftly.
Report back to the firehouse immediately.
Stand alert for other Alarms.
Before anything else can be done, an alarm sounds and the group heads out. They reach the place and apprehend a women, demanding to know where her contraband is. She won’t tell them but quotes Hugh Latimer.
“Play the man, Master Ridley; we shall this day light such a candle, by God’s grace, in England, as I trust shall never be put out.”
The fireman don’t understand this, but Hugh Latimer was executed for his protestantism, under the ruling of catholic Queen Mary, Queen Elizabeth’s older sister. He was burned alive for his beliefs, which is foreshadowing as to what is to come.
They find the books and are going to burn them like they always do, except this night is different. This woman, Mrs. Blake, stands their silently judging them.
Montag begins burning everything, but instead of just being things, they feel more alive, like killing animals.
They burn everything, ready to decimate the building, but Mrs. Blake won’t leave. She refuses to give up her books. The fireman leave, ready to let her die; but Montag tries to help her. She refuses as she holds in her hand a match.
Willing to die for her beliefs.
I think that is why I love this book so much, the fact that it truly explains a connection people have not just to the book but to the author’s thoughts and ideas. Destroying a book is more than destroying a physical object, it is trying to kill the person who created it.
“It’s not just the woman that died…Last night I thought about all that kerosene I’ve used in the past ten years. And I thought about books. And for the first time I realized that a man was behind each one of the books. A man had to think them up. A man had to take a long time to put them down on paper. And I’d never even thought that thought before…It took some man a lifetime maybe to put some of his thoughts down, looking around at the world and life and then I come along in two minutes and boom! it’s all over.” [pg. 49]
Montag returns home after the horror with a secret:
“His hands had been infected, and soon it would be his arms. He could feel the poison working up his wrists and into the elbows and his shoulders, and then the jump-over from shoulder blade to shoulder blade like a spark leaping a gap. His hands were ravenous. And his eyes were beginning to feel hunger, as if they must look at something, anything, everything…He balanced in space with the book in his sweating cold fingers.” [pg. 38]
Montag realizes how empty his life is, he married his wife ten years ago, but can’t fathom why. He doesn’t love her and she doesn’t love him. They don’t talk, they spend no time together, and all she does is watch TV or listen to her device with her little seashell headphones that go in her ears practically disappearing from view. Both people are empty, full of nothingness. There is countless walls between them through the TV shows she watches and she is more connected to those fake creations on the screen than her own husband.
All Mildred does is watch TV, yet even that is so empty that you if ask questions what is it even about Mildred doesn’t know. Mildred doesn’t know anything. It’s like she is on drugs, the way her memory and mind is so foggy.
She is like a zombie.
The next day Montag is sick, not physically but mentally, and philosophically. The death of the woman has troubled him dearly and he can’t understand it.
“You weren’t there, you didn’t see,’ he said. There must be something in books, things we can’t imagine, to make a woman stay in a burning house; there must be something there. You don’t stay for nothing.” [pg. 48]
Mildred doesn’t understand it and think that Montag is crazy for taking the death of a stupid radical this way. He should focus on work, on making more money, so they can get more things and TVs and such.
“Let me alone,’ said Mildred. ‘I didn’t do anything.’
‘Let you alone! That’s all very well, but how can I leave myself alone? We need not to be let alone. We need to be really bothered once in a while. How long has it been since you were really bothered? About something important, about something real?” [pg. 49]
Then Beatty shows up as Montag has been missing from work. He figured it out that Montag has been questioning the world they live in. So he gives them the spiel he gives out to bring those on the edge back to reality.
“Once, books appealed to a few people, here, there, everywhere. They could afford to be different. The world was roomy. But then the world got full of eyes and elbows and mouths…Films and radios, magazines, books leveled down to a sort of paste pudding norm…in the twentieth century, speed up your camera. Books cut shorter. Condensations. Digests. Tabloids…Classics cut to fit fifteen-minute radio shows, then cut again to fill a two minute book column, winding up at last as a ten- or twelve line dictionary resume…
Speed up the film, Montag, quick. Click, Pic, Look, Eye, Now, Flick, Here, There, Swift, Pace, Up, Down, In, Out, Why, How, Who, What, Where, Eh? Uh! Bang! Smack! Wallop, Bing, Bong, Boom!…Whirl a man’s mind around so fast under the pumping hands of publishers, exploiters, broadcasters, that the centrifuge flings off all unnecessary, time-wasting thought.
…philosophies, histories, languages dropped, English and spelling gradually gradually neglected, finally almost completely ignored. Life is immediate, the job counts, pleasure lies all about after work. Why learn anything save pressing buttons, pulling switches, fitting nuts and bolts?” [pgs 51-53]
Life today. Now this part here really gets me with how PC you have to be 24/7, the littlest infraction and you are out.
“Now let’s take up the minorities in our civilization, shall we? Bigger the population, the more minorities. Don’t step on the toes of the dog-lovers, doctors, lawyers, merchants, chiefs, Mormons, Baptists, Unitarians, second-generation Chinese, Swedes, Italians, Germans, Texans, Brooklynites, Irishmen, people from Oregon or Mexico…The bigger your market, Montag, the less you handle controversy, remember that! All the minor minor minorities with their navels to be kept clean.
Authors, full of evil thoughts, lock up your typewriters. They did. Magazines became a nice blend of vanilla tapioca…But the public, knowing what it wanted, spinning happily, let the comic books survive, And the dimensional sex magazines of course.
There you have it, Montag. It didn’t come from the Government down. There was no dictum, no declaration, no censorship, to start with, no! Technology, mass exploitation, and minority pressure carried the trick…Today, thanks to them, you can stay happy all the time…
With school turning out more runners, jumpers, racers, tinkerers, grabbers, snatchers, fliers, and swimmers instead of examiners, critics, knowers, and imaginative creators, the word ‘intellectual’, of course became the swear word it deserved to be…
We must all be alike. Not everyone was born free and equal, as the Constitution says, but everyone made equal. Each man in the image of every other; then all are happy, for there are no mountains to make them cower, judge themselves against…”
Horrifying, yet that is the world we live in. You don’ like it, they destroy it; and that is happening now. A book about George Washington’s slave, who liked him because she saved his life from an assassination plot, making him a birthday cake was pulled because it isn’t p.c. Uncle Tom’s Cabin? No longer read because it is portrays African Americans in a bed light when it didn’t, Uncle Tom was an extremely powerful character. People don’t even read the book, but destroy it because it might hurt someone’s feelings.
Captain Beatty lets them know they got rid of the girl as she was too crazy and out there.
Life’s better bland, nothing to worry about, pleasant life, no problems, no nothing.
He tells Montag it is okay to check out a book, just one, as there is nothing in there. He’ll read it and burn it afterward.
After Beatty left, Montag is furious, but instead of taking something to make him happy, he has 20 books hidden in the house. He has decided to read them, sharing them with Mildred.
Montag goes to see Professor Faber, a man he ran into before. Faber used to work at a liberal arts college, but they closed it down as it was no longer important. He wants to know how to understand the books, to learn and Faber is the only one he has left.
Faber tells him we need three things in life:
“Number one: Do you know why books such as these are so important? Because they have quality…This book has pores…You’d find life under the glass, streaming past infinite profusion…The good writers touch life often.” [pg. 79]
And the second? Leisure. Now Montag brings up that we have plenty of leisure, but he means actual time set aside to read, not bombarded with all types of things.
“You can’t argue with a four-wall televisor. Why? The televisor is ‘real.’ It is immediate, it has dimension. It tells you what to think and blasts it in. It must be right. It seems so right. It rushes you on so quickly to its own conclusions your mind hasn’t time to protest, ‘What nonsense!’
‘…You can shut [books], say ‘Hold on a moment.’ You play God to it. But who has ever torn himself away from the claw that encloses you when you drop a seed in a TV parlor? It grows you any shape it wishes! It is an environment as real as the world. It becomes and is the truth. Books can be beaten down with reason. But with all my knowledge and skepticism, I have never been able to argue with a one-hundred-piece-symphony orchestra, full color, three dimensions…” [pg. 80]
And thirdly the ability to carry out the actions learned from it.
Montag thinks they can change the world by planting books on all the firemen, to bring them down. But Faber knows it won’t help, it isn’t the fireman that created this rule but the public who wanted people to stop reading.
That’s right, we did when we stopped reading.
Montag is afraid to go out as Beatty might mix him up again. Faber gives him these devices so he can put it in his ear so that he can hear Faber. That night he goes home and sees that Mildred is having a party.
Montag is horrified by these women. One just marries, divorces, marries, divorces, no emotions whatsoever. The other has kids who are in school constantly, and never sees them as she doesn’t care. They discuss politics. voting for people based on how they look and their names, rather than what they actually say or want to do.
Montag reads to them but they don’t understand. They’ve been too distorted with TV and the culture with no substance.
Captain Beatty knows that Montag has been reading and plays with him, using the books he clings to to rebut his arguments. They leave as they have a call, and it turns out that it is Montag’s house
Mildred put in the alarm and she is heartbroken. But what saddens her the most? Losing her TV family
Yes, not her husband, home, etc.
Montag is forced to destroy his own home, and afterwards destroys the firemen. After all, his whole life he has been taught, you have a problem, burn it.
He has now become a fugitive and runs. Not knowing where, but just continuing to run.
After running, he plants the books in other firemen’s houses. Montag stops to see Faber, finds out the Hound (the firemen’s robotic assassin) is after them, and continues to take off. Never knowing where he is to go next, but running.
He runs into the country until the end of the all known. He stops when he reaches an area with men siting near a campfire and TV set. They give him a potion to change his perspiration, but it is’t really necessary. The Hound needs to find someone, as after all this is TV, the people need the answer.
They find some poor sop who looks like Montag and kill him to save face.
These men are former professors , intellectuals, etc; who have been running from the law. Each one has taken in a new life, the life of a book. These books are locked away in an area they can never be taken from. The mind.
Eventually the hope is to one day reenter society and bring the books they have been passing orally to the world.
“Do you really think they will listen then?’
‘If not then we’ll just have to wait…you can’t make people listen. They have to come around in their own time…” [pg. 146]
And what book does Montag choose to be? Ecclesiastes.
Besides this fantastic story, we have the amazing language and the great way it was written. Take the beginning:
“It was a pleasure to burn.
It was a special pleasure to see things eaten, to see things blackened and changed. With the brass nozzle in his fists, with this great python spitting its venomous kerosene upon the world, the blood pounded in his hands were the hands of some amazing conductor playing all the symphonies of blazing and burning to bring down the tatters and charcoal ruins of history. With his symbolic helmut numbered 451 on his stolid head, and his eyes all orange flame with the thought of what came next, he flicked the igniter and the house jumped up in a gorging fire that burned the evening sky red and yellow and black. He strode in a swarm of fireflies. He wanted above all, like the old joke to shove a marshmallow on a stick in the furnace, while the flapping pigeon-winged books died on the porch lawn of the house. While the books went up in sparkling whirls and blew away on a wind turned dark with burning.” [pgs. 1-2]
This book is only 158 pages, barely any pages, but there is so much power is in that. Amazing amounts of power. I just love this book.
Turn your TV, computer, cell phone, and any other device you have off for a while and pick up a book instead.
So last year I posted a Christmas Carol every day in December and I really enjoyed it. I had so much fun picking out the songs, I decided to bring it back.
So with everything going on in the world, and the way people have been acting: I think we need a little Christmas in our lives. So I choose that song.
We Need a Little Christmas is from the musical Mame based on the novel Aunt Mame. In the story Mame gains guardianship of her nephew and starts to raise him. At this point in the musical, Mame has lost everything in the stock market crash of 1929. With everything practically gone, she decides to have Christmas early as she doesn’t know what will happen.
Of course that isn’t the end of the play as Mame has many more interesting antics. However, this song is great and just the right thing to put us in the mood.
This version is sung by Angela Lansbury, from the first musical cast of Aunt Mame.