The Five People You Meet In Heaven

200px-MitchAlbom_TheFivePeopleYouMeetInHeaven

Cover title from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Five_People_You_Meet_in_Heaven

In The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom, we read about the simple and mundane life of Eddie, an 83 year old maintenance man at a small amusement park on Ruby Pier. He dies during a freak accident where a ride’s cart comes off of his track. He tries to save a little girl who got near the ride before he killed, not knowing if his actions were helpful. When he gets to heaven, he finds out that he will meet five people there who will tell him why things happened the way they did in his life and teach him some important lessons. The first person he meets is a blue man who was in the sideshow that came to the pier when Eddie was young. He and his friends were playing baseball when the ball rolled into the street. Eddie ran after it, almost getting hit by a car. The car was being driven by the blue man who was just learning how to drive, and with Eddie running into the street, causes him to panic and crash the car, dying. The blue man, Eddie’s first person to meet in heaven, teaches him that everyone is connected in some way. The scene fades out and Eddie is older, in the middle of a jungle. He meets a man named Captain that was in the army when he was. Eddie relives some memories of war, like when he was shot in the knee, causing him to have issues with it for the rest of his life. Captain tells him he shot him to save him from dying in a fire and teaches him that sacrifice is a part of life. The third person who visits him, when he is again feeling older, is a woman who looks very rich. She turns out to be the namesake of the pier that Eddie works at. She married a rich man named Emile who bought the pier, which burned before Eddie was born, causing Emile great depression. Ruby teaches Eddie that holding anger against people will only do harm to yourself, regarding Eddie’s relationship with his father. The fourth person Eddie meets in heaven is the love of his life (and death), his wife Marguerite. The main thing he learns from her is that true love is very strong, considering how he loved her in life and how he yearned for her in death after she had to leave. The fifth person he meets is a young Asian girl named Tala. In the beginning of the story when Eddie is trying to save the little girl, he feels a small pair of hands in his so he is left to wonder if he saved her or if she had the same fate as he did. Tala tells him that it was really her taking him up to heaven and that the little girl is alive. However, she also tells him that she was killed (or as she says “burned”) by him during the war. He learns from her that everything you do affects someone or something. At the end of the story, Eddie is waiting in the amusement park to be another person’s one of five people that they meet in heaven.

This book really taught me the same lessons it taught Eddie. All the lessons he learns are basic, but they are something that we can take away from and think about. However, I don’t really understand why he was taught these simple lessons after he died, although the stories that go with him (like his father’s death) were easier to see why he couldn’t know that at the time it happened. Overall, it was an easy read that taught very good lessons and I really enjoyed it.

The Crucible (Part Two)

Have you ever been accused of something you didn’t do? Whether it be stealing cookies that were meant to be eaten after supper, or a murder that you didn’t commit, some day or another we will all be accused of something. And who knows, it may be true! In The Crucible, over ninety people are accused of witchcraft by a few young girls who just want to have a little fun, but don’t realize what their actions have caused. Yesterday, I talked about how this play reminds me of autumn and the eerie time around fall that I get. But this play also shows me how twisted some humans can be. When prominent men in society believe in the lies and pretendings of little girls, that’s when you know you’ve messed up. In the latter part of The Crucible, especially the third act, the whole plot line is of the trial where the judge brings up the accused and the accusers and lets them tell their side of the story. An interesting part would be the end of act three when Abigail says she sees a yellow bird up in the rafters, intent on attacking her. Coincidently, she is the only one who can see said bird. The court is dismissed as is act three. In the beginning of act four, we come to find out that Abigail and Mercy Lewis are missing, thought to be on a ship, taking her uncle’s money with her. We also learned earlier that Elizabeth Proctor is pregnant, which saved her from being hung. Her husband John, was accused by the girls, sort of as a payback for him telling the court about the affair he had with Abigail, of witchcraft and is sentenced to hang the next morning. Giles Corey, another one of the accused, has been pressed to death by big rocks. Early that morning, three people, including Proctor, are led to the gallows to be hanged.

The play is just astounding. What one accusation can lead to and the troubles it can cause is so good for us to learn about, even outside of the Salem Witch trials and just in general. If you read this book and learn one thing from it, let it be to not accuse someone until you have provable facts and do it in a polite and orderly manner. Don’t follow the examples of those young girls, who were childish and irresponsible, and cause harm and sadness to people who don’t deserve it. On a lighter note, I have the newest version of the movie adaptation in my queue on Netflix and I cannot wait to watch it! Happy reading everyone.

The Crucible (Part One)

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Picture from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Crucible

Fall is here again, and that means in October, television channels will start playing scary movies and people will pick up novels that tend to chill the spine. Halloween has always intrigued me because I love scary movies and I just enjoy that eerie vibe that is always around during this time of the year. The Crucible by Arthur Miller is a play that is historical based on the Salem Witch trials in 1692. Being a history buff, this story catches my attention and I have always been interested in this part of American history where everyone was superstitious and so quick to accuse another. Starting American History this year and going over the pilgrims and the Salem Witch trials in particular, just gives me that vague feeling of autumn and the things that come with the season.

The meaning of the word “crucible” normally is associated with metallurgy and the type of vessel made. Another meaning is “a severe, searching test or trial”. This is where we get the title of The Crucible because many people were tried for witchcraft but fewer people were hanged. In this play, the first scene starts out by the reader learning about the events that have previously gone on prior to the accusations of witchcraft. A young girl, the niece of Reverend Parris, Abigail Williams and her cousin Betty Parris, and some servant girls, Mercy Lewis and Mary Warren, have been involved in or seen some sort of witchcraft taking place with the family maid, Tituba. We learn later on in act one that Betty and the girls were dancing and there was some kind of charm going on that we perceive as being asked upon Tituba by Abigail. Abigail is a sly young girl, who is very cunning and overall not very nice or well-liked. While she is only seventeen, she tries to seduce John Proctor, a married man, and we later learn she has had an affair with him. In the beginning of act one, Betty Parris is in a coma, not thought to ever wake up. The Reverend goes down to his congregation in the parlor of his house to tell them what has happened, with everyone  thinking the whole situation is one of witchcraft. They question Tituba asking if she summoned the Devil and Abigail and Betty admit that they saw many women of the town with the Devil. The accusations and later, deaths, of nineteen men and women come from two little girls.

I think this whole event in history is just fascinating because it was a time when America was still in the stages of foundation and people were getting used to a new life in new settlements. Most of the accusations, historically, were made by poorer girls of society on the wealthy. They took out their anger on them, causing deaths and sadness to the families of the victims. What also surprises me is that the people of Salem, Massachusetts were so quick to judge people from the lies of little children. To me, they should have had the common sense to determine what these girls were saying was a lie, like the boy who cried wolf. However entrancing this story is, it’s always good to remember that it’s not actually a story: it is historical fiction based on something that really happened, which can be shocking and astounding. Learning about history, especially when it comes to the history of your country, can be beneficial when it comes to not making the same mistakes that the people of the past did before us.

Cat’s Cradle (Part Two)/Why I’ve Given up on Vonnegut

Kurt Vonnegut, I really wanted to like you. I read Player Piano and just became confused. I decided to give you a second chance so I read Slaughterhouse-Five which just left me feeling dazed and lost, like a kid who can’t find their mom in the grocery store- you left me panicked and confused, Kurt! But I am a woman of forgiveness so I let you have one last shot to woo me. And what do you know, you have left me down again. Kurt Vonnegut, I haven’t even finished reading Cat’s Cradle but I know that it will leave me with the same feeling that your previous books have given me. You may beg on your knees for another chance but I am not going to go back. You have disappointed me and I don’t think this relationship between us is going anyway. In short, I’m moving on to bigger and better things. I know it hurts to hear this and you might be thinking I could’ve given you another chance, you could of tried harder. I’m sure the toughest thing to hear right now would be the truth: it’s not me, it’s you. You like violence too much and you’re sarcasm is hard for me to decipher (only because I’m severely gullible). I will finish your book, and I will take the time to read the pages carefully, but I won’t be the one missing out, Kurt Vonnegut. I tried so hard to love you and you have let me down.

The Importance of Being Earnest

In one of my AP classes we have to do an author study on a person who wrote influential and renowned essays during a certain time period. I chose Oscar Wilde, meaning I have to read his works of nonfiction and in two weeks, become a semi-expert of his style and tone. The only problem with this project is that my teacher’s copy of all of his essays in one book was stolen and our school library only has A Picture of Dorian Gray and The Importance of Being Earnest. I picked the latter to read first because it was the only book by Oscar Wilde in the nonfiction section (sorry library, a play isn’t nonfiction) and the novel would take too long to read for the amount of time (and the mountain of homework) that I have. The Importance of Being Earnest is only 60 pages long, but it packs in a comical and confusing tale about friendship and marriage. In it’s short three acts, you learn the story of John ‘Jack’ Worthing, and his friend Algernon Moncrieff. Jack has visited his friend’s house with the intention of proposing to Gwendolen Fairfax, Algernon’s cousin. At the same time, Algernon is in love with Jack’s adopted father’s granddaughter, who he now takes care of. She resides in Jack’s country home, where he goes by the name of Jack (using the name Ernest in the city), saying he has a younger brother named Ernest in London. Jack has never known his birth parents, he was found in a handbag on a train by his now adopted father. This is one of the factors that Lady Bracknell takes into consideration when she denies consent for Jack to marry her daughter Gwendolen. Algernon ends up going to Jack’s country home unannounced, professing his love for Cecily, Jack’s ward. He has also taken up the name Ernest, so Cecily thinks it is her ‘uncle’s’ black sheep brother. Gwendolen visits and chats with Cecily and they both find out the men they are engaged to go by the name of Ernest, which makes them think they are engaged to the same man. Jack arrives in mourning clothes, saying his brother Ernest has died. Algernon also shows up and the women question the two men. They get their stories straightened out and the situation is calmed. The next day, Jack finds out some things about his past: Lady Bracknell reveals that he and Algernon are brothers and Jack was named after his father, but she can’t recall the name. Jack looks in the Army Lists of the time his father was enlisted, discovering his name was John Ernest. This makes him happy because he was named after his father. In the end, the couples are with their rightful significant others and the whole ordeal is solved, and Jack has learned a lesson on the importance of being earnest.

If I were to compare this to another work of literature out there, it would have to be Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare. In this particular play, the relationships are hard to keep track of and you really have to pay attention to who is playing who and what is going on. In The Importance of Being Earnest, Jack and Algernon are in a way telling some white lies about who they really are. This ties into the end where Jack actually learns the truth about who he is saying, “Gwendolen, it’s a terrible thing for a man to find out suddenly that all his life he has been speaking nothing but the truth.” This was a quote that I really had to stop and think about. To tell the truth without even knowing it to me would just be a correct assumption, but I’d like to hear some other input on this particular quote. To be earnest is to be serious in intention, purpose, or effort. At the very end of the play, Jack realizes the vital importance of being earnest in everything he does, whether it be maintaining his identity, proposing to the woman he loves, or telling the truth, even if he doesn’t know it yet.

Cat’s Cradle (Part One)

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Image from: Cat’s Cradle, Wikipedia.com

Kurt Vonnegut is not for the simple-minded reader. He overlaps recurring themes in his novels and you really have to read critically to understand what point he is trying to get across. In the first few chapters of Cat’s Cradle, Vonnegut reintroduces Ilium, New York. For those who have read Player Piano, Ilium is a major city with two sides to it: the humans and the machines. The narrator, Jonah, is writing a letter to the son of the man who created the atomic bomb. As also seen in previous Vonnegut novels, the setting of wartime is one that he hardly deviates from. In Slaughterhouse-Five, Billy is in the midst of the bombs at Dresden. In Player PIano, the humans are planning to rebel and war against the machines. Since most of his novels were written during the time of war, you can see where he gets his inspiration from. Within the first few chapters, we learn a little about Jonah, and his conversion to a made-up religion called Bokononism. We learn that this religion is made up of people being told lies and then being told that it is the truth, kind of like a bunch of beautiful lies that they blindly believe, like in 1984 by George Orwell, when people are convinced that 2+2=5. Although this is false, the people still accept it to be true and harmless. Each Bokononist’s life intertwines with others, and this group is called a karass. Also in the first few chapters, we learn about the man who created the atomic bomb and the son’s experience the day it was dropped. He was six years old so he only really remembers what others have told him about it. He remembers his father playing with some string, creating a cat’s cradle, hence the title. I don’t yet know the significance of this string game yet, and I probably never will due to the fact that Vonnegut’s writing can sometimes be hard to understand. In the story, on the day the bomb drops, Felix Hoenikker is in his office playing with the string. His son, Newton is playing with his toys. Felix runs over and shows his son the cat’s cradle and tries to play and sing with him. Newton finds this strange, as his father has hardly ever shown an interest in him, and he ends up hurting his father’s feelings. Vonnegut has always had a flair for satirical works, making dark things look humorous, making it sometimes difficult to sense the sarcasm or sensitivity to certain things in his books. be on the lookout for Part 2 of Cat’s Cradle coming in the next day or two!

She’s All That (Part Two)

Oh Kristin Billerbeck, this novel is just too cliché for words, unless there’s some cliché that could be used to describe it. What you have written for me to read is like something (or many things) I’ve read before. In the second half of She’s All That, our main character Lilly Jacobs, is torn between three men: Nate, her neighbor that kissed her by surprise and then completely friend zoned her afterwords, Stuart, the dashingly charming Brit that she met at a church meeting, and Max, her grandmother’s helper, who watches TV for a living. This story is full of redundancy, from Lilly’s obsession Lysol to the stench of Nate’s dog’s infected ear. We get the point!! End rant. In all seriousness, this book is entirely lackadaisical. There could of been so many aspects to the story that if worked on, could have flourished but I read this book feeling relieved to put it down every time I had to take a break. Nothing got me excited, like a book should, nothing toyed with my emotions. Lilly does end up getting her fashion business up and running but with Morgan’s fiancé dying and fashion week to prepare for, she is pressed for time. This all happens in less than a week which makes the ending feel very rushed. Morgan ends up running away during the middle if the fashion show with her ‘long-lost’ love, Andy. Lilly ends up with Max, who loves her crazy hair just the way it is, and probably her obsession with Lysol, too. Overall, not my favorite book. It was too cliché and it was one of those stories you’ve read a million times. However, I would recommend this book to those who like stories that are similar to this one.