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Ling posted a review at 2008-01-20 09:02:03 for The Age of Innocence.
The Age of Innocence (1920) is a novel by Edith Wharton, which won the 1921 Pulitzer Prize. The story occurs among New York City's upper class in the 1870s, before electricity, telephone, and automobiles; when there was a small cluster of old, "aristocratic" Revolutionary War-stock families who ruled New York's social life; when being was better than doing; when occupation and abilities were secondary to blood connections (heredity and family); when reputation and appearances excluded everything and everyone not of one's caste; and when Fifth Avenue was so deserted by nightfall that it was possible to follow Society's comings and goings, by spying who went to what house.
In 1920, The Age of Innocence was published twice; first in four parts, Julyâ€“October, in the Pictorial Review magazine, and then by D. Appleton and Company as a book in New York and in London.
The Age of Innocence centers around one society couples' impending marriage and the introduction of a scandalized woman whose presence threatens their happiness. Though the novel questions the assumptions and mores of turn of the century New York society, it never devolves into an outright condemnation of the institution. In fact, Wharton considered this novel an "apology" for the earlier, more brutal and critical, "The House of Mirth". Not to be overlooked is the author's attention to detailing the charms and customs of this caste. The novel is lauded for its accurate portrayal of how the nineteenth-century East Coast American upper class lived and this combined with the social tragedy earned Wharton a Pulitzer - the first Pulitzer awarded to a woman. Edith Wharton was fifty-eight years-old at publication; she lived in that world, and saw it change dramatically by the end of World War I. The title is an ironic comment on the polished outward manners of New York society, when compared to its inward machinations.
Newland Archer, gentleman lawyer and heir to one of New York City's best families, is happily anticipating a highly-desirable marriage to the sheltered and beautiful May Welland. Yet, he soon finds reason to doubt his choice of bride after the appearance of Countess Ellen Olenska, May's exotic, beautiful thirty-year-old cousin, who had been living in Europe. Ellen has returned to her New York family after scandalously separating herself (per rumour) from a bad marriage to a Polish Count. At first, Ellen's arrival, and its potential taint to his bride's family, disturbs him, yet he becomes intrigued by the worldly Ellen who flouts New York Society's fastidious rules. As Newland's admiration for the countess grows, so does his doubt about the prospect of marrying May, a perfect product of Old New York Society; his match with May no longer seems the ideal fate he had imagined.
Ellen's decision to divorce Count Olensky is a social crisis for Ellen's New York family, who are terrified of scandal and disgrace; divorce is unacceptable, living apart is. To save the Welland family's reputation, a law partner of Newland asks him to dissuade Countess Olenska from divorcing the Count. He succeeds, but in the process comes to care for her; afraid of falling in love with Ellen, Newland begs May to accelerate their wedding date; May refuses.
Newland tells Ellen he loves her; Ellen corresponds, but is horrified of their love's aggrieving May. She agrees to remain in America, separated, but undivorced, yet only if they do not sexually consummate their love; Newland receives May's telegram agreeing to wed sooner.
Newland and May marry; he tries forgetting Ellen, but fails. His society marriage is loveless, and the social life he once found absorbing has become empty and joyless. Though Ellen lives in Washington, D.C., and has remained distant, he is unable to cease loving her. Their paths cross while he and May are in Newport, Rhode Island. Newland discovers that Count Olensky wishes Ellen's return to him, and that she has refused, despite her family's pushing her to reconcile with her husband and return to Europe; frustrated by her independence, the family cut off her money, as the Count had already done.
Newland desperately seeks a way to leave May and be with Ellen, obsessed with how to finally possess her. Despairing of ever making Ellen his wife, he attempts to have her agree to be his mistress. Then, Ellen is recalled to New York City to care for her sick grandmother, who accepts her decision to remain separated and agrees to reinstate her allowance.
Back in New York, and under renewed pressure from Newland, Ellen relents and agrees to consummate their relationship. However, Newland then discovers that Ellen has suddenly decided to return to Europe. Newland makes up his mind to abandon May and follow Ellen to Europe, when May announces that she and Newland are throwing a farewell party for Ellen. That night, after the party, Newland resolves to tell May he is leaving her for Ellen. She interrupts him to tell of her pregnancy, and that Ellen was told of it a few days before; Newland grasps Ellen's reason for a European return. Hopelessly trapped, Newland surrenders his love, Ellen, for the sake of his children, and remains in loveless marriage to May; he does not follow Ellen.
Twenty-five years later, after May's death, Newland and his son are in Paris. The son, learning that his mother's cousin lives there, has arranged to visit and meet his aunt Ellen in her Paris apartment. Newland is stunned at the prospect of again seeing Ellen. On arriving outside the apartment building, Newland, still reeling emotionally, sends up his son alone to meet Ellen, while he waits outside, watching her apartment's balcony. Newland considers going up, but decides that his dream and memory of Ellen are more real than anything else in his life has been; he walks back to his hotel without meeting her.
Characters in The Age of Innocence
Newland Archer: The story's protagonist is a young, popular, successful lawyer living with his mother and sister in an elegant New York City house. Since childhood, his life has been shaped by the customs and expectations of upper class New York City society. His engagement to May Welland is one in a string of accomplishments. At story's start, he is proud and content to dream about a traditional marriage in which he will be the husband-teacher and she the wife-student. His life changes when he meets Countess Ellen Olenska. Through his relationship with her â€” first friendship, then love â€” he begins questioning the values on which he was raised. He sees the sexual inequality of New York society and the shallowness of its customs, and struggles to balance social commitment to May with love for Ellen. He cannot find a place for their love in the intricate, judgemental web of New York society. Throughout the story's progress, he transgresses the boundaries of acceptable behavior for love of Ellen: first following her to Skuytercliff, then to Boston, and finally willing to follow her to Europe. In the end, though, Newland Archer finds that the only place for their love is in his memories.
Mrs. Manson Mingott: The fat, feisty matriarch of the powerful Mingott family, and grandmother to Ellen and May. She controls her family: at Newland's request, she has May and Mrs. Welland agree to an earlier wedding date; she controls the money â€” withholding Ellen's living allowance (when the family is angry with Ellen), and having niece Regina Beaufort ask for money when in financial trouble. Mrs. Mingott is a maverick in the polite world of New York society, at times pushing the boundaries of acceptable behavior; receiving guests in her house's ground floor, though society associates that practice with prostitutes. Her welcoming Ellen is viewed skeptically, and insists the rest of the family support Ellen.
Mrs. Welland: May's mother, has raised her daughter to be a proper society lady. May's dullness, lack of imagination, and rigid views of appropriate and inappropriate behavior are consequence of her influence. Mrs. Welland is the driving force behind May's commitment to a long engagement. Without her mother's influence, May might have agreed earlier to Newland's request for an earlier wedding date. After few years of marriage, Newland Archer perceives in his mother-in-law what May will become â€” stolid, unimaginative, and dull.
May Welland: Newland Archer's fiancÃ©e, then wife. Raised to be a perfect wife and mother, she follows and obeys all of society's customs, perfectly. Mostly, she is the shallow, uninterested and uninteresting young woman that New York society requires. When they are in St. Augustine, though, May gives Newland a rare glimpse of the maturity and compassion he had previously ignored. She offers him release from their engagement so he can marry the woman he truly loves, thinking he wants to be with Mrs. Rushworth, a married woman with whom he had recently ended a love affair. When he assures May of his loving only her, May appears to trust him, at least at first. Yet after marriage, she suspects Newland is Ellen's lover. Nonetheless, May pretends happiness before society, maintaining the illusion that she and he have the perfect marriage expected of them. Her unhappiness activates her manipulative nature, and Newland does not see it until too late. To drive Ellen away from him, May tells Ellen of her pregnancy before she is certain of it. Yet, there still is compassion in May, even in their loveless marriage's long years after Ellen's leaving. They have sex. After May's death, Newland Archer learns she had always known of his continued love for Ellen; as May lay dying, she told their son Theodore that the children could always trust their father Newland, because he surrendered the thing most meaningful to him out of loyalty to their marriage.
Ellen Olenska: She is May's cousin and Mrs. Manson Mingott's granddaughter. She became a Countess by marrying Polish Count Olenski, a European nobleman who never appears in the story. When the story begins, Ellen has fled her unhappy marriage, lived in Venice with her husband's secretary, and has returned to her family in New York City, in America. She is a free spirit who helps Newland Archer see beyond narrow New York society. She treats her maid, Nastasia, as an equal; offering the servant her own cape before sending her out on an errand. She attends parties with disreputable people such as Julius Beaufort and Mrs. Lemuel Struthers, and she invites Newland, the fiancÃ© of her cousin May to visit her. Ellen suffers as much as Newland from their impossible love, but she is willing to live in emotional limbo so long as they can love each other at a distance. Ellen's love for Newland drives her important decisions: dropping divorce from Count Olenski, remaining in America, and offering Newland choice of sexual consummation only once, and then disappearing from his life. Her conscience and responsibility to family complicate her love for Newland. When she learns of May's pregnancy, Ellen immediately decides to leave America, refusing Newland's attempt to follow her to Europe, and so allow cousin May to start her family with her husband Newland.
New York City Society: Composed of powerful, wealthy families. These people follow and impose a strict, rigid code of social custom and behavior, and judge as unacceptable and disposable the people who do not follow their rules. Ellen has difficulty adapting to the behavior that such a society thinks appropriate for a woman separated from her husband. New York society's judgement is clear; almost everyone refuses to attend the dinner party honoring Ellen's return.
Christine Nilsson: A famous singer who performs in an opera on the night of Archer and May's engagement. She sings in the same opera two years later.
Mrs. Lovell Mingott: May and Ellen's aunt, and the daughter-in-law of Mrs. Manson Mingott.
Lawrence Lefferts: A wealthy young man and a member of Archer's social circle. He is considered the expert on manners. Archer believes that Lefferts is behind New York society's rude refusal to attend the welcome dinner for Ellen. According to Archer, Lefferts makes a big show of his morality every time that his wife, Mrs. Lefferts, suspects that he is having an affair.
Sillerton Jackson: The expert on the families that make up New York society. He knows who is related to whom, and the history of every important family. Mrs. Archer and Janey invite him over for dinner when they want to catch up on gossip.
Julius Beaufort: An arrogant banker who tries to have an affair with Ellen. He even follows her to Skuytercliff during the weekend that Archer goes to visit Ellen. His banking business eventually fails, and he leaves New York society in disgrace.
Regina Beaufort: Julius Beaufort's wife and Mrs. Manson Mingott's niece. She comes to Mrs. Mingott when her husband's bank fails to ask for a loan. Her visit causes Mrs. Mingott to have a stroke.
Janey Archer: Archer's dowdy, unmarried sister who never goes out and relies on Archer. She and her mother invite guests to dinner so they can gossip about New York society. Janey disapproves of Ellen, because she's unconventional and independent, and doesn't simply tolerate her husband's abuse.
Mrs. Archer: Archer's widowed mother. She doesn't get out to events often, but loves to hear about society. She and Janey strongly believe in the values of New York society. Like Janey, she views Ellen with suspicion.
Mrs. Lemuel Struthers: A woman on the fringes of New York society. She is treated with mistrust and scorn until Ellen befriends her. She eventually becomes popular; at the end of the novel, May thinks it appropriate to go to her parties.
Count Olenski: Ellen's husband, a dissolute aristocrat who drove Ellen away with neglect and misery. At first, Count Olenski is content to let Ellen go. Later, though, he sends his secretary to America to ask Ellen to return, with the stipulation that she only appear as his hostess occasionally. He never appears in the story, but is described as half paralyzed and very pale, with thick feminine eyelashes. He constantly cheats on Ellen, and a veiled remark of Jackson's implies that he copulates with men, too. What other abuses and infidelities he commits are unknown, but seems quite malicious.
Sophy Jackson: Sillerton Jackson's unmarried sister. She is a friend of Janey and Mrs. Archer.
Louisa and Henry van der Luyden: Cousins of the Archers, and the most powerful people in New York society. They only mingle with people when they are trying to save society. Mrs. Archer goes to the van der Luydens after New York society snubs Ellen. They invite her to a very exclusive party in honor of the Duke of Austry to show society that they support her.
Duke of Austry: A European Duke. He is the guest of honor at a dinner party thrown by the van der Luydens. Both Ellen and Archer find him dull.
Nastasia: Ellen's Italian maid. She invites Archer and the other guests to wait in Ellen's sitting room.
Mr. Letterblair: The senior partner of Archer's law firm. He gives Archer the responsibility of talking Ellen out of her plans to divorce the Count.
Mrs. Rushworth: The vain, foolish married woman with whom Archer had an affair before his engagement to May.
Ned Winsett: A journalist. He and Archer are friends, despite their different social circles. He is one of the few people with whom Archer feels that he can have a meaningful conversation. Ned Winsett challenges Archer to think of things outside of society.
Reggie Chivers: An important member of society. Archer spends a weekend at their country home on the Hudson River.
Marchioness Medora Manson: The aunt who took Ellen to Europe as a child. She now lives in Washington, where Ellen goes to take care of her. During a visit to New York, she tries to persuade Archer to convince Ellen that she should return to the Count. Beaufort's bank failure eventually ruins Mrs. Manson's fortune, and she moves back to Europe with Ellen.
Dr Agathon Carver: A friend (and possible love interest) of the Marchioness Manson. Archer meets him at Ellen's house.
Du Lac aunts: Archer's elderly aunts. They offer their country home to May and Archer for their honeymoon.
Mrs. Carfry: An English acquaintance of Janey and Mrs. Archer. She invites Archer and May to a dinner party while they are on their European wedding tour.
M. RiviÃ¨re: The French tutor of Mrs. Carfry's nephew. He fascinates Archer with his life story and intellect. Later, Archer learns that he was Count Olenski's secretary and the man who helped Ellen escape her marriage. The count sends him to Boston to try to convince Ellen to return to Europe.
Emerson Sillerton: An unpopular, eccentric professor who spends his summers in Newport with the rest of society. He throws a party for the Blenker family that no one wants to attend.
Blenker family: The unpopular, socially inferior family with whom the Marchioness and Ellen stay while in Newport. They are the guests of honor at Emerson Sillerton's party, and seems to be a clever, kind bunch.
Miss Blenker: The youngest daughter of the Blenker family. When Archer visits her empty family's house on the day of Sillerton's party, she is there. Archer briefly confuses her with Ellen, and she flirts with him. Through Miss Blenker, Archer learns that Ellen has gone to Boston.
Dallas Archer: May and Archer's eldest child. He takes his father on a trip to Europe. Through Dallas, Archer learns that May felt sorry for his empty heart after Ellen left.
Fanny Beaufort: Dallas Archer's fiancÃ©e and the daughter of Julius Beaufort and his second wife. She asks Dallas to visit Ellen while he and Archer are in Paris.
Ling posted a review at 2008-01-20 08:55:43 for Angela's Ashes.
Angelaâ€™s Ashes is a memoir by Irish author Frank McCourt, and tells the story of his childhood. It was published in 1996 and won the Pulitzer Prize for Biography or Autobiography.
Born in Brooklyn, New York in 1930, McCourt is the eldest son of Malachy and Angela McCourt. He is joined by brother Malachy in 1931, twins Oliver and Eugene in 1932, and a sister, Margaret, in 1933. After the death of his sister Margaret when she was only a few weeks old, his parents move the family back to their native Ireland, where his younger twin brothers both die within a year of the family's arrival and where Frank's youngest brothers, Michael (b. 1936) and Alphie (b. 1940) are born.
Life in Ireland, and specifically life in Limerick City, in the 1930s and 1940s is described in all its grittiness. The family lives in a dilapidated lane of houses that regularly floods, and share one outdoor toilet with all their neighbours. Although his father teaches the children Irish stories and songs, he is an alcoholic and seldom finds work, and so they live on the dole (unemployment) or charity while the father spends days drinking in bars. For years the family subsists mostly on bread and tea. (Divorce was illegal in Ireland until 1997).
Frank's father finally gains employment during World War II at a defense plant in Coventry, England. In this situation, he finds it easy to drink away most of his wages, and only once does he send any money back to the struggling family in Ireland. Their mother is destitute, as there are not many jobs for women at the time. Angela's sister and her widowed mother begrudge any help they have to give her, because they disapprove of her husband, mostly because he hails from Northern Ireland and therefore he has a strange accent and what Angela's family calls 'the odd manner.' The McCourt family are continually afraid of going to hell if they do not pray or confess often enough as specified by the church.
In the damp, cold climate of Ireland, the children have only one set of ragged clothing each, patched shoes and no coats or boots. Frank develops typhoid and chronic conjunctivitis, and is hospitalized. Sometimes Frank and his brothers have to scavenge for lumps of coal or peat turf for fuel, or steal bread to survive. The family is finally evicted after Frank yanks out wall beams to burn for winter heat, causing the roof to collapse. The family is forced to move in with a distant relative who treats them poorly. Teenage Frank starts work for the Post Office as a telegram delivery boy, and also works for the local money lender writing threatening letters to the people who owed her money, as a means to save money and is finally able to realize his dream of returning to America. The story ends as he sails into Poughkeepsie, New York, to begin a new life at the age of nineteen.
Ling posted a review at 2008-01-13 09:15:02 for To Kill a Mockingbird.
To Kill a Mockingbird is a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Harper Lee published in 1960. Due to the multiple themes addressed in the novel, it has the genre characteristics of a bildungsroman and a Southern gothic. Upon its release, it became instantly successful and has become a classic of modern American fiction. The novel is loosely based on the author's observations of her family and neighbors, as well as an event that occurred near her hometown when she was 10 years old.
Lee's novel is widely taught in schools in English speaking countries with lessons that tie into tolerance and prejudice. The novel addresses themes such as courage, racial injustice, the death of innocence, tragedy, and coming of age, set against a backdrop of life in the Deep South. The character of Atticus Finch, the narrator's father, has served as a moral hero for many readers, and a singular model of integrity for lawyers. One writer noted its impact in saying, "In the twentieth century, To Kill a Mockingbird is probably the most widely read book dealing with race in America, and its protagonist, Atticus Finch, the most enduring fictional image of racial heroism."
To Kill a Mockingbird has been ranked by librarians along with the Bible on lists of books of importance. It has proven to be not only an extraordinarily influential book, but a controversial one as well. Initially perceived as a novel addressing racial justice, To Kill a Mockingbird has been the target of various campaigns to have it removed from public classrooms, often for its use of racial epithets. The book was successfully adapted for film by director Robert Mulligan with a screenplay by Horton Foote in 1962. In 1990 it was adapted as a play that is performed annually in Harper Lee's hometown of Monroeville, Alabama and has transformed the town into a tourist destination. To date, it is Lee's only published novel.
While working in New York City as a reservation clerk for British Overseas Airways Corporation in 1957, Harper Lee approached a literary agent referred by her childhood friend Truman Capote. After she submitted several essays and short stories about people in her hometown of Monroeville, Alabama, an editor at J. B. Lippincott advised her to quit the airline and concentrate on her writing. A gift from friends made it possible for her to write for a year without working a full-time job.
Lee was a relatively unpublished author up to that time. She attended Huntingdon College and the University of Alabama, writing for the campus literary magazines: Huntress at Huntingdon and Rammer Jammer, a humor magazine at the University of Alabama. At both schools, she wrote short stories and pieces about racial injustice, and at both schools the themes of her pieces were extraordinarily rare. After moving to New York City, Lee worked on the book for two and a half years, initially titling it Atticus, however, she changed the title to reflect a story that went beyond a simple character portrait. A description of the book's creation by the National Endowment for the Arts relates a story telling that Lee, in frustration during the writing process, tossed the manuscript out the window into the snow below. Her agent made her go down to the street and retrieve it.
The editorial team at Lippincott tried to warn Lee that she would probably sell only several thousand copies at the most. In 1964, Lee recalled her hopes for the book when she said, "I never expected any sort of success with 'Mockingbird.'â€¦I was hoping for a quick and merciful death at the hands of the reviewers but, at the same time, I sort of hoped someone would like it enough to give me encouragement. Public encouragement. I hoped for a little, as I said, but I got rather a whole lot, and in some ways this was just about as frightening as the quick, merciful death I'd expected." Instead of a "quick and merciful death," Reader's Digest and Condensed Books published portions of the novel which gave it a wide readership almost immediately.
Main article: List of characters in To Kill a Mockingbird
The story takes place during three years of the Great Depression, and is narrated by Scout Finch, starting when she is 6 years old. Scout lives with her older brother Jem and their widowed father Atticus, a middle-aged lawyer in the fictional small town of Maycomb, Alabama. Jem and Scout befriend a boy named Dill who comes to stay with his Aunt Rachel for the summer. The three children are terrified and fascinated with a phantom neighbor named "Boo" Radley, a mysterious recluse the adults of Maycomb are hesitant to speak of and who few have seen for many years. The children feed each other's imaginations with rampant rumors about his grotesque appearance and his reasons for remaining a recluse, while dreaming of ways to get him to emerge from his house.
Following various misadventures during two summers with Dill, Scout and Jem find that someone is leaving them small gifts in a tree outside the Radley place, on their route to school. The phantom Boo makes several unseen appearances to the children displaying various gestures of affection. Scout and Jem appraise their small town neighbors through the eyes of children. With Atticus' guidance not to judge others until they have walked around in that person's skin, the children discover many instances of quiet strength and dignity in the most unlikely people.
Atticus is assigned to defend a black man named Tom Robinson, who has been accused of raping Mayella Ewell, a young white woman. To the consternation of many of Maycomb's citizens, however, he intends to defend Tom to the best of his ability. Jem and Scout are then subjected to the taunts of "nigger-lover" from other children. Scout is tempted to defend Atticus' honor by fighting them despite Atticus telling her not to do so. For his part, Atticus faces a group of men intending to lynch Tom, but escapes the situation with the unwitting help of Scout, Jem, and Dill.
The time arrives for Tom Robinson's trial, and Scout, Jem and Dill watch secretly from the colored balcony. Atticus shows that the accusers, Mayella Ewell and her father, the town drunk Bob Ewell, are lying. It becomes clear that the friendless Mayella was making sexual advances towards Tom and was caught by her father. Despite the significant evidence pointing to Tom's innocence, he is convicted. Jem's faith in justice is badly shaken as is Atticus' when a hopeless Tom is shot and killed while trying to escape from prison.
Bob Ewell feels humiliated by the trial and vows revenge. He menaces Tom Robinson's widow, tries to break into the judge's house, and spits in Atticus' face on a town street. Finally, he attacks the defenseless Jem and Scout as they walk home from a Halloween pageant at their school. In the struggle, Jem's arm is broken while trying to escape with Scout. In the darkness and confusion, someone has come to their rescue. The mysterious man carries Jem home where Scout realizes it is the reclusive Boo Radley.
Maycomb's sheriff arrives and discovers that Bob Ewell has been killed. The sheriff argues with Atticus about the prudence of giving Boo the credit for it. They eventually settle on the story that Ewell simply fell on his own knife during the struggle with Jem and Scout. Boo asks Scout to walk him home, and after she says goodbye to him at his front door, he disappears again. While standing on the Radley porch, Scout imagines the events of the last three years from Boo's perspective and regrets that they never repaid him for the gifts he had given them.
Lee has said that the novel is not an autobiography, but rather that one "should write about what he knows and write truthfully." Despite this, several similarities between her life growing up and Scout's life as narrator are evident. Lee's father, Amasa Coleman Lee, was an attorney and editor and publisher of the Monroeville newspaper. He defended two black men accused of murder in 1919. He was inexperienced and they were convicted, hanged, and mutilated. He never tried another criminal case. While her father was not initially as liberal as Atticus in terms of racial relations, he gradually became more so in his later years. She had a brother, Edwin, four years her senior, as Jem was also four years older than Scout. Like Calpurnia, a black housekeeper came once a day to take care of the house and family. Scout's mother died when she was two, but Lee's mother lived until 1951. She was prone to a nervous condition and if not physically absent, was mentally and emotionally absent. Capote, who was then known as Truman Persons, served as the model for Dill. Like Dill, who lived next door during the summer with his Aunt Rachel, Capote lived next door to her in Monroeville when his mother sent him to live with aunts when she went to New York City. Like Dill, Capote had an impressive imagination and a gift for fascinating stories and he and Lee were very good friends. Both Lee and Capote were atypical children: Lee loved to read and was a scrappy tomboy, quick to fight, and she and Capote acted out and made up stories together they wrote on an old Underwood typewriter Lee's father gave them. Capote called the two of them "apart people."
Down the street from the Lees lived a family whose house was always boarded up; they served as the models for the Radleys. The son of the family got into some legal trouble and the father kept him at home for 24 years for the shame he brought them. He was hidden away until he was virtually forgotten by everyone he knew. He died in 1952. Much speculation has taken place about the inspiration for the story of Tom Robinson. When Lee was 10 years old, a white woman near Monroeville accused a black man named Walter Lett of raping her. The story and the trial were covered by her father's newspaper. Lett was convicted and sentenced to death, but a series of letters claiming Lett had been falsely accused caused his sentence to be commuted to life in prison where he died of tuberculosis in 1937. Scholars have guessed that the inspiration for Tom Robinson's plight was the infamous case of the Scottsboro Boys, nine black men who were accused and convicted of raping two white women on very poor evidence in the 1930s. Emmett Till, a black teenager who was murdered for flirting with a white woman in Mississippi in 1955 was also considered to be the model for Tom Robinson. Historians point to Till's murder, trial, and the media coverage of both as the catalyst event that spurred the Civil Rights Movement in the United States. Although there are many similarities between Tom Robinson, the Scottsboro Boys incident and Emmett Till, Lee stated in response to a question regarding the Scottsboro Boys in 2005 that she had in mind something less sensational, although the case served the same purpose in displaying Southern attitudes about prejudice.
Harper Lee uses the narrator's voice as a child and as a grown woman reflecting on her childhood. At times, she blends the voices so well that upon first reading, reviewers were incredulous that a child could use the preternatural vocabulary Scout used, and have the depth of understanding she exhibited. On writing about Harper Lee's style and her use of humor throughout a story that at times is not particularly funny, Jacqueline Tavernier-Courbin stated, "To Kill a Mockingbird is one of those rare books that expose some of the worst aspects of human nature such as cruelty, bigotry, hypocrisy, and racism in a way that not only allows the reader to realize the depth of these human failings and the pain and destruction they cause but also provides some insights into how people can be capable of the worst - and the best."
Scout's foil as a girl who beats up multiple boys, hates wearing dresses, and swears for the fun of it is used to great humorous effect, but Tavernier-Courbin also points to Lee's use of parody, satire, and irony to address complex issues. Parody and satire are use most effectively by the juxtaposition of Scout's childish comprehension of complex traditions. However, the most unfunny situations Lee treats with irony, as Jem and Scout try to understand how Maycomb embraces racism and still sincerely tries to remain a decent society. Humor is used to such an extent that Tavernier-Courbin suggests an alternate meaning for the title of the book. Lee is doing the mocking: of education, the justice system, and her own society.
Lee also drives the plot in entertaining ways. When Atticus is out of town, Jem locks a Sunday school classmate in the church basement with the furnace while playing Shadrach, Meshack, and Abednego, which prompts Calpurnia to escort Scout and Jem to her church where they get a glimpse into her personal life, as well as Tom Robinson's. The reason for the Halloween pageant is due to two spinsters' furniture being stolen and put in their own basement as a practical joke by neighborhood children the previous year. Scout falls asleep during the pageant and makes a tardy entrance onstage, causing the pageant audience to laugh uproariously, and Judge Taylor to laugh so hard he has to go outside and take his pills. Scout is so distracted and embarrassed she prefers to go home in her ham costume, which saves her life.
Main article: Atticus Finch
Claudia Durst Johnson noted about available critique of the novel that, "a greater volume of critical readings has been amassed by two legal scholars in law journals than by all the literary scholars in literary journals." Alice Petry remarked that "Atticus has become something of a folk hero in legal circles and is treated almost as if he were an actual person." The novel is also noted for its extensive allusions to legal issues, particularly when not describing the courtroom scenes. The opening quote by Charles Lamb reads, "Lawyers, I suppose, were children once." Johnson noted even in Scout and Jem's childhood world, compromises and treaties are struck with each other by spitting on one's palm; laws are discussed by Atticus and his children: is it right that Bob Ewell hunts and traps out of season? And many social codes are broken by people in symbolic courtrooms: Mr. Dolphus Raymond has been exiled by society for marrying a black woman and having interracial children with her; Mayella Ewell is beaten by her father in punishment for kissing Tom Robinson; Boo Radley receives a punishment far greater than any court could give him by being turned into a non-person. Scout repeatedly breaks codes and laws and reacts to her punishment for them: she comes home from school after reading, writing, and offending her teacher for doing so, "weary from the day's crimes," she refuses to wear frilly clothes, saying that Aunt Alexandra's "fanatical" attempts to place her in them made her feel "a pink cotton penitentiary closing in on (her)." Johnson states, "The novel is a study of how Jem and Scout begin to perceive the complexity of social codes and how the configuration of relationships dictated by or set off by those codes fails or nurtures the inhabitants of (their) small worlds."
The novel was immensely popular when published, and was reviewed by at least 30 newspapers and magazines. Claudia Durst Johnson, who has written several books and articles about the novel noticed an intriguing treatment of the book by literary scholars. In 1994 she wrote, "In the 33 years since its publication, it has never been the focus of a dissertation, and it has been the subject of only six literary studies, several of them no more than a couple of pages long." Eric Sunderquist agreed when he wrote that the book is "an icon whose emotive sway remains strangely powerful because it also remains unexamined." As time progresses and more scholars view the impact the novel has had as well as the time in which it was written, more thematic elements are recognized.
Southern life through a child's eyes
One of the first noted motifs in To Kill a Mockingbird is the complexities of life and its disappointments seen and understood through the eyes of children. In using this format, Lee is able to tell a "delightfully deceptive" story that mixes the simplicity of childhood observation with adult situations, complicated by hidden motivations and unquestioned tradition. When the book was released, reviewers noted two separate parts of the book, and opinion was mixed as to how well Lee was able to tie the parts together. The first part of the novel deals with the children's fascination with Boo Radley and how they felt safe and comfortable in their neighborhood. Reviewers were generally charmed by Scout and Jem's observations of their quirky neighbors. Fred Erisman was so impressed by Lee's detailed explanations of the people of Maycomb, that he labeled the book's major theme as Southern romanticism. Using the examples of Aunt Alexandra's tendency to explain Maycomb's inhabitants' faults or advantages through genealogy (families that have gambling streaks, drinking streaks, for example), Lee's descriptions of the Finch family history and the history of Maycomb, Mayella Ewell's apparent powerlessness to admit to what she did, and Atticus' definition of "fine folks" being people with good sense who do the best they can with what they have, the Southern caste system is used to explain almost every character's behavior in the novel, to the point that The South itself, with its traditions and taboos, seems to affect the plot more than the characters or the action.
Racial injustice in the segregated South
The second part deals with what Harding LeMay termed, "the spirit-corroding shame of the civilized white Southerner in the treatment of the Negro," referring to Tom Robinson's trial and his subsequent death. In the years that followed immediately after its release, many reviewers considered To Kill a Mockingbird a novel primarily concerned with race relations, and both LeMay and Granville Hicks expressed doubt that children as sheltered as Scout and Jem could understand the complexities and horrors involved in the trial for Tom Robinson's life.
Claudia Durst Johnson notes "it is reasonable to believe" that the novel was shaped by two newsworthy events involving racial issues in Alabama. Rosa Parks' refusal to sit at the back of the bus sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott in 1955. A year later, Autherine Lucy and Polly Myers were admitted to Lee's college, the University of Alabama, causing riots on campus and eventually leading to Myers withdrawing her application and Lucy being expelled. In writing about the impact of the beginnings of the Civil Rights Movement on the novel's construction, two other literary scholars remarked, "To Kill a Mockingbird was written and published amidst the most significant and conflict-ridden social change in the South since the Civil War and Reconstruction. Inevitably, despite its mid-1930s setting, the story told from the perspective of the 1950s voices the conflicts, tensions, and fears induced by this transition." The novel's impact on race relations in the United States was noted as a factor in its success, that it "arrived at the right moment to help the South and the nation grapple with the racial tensions (of) the accelerating civil rights movement." The novel's release is so closely associated with the Civil Rights movement, many analyses of the book and biographies of Harper Lee include important moments in the movement, despite the fact that she had no direct involvement in any of them.
Johnson illustrated the passionate emotions the book caused in the realm of race relations. The book has been challenged in schools and libraries since its publication, one of the first incidents being in Hanover, Virginia in 1966 for being immoral (a parent initially protested the use of rape as a plot point). Johnson provided examples of letters to the editor of the local newspapers. These letters ranged from amusement to fury, and those letters that expressed the most outrage alluded to the disturbing racial aspects of Mayella Ewell's attraction to Tom Robinson, even over the depictions of rape. Harper Lee sent $10 US to The Richmond News Leader suggesting it to be used toward the enrollment of "the Hanover County School Board in any first grade of its choice."
One literary scholar made symbolic connections between instances of racial injustice in the novel. Atticus must shoot a dog with rabies even though it is not his job to do so. Carolyn Jones claimed the dog represented prejudice within the town of Maycomb, and Atticus, who waits on a deserted street to shoot the dog, must also rid the disease of racism from the town by himself. He faces a group intending to lynch Tom Robinson alone again, and once more in the courthouse during Tom's trial. Lee even uses dreamlike imagery from the mad dog incident to describe some of the courtroom scenes. Jones wrote, "The real mad dog in Maycomb is the racism that denies the humanity of Tom Robinson...When Atticus makes his summation to the jury, he literally bares himself to the jury's and the town's anger."
For its influence and impact on race relations for white readers, however, Diann Baecker recognized a different reception by black readers. She noted that the black characters in the novel are rarely explored as fully in the same way the white characters are. Beryle Banfield noted the book's use of stereotype in the depiction of superstition among blacks, the use racial epithets, and that Calpurnia is an updated version of the "contented slave" character. Roslyn Siegel included Tom Robinson as an example of the recurring motif of black man as "stupid, pathetic, defenseless, and dependent upon the fair dealing of the whites, rather than his own intelligence to save him." often used by Southern writers. Baecker contended that the use of Scout as a child narrator allows a detached description of a story about racial conflict when it does not affect her directly. Baecker asserted that the use of Scout's narration "functions as the not-me which allows the rest of us - black and white, male and female - to find our relative position in society."
In a 1964 interview, Lee remarked that her aspiration was "to be...the Jane Austen of South Alabama." Jean Blackall compared Lee's novel with Austen's multiple novels about class differences to determine Lee's inspiration for elements in To Kill a Mockingbird. Although Lee and Austen wrote about different classes: Lee of the Finch family and their neighbors in the middle class who were poor in the Great Depression, the lower class whites of the Ewells and Cunninghams; and blacks, who were by social situation in the lowest class, Blackall pointed out that both Austen and Lee challenged the social status quo, and both writers valued individual worth over social standing. Scout embarrasses her classmate, the poorer Walter Cunningham, while hosting him at the Finch home during lunch one day, and Calpurnia, their black cook, chastises and punishes her for doing so. Atticus respects Calpurnia's judgment and even stands up to his sister, the formidable Aunt Alexandra, when she strongly suggests they fire Calpurnia. Calpurnia even teaches Scout her first lesson about being a lady, contrary to Aunt Alexandra's attempts to place her in frilly girl clothing to nudge her in that direction, when she demonstrates "the command of two languages" in speaking improper English while with her church congregation, then telling Scout she does it so they will not feel lower than she is. Blackall summarizes the shared themes between Lee and Austen in including "affirmation of order in society, obedience, courtesy, and respect for the individual without regard for status."
Furthermore, Theodore and Grace-Ann Hovet noted that Harper Lee's approach to class and race was unique in writing, "Rather than ascribing racial prejudice primarily to 'poor white trash'...Lee demonstrates how issues of gender and class intensify prejudice, silence the voices that might challenge the existing order, and greatly complicate many Americans' conception of the causes of racism and segregation."The Hovets also noted Lee's use of middle class voice in her narration that effectively allowed an intimacy with the reader regardless of class or cultural background that helped to foster a sense of nostalgia with readers. As Scout and Jem are precocious and watch or enter relationships with many different classes of people, the reader is allowed relationships with the conservative antebellum Mrs. Dubose, the lower class Ewells and the Cunninghams who are equally poor but behave in vastly different ways, the wealthy but ostracized Mr. Dolphus Raymond, and Calpurnia and other members of the black community. Scout and Jem learn Atticus' rule not to judge someone until they've walked around in someone's skin in order to gain a greater understanding of people's motives and behavior and to ignore transparent barriers between them such as race and class.
Courage and compassion
Courage is explored in several ways in the novel. Specifically regarding the relevance of the story to children, Susan Jolley wrote that Scout, Jem, and Dill's actings of Boo Radley's life story, and dares to touch his porch are attempts to summon their courage in the face of Boo Radley's frightening unknown presence. Scout's impulsive inclination to fight students who insult Atticus are her attempts to stand up for him and defend him. Many scholars note, however, that Atticus is the moral center of the novel, and he teaches Jem one of the most poignant lessons of courage displayed in their frail and unpleasant neighbor Mrs. Dubose, who is determined to break herself of a morphine addiction before the end her life. With a statement that foreshadows Atticus' motivation for defending Tom Robinson, he tells Jem that courage is "when you're licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what,"
Another of Atticus' statements that Jolley equated in importance was his lesson to Scout that "you never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view - until you climb around in his skin and walk around in it." Scout considers it later when she stumbles upon the attempted lynching, and tries to engage Mr. Cunningham in conversation about his "entailment", and again when listening to Mayella Ewell's testimony when Mayella reacts with confusion to Atticus' question if she has any friends. Scout offers that she must be lonelier than Boo Radley. The statement that seemed to make the most negative impact in Tom Robinson's testimony was that he felt sorry for Mayella. After walking Boo home after he saves their lives, Scout stands on the Radley porch and relives the events of the past three years the way Boo must have witnessed them. Jolley remarked, "(W)hile the novel concerns tragedy and injustice, heartache and loss, it also carries with it a strong sense (of) courage, compassion, and an awareness of history to be better human beings."
In the same way Lee explores Jem's character development in coming to grips with his once comfortable, but now overtly racist and unjust society, Lee treats Scout's character to a realization of what being female means, and several female characters influence her development. Michele Ware noted that Scout's primary identification is with the masculine characters of her father and older brother, but this allows Scout to describe the variety and depth of female characters in the novel as one of them, and as an outsider. Scout's primary female models are Calpurnia and her neighbor Miss Maudie, both of whom are strong willed, independent, and protective of Scout. Ware also noted Mayella Ewell influences Scout's views of women as she watches Ewell use this power to destroy an innocent man as a mask to hide her own desire for him. Ware summarized the feminist sensibility in To Kill a Mockingbird in writing, "Scout emerges from her childhood experiences with a clear sense of her place in her community and an awareness of her potential power as the woman she will one day be."
Absent mothers and abusive fathers were also a noted theme in the novel. Laura Fine pointed out Scout and Jem's mother died before Scout could remember her. Two mothers who could have protected their children were notably absent: Mayella's mother is dead, and Mrs. Radley died before Boo was confined at home. Apart from Atticus, the fathers described are abusers. Bob Ewell, it is hinted, has a sexual relationship with his daughter, and she is so starved for a compassionate human relationship that she saves seven nickels over the course of a year to be alone with Tom Robinson. Mr. Radley takes his son home from court and imprisons him in the home until he is no longer remembered as a person, but as a phantom and an example of what meanness can do. Although Bob Ewell and Mr. Radley are traditionally masculine men, it is suggested that men like them as well as the traditionally feminine hypocrites at the Missionary Society can lead society astray. Fine suggests that Atticus' disparate nature from other men in the novel is a different model of masculinity. "It is the job of real men who embody the traditional masculine qualities of heroic individualism, bravery, and an unshrinking knowledge of and dedication to social justice and morality, to set the society straight."
Dean Shackleford noticed the female characters who commented the most on Scout's lack of willingness to adhere to a more feminine role were also those who purveyed the most racist and classist points of view. Mrs. Dubose chastises Scout for not wearing a dress and camisole, and indicates she's ruining the family name by not doing so, as does Aunt Alexandra who says Scout is a burden on her father, although Atticus later disagrees. Mrs. Dubose also insults Atticus' intentions to defend Tom Robinson, although only to his children and not apparently to his face. Aunt Alexandra seems to negate Atticus' lesson not to judge people when she declares the Cunninghams "trash". By balancing the masculine influences of Atticus and Jem with the feminine influences of Calpurnia and Miss Maudie, Shackleford wrote, "Lee gradually demonstrates that Scout is becoming a feminist in the South, for with the use of first-person narration, she indicates that Scout/ Jean Louise still maintains the ambivalence about being a Southern lady she possessed as a child."
Death of innocence
More than one reviewer noted that mockingbirds are mentioned several times throughout the novel. That the family's last name is Finch is not a coincidence: it was Lee's mother's maiden name, but fit fully with the motif of songbirds as symbols. In fact, the title of the book is illustrated by this theme. One Christmas, Atticus gives his children air-rifles for their presents. Atticus refuses to teach them to shoot, instead leaving that to their Uncle Jack. Atticus does warn them however that, although they can "shoot all the bluejays they want," they must remember that "it's a sin to kill a mockingbird." Not certain why this is, Scout approaches her neighbor Miss Maudie Atkinson about it who explains that it is a sin because mockingbirds never harm any other living creature. She points out that mockingbirds simply provide pleasure with their songs, saying, "They don't do one thing but sing their hearts out for us."
Edwin Bruell caught the symbolism when he wrote in 1964, "'To kill a mockingbird' is to kill that which is innocent and harmless - like Tom Robinson." Given the benefit of time, scholars noted that when Lee was trying to make a moral point, she often returned to the mockingbird theme.Tom Robinson certainly serves as the embodiment of the innocent destroyed by carelessness or deliberation. But when the reader begins to note the many times mockingbirds are mentioned, Tom becomes one of many innocents in the novel who are affected by carelessness to varying degrees. Christopher Metress notices the use of the mockingbird as a symbol for Boo Radley in writing, "Instead of wanting to exploit Boo for her own fun (as she does in the beginning of the novel by putting on gothic plays about his history), Scout comes to see him as a "mockingbird" - that is, as someone with an inner goodness that must be cherished."
Lee uses the loss of innocence (and innocents) in so many instances that reviewer R. A. Dave claimed it is inevitable that all the characters have faced or will face defeat. The theme of the story then becomes tragedy. In exploring how each character deals with his or her own personal defeat, Lee builds a framework to judge whether the characters are heroes or fools. She assists her readers in these judgments, alternating between unabashed adoration and biting irony.
Harper Lee remains famously detached from interpreting the novel, and has since the mid 1960s. However, she gave what little insight into her themes that she could, when in a rare response to the Hanover, Virginia immorality debate, she wrote, "Surely it is plain to the simplest intelligence that To Kill a Mockingbird spells out in words of seldom more than two syllables a code of honor and conduct, Christian in its ethic, that is the heritage of all Southerners."
Due to the multiple themes of the novel, scholars have been able to characterize it both as a Southern Gothic and a bildungsroman. The a Southern Gothic is a genre of literature that addresses plots and characters set in the Deep South that includes elements of the grotesque, supernatural, or the extreme mental eccentricities of its characters. Southern Gothic literature often involves elements of injustice and racial inequality featuring characters who are outsiders in a strict society. Evidence of gothic elements in To Kill a Mockingbird include Boo Radley's ghost-like presence and grotesque imagined appearance, and the mystery surrounding the Radley house (poisoned pecans in the forbidden yard). Lee used the term Gothic to describe Maycomb's courthouse's architecture, and Dill's exaggerated and morbid performances when he plays Boo Radley and describes how he ran away from home.
Scholars have written about the points of view by outsiders in the novel. Gay and lesbian writers listed the novel at #64 in the Publishing Triangle's 100 Best Gay and Lesbian Novels in 1999, reasoning that the novel is "a prime example of the proto-lesbian novel focusing on southern tomboys," and, "the protagonists of the novel are outsiders - 'disloyal to civilization'." Laura Fine noted that Lee took on every establishment of authority in the fictional town of Maycomb: the school and its teachers, the criminal justice system, and the religious establishments. Yet Scout still revered Atticus as an authority above all others, in his creed that taking a stand to follow one's conscience is the highest priority, even when the result is social ostracism. However, Jean Blackall expressed doubt that the novel is a Southern Gothic with the point that Boo Radley turns out to be human after all, protective, and benevolent. And Lee was writing about her small town with an admirable honesty in addressing themes of Mrs. Dubose's drug addiction, Bob Ewell's alcoholism, allusions to Mayella Ewells incest, rape, racial violence, and Tom Robinson's "suicidal despair" as universal underlying issues in an orderly society.
By using children who must face hard realities in a cruel world, the book becomes more an example of bildungsroman than Southern Gothic. Novels in the bildungsroman genre grew in popularity in Victorian England, and feature a character who is thrust out of his or her contentment by witnessing a shocking event, and who develops over the course of the novel to make sense of the event in his or her social setting. Lee seems to examine Jem's sense of loss about how his neighbors have disappointed him more than Scout's. "It's like bein' a caterpillar wrapped in a cocoon...I always thought Maycomb folks were the best folks in the world, least that's what they seemed like," Jem says to Miss Maudie the day after the trial, and he continues to struggle with understanding separations in race and class. However just as the novel is an illustration of the changes Jem faces, it is also an exploration of the realities Scout must face as an atypical girl who is about to become a woman. Michele Ware justified the novel as Scout's coming of age in writing, "To Kill a Mockingbird can be read as a feminist bildungsroman, for Scout emerges from her childhood experiences with a clear sense of her place in her community and an awareness of her potential power as the woman she will one day be."
Despite the initial warnings her editors gave to Lee that the book might not sell well, To Kill a Mockingbird was a sensation. It made Lee very famous and quite wealthy in a very short period of time. During the years immediately after the book was published, Lee enjoyed the attention the book received and granted interviews and visits to schools and other groups. Although some editorials lamented the use of poor white Southerners, and one-dimensional black victims, it was well-received in her hometown and throughout Alabama.
The novel became widely available through its inclusion in the Book of the Month Club, Reader's Digest, and Condensed Books. The book earned the Pulitzer Prize for 1961, and the Brotherhood Award of National Conference of Christians and Jews in the same year. One year after initial publication, To Kill a Mockingbird had been translated into 10 languages. By 1982, over 15 million copies of the book had been sold; ten years later, the sales figures had climbed to 18 million copies of the paperback version alone. The book has never been out of print in hardcover or paperback. It has sold over 30 million copies and been translated into over 40 languages since first being published. Over the years, To Kill a Mockingbird has become part of the standard canon of literature taught in schools and is taught in over 70% of schools in the United States. A 1991 survey by the Book-of-the-Month Club and the Library of Congress' Center for the Book found that To Kill a Mockingbird was rated behind only the Bible in books that are "most often cited as making a difference."
Initial reviews varied from "skilled, unpretentious, and totally ingenious" to "melodramatic and contrived." When it first appeared, The Atlantic Monthly's reviewer rated it as "pleasant, undemanding reading," but found the narrative voice, "a six-year-old girl with the prose style of a well-educated adult," to be implausible.Flannery O'Connor commented on the book when it was released, "I think for a child's book it does all right. It's interesting that all the folks that are buying it don't know they're reading a child's book. Somebody ought to say what it is." Time Magazine included To Kill a Mockingbird on its 100 Best English Novels from 1923 to the Present list in 2005. Their 1960 review of the book states that it, "teaches the reader an astonishing number of useful truths about little girls and about Southern life" and calls Scout Finch, "the most appealing child since Carson McCullers' Frankie got left behind at the wedding." Apparently Carson McCullers agreed, evidenced by what she wrote to a cousin: "Well, honey, one thing we know is that she's been poaching on my literary preserves." The Chicago Sunday Tribune noted the even-handed approach to the narration of the novel's events, noting that "This is in no way a sociological novel. It underlines no cause...To Kill a Mockingbird is a novel of strong contemporary national significance."
In 1999, it was voted the "Best Novel of the 20th century" by readers of the Library Journal. It is listed as #5 on the Modern Library's Reader's List of the 100 Best Novels in the English language since 1900, and #4 on the rival Radcliffe Publishing Course's 100 Best Board Picks for Novels and Nonfiction. To Kill a Mockingbird appeared first on a list developed by librarians in 2006 who answered the question, "Which book should every adult read before they die?" followed by the Bible and the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Challenges and bans
Along with the tremendous praise the novel has received, To Kill a Mockingbird has been a source of significant controversies. The book's use of racial slurs, profanity, and frank discussion of rape has led to it being challenged in libraries and classrooms across America. The American Library Association reported that To Kill a Mockingbird was #41 of the 100 most frequently challenged books of 1990â€“2000,citing several cases from that period and earlier of the book being challenged or banned. The controversy that has surrounded the book has not been limited to the United States. In the late 1990s, school districts in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, Canada moved to have the book removed from standard teaching curricula, stating:
The terminology in this novel subjects students to humiliating experiences that rob them of their self-respect and the respect of their peers. The word 'Nigger' is used 48 times [in] the novel...We believe that the English Language Arts curriculum in Nova Scotia must enable all students to feel comfortable with ideas, feelings and experiences presented without fear of humiliation ... To Kill a Mockingbird is clearly a book that no longer meets these goals and therefore must no longer be used for classroom instruction."
Response to these attempts to remove the book from standard teaching was vehement across Canada and the United States, and many of the organizers were labeled as overly sensitive and "benign censors." Isaac Saney, who documented the attempt to ban the book, concluded that the media response to the effort to remove the books was a form of institutionalized racism. Of the efforts, he said, "The media's editorialising against all 'censorship' and 'banning' includes vigorous hostility to the censorship and banning of racism. Its advocacy of freedom of speech includes freedom of speech for racists and fascists."
A Canadian language arts consultant named Carol Ricker-Wilson noted a significant difference in the way the novel is received by white and black students. She found that the novel resonated well with white students, but that black students found it "demoralizing." A student who was playing Calpurnia in a school performance summed up her take on the story in saying, "It is from the white perspective, from a racist kind of view. You don't see much about the African American characters; you don't get to know them on a personal level...But it definitely has a [universal] message behind it. I know it's basically about racism but that's not all that you can get out of it."
Rumors of Capote's authorship
A blurb that appeared in the dust jacket of the first edition written by Truman Capote read, "Someone rare has written this very fine first novel: a writer with the liveliest sense of life, and the warmest, most authentic sense of humor. A touching book; and so funny, so likeable." This blurb, combined with the childhood friendship of Lee and Capote, helped fuel rumors that Capote had written or heavily edited the book. A Tuscaloosa newspaper reporter stated that Capote's biological father, Archulus Persons, had told him Capote had written "almost all" of the book.The rumors were put to rest in 2006 when a letter written by Capote to a neighbor in Monroeville in 1959, mentioned that Lee was writing a book that was to be published soon, was donated to Monroeville's literary heritage museum, paired with the evidence of the extensive notes to and from Lee's editor at Lippincott. Lee's older sister Alice has responded to the rumors in saying, "That's the biggest lie ever told."
Around 1964, Lee began to turn down interviews, noting that the questions were all the same. She still declines to speak to reporters about the book. She has also steadfastly refused to provide an introduction to the book, writing in 1995, "Introductions inhibit pleasure, they kill the joy of anticipation, they frustrate curiosity. The only good thing about Introductions is that in some cases they delay the dose to come. Mockingbird still says what it has to say; it has managed to survive the years without preamble."
In 2001, Chicago mayor Richard M. Daley initiated a city-wide reading program through the city's libraries, and chose his favorite book, To Kill a Mockingbird as the first book to be read in the "One City, One Book" program. Lee declared that "there is no greater honor the novel could receive." By 2004, the novel had been chosen by 25 different communities for variations of the one-book, one-community reading programs, more than any other novel.Lee was inducted into the Alabama Academy of Honor in 2001.In 2006, Lee was awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Notre Dame. During the ceremony, the graduating class and audience gave Lee a standing ovation, and the entire graduating class held up copies of To Kill a Mockingbird to honor her.
Lee was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom on November 5, 2007 by President George W. Bush. In his remarks, Bush stated, "One reason To Kill a Mockingbird succeeded is the wise and kind heart of the author, which comes through on every page...To Kill a Mockingbird has influenced the character of our country for the better. It's been a gift to the entire world. As a model of good writing and humane sensibility, this book will be read and studied forever."
Film, TV or theatrical adaptations
Film's connection to the novel
The book was made into the well-received film with the same title, starring Gregory Peck in 1962. The film's producer, Alan J. Pakula, remembered Paramount Studios executives questioning him about a potential script, "They said, 'What story do you plan to tell for the film?' I said, 'Have you read the book?' They said, 'Yes.' I said, 'That's the story.'" Lee spent three weeks watching the 10-week filming of the movie, then "took off when she realized everything would be fine without her."] It won three Oscars, including Best Actor for Gregory Peck, Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Black-and-White, and Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium for Horton Foote. It was nominated for five more Oscars that included Best Actress in a Supporting Role for Mary Badham, the actor who portrayed Scout, Best Cinematography, Black-and-White, Best Director, Best Music, Score - Substantially Original, and Best Picture. Harper Lee was apparently pleased with the film version of the novel. She was quoted saying, "In that film the man and the part met...I've had many, many offers to turn it into musicals, into TV or stage plays, but I've always refused. That film was a work of art."
Gregory Peck's performance became synonymous with the role and character of Atticus Finch. Alan Pakula remembered hearing from Peck when he was first approached with the role, "He called back immediately. No maybes. The fit was among the most natural things about a most natural film. I must say the man and the character he played were not unalike. Peck later said in an interview that he was drawn to the role because the book reminded him of growing up in La Jolla, California. "Hardly a day passes that I don't think how lucky I was to be cast in that film," Peck said in a 1997 interview. "I recently sat at a dinner next to a woman who saw it when she was 14 years old, and she said it changed her life. I hear things like that all the time." Peck met Lee's father, the model for Atticus, prior to the filming. Lee's father died before the film's release, and Lee was so impressed with Peck's performance that she gave him her father's pocketwatch, which he had with him the evening he was awarded the Oscar for best actor.Years later, he was reluctant to tell Lee that the watch was stolen out of his luggage in Heathrow Airport. When Peck eventually did tell Lee, he said she responded, "'Well, it's only a watch.' Harper - she feels deeply, but she's not a sentimental person about things. Lee and Peck shared a friendship long after the movie was made. Peck's grandson was named "Harper" for Lee.
Upon Peck's death in 2003, Brock Peters, who played Tom Robinson in the film version, quoted Harper Lee at Peck's eulogy, saying, "Atticus Finch gave him an opportunity to play himself." Peters concluded his eulogy stating, "To my friend Gregory Peck, to my friend Atticus Finch, vaya con Dios." Peters remembered the role of Tom Robinson when he recalled, "It certainly is one of my proudest achievements in life, one of the happiest participations in film or theater I have experienced." Peters remained friends not only with Peck but with Mary Badham throughout his life.
In May of 2005, Lee made a very uncharacteristic appearance at the Los Angeles Public Library for an event to honor Lee hosted by Peck's wife Veronique, who said of Lee, "She's like a national treasure. She's someone who has made a difference...with this book. The book is still as strong as it ever was, and so is the film. All the kids in the United States read this book and see the film in the seventh and eighth grades and write papers and essays. My husband used to get thousands and thousands of letters from teachers who would send them to him." Brock Peters also attended the affair, just months before his own death.
Play's connection to the town
The book has also been adapted as a play by Christopher Sergel. It debuted in 1990 in Monroeville, a town that labels itself "The Literary Capital of Alabama." The play runs every May on the county courthouse grounds and townspeople make up the cast. White male audience members are chosen at the intermission to make up the jury. During the courtroom scene, where the audience and cast moves inside the Monroe County Courthouse, the audience is racially segregated. Author Albert Murray said of the relationship of the town to the novel (therefore the annual performance of the play), "It becomes part of the town ritual, like the religious underpinning of Mardi Gras. With the whole town crowded around the actual courthouse, it's part of a central, civic education - what Monroeville aspires to be." A National Geographic article claimed the novel is revered so much in Monroeville that people quote lines from it like Scripture, but that Harper Lee has refused to attend any performances; that, "she abhors anything that trades on the book's fame." To underscore this sentiment, Lee demanded a book of recipes named "Calpurnia's Cookbook" not be published and sold out of the Monroe County Heritage Museum. Tourism by people hoping to see Lee's inspiration for the book, or Lee herself, has risen despite her discouragement of it. Local Monroeville residents call them "Mockingbird groupies," and although Lee is not reclusive, she refuses any publicity or interviews with an emphatic, "Hell no."
Ling posted a review at 2007-12-30 11:29:32 for The Executioner's Song.
The Executioner's Song is a 1979 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Norman Mailer that depicts the events surrounding the execution of Gary Gilmore by the state of Utah for murder.
Based almost entirely on interviews with the family and friends of both Gilmore and his victims, the book is exhaustive in its approach. Divided into two sections, the book focuses on the events leading up to the murders and the trial and execution of Gilmore, including full documentation of Gilmore's court appearances and his decision to demand his execution rather than to continue the appeals process.
The first section of the book deals with Gilmore's early life and his numerous detentions in juvenile crime facilities and, later, prison. It details his release some months prior to his first murder and the relationships he establishes during that time.
The second section focuses more extensively on Gilmore's trial, including his refusal to appeal his death sentence, his dealings with Lawrence Schiller and his attorney's refusal to accept his refusal and their continued fight on his behalf. Gilmore was executed by firing squad on January 17, 1977 after appeals filed by his lawyers (in defiance of Gilmore's wishes) were rejected. The execution had been stayed on three previous occasions.
Notable not only for its portrayal of Gilmore and the anguish surrounding the murders he committed, the book also took a central position in the national debate over the revival of capital punishment by the Supreme Court as Gilmore was the first person in the United States executed since the re-instatement of the death penalty in 1976.
The Executioner's Song was later turned into a TV movie starring Tommy Lee Jones, a role for which he won an Emmy, directed by Lawrence Schiller, who is a main character in the second section of the book. Schiller went to great lengths to convince Gilmore to give him the exclusive media rights to tell his life story.
Although a thick book, but it will keep you entertained throughout with its legal excitement of one of the most extraordinary legal cases in US. A man on death row fighting to die in the same manner as an ordinary man fighting to live.
Ling posted a review at 2007-12-30 11:26:22 for Gone With the Wind.
A extremely remarkable historical-romace epic that superbly combined the author's biography with history.
Gone with the Wind is a 1936 American novel by Margaret Mitchell set in the Old South during the American Civil War and Reconstruction. The novel won the Pulitzer Prize in 1937 and was adapted into an Academy Award-winning film of the same name in 1939. It is the only novel by Mitchell published during her lifetime. Over the years, the novel has also been analyzed for its symbolism and mythological treatment of archetypes.
Many historians regard the book as having a strong ideological commitment to the cause of the Confederacy and a romanticized view of the culture of the antebellum South.
The book includes a vivid description of the fall of Atlanta in 1864 and the devastation of war. Some of that aspect was missing from the 1939 film). The novel showed considerable historical research. Mitchell's sources were almost exclusively Southern writers and historians. According to her biography, Mitchell herself was ten years old before she learned that the South had lost the war. Mitchell's sweeping narrative of war and loss helped the book win the Pulitzer Prize on May 3, 1937.
An episode in the book dealt with the early Ku Klux Klan. In the immediate aftermath of the War, Scarlett is assaulted by poor southerners living in shanties, whereupon her former Black slave Sam saves her life. In response, Scarlett's male friends attempt to make a retaliatory nighttime raid on the encampment. Northern soldiers try to stop the attacks, and Rhett helps Ashley, who is shot, to get help through his prostitute friend Belle. Scarlett's husband Frank is killed. This raid is presented sympathetically as being necessary and justified, while the law-enforcement officers trying to catch the perpetrators are depicted as oppressive Northern occupiers.
Although the Klan is not mentioned in that scene (though Rhett tells Archie to burn the "cloaks"), the book notes that Scarlett finds the Klan abominable. She believed the men should all just stay at home (she wanted both to be petted for her ordeal and to give the hated Yankees no more reason to tighten martial law, which is bad for her businesses). Rhett is also mentioned to be no great lover of the Klan. At one point, he said that if it were necessary, he would join in an effort to join "society". The novel never explicitly states whether this drastic step was necessary in his view. The local chapter later breaks up under the pressure from Rhett and Ashley.
Scarlett expresses views that were common of the era. Some examples:
"How stupid negroes were! They never thought of anything unless they were told." â€” Scarlett thinks to herself, after returning to Tara after the fall of Atlanta.
"How dared they laugh, the black apes!...She'd like to have them all whipped until the blood ran down...What devils the Yankees were to set them free!" â€” Scarlett again thinking to herself, seeing free blacks after the war.
However, she is kind to Pork, her father's trusted manservant. He tells Scarlett that if she were as nice to white people as she is to black, a lot more people would like her.
She almost loses her temper when the Yankee women say they would never have a black nurse in their house and talk about Uncle Peter, Aunt Pittypat's servant, as if he were a mule.
Scarlett has many spiteful and selfish opinions in the novel, and is callous toward her children, her sisters, and of course, Melanie, who has every virtue Scarlett lacks. Whether Mitchell shared Scarlett's views is unknown.
The book is far more open in the matter of freedom of speech than the film, and it leaves no doubt that this was necessary in order to show what people really felt without putting "makeup" that would take out the accurate nature of the book.
As several elements of Gone with the Wind have parallels with Margaret Mitchell's own life, her experiences may have provided some inspiration for the story in contex. Mitchell's understanding of life and hardship during the American Civil War, for example, came from elderly relatives and neighbors passing war stories to her generation.
While Margaret Mitchell used to say that her Gone with the Wind characters were not based on real people, modern researchers have found similarities to some of the people in Mitchell's own life as well as to individuals she knew or she heard of.Mitchell's maternal grandmother, Annie Fitzgerald Stephens, was born in 1845; she was the daughter of an Irish immigrant, who owned a large plantation on Tara Road in Clayton County, south of Atlanta, and who married an American woman named Ellen, and had several children, all daughters.
Researchers believed Rhett Butler to be based on Mitchell's first husband, Red Upshaw. She divorced him after she learned he was a bootlegger. Other historical evidence suggests the Butler character to be based on George Trenholm, a famous blockade-runner. See link The Real Rhett Butler Revealed. (Another model may have been Sir Godfrey Barnsley of Adairsville, Georgia. After a stay at the plantation called The Woodlands, and later Barnsley Gardens, Mitchell may have gotten the inspiration for the dashing scoundrel.
Martha Bulloch Roosevelt, the mother of US president Theodore Roosevelt may have been an inspiration for Scarlett O'Hara. Roosevelt biographer David McCullough discovered that Mitchell, as a reporter for The Atlanta Journal, conducted an interview with one of Martha's closest friends and bridesmaid, Evelyn King Williams, then 87. In that interview, she described Martha's physical appearance, beauty, grace, and intelligence in detail. The similarities between Martha and the Scarlett character are striking.
Over the past years, the novel Gone with the Wind has also been analyzed for its symbolism and mythological treatment of archetypes.Scarlett has been characterized as a heroic figure struggling and attempting to twist life to suit her own wishes. The land is considered a source of strength, as in the plantation Tara, pronounced the same as the Latin word terra, meaning the land.
I would highly recommend this novel to you, whether you are a romance story lover or not. Beside it is not just a romance novel, but more of a inspirational one! One that I remembered freshly even after I read it in 1995.
"If the novel has a theme it is that of survival. What makes some people able to come through catastrophes and others, apparently just as able, strong and brave, go under? It happens in every upheaval. Some people survive; others don't. What qualities are in those who fight their way through triumphantly that are lacking in those who go under...? I only know that the survivors used to call that quality 'gumption.' So I wrote about the people who had gumption and the people who didn't." Margaret Mitchell @ Macmillan 1936
Ling posted a review at 2007-12-30 11:22:39 for The Color Purple.
The Color Purple is an acclaimed 1982 epistolary novel by American author Alice Walker. It received the 1983 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Award. It was later adapted into a film and musical of the same name.
Taking place mostly in rural Georgia, the story focuses on female African - American life during the 1930's in southern America, addressing the numerous issues in the black female life, including their exceedingly low position in black social culture. Because of the novel's sometimes explicit content, particularly in terms of violence, it has been the frequent target of censors and appears on the American Library Association list of the 100 Most Frequently Challenged Books of 1990-2000 at number eighteen.
Origins of the title
The title derives from a discussion between Celie and Shug about faith. Describing what God does to please people, Shug says, "I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don't notice it." After Celie asks what God does in response to this obliviousness, Shug replies that he creates something else people will see, because God just wants to be loved. The discussion leads to the rekindling of Celie's faith, despite years of abuse and neglect.
Film and theatrical adaptations
Main articles: The Color Purple (film) and The Color Purple (musical)
The novel was adapted into a film of the same name in 1985. It was directed by Steven Spielberg and stars Whoopi Goldberg as Celie, Danny Glover as "Mr. ___", and Oprah Winfrey as Sofia. Though nominated for 11 Academy Awards, it did not win any. This perceived snubbing ignited some controversy because many critics considered it the best picture that year, including Roger Ebert. Others were upset by the film's depiction of the black male as abusive, uncaring, and disloyal. Other critics felt that Steven Spielberg was a poor choice for such a complex drama and that the film had changed or eliminated much of the book's defense of lesbianism.
On December 1, 2005, a musical adaptation of the novel opened at the Broadway Theater in New York City. The show was produced by Oprah Winfrey and garnered five 2006 Outer Critics Circle Award nominations, including Outstanding Broadway Musical and Outstanding New Score. That same year, the show was nominated for eleven Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Best Original Score Written for the Theater, and Best Leading Actress in a Musical (LaChanze). LaChanze did win the Tony Award, though the show itself won no other awards. LaChanze's win was attributed to the variety of roles for which she had garnered positive attention, as well as for a powerful backstory. In April 2007 American Idol star LaToya London was cast for the role of Nettie. She's scheduled to stay on the production until January 2008.
Quite enjoyable for those who love drama.
Ling posted a review at 2007-12-30 11:21:51 for Beloved (Random House Large Print).
Beloved is a 1987 Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Nobel laureate Toni Morrison. The novel is loosely based on the life and legal case of the slave Margaret Garner, about whom Morrison later wrote in the opera Margaret Garner (2005).
In 1998 the novel was adapted into a film of the same name starring Oprah Winfrey.
A survey of eminent authors and critics conducted by The New York Times found Beloved the best work of American fiction of the past 25 years; it garnered 15 of 125 votes, finishing ahead of Don DeLillo's Underworld (11 votes), Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian and John Updike's Rabbit series . The results appeared in The New York Times Book Review on May 21, 2006.
The book follows the story of Sethe (pronounced "Seth-uh") and her daughter Denver as they try to rebuild their lives after having escaped from slavery. One day, a young lady shows up at their house, saying that her name is "Beloved." Sethe comes to believe that the girl is another of her daughters, whom Sethe murdered by slitting her throat with a handsaw when she was only two years old to save her from a life of slavery, and whose tombstone reads "Beloved." Beloved's return consumes Sethe to the point where she ignores her other daughter and even her own needs, while Beloved becomes more and more demanding. Paul D. and Stamp Paid know that Beloved is evil, but do nothing out of fear.
The novel follows in the tradition of slave narratives, but also confronts the more painful and taboo aspects of slavery, such as sexual abuse and violence. Morrison feels these issues were avoided in the traditional slave narratives. In the novel, she explores the effects on the characters, Paul D and Sethe, of trying to repress - and then come to terms with - the painful memories of their past.
Beloved is a novel based on the impact of slavery and of the emancipation of slaves on individual black people. There are several themes that remain central to the novel:
The concept of motherhood within Beloved is as an overarching and overwhelming love that can conquer all, strongly typified within the novel by the character Sethe, whose very name is the feminine of "Seth"- the Biblical 'father of the world'. This can also be seen within Morrison's other works and has led to her sometimes being cited as a feminist writer. The feminine capacity for love is maximal: "It hurt her when mosquitoes bit her baby". Further, Sethe's escape from the slave plantation (ironically named 'Sweet Home') stems from her desire to keep the "mother of her children alive" and not from any personal survival instinct. Sethe's maternal instincts almost lead to her own destruction. We can here assume the interpretation that Beloved is a wrathful character looking to wreak revenge on Sethe for killing her, despite the fact that the murder was, in Sethe's mind, an entirely loving act. Sethe's guilt at Beloved's death means that she is willing to "give up her life, every minute, hour and second of it, to take back just one of Beloved's tears". Further, toward the end of the novel, "Beloved didn't move, said, 'Do it', and Sethe complied". The strength of her love leads her almost to the point of death as she allows Beloved to take her revenge.---
Toni Morrison wrote Beloved on a foundation of historical events. The most significant event within the novel--the "Misery", or Sethe's murder of Beloved--is based on an actual historical event. In 1856, Margaret Garner murdered her children to prevent them from being recaptured and taken back into slavery with the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. Morrison admits to "an obsession" with this account after she discovered it while helping edit a scrapbook on black history. The novel itself can be seen as the reworking of fact into something with a very emotional central message. History is woven throughout the novel. The Middle Passage is referenced along with the Underground Railway in many parts of the novel; the 'Sixty Million and More' to whom Morrison dedicates the novel may refer to the many who died during the Middle Passage. The entire concept of the slavery described in the novel: Paul D's confinement in Georgia, ideas such as the "bit" and the legislature described are all based on history. This gives the novel a powerful impact.
Beloved's appearance reawakens memories of slavery among the other characters, and they are forced to deal with their past instead of trying to repress their memories. Reincarnation and rebirth are also themes in this novel.
Again, the concept of manhood is important within Beloved. Paul D is the only developed example of a male character, and is "the kind of man who could walk into a house and make the women cry. Because with him, in his presence, they could cry and tell him things they only told each other". He is, however, emotionally crippled and is forced to keep his emotions locked inside a "tobacco tin"- a box "rusted shut." This is a metaphor for the way in which he must control his feelings to survive. During the chain-gang period, his hands uncontrollably shake until he can learn to trap his emotions and effectively lock them away. It takes Beloved to release him, shown by the uncontrolled repetition of "Red Heart. Red Heart..." Within the novel, the male is significantly weaker than the female, one reason being there is no other developed male character other than Paul D to test the strength of women in the novel against, all others being the past oppressors of Sethe and other former slaves. Paul D cannot cope with the extreme demonstration of love exemplified by Sethe's murder of Beloved and leaves. Still, the book ends with Paul D coming back "to put his story next to hers", a display of his courage and mature love, if crippled by his slavery ordeal. Leaving the readers without ultimate answers, Toni Morrison concludes on a hopeful note, with Paul D trying to explain troubled and past-obsessed Sethe that "[she is her] best thing."
The most strongly ambiguous character within the novel is Beloved. The first interpretation of her character is that she is a supernatural, incarnate form of Sethe's murdered daughter. The second is of her as, as Stamp Paid puts it, "a girl locked up by a white man over by Deer Creek. Found him dead last summer and the girl gone. Maybe that's her". Both are supportable by the text. The concept that Beloved is the re-incarnated child is supported by her knowledge of the song that "nobody knows but me and my children" and her knowledge of Sethe's earrings, but it is also true that the characters have a psychological need for Beloved- Sethe can assuage her guilt over the death of her child, and Denver gains a playmate, or even more. The reader is forced to be active rather than passive and is made to work to discover what is going on. The emphasis is on interpretation rather than on what the author says.
Ling posted a review at 2007-12-30 11:19:36 for CRY THE BELOVED COUNTRY (Scribner Classic).
Cry, The Beloved Country is a novel by South African author Alan Paton. It was first published in New York in 1948 by Charles Scribner's Sons and in London by Jonathan Cape. The protagonist is Stephen Kumalo, a black Anglican priest from a rural Natal town, who is searching for his son Absalom in the city of Johannesburg. Two motion-picture adaptations of the book have been made, the first in 1951 and the second in 1995.
The novel opens in the hood, where the black pastor, Stephen Kumalo, receives a letter from the priest Theophilus Missymangu in Johannesburg. Msimangu urges Kumalo to come to the city to help his sister, Gertrude, because she is "ill". Kumalo goes to Johannesburg to help Gertrude and to find his son, Absalom, who had gone to the city to look for Gertrude but never came home. When he gets to the city, Kumalo learns that Gertrude has taken up a life of prostitution and beer-brewing, and is now drinking heavily. She agrees to return to the village with her young son. Kumalo embarks on the search for his son, first seeing his brother John, a carpenter who has become involved in the politics of South Africa. Kumalo and Msimangu follow Absalom's trail only to learn that Absalom has been in a reformatory and impregnated a young woman. Shortly thereafter, Kumalo learns that his son has been arrested for the murder of Arthur Jarvis, a white fighter for racial justice and son of Kumalo's neighbour James Jarvis.
Jarvis learns of his son's death and comes with his family to Johannesburg. Jarvis and his son had been distant, and now the father begins to know his son through his writings. Through reading his son's essays, Jarvis decides to take up his son's work on behalf of South Africa's blacks.
Absalom is sentenced to death for the murder of Arthur Jarvis. Before his father returns to Ixopo, Absalom marries the girl he has impregnated, and she joins Kumalo's family. Kumalo returns to his village with his daughter-in-law and nephew, finding that Gertrude ran away on the night before their departure.
Back in Ixopo, Kumalo makes a futile visit to the tribe's chief in order to discuss changes that must be made to help the barren village. Help arrives, however, when Jarvis becomes involved in the work. He arranges to have a dam built and hires an agricultural demonstrator to implement new farming methods.
The novel ends on the night of Absalom's execution, which finds Kumalo praying on a mountainside as dawn breaks over the valley. The book ends with a tone of rejuvenation and hope for the country.
Absalom escapes from the prison, and informs Stephen in a letter, and then they run away to mexico.
It is also discovered in the beginning of the novel through a subtle message that Kumalo actually abused Absalom during his childhood by the quote, "Kumalo felt that Absalom had run away in order to avoid him, and his distraught childhood..."
Characters in Cry, The Beloved Country
Stephen Kumalo â€“ A native priest who attempts to reconstruct the disintegrating tribe and his own family.
Theophilus Msimangu â€“ priest in Johannesburg
John Kumalo â€“Stephen's brother who denies the tribal validity and who becomes a spokesman for the new movement in the city. A carpenter.
Absalom Kumalo â€“ Stephen's son who left home for the large city and who commits a murder.
Gertrude Kumalo â€“ The young sister of Stephen who becomes a prostitute in the large city and leads a dissolute life.
James Jarvis â€“ A wealthy landowner whose son is murdered by Absalom and who comes to the realization of the guilt of the whites in such crimes.
Arthur Jarvis â€“ James Jarvis' son, who does not appear in the novel but whose racial views are highly significant and influential.
Mr. Carmichael â€“ Absalom's lawyer
Father Vincent â€“ The priest from England who helps Stephen in his troubles.
Mrs. Lithebe â€“ The native landlady with whom Stephen stays while in Johannesburg.
The Harrisons â€“ The father and son represent two opposing views concerning the racial problem. The father represents the traditional view and the son the more liberal view.
Cry, the Beloved Country is a social protest against the structures of the society that would later give rise to apartheid. Paton attempts to create an unbiased and objective view of the dichotomies this entails: he depicts the Whites as affected by 'native crime', while the Blacks suffer from social instability and moral issues due to the breakdown of the tribal system. It shows many of the problems with South Africa such as the degrading of the land reserved for the natives, which is sometimes considered to be the main theme, the disintegration of the tribal community, native crime and the flight to the urban areas. The quote below shows another recurring theme which is how fear affects the characters and society of South Africa.
Paton makes frequent use of literary devices such as microcosms, intercalary chapters, dashes instead of quotation marks for dialogue, and a number of other things to show the state of South Africa. A microcosm is a form of symbolism that uses a small thing to depict something on a larger scale. Intercalary chapters are literally chapters that are 'in between': they have almost nothing to do with the story, but often are microcosms. There are no double quotes in the whole book; instead Paton uses dashes (â€“) to indicate the start of speech acts. This may not seem like a literary device at first, but soon it becomes evident that they do a lot more than would be expected. Because there are no phrases such as "he said" or "she said", it is faster to read and, especially in the intercalary chapters, adds a feeling of desperation and rapid progress towards the novel's final catastrophe.
Cry, The Beloved Country was written before the implementation of the apartheid political system in South Africa. The novel was published in 1948, with apartheid becoming law later on that same year.
It enjoyed critical success around the world, except in South Africa, where it was banned, due to its politically dangerous material. The book sold over 15 million copies around the world before Paton's death.
The book is studied currently by many schools around the world. The style of writing is often compared to the King James Bible, in which Paton's writing does tend to fit. Paton was a devout Christian.
Allusions/references to other works
There are many biblical references throughout the novel. The most evident is found from the names Paton gives to the characters. Absalom, the son of Stephen Kumalo, shares his name with the son of King David, who rose up against his father in rebellion. Also, in the New Testament Book of Acts, Saint Stephen was a martyr who died rather than give up his beliefs. Another biblical allusion is seen when Absalom requests that his son's name be Peter. In the Bible, Peter refused to listen to God. After all those denials, he later on repented for all the sins he has committed. Like in the book, Absalom "murdered" Jarvis' son and later on repented under a tree for the "murder" he has committed. Arthur Jarvis is described as having a large collection of books on Abraham Lincoln, and the writings of Lincoln figure heavily in the novel.
This book focused on the social problems that were faced by South Africa, mainly Racial Discrimination, and others like prositution, poverty. When this book was published in 1948, it attracted international attention and brought about political and judicial changes in South Africa. A must read book if you are keen on serious reader who love social issues.
Ling posted a review at 2007-12-30 11:15:00 for Animal Farm.
Animal Farm is a novella by George Orwell, and is the most famous satirical allegory of Soviet totalitarianism. Published in 1945, the book reflects events leading up to and during the Stalin era. Orwell, a democratic socialist, and a member of the Independent Labour Party for many years, was a critic of Josef Stalin, and was suspicious of Moscow-directed Stalinism after his experiences with the NKVD during the Spanish Civil War.
The book was chosen by Time Magazine as one of the 100 best English-language novels (1923 to 2005) and was number 31 on the Modern Library List of Best 20th-Century Novels.
The plot is an allegory in which animals play the roles of the Bolshevik revolutionaries and overthrow and oust the human owners of the farm, setting it up as a commune in which, at first, all animals are equal; soon disparities start to emerge between the different species or classes. The novel describes how a society's ideologies can be changed and manipulated by individuals in positions of power. Including how the idea of utopia is seemingly impossible with the corruption of power.
Characters and their possible real life counterparts
The events and characters in Animal Farm parallel the early history of the Soviet Union; Orwell makes this explicit in the case of Napoleon, whom he directly connects to Stalin in a letter of 17 March 1945 to the publisher.
â€œ ...when the windmill is blown up, I wrote "all the animals including Napoleon flung themselves on their faces." I would like to alter it to 'all the animals except Napoleon." If that has been printed it's not worth bothering about, but I just thought the alteration would be fair to JS [ Joseph Stalin ], as he did stay in Moscow during the German advance. â€
The other characters have their parallels in the real world, but care should be taken with these comparisons, as Orwell's intent was not always explicit and they often simply represent generalised concepts.
Old Major is the inspiration which fuels the Revolution and the book. According to one interpretation, he could be based upon both Karl Marx and Lenin. As a socialist, George Orwell may have agreed with much of Marx, and even respected aspects of Lenin. According to this interpretation, the satire in Animal Farm is not of Marxism, or of Lenin's revolution, but of the corruption that occurred later although very similar to it. However, according to Christopher Hitchens:
â€œ As an allegory, the story has one enormous failure: the persons of Lenin and Trotsky are combined into one [i.e., Snowball], or, it might even be truer to say, there is no Lenin-pig at all. Such a stupendous omission cannot have been accidental.... Orwell in his essays was fond of saying that both Lenin and Trotsky bore some responsibility for Stalinism; by eliding this thought... he may have been subconsciously catering to the needs of tragedy. â€
Hitchens goes on to agree, however, that in the book "the aims and principles of the Russian Revolution are given face-value credit throughout; this is a revolution betrayed, not a revolution that is monstrous from its inception". Though Old Major is presented positively, Orwell does slip in some flaws, such as his admission that he has largely been free of the abuse the rest of the animals have had to suffer.
Napoleon, a Berkshire boar, is the main villain of Animal Farm. Napoleon begins to gradually build up his power, using puppies he took from mother dogs Jessie and Bluebell, which he raised to be vicious dogs as his secret police. After driving Snowball off the farm, Napoleon usurps full power, using false propaganda from Squealer and threats and intimidation from the dogs to keep the other animals in line. Among other things he gradually changes the Commandments to allow himself privileges and justify his dictatorial rule. By the end of the book Napoleon and his fellow pigs have learned to walk upright and started to behave similar to humans. Orwell modeled him after Joseph Stalin, who set up a dictatorship whose repression and despotism was far worse than that of the Imperial Russian government supplanted by the Bolsheviks. (In the French version of Animal Farm, Napoleon is called CÃ©sar, the French spelling of Caesar.)
Snowball, a white boar, is Napoleon's rival. He is inspired by Leon Trotsky. He wins over most animals, but is driven out of the farm in the end by Napoleon. Snowball genuinely works for the good of the farm and devises plans to help the animals achieve their vision of a utopia but is chased from the farm by Napoleon and his dogs and rumours are spread about him (by Napoleon) to make him seem evil and corrupt and that he is secretly sabotaging the animal's efforts to improve the farm. His name is likely a reference to Trotsky's having been killed by one of Stalin's henchman with an ice pick.
Squealer, a small fat porker, serves as Napoleon's public speaker. Inspired by Vyacheslav Molotov and the Russian paper Pravda, Squealer twists and abuses the language to excuse, justify, and extol all of Napoleon's actions. He represents all the propaganda Stalin used to justify his actions. In all of his work, George Orwell made it a point to show how politicians used language. Squealer limits debate by complicating it, and he confuses and disorients, making claims that the pigs need the extra luxury they are taking in order to function properly, for example. However, when questions persist, he usually uses the threat of Mr. Jones's return as justification for the pigs' privileges. Squealer uses statistics to convince the animals that life is getting better and better. Most of the animals have only dim memories of life before the revolution; therefore they are convinced.
Minimus is a poetical pig who writes the second and third national anthems of Animal Farm after the singing of "Beasts of England" is banned, representing admirers of Stalin both inside and outside the USSR such as Maxim Gorky. As Minimus composed the replacement of "Beasts of England", he may equate to the three main composers of the National Anthem of the Soviet Union which replaced The Internationale -- Gabriel El-Registan, Alexander Vasilyevich Alexandrov, and Sergey Mikhalkov.
Pinkeye is a small piglet who tastes Napoleon's food for poisoning.
The Piglets are hinted to be the children of Napoleon (albeit not truly noted in the novel), and are the first generation of animals to actually be subjugated to his idea of animal inequality.
The Rebel Pigs are pigs who complain about Napoleon's takeover of the farm but are quickly silenced and later executed. This is based on the Great Purge during Stalin's regime. The closest parallels to the Rebel Pigs may be Nikolai Bukharin, Alexei Rykov, Grigory Zinoviev, and Lev Kamenev.
Mr. Jones represents Nicholas II of Russia, the deposed Tsar, who had been facing severe financial difficulties in the days leading up to the 1917 Revolution. The character is also a nod towards Louis XVI. There are also several implications that he represents an autocratic but ineffective capitalist, incapable of running the farm and looking after the animals properly. Jones is a very heavy drinker and the animals revolt on him after he drinks so much that he does not feed them nor does he take care of them.
Mr. Frederick is the tough owner of Pinchfield, a well-kept neighbouring farm. He represents Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party in general.
Mr. Pilkington is the easy-going but crafty owner of Foxwood, a neighbouring farm overgrown with weeds, as described in the book. He represents the western powers, such as Britain and the U.S. The card game at the very end of the novel is a metaphor for the Tehran Conference, where the parties flatter each other, all the while cheating at the game. The irony in this last scene is present because of all of the Pigs being civil and kind to the humans, defying all for which they had fought. This was present in the Tehran Conference with the Alliance that the Soviet Union formed with the United States and Britain; capitalist countries that the Soviet Union had fought in the early years of the revolution. At the end of the novel, both Napoleon and Pilkington draw the Ace of Spades (which in most games, is the highest-ranking card) at the same time and begin fighting loudly, symbolizing the beginning of tension between the U.S. and Soviet superpowers.
Mr. Whymper is a man hired by Napoleon to represent Animal Farm in human society. He is loosely based on Western intellectuals such as George Bernard Shaw and, especially, Lincoln Steffens, who visited the U.S.S.R. in 1919. and praised what they saw.
There are three horses Clover, Mollie, and Boxer
Boxer is one of the main characters. He is the tragic avatar of the working class, or proletariat: loyal, kind, dedicated, and the most physically-strong animal on the farm, but naive and slow. His ignorance and blind trust towards his leaders led to his death and their profit. In particular, his heroic physical work represents the Stakhanovite movement. His maxim of "I will work harder" is reminiscent of Jurgis Rudkus from the Upton Sinclair novel The Jungle.
Clover is Boxer's friend and a fellow draft horse. She helps and cares for Boxer when he splits his hoof. She blames herself for forgetting the original Seven Commandments when Squealer revises them. Clover is compassionate, as is shown when she protects the baby ducklings during Major's speech; albeit made out to be somewhat vain in the opening of the novel by the narrator, who remarks that she never "recovered" her figure after giving birth to her fourth foal. She is also upset when animals are executed by the dogs, and is held in great respect by three younger horses who ultimately replace Boxer.
Mollie is a self-centered and vain white mare who likes wearing ribbons in her mane, eating sugar cubes (which represent luxury) and being pampered and groomed by humans. She represents upper-class people, the bourgeoisie and nobility who fled to the West after the Russian Revolution and effectively dominated the Russian diaspora. Accordingly, she quickly leaves for another farm and is only once mentioned again.
The allegory that the book employs allows it to be read on a variety of different levels.
Orwell wrote the book following his experiences during the Spanish Civil War, which are described in another of his books, Homage to Catalonia. He intended it to be a strong condemnation of what he saw as the Stalinist corruption of the original socialist ideals. For the preface of a Ukrainian edition he prepared in 1947, Orwell described what gave him the idea of setting the book on a farm.
â€œ ...I saw a little boy, perhaps ten years old, driving a huge carthorse along a narrow path, whipping it whenever it tried to turn. It struck me that if only such animals became aware of their strength we should have no power over them, and that men exploit animals in much the same way as the rich exploit the proletariat. â€
This Ukrainian edition was an early propaganda use of the book. It was printed to be distributed among the Soviet citizens of Ukraine who were just some of the many millions of displaced persons throughout Europe at the end of the Second World War. The American occupation forces considered the edition to be propaganda printed on illegal presses, and handed 1,500 confiscated copies of Animal Farm over to the Soviet authorities. The politics in the book also affected Britain, with Orwell reporting that Ernest Bevin was "terrified" that it may cause embarrassment if published before the 1945 general election.
In recent years the book has been used to compare new movements that overthrow heads of a corrupt and undemocratic government or organization, only to eventually become corrupt and oppressive themselves as they succumb to the trappings of power and begin using violent and dictatorial methods to keep it. Such analogies have been used for many former African colonies such as Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of Congo, whose succeeding African-born rulers were accused of being as corrupt as, or worse than, the European colonists they supplanted.
The book also clearly ponders whether a focus of power in one person is healthy for a society. The book leaves the ending slightly ambiguous in this regard.
Perhaps the largest overriding theme in "Animal Farm" is the famous quote by Lord Acton, "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely".
Allusions to history, geography and current science
Manor Farm is based on Chalk Farm  in Willingdon, Eastbourne.
The ousting of the humans after the farmers forget to feed the animals is an allusion to the Russian Revolution of 1917 that led to the removal of Tsar Nicholas II and his family after a series of social upheavals and wars and ultimately resulted in famine and poverty.
The refusal of the Humans to refer to Animal Farm by its new name (still calling it Manor Farm) may be indicative of the diplomatic limbo in which the Soviets existed following their early history.
Mr. Jones' last ditch effort to re-take the farm (The Battle of the Cowshed) is analogous to the Russian Civil War in which the western capitalist governments sent soldiers to try to remove the Bolsheviks from power.
The Battle of Cowshed is fought with similar tactics to the Battle of Cowpens in the American Revolution
When Napoleon and Snowball argue about how Animal Farm should be ruled, Napoleon favours acquiring weapons to defend the farm while Snowball favoured getting other farms (countries) to rebel. This is similar to Stalin wanting "Socialism in one country" and Trotsky's theory of "Permanent Revolution."
Napoleon's removal of Snowball is like Stalinâ€™s removal of Leon Trotsky from power in 1927 and his subsequent expulsion and murder.
Squealer constantly changing the commandments on Napoleon's orders may refer to the constant line of adjustments to the Communist theory by the people in power. Also, his lies to animals of past events they cannot remember refers to the revision of history texts to glorify Stalin during his regime.
Squealer could possibly represent public speaker Vyachesav Molotov.
After Old Major dies, his skull is placed on display on a tree stump. Similarly, Lenin's embalmed body was put on display in Lenin's Tomb in Red Square post-mortem, where it still remains. It should also be noted that the tomb of Karl Marx is adorned by an extremely large bust of his likeness which lends more credibility to Old Major being a closer reference to Karl Marx than to Lenin. Marx's tomb is located in Highgate Cemetery, London.
The flag of Animal Farm consists of a green field with a hoof and a horn. According to the book, the green represents the fields of England, with the hoof and horn being an analog to the hammer and sickle.
When Napoleon steals Snowballâ€™s idea for a windmill, the windmill can be considered a symbol of the Soviet Five-Year Plans, a concept developed by Trotsky and adopted by Stalin, who, after banning Trotsky from the Soviet Union, claimed them to be his idea. The failure of the windmill to generate the expected creature comforts and subsequent search for saboteurs is probably a reference to accusations and a show trial against British engineers who were working on electrification projects in the USSR.
Moses the raven leaving the farm for a while and then returning is similar to the Russian Orthodox Church going underground and then being brought back to give the workers hope.
Boxer's motto, "Napoleon is always right" is synonymous with Â«Il Duce ha sempre ragioneÂ» ("Mussolini is always right"), a chant used to hail Benito Mussolini during his rule of Italy from 1922 to 1943.
During the rise of Napoleon, he ordered the collection of all the hens' eggs. In an act of defiance, the hens destroyed their eggs rather than give them to Napoleon. During Stalin's collectivization period in the early 1930s, many Ukrainian peasants burned their crops and farms rather than handing them over to the government.
Napoleon's mass executions, of which many were unfair for the alleged crimes, is similar to Stalin executing his political enemies for various crimes after they were tortured and forced to falsify confessions.
The four pigs that defy Napoleon's will are comparable with the purged party members during the Great Purge â€” Bukharin, Rykov, Zinoviev, Kamenev and many others.
Napoleon replaces the farm anthem "Beasts of England" with an inane composition by the pig poet Minimus ("Animal Farm, Animal Farm / Never through me / Shall thou come to harm"). In 1943, Stalin replaced the old national anthem "the Internationale" with "the Hymn of the Soviet Union." The old Internationale glorified the revolution and "the people." The original version of the Hymn of the Soviet Union glorified Stalin so heavily that after his death in 1953, entire sections of the anthem had to be replaced or removed. Orwell could have also been referring to Napoleon Bonaparte's banning of the French national hymn, La Marseillaise in 1799.
Napoleon works with Mr. Frederick, who eventually betrays Animal Farm and destroys the windmill. Though Animal Farm repels the human attack, many animals are wounded and killed. This is similar to Stalinâ€™s Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact with Nazi Germany in 1939, which was later betrayed in 1941 when Hitler invaded the Soviet Union. Though the Soviet Union won the war, it came at a tremendous price of roughly 8.5-15 million Soviet soldiers (unconfirmed) and many civilians, resulting in an incredible estimated 20 million dead, as well as the utter destruction of the Western Soviet Union and its prized collective farms that Stalin had created in the 1930s. The detonation of the windmill and the battle that ensued there could also be a reference to the Battle of Stalingrad. The selling of the farm's excess timber supply could represent the offering of raw materials to the United States in exchange for weapons of war under the Lend-Lease.
Napoleon changing Animal Farm back to Manor echoes the Red Armyâ€™s name change from the "Workers' and Peasants' Red Army" to the "Soviet Army" to appear as a more appealing and professional organization rather than an army of the common people.
Squealer may be an allegory of the Soviet Newspaper in which Stalin often wrote many of the articles anonymously to give the impression the country was far better off than it was.
The dogs may be an allegory to the NKVD (KGB), the elite police force who ruled by terror under Stalin's hand.
Boxer, in the allegory of the novel, directly relates to the working class who laboured under strenuous and exceedingly difficult conditions throughout the Communist regime with the hope that their work would result in a more prosperous life. Boxer represents this clearly at points when he utters such quotes as "I will work harder" in response to any sort of difficulty. In the context of the story, this also allows Boxer to become a tool of propaganda to be used by Napoleon and his regime later on once Boxer has been murdered to pay for a crate of whiskey for the pigs.
The character of Boxer could be an allusion to the financial state of Russia at the time of publication.
The term "four legs good, two legs bad" could be symbolic for the simplification of the April Theses, for workers to understand it better.
Napoleon once creates and awards himself with the Order of the Green Banner, a reference to the Soviet Union's Order of the Red Banner.
British censorship and suppressed preface
During World War II it became apparent to Orwell that anti-Russian literature was not something which most major publishing houses would touch â€” including his regular publisher Gollancz. One publisher he sought rejected his book on the grounds of government advice â€” although the assumed civil servant who gave the order was later found to be a Soviet spy.
Orwell originally prepared a preface which complains about British government suppression of his book, self-imposed British self-censorship and how the British people were suppressing criticism of the USSR, their World War II ally. "The sinister fact about literary censorship in England is that it is largely voluntary. ... [Things are] kept right out of the British press, not because the Government intervened but because of a general tacit agreement that â€˜it wouldnâ€™t doâ€™ to mention that particular fact." Somewhat ironically, the preface itself was censored and is not published with most editions of the book.
The estate of Orwell declared itself "hostile" to the publication of Snowball's Chance, a 2002 parody of Animal Farm by U.S. author John Reed.
Ling posted a review at 2007-12-29 01:33:14 for Uncle Tom's Cabin (Bantam Classics).
Uncle Tom's Cabin; or, Life Among the Lowly is an anti-slavery novel by American author Harriet Beecher Stowe. Published in 1852, the novel had a profound effect on attitudes toward African Americans and slavery in the United States, so much so in the latter case that the novel intensified the sectional conflict leading to the American Civil War.
Stowe, a Connecticut-born teacher at the Hartford Female Academy and an active abolitionist, focused the novel on the character of Uncle Tom, a long-suffering Black slave around whom the stories of other charactersâ€”both fellow slaves and slave ownersâ€”revolve. The sentimental novel depicts the cruel reality of slavery while also asserting that Christian love can overcome something as destructive as enslavement of fellow human beings.
Uncle Tom's Cabin was the best-selling novel of the 19th century (and the second best-selling book of that century, following the Bible) and is credited with helping fuel the abolitionist cause in the 1850s.In the first year after it was published, 300,000 copies of the book were sold in the United States alone. The book's impact was so great that when Abraham Lincoln met Stowe at the start of the American Civil War, Lincoln is often quoted as having declared, "So this is the little lady who made this big war.
The book, and even more the plays it inspired, also helped create a number of stereotypes about Blacks,many of which endure to this day. These include the affectionate, dark-skinned mammy; the Pickaninny stereotype of black children; and the Uncle Tom, or dutiful, long-suffering servant faithful to his white master or mistress. In recent years, the negative associations with Uncle Tom's Cabin have, to an extent, overshadowed the historical impact of the book as a "vital antislavery tool.
Sources for the novel
Stowe, a Connecticut-born teacher at the Hartford Female Academy and an active abolitionist, wrote the novel as a response to the 1850 passage of the second Fugitive Slave Act (which punished those who aided runaway slaves and diminished the rights of fugitives as well as freed Blacks). Much of the book was composed in Brunswick, Maine, where her husband, Calvin Stowe, taught at his alma mater Bowdoin College.
Stowe was partly inspired to create Uncle Tom's Cabin by the autobiography of Josiah Henson, a black man who lived and worked on a 3,700-acre (14.8 kmÂ²) tobacco plantation in North Bethesda, Maryland owned by Isaac Riley. Henson escaped slavery in 1830 by fleeing to the Province of Upper Canada (now Ontario), where he helped other fugitive slaves arrive and become self-sufficient, and where he wrote his memoirs. Harriet Beecher Stowe evidently acknowledged that Henson's writings inspired Uncle Tom's Cabin. When Stowe's book became famous, Henson republished his memoirs as The Memoirs of Uncle Tom, and traveled extensively in America and Europe. Stowe's novel lent its name to Henson's homeâ€”Uncle Tom's Cabin Historic Site, near Dresden, Ontarioâ€”which since the 1940s has been a museum. The actual cabin Henson lived in while a slave still exists in Montgomery County, Maryland.
American Slavery As It Is: Testimony of a Thousand Witnesses, a volume co-authored by Theodore Dwight Weld and the GrimkÃ© sisters, is also identified as a source of some of the material. Stowe also said she based the novel on a number of interviews with escaped slaves during the time when Stowe was living in Cincinnati, Ohio, just across the Ohio River from Kentucky, a slave state. In Cincinnati the Underground Railroad had local abolitionist sympathizers and was active in efforts to help runaway slaves on their escape route from the South.
Stowe mentioned a number of the inspirations and sources for her novel in her 1853 book A Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin. This nonfiction book was written to back up Stowe's claims about the evils of slavery.However, later research indicated that Stowe did not actually read many of the book's cited works until after the publication of her novel.
Uncle Tom's Cabin was first published as a 40-week serial in National Era, an abolitionist periodical, starting with the June 5, 1851 issue. Because of the story's popularity, publisher John Jewett contacted Stowe about turning the serial into a book. While Stowe questioned if anyone would read Uncle Tom's Cabin in book form, she eventually consented to the request.
Convinced the book would be popular, Jewett made the unusual decision (for that time) to have six fullpage illustrations by Hammatt Billings engraved for the first printing. Published in book form on March 20, 1852, the novel soon sold out its complete print run. A number of other editions were soon printed (including a deluxe edition in 1853, featuring 117 illustrations by Billings).
In the first year of publication, 300,000 copies of Uncle Tom's Cabin were sold. The book eventually became the best-selling novel in the world during the 19th century (and the second best-selling book after the Bible), with the book being translated into every major language. A number of the early editions carried an introduction by Rev James Sherman, a Congregational minister in London noted for his abolitionist views.
Uncle Tom's Cabin sold equally well in England, with the first London edition appearing in May, 1852 and selling 200,000 copies.In a few years over 1.5 million copies of the book were in circulation in England, although most of these were pirated copies (a similar situation occurred in the United States).
Uncle Tom's Cabin is dominated by a single theme: the evil and immorality of slavery. While Stowe weaves other subthemes throughout her text, such as the moral authority of motherhood and the redeeming possibilities offered by Christianity,she emphasizes the connections between these and the horrors of slavery. Stowe pushed home her theme of the immorality of slavery on almost every page of the novel, sometimes even changing the story's voice so she could give a "homily" on the destructive nature of slavery (such as when a white woman on the steamboat carrying Tom further south states, "The most dreadful part of slavery, to my mind, is its outrages of feelings and affectionsâ€”the separating of families, for example."). One way Stowe showed the evil of slavery was how this "peculiar institution" forcibly separated families from each other.
Because Stowe saw motherhood as the "ethical and structural model for all of American life, and also believed that only women had the moral authority to save the United States from the demon of slavery, another major theme of Uncle Tom's Cabin is the moral power and sanctity of women. Through characters like Eliza, who escapes from slavery to save her young son (and eventually reunites her entire family), or Little Eva, who is seen as the "ideal Christian", Stowe shows how she believed women could save those around them from even the worst injustices. While later critics have noted that Stowe's female characters are often domestic cliches instead of realistic women, Stowe's novel "reaffirmed the importance of women's influence" and helped pave the way for the women's rights movement in the following decades.
Stowe's puritanical religious beliefs show up in the novel's final, over-arching theme, which is the exploration of the nature of Christianity and how she feels Christian theology is fundamentally incompatible with slavery. This theme is most evident when Tom urges St. Clare to "look away to Jesus" after the death of St. Clare's beloved daughter Eva. After Tom dies, George Shelby eulogizes Tom by saying, "What a thing it is to be a Christian." Because Christian themes play such a large role in Uncle Tom's Cabinâ€”and because of Stowe's frequent use of direct authorial interjections on religion and faithâ€”the novel often takes the "form of a sermon."
Uncle Tom's Cabin is written in the sentimental and melodramatic style common to 19th century sentimental novels and domestic fiction (also called women's fiction). These genres were the most popular novels of Stowe's time and tended to feature female main characters and a writing style which evoked a reader's sympathy and emotion. Even though Stowe's novel differs from other sentimental novels by focusing on a large theme like slavery and by having a man as the main character, she still set out to elicit certain strong feelings from her readers (such as making them cry at the death of Little Eva). The power in this type of writing can be seen in the reaction of contemporary readers. Georgiana May, a friend of Stowe's, wrote a letter to the author stating that "I was up last night long after one o'clock, reading and finishing Uncle Tom's Cabin. I could not leave it any more than I could have left a dying child." Another reader is described as obsessing on the book at all hours and having considered renaming her daughter Eva. Evidently the death of Little Eva affected a lot of people at that time, because in 1852 alone 300 baby girls in Boston were given that name.
Despite this positive reaction from readers, for decades literary critics dismissed the style found in Uncle Tom's Cabin and other sentimental novels because these books were written by women and so prominently featured "women's sloppy emotions." One literary critic said that had the novel not been about slavery, "it would be just another sentimental novel," while another described the book as "primarily a derivative piece of hack work." George Whicher turned his nose up at the book in his Literary History of the United States by saying it was "Sunday-school fiction" and full of "broadly conceived melodrama, humor, and pathos."
However, in 1985 Jane Tompkins changed this view of Uncle Tom's Cabin with her landmark book In Sensational Designs: The Cultural Work of American Fiction. Tompkins praised the very sentimental style so many other critics had dismissed, noting that sentimental novels showed how women's emotions had the power to change the world for the better. She also said that the popular domestic novels of the 19th century, including Uncle Tom's Cabin, were remarkable for their "intellectual complexity, ambition, and resourcefulness"; and that Uncle Tom's Cabin offers a "critique of American society far more devastating than any delivered by better-known critics such as Hawthorne and Melville."
Despite this changing view of Uncle Tom's Cabin's style, because the book is written so differently from most modern novels, today's readers can find the book's prose to be dense, overdone, or "even corny."
Reactions to the novel
Uncle Tom's Cabin has exerted an influence "equaled by few other novels in history." Upon publication, Uncle Tom's Cabin ignited a firestorm of protest from defenders of slavery (who created a number of books in response to the novel) while the book elicited praise from abolitionists. As a best-seller, the novel heavily influenced later protest literature (such as The Jungle by Upton Sinclair).
Contemporary and world reaction
Immediately upon publication, Uncle Tom's Cabin outraged people in the American South. The novel was also roundly criticized by slavery supporters.
Acclaimed Southern novelist William Gilmore Simms declared the work utterly false, while others called the novel criminal and slanderous. Reactions ranged from a bookseller in Mobile, Alabama who was forced to leave town for selling the novel to threatening letters sent to Stowe herself (including a package containing a slave's severed ear). Many Southern writers, like Simms, soon wrote their own books in opposition to Stowe's novel (see the Anti-Tom section below).
Some critics highlighted Stowe's paucity of life-experience relating to Southern life, which (in their view) led her to create inaccurate descriptions of the region. For instance, she had never set foot on a Southern plantation. However, Stowe always said she based the characters of her book on stories she was told by runaway slaves in Cincinnati, Ohio, where Stowe lived. It is reported that, "She observed firsthand several incidents which galvanized her to write [the] famous anti-slavery novel. Scenes she observed on the Ohio River, including seeing a husband and wife being sold apart, as well as newspaper and magazine accounts and interviews, contributed material to the emerging plot."
In response to these criticisms, in 1853 Stowe published A Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin, an attempt to document the veracity of the novel's depiction of slavery. In the book, Stowe discusses each of the major characters in Uncle Tom's Cabin and cites "real life equivalents" to them while also mounting a more "aggressive attack on slavery in the South than the novel itself had."Like the novel, A Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin was also a best-seller. It should be noted, though, that while Stowe claimed A Key to Uncle Tom's Cabin documented her previously consulted sources, she actually read many of the cited works only after the publication of her novel.
Despite these supposed and actual flaws in Stowe's research, and despite the shrill attacks from defenders of slavery, the novel still captured the imagination of many Americans. According to Stowe's son, when Abraham Lincoln met her in 1862 Lincoln commented, "So this is the little lady who started this great war."Historians are undecided if Lincoln actually said this line, and in a letter that Stowe wrote to her husband a few hours after meeting with Lincoln no mention of this comment was made. Since then, many writers have credited this novel with focusing Northern anger at the injustices of slavery and the Fugitive Slave Law and helping to fuel the abolitionist movement. Union General and politician James Baird Weaver said that the book convinced him to become active in the abolitionist movement.
Uncle Tom's Cabin also created great interest in England. The first London edition appeared in May, 1852, and sold 200,000 copies. Some of this interest was because of British antipathy to America. As one prominent writer explained, "The evil passions which 'Uncle Tom' gratified in England were not hatred or vengeance [of slavery], but national jealousy and national vanity. We have long been smarting under the conceit of Americaâ€”we are tired of hearing her boast that she is the freest and the most enlightened country that the world has ever seen. Our clergy hate her voluntary systemâ€”our Tories hate her democratsâ€”our Whigs hate her parvenusâ€”our Radicals hate her litigiousness, her insolence, and her ambition. All parties hailed Mrs. Stowe as a revolter from the enemy."Charles Francis Adams, the American minister to Britain during the war, argued later that, "Uncle Tom's Cabin; or Life among the Lowly, published in 1852, exercised, largely from fortuitous circumstances, a more immediate, considerable and dramatic world-influence than any other book ever printed."
The book has been translated into almost every language, including Chinese (with translator Lin Shu creating the first Chinese translation of an American novel) and Amharic (with the 1930 translation created in support of Ethiopian efforts to end the suffering of blacks in that nation). The book was so widely read that Sigmund Freud reported a number of patients with sado-masochistic tendencies who he believed had been influenced by reading about the whipping of slaves in Uncle Tom's Cabin.
Literary significance and criticism
As the first widely read political novel in the United States, Uncle Tom's Cabin greatly influenced development of not only American literature but also protest literature in general. Later books which owe a large debt to Uncle Tom's Cabin include The Jungle by Upton Sinclair and Silent Spring by Rachel Carson.
Despite this undisputed significance, the popular perception of Uncle Tom's Cabin is as "a blend of children's fable and propaganda." The novel has also been dismissed by a number of literary critics as "merely a sentimental novel," while critic George Whicher stated in his Literary History of the United States that "Nothing attributable to Mrs. Stowe or her handiwork can account for the novel's enormous vogue; its author's resources as a purveyor of Sunday-school fiction were not remarkable. She had at most a ready command of broadly conceived melodrama, humor, and pathos, and of these popular cements she compounded her book."
Other critics, though, have praised the novel. Edmund Wilson stated that "To expose oneself in maturity to Uncle Tom's Cabin may â€¦ prove a startling experience." Jane Tompkins states that the novel is one of the classics of American literature and wonders if many literary critics aren't dismissing the book because it was simply too popular during its day.
Over the years scholars have postulated a number of theories about what Stowe was trying to say with the novel (aside from the obvious themes, such as condemning slavery). For example, as an ardent Christian and active abolitionist, Stowe placed many of her religion's beliefs into the novel. Some scholars have stated that Stowe saw her novel as offering a solution to the moral and political dilemma that troubled many slavery opponents: whether engaging in prohibited behavior was justified in opposing evil. Was the use of violence to oppose the violence of slavery and the breaking of proslavery laws morally defensible? Which of Stowe's characters should be emulated, the passive Uncle Tom or the defiant George Harris? Stowe's solution was similar to Ralph Waldo Emerson's: God's will would be followed if each person sincerely examined his principles and acted on them.
Scholars have also seen the novel as expressing the values and ideas of the Free Soil Movement. In this view, the character of George Harris embodies the principles of free labor, while the complex character of Ophelia represents those Northerners who condoned compromise with slavery. In contrast to Ophelia is Dinah, who operates on passion. During the course of the novel Ophelia is transformed, just as the Republican Party (3 years later) proclaimed that the North must transform itself and stand up for its antislavery principles.
Feminist theory can also be seen at play in Stowe's book, with the novel as a critique of the patriarchal nature of slavery. For Stowe, blood relations rather than paternalistic relations between masters and slaves formed the basis of families. Moreover, Stowe viewed national solidarity as an extension of a person's family, thus feelings of nationality stemmed from possessing a shared race. Consequently she advocated African colonization for freed slaves and not amalgamation into American society.
The book has also been seen as an attempt to redefine masculinity as a necessary step toward the abolition of slavery.In this view, abolitionists had begun to resist the vision of aggressive and dominant men that the conquest and colonization of the early 19th century had fostered. In order to change the notion of manhood so that men could oppose slavery without jeopardizing their self-image or their standing in society, some abolitionists drew on principles of women's suffrage and Christianity as well as passivism, and praised men for cooperation, compassion, and civic spirit. Others within the abolitionist movement argued for conventional, aggressive masculine action. All the men in Stowe's novel are representations of either one kind of man or the other.
Creation and popularization of stereotypes
In recent decades, scholars and readers have criticized the book for what are seen as condescending racist descriptions of the book's black characters, especially with regard to the characters' appearances, speech, and behavior, as well as the passive nature of Uncle Tom in accepting his fate. The novel's creation and use of common stereotypes about African Americans is important because Uncle Tom's Cabin was the best-selling novel in the world during the 19th century. As a result, the book (along with images illustrating the book and associated stage productions) had a major role in permanently ingraining these stereotypes into the American psyche.
Among the stereotypes of Blacks in Uncle Tom's Cabin are:
The "happy darky" (in the lazy, carefree character of Sam);
The light-skinned tragic mulatto as a sex object (in the characters of Eliza, Cassy, and Emmeline);
The affectionate, dark-skinned female mammy (through several characters, including Mammy, a cook at the St. Clare plantation).
The Pickaninny stereotype of black children (in the character of Topsy);
The Uncle Tom, or African American who is too eager to please white people (in the character of Uncle Tom). It should be noted, though, that Stowe intended Tom to be a "noble hero." The stereotype of him as a "subservient fool who bows down to the white man" evidently resulted from staged "Tom Shows," over which Stowe had no control.
In the last few decades these negative associations have to a large degree overshadowed the historical impact of Uncle Tom's Cabin as a "vital antislavery tool." The beginning of this change in the novel's perception had its roots in an essay by James Baldwin titled "Everybodyâ€™s Protest Novel." In the essay, Baldwin called Uncle Tomâ€™s Cabin a "very bad novel" which was also racially obtuse and aesthetically crude.
In the 1960s and '70s, the Black Power and Black Arts Movements attacked the novel, saying that the character of Uncle Tom engaged in "race betrayal," making Tom (in some eyes) worse than even the most vicious slave owner. Criticisms of the other stereotypes in the book also increased during this time.
In recent years, though, scholars such as Henry Louis Gates Jr. have begun to reexamine Uncle Tom's Cabin, stating that the book is a "central document in American race relations and a significant moral and political exploration of the character of those relations."
Main article: Anti-Tom literature
In response to Uncle Tom's Cabin, writers in the Southern United States produced a number of books to rebut Stowe's novel. This so-called Anti-Tom literature generally took a pro-slavery viewpoint, arguing that the issues of slavery as depicted in Stowe's book were overblown and incorrect. The novels in this genre tended to feature a benign white patriarchal master and a pure wife, both of whom presided over child-like slaves in a benevolent extended-family-style plantation. The novels either implied or directly stated that African Americans were a child-like people unable to live their lives without being directly overseen by white people.
Among the most famous anti-Tom books are The Sword and the Distaff by William Gilmore Simms, Aunt Phillis's Cabin by Mary Henderson Eastman, and The Planter's Northern Bride by Caroline Lee Hentz, with the last author having been a close personal friend of Stowe's when the two lived in Cincinnati. Simms' book was published a few months after Stowe's novel and it contains a number of sections and discussions disputing Stowe's book and her view of slavery. Hentz's 1854 novel, widely-read at the time, but now largely forgotten, offers a defense of slavery as seen through the eyes of a northern womanâ€”the daughter of an abolitionist, no lessâ€”who marries a southern slave owner.
In the decade between the publication of Uncle Tom's Cabin and the start of the American Civil War, between twenty and thirty anti-Tom books were published. Among these novels are two books titled Uncle Tom's Cabin As It Is (one by W.L. Smith and the other by C.H. Wiley) and a book by John Pendleton Kennedy. More than half of these Anti-Tom books were written by white women, with Simms commenting at one point about the "Seemingly poetic justice of having the Northern woman (Stowe) answered by a Southern woman."
Main article: Tom Shows
Even though Uncle Tom's Cabin was the best-selling novel of the 19th century, far more Americans of that time saw the story as a stage play or musical than read the book. Eric Lott, in his book Uncle Tomitudes: Racial Melodrama and Modes of Production, estimates that at least three million people saw these plays, ten times the book's first-year sales.
Given the lax copyright laws of the time, stage plays based on Uncle Tom's Cabinâ€”"Tom shows"â€”began to appear while the story itself was still being serialized. Stowe refused to authorize dramatization of her work because of her puritanical distrust of drama (although she did eventually go to see George Aiken's version, and, according to Francis Underwood, was "delighted" by Caroline Howard's portrayal of Topsy). Stowe's refusal left the field clear for any number of adaptations, some launched for (various) political reasons and others as simply commercial theatrical ventures.
All "Tom shows" appear to have incorporated elements of melodrama and blackface minstrelsy. These plays varied tremendously in their politicsâ€”some faithfully reflected Stowe's sentimentalized antislavery politics, while others were more moderate, or even pro-slavery. Many of the productions featured demeaning racial caricatures of Black people, while a number of productions also featured songs by Stephen Foster (including "My Old Kentucky Home," "Old Folks at Home," and "Massa's in the Cold Ground"). The best-known "Tom Shows" were those of George Aiken and H.J. Conway.
The many stage variants of Uncle Tom's Cabin "dominated northern popular cultureâ€¦ for several years" during the 19th century and the plays were still being performed in the early 20th century.
Ling posted a review at 2007-12-29 01:32:03 for Schindler's List.
Schindler's Ark is a Booker Prize winning novel (1982) by Thomas Keneally, which was later adapted into the highly successful movie Schindler's List directed by Steven Spielberg. The United States version of the book was called Schindler's List from the beginning; it was later re-issued in Commonwealth countries under that name as well.
Although Schindler's Ark is based on actual people and events, it is classified as fiction. The book tells the story of Oskar Schindler, a Nazi Party member, who turns into the unlikely hero. By the end of the war, Schindler has saved 1100 Jews from concentration camps all over Poland and Germany. While the author wrote a number of well received novels before this book, this book was monumental and every book after this was shadowed by it.
Keneally was inspired to write the book by Poldek Pfefferberg, a Holocaust survivor. After the war, Pfefferberg had tried on a number of occasions to interest the screen-writers and film-makers he met through his business in a film based on the story of Schindler and his actions in saving Polish Jews from the Nazis, arranging several interviews with Schindler for American television.
In 1980 Pfefferberg met Keneally in his shop, and, learning that he was a novelist, showed him his extensive files on Schindler. Keneally was interested, and Pfefferberg became an advisor for the book, accompanying Keneally to Poland where they visited KrakÃ³w and the sites associated with the Schindler story. Keneally dedicated Schindler's Ark to Pfefferberg: "who by zeal and persistence caused this book to be written."
After the publication of Schindler's Ark in 1982, Pfefferberg worked to persuade Steven Spielberg to film Kenneally's book, using his acquaintance with Spielberg's mother to gain access. The awarding of the Booker prize caused some controversy at the time. As the award is for the best fiction, it was debated on whether Keneally wrote fiction or was simply reporting on history.
A remarkable novel that retold the horrors of the Holoucaust, one of the worst genocide in modern history, and humanity. Highly recommended to those who love history and serves as a reminder that wars affect everyone. Parents would lose their sons, wives would lose their husbands, childrens would lose their fathers and siblings would their brothers. One would ask himself, "Is War Evil, even it is for a justified cause?"
Ling posted a review at 2007-12-29 01:29:33 for Charlotte's Web (Trophy Newbery).
Charlotte's Web is a children's book by acclaimed American author E. B. White. First published in 1952, it tells the story of a barn spider named Charlotte and her friendship with a pig named Wilbur. The book was illustrated by Garth Williams.
Publishers Weekly listed the book as the best-selling children's paperback of all time as of 2000.
This book begins when John Arable's sow gives birth to a litter of piglets, and Mr. Arable discovers one of them is a runt and decides to kill it. However, his 8 year old daughter Fern begs him to let it live. Therefore her father gives it to Fern as a pet, and she names the runt Wilbur.
Wilbur is hyperactive and always exploring new things. He lives with Fern for a few weeks and then is sold to her uncle, Homer Zuckerman. Although Fern visits him at the Zuckermans' farm as often as she can, Wilbur gets lonelier day after day. Eventually, a warm and soothing voice tells him that she is going to be his friend. The next day, he wakes up and meets his new friend: Charlotte, the gray spider. Wilbur soon becomes a member of the community of animals who live in the cellar of Zuckerman's barn.
When the old sheep in the barn cellar tells Wilbur that he is going to be killed and eaten at Christmas, he turns to Charlotte for help. Charlotte has the idea of writing words in her web extolling Wilbur's excellence (such as "SOME PIG"), reasoning that if she can make Wilbur sufficiently famous, he will not be killed. Thanks to Charlotte's efforts, Wilbur not only lives, but goes to the county fair--with Charlotte--and wins a prize.
Due to the short lifespan of spiders, Charlotte dies at the fair. Wilbur repays Charlotte by bringing home with him the sac of eggs (her "magnum opus") she had laid at the fair before dying. When Charlotte's eggs hatch at Zuckerman's farm and most of Charlotte's daughters leave to make their own lives elsewhere, three (Nellie, Arania and Joy) remain there as friends to Wilbur.
Sales and recognition
Aside from its paperback sales, Charlotte's Web is 78th on the all-time bestselling hardback book list. According to publicity for the 2006 film adaptation, the book has sold more than 45 million copies and been translated into 23 languages. It was a Newbery Honors book for 1953, losing to Secret of the Andes by Ann Nolan Clark for the medal.
In 1970, White won the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal, a major prize in the field of children's literature, for Charlotte's Web, along with his first children's book, Stuart Little, published in 1945.
An enjoyable children classical story. Good to recommend to your children.
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