Wednesday, 20 November 2013

GINS: Connections to Economic Systems & Scarcity

Paradise of the Blind: Connections to Economic Systems

Novel Written By: Duong Thu Huong
“Paradise of the Blind” clearly portrays the ignorant oblivion that the citizens of Vietnam have been living in for approximately the past century. This novel, written by Duong Thu Huong, explores the life of a young woman named Hang and her obligated, filial responsibilities to her family and the government. Through this post we’ll look at Vietnam’s economic situations and how it’s applicable to the public good and the roles that scarcity has on an economic system.
Although communism is a more specific societal structure, it is basically another word for a planned economy. In regards to economic wellbeing, the government plays the central, authoritative role in maintaining a strict, regulated control on how business must be conducted. This then leads to no competition and no fluctuations in pricing or marketing. However, scarcity is an element that exists in all types of economies, due to the fact that every economy relies on land (resources and materials), labour (population for production), and capital (money). The limitations of each of these factors are evident through the living conditions present in “Paradise of the Blind.” As demonstrated in multiple situations, Hang and her mother struggle to meet their necessities in order to survive, which results from the lack of income. What is important to note, however, is the versions of scarcity present in “Paradise of the Blind,” which represents third world countries, and in modern, first world countries. When compared, the production of goods are completely different due to the nature of steps that must be taken in order to obtain the product. For example, Hang’s mother makes her profit from crafting the goods herself or by obtaining them from a local source, and then selling to consumers. However, in the modern, first world country, products must be obtained through exports and imports from various international locations. This may also be due to the geographic and economic conditions, as well as values, that are present within each society. The differences in these aspects influence an individual’s diet, traditions, and consumer choices, which then lead to differing consumer identities of people belonging to either society.
A highly regulated economy may appear to be beneficial, since the welfare of all citizens is taken care of, but in some ways, disadvantaged in other regards as the productivity of the country is restricted due to the lack of the ‘survival of the fittest’ concept. However, Duong Thu Huong does not explore the economic impacts of a communist structure, but instead, focuses upon the social effects.

Communism supports the values of everyone being equal and focuses on the need to abolish the social classes. The government has a central role in everything, including eliminating economic inequalities to ensure the wellbeing of individuals. As well, the government of a planned or communist economy will have the main responsibility of decision making that will be best suited for the public good. In 1953, civilians of Vietnam undertook a process of losing renowned land to the government. As a punishment for going against the ideology of communism these individuals were to be tried and punished in front of the entire village. The land was then distributed to all of the citizens, showcasing the equality amongst the people.This was a strategic action implemented to effectively reinforce uniformity, and thus, eliminate the societal hierarchies that existed. This lead to the lack of differentiating factors between the rich and poor. In fact, Uncle Chinh, a character in “Paradise of the Blind,” declares, “The entire family are landlords, the mortal enemies of the peasantry. These are exactly the people we must denounce and punish.” Uncle Chinh’s quotation illustrates how strongly some people of the time believed in communism, and more specifically, shows how far people were willing to go in order to uphold the values of communism.


Friday, 15 November 2013

GINS Round Table #2: National Profile Questions

Hey Guys!

This is our 2nd roundtable on the GINS. We have Lauren L, Maitri, Logan K, Ivan, and Liam joining us today. We will be talking about the National Profiles and the types of research we found along the way.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

GINS Round Table #1: October 28th, 2013

Hi Guys!

We have just created our first round table on the Global Issues Novel Studies. We have Reuben, Paul, Maitri, and myself who will be talking about the different novels we have started.

Paul is reading "God Grew Tired of Us," Rueben is reading "Chanda's Secret," Maitri is reading, "My Forbidden Face," and I am reading, "Paradise of the Blind". We hope you enjoy! :D

Friday, 25 October 2013

Paradise of the Blind: GINS Novel Study: October 23, 2013

Paradise of the Blind:

GINS Novel Study:

October 23, 2013

Hey Guys!

My teachers have just created a new project called the "Global Issues Novel Study". My posts will be more frequent for the next couple of weeks and should be based around the book, Paradise of the Blind by Huong Thu Duong. I have recently read 20% of the novel, 58 pgs, and will be talking about the characters introduced, the issues discussed, and the reasons I chose this novel, ect.

Paradise of the Blind takes place in Vietnam, a beautiful country surrounded by China, Cambodia, and Laos.  Throughout the novel the life of a young girl, Hang, is explored as we discover her past and the mysterious disappearance of her father. We explore her future and the oddities of her Aunt Tam; who is fighting for Hang's future. The beauty of Vietnam is discovered and it's rich culture is unveiled through this exquisite novel written by Huong Thu Duong.

Why I Chose This Novel:
The main reason why I chose this novel was due to my background. I, too, am a Vietnamese person and I chose this book in hopes of better understanding my heritage. I wanted to explore the rich history of Vietnam from another individual's eyes. Although my parents went through many hardships and experienced many of these events, they often protect me from tragedies of their countries' past. My initial interest first began when I read the author's note. Duong explains the cultures and traditions of the Vietnamese to be indescribable, and the only way to fully understand it is to live/experience it. An example of this would be the golden rule of respecting elders. For "outsiders" the mere thought is an obvious and a must, but to follow this moral and ethic under the Vietnamese views is impossible to explain in English. A great upside to this novel study is the fact that I understand the culture. The traditions that she discusses are some in which I live in everyday. Although my circumstances aren't nearly as harsh as those in Vietnam; I understand the expectations that an individual must fulfill in hopes of pleasing their family and the undermining eyes of the society around them. Throughout the novel I hope to expand and better understand this idea and see the perspective of someone from the past.

The Main Issue Being Addressed:
I would say that there are many issues being discussed throughout the book but the main one that Duong focuses on is the roles that tradition plays in ones' lifestyle. Although she puts some attention on the social make-up of Vietnam, we see that Duong continues to bring her thoughts back to this larger idea. On pg. 37, this idea of culture and respect is tested. "He pushed the glass to my lips. I felt uneasy, but out of respect I swallowed a mouthful."From this quote, we see how the expectations of the society influence an individual's choices. In this scenario, Hang was "forced" to drink the alcohol out of pure "respect". Through out this novel I think Duong will make sure to explore a series of issues, that aren't only related to the religion of the Vietnamese, but also the social structure, and the gender roles that circulate through the lives of the citizens.

What Background Knowledge Do You Already Possess on the Novel:
As I have briefly explained in the beginning, I am a Vietnamese person. I know some of the basic ideas of the tradition, the food, and the social structure that is made up within Vietnam however if I were to choose the one that I best understand it would have to be the cultures and ethics that the Vietnamese hold.

Earlier I mentioned the idea of "respecting elders" and the importance that it plays in Vietnamese society. It determines your first impression, and if done wrongly it could brand you for years. Although there are many who refer to this rule as a moral; I would like to differ. When you have lived in a Vietnamese society and coexisted with the true citizens of Vietnam, you will understand that elders have the say and that their word is law. Your answer must always be a "yes" and there shouldn't never be a thought of "no". From the few perspectives that are reading this post, there will be many who question these ideas and the thoughts in which I am sharing, however as Duong explains herself, "the Vietnamese language, with it's myriad ways of expressing respect for age, and social class is impossible to translate in English." Pg. 9.

As my reading continues I hope to share with you more ideas on the tradition of the Vietnamese and to open your eyes to the distinct culture that belongs to the Vietnamese.

  1. Why don't Hang and her mother live together?
  2. What importance or relationship does Hang and her uncle have?
  3. Why does Hang have such resentful feelings towards her uncle?
  • Is this a true story?
  • How did the author feel when crafting this story?What kind of personal connection does she have with this novel?
    • What were the difficulties in publishing this book? What were her parents' views? 
    • Did she face any of the same troubles that were inflicted upon Hang?
Characters/ Players Recently Introduced:

Characters with Larger Influences in the Novel:

  1. Hang: Protagonists and Main Character  --> Introduced from Pg. 11
  2. Que (Hang's Mother) --> Introduced from Pg. 17
  3. Ton (Hang's Father) ---> Introduced from Pg. 19
  4. Uncle Chinh (Hang's Mother's Older Brother) ---> Introduced Pg. 12
  5. Aunt Tam (Hang's Father's Older Sister)  --> Introduced from Pg. 23
Minor/ Supporting Characters in the Novel:

  1. Madame Vera  --> Introduced from Pg.11
  2. Hang's Roomate  --> Introduced from Pg.13
  3. Grandma Nhieu (Hang's Father's Mother) ---> Introduced from Pg.16
  4. Little Thu  ---> Introduced from Pg. 43
As a whole, the novel is centred around the perspective of Hang, the protagonists. Throughout the novel we should be able to explore her interactions with her mother, her Uncle Chinh, her Aunt Tam, and some other minor characters that have had a role on her life. As we reach nearer to the end of the book, I think Hang will begin to grow more dynamic and develop a different mindset that helps her escape the stereotypical thoughts of the Vietnamese citizens and branch out into an independent and successful women.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Litspiration Challenge #3 - Angelfall Bracelets

Angelfall: Litspiration Challenge

The main reason why I chose this activity as my litspiration challenge was because of the major role that the angel wings have throughout the novel, Angelfall. Even by sparing a glance at the cover we are able to see that the main focal point is directly on the severed angel wings. Throughout the book there were many instances where Raffe and Penryn connect. An example of this would be on pg. 82. "He puts his hands below my feet, supporting and pushing me up until I'm securely on the brach. [I try to find a branch and] lower it to him to help him climb up. But before I can do anything he breaks off running.""Did he run to distract the dogs so I could be safe? Did he do it to protect me?". This one quote shows the evolving feeling that is starting to surface between the two. The one thing that really changes their connection, however, is the rules of the angels and the values of each character. Ee has developed both characters to be independent and strong; they rely only on themselves and they each hold heavy responsibilities. For Penryn this would mean her lunatic and crazy mother and her disabled, younger sister; and for Raffe this would mean his duties to the aerie. After crossing each others' paths, both strong-willed individuals are forced to depend on one another. A huge factor in this working relationship existed solely through the angel wings. Without the threats and blackmails that were originally conceived, the 2 characters would have parted long before they'd be able to grow a relationship. The connection between these two characters are dynamic and unique. Unlike most clique books, Penryn and Raffe show their emotions through their cold words and silent actions. A great example of this would be on pg. 182; "He shuts his eyes off from mine, [and whispers, I don't even like you". In this chapter we see the emotions stirring within one another. There have been many incidents where Raffe tries to distance himself away from Penryn due to the consequences of their forbidden love.

As well, one of the other reasons why I wanted to make "couple bracelets" was due to the ending of the novel. ""SPOILER ALERT**. "My sister is with us. Raffe is flying. Everything else is secondary. And for now, that is enough."(283) Although we learn that the two are separated, there will be everlasting memories that they share. I think that this physical object would help symbolize their relationship and the feelings that they have grown for one another.

Some of the things I considered/ Intentional choices:

1.) Materials (Hex Nuts+ Type of String):
When considering my materials I took into account the choices that Ee made with the setting and the overall living conditions that the civilians face. "The streets are deserted except for empty cars parked in every lane. The dying light washes the concrete and steel with graying echoes of colour." This description on pg. 3, shows the devastation and the lack of hope that the humans are facing. Even meagre amounts of foods such as energy bars are valued and are able to bring excitement and joy to the ones consuming it; "All our faces relax in relied as we bite into the crispy bar. Sugar and chocolate! Calories and vitamins."(6) As well, I focused my materials to be ones that were accessible in an office building. Through pages 22 to 51, Penryn and Raffe get to know each other and their basic interactions start to form. I thought this particular section of the book was really crucial to the development of their relationship because it was a part of their first impression. Ee talks about Penryn's feelings towards Raffe and the resentment that she feels; however as we begin to delve deeper into the novel we see her emotions evolve into lust and longing.

I thought that the string and hex nuts could've been found anywhere in the office building; making the materials easy for Penryn to craft. If I were to write this story I would've made a trinket, such as this one, to give to both characters. This object would become a reminder of their promises and connection that has evolved over the span of the novel and at the end, it would be a small piece of their journey.

1.) Angel Wings
I chose silver angel wings as opposed to gold ones due to the description of Raffe. On pg. 10 Penryn describes Raffe as "[the angel] with snowy white wings and light caramel skin". I thought that silver would better portray this image and make the relationship between the two seem more meaningful and realistic. For more information on the overall product, please look above at my first paragraph.

Monday, 30 September 2013

The Whale Story

Hello Everybody!

It has been a while since I've posted my latest blog entry however I have an exciting, post to share with you. Over this past week my class and I have gone to a Marine Biology centre in Vancouver. While we were there we were able to experience and learn about many marine animals and the ecosystem. One of the language arts assignment included reading 2 short stories, one being an excerpt from the short novel, Whale Story and another being the short story, The Sea Devil.

Whale Story:
By: Cheryl Kaye Tardif

While I was reading Whale Story a lot of my initial reactions were surrounded around the build-up of the protagonist, Sarah. As I first set eyes on to the page, I was unable to connect with the character's feelings. In many instances Sarah would often whine about things not going her way; an example of this would be, "I let out an angry huff and flopped onto my back, I don't want an adventure [Sarah said]." Through this example we can see that Sarah is a bit closed-minded and she must have things done her way. Although I sympathized for her sudden move and need of new friendships I found that the author dragged on this characteristic of stubbornness;  making my first interpretation of the protagonist to be a lot different from what I would've hoped. The theme in which, Tardif, is communicating is the importance of rules. In the excerpt that we read the author emphasizes on the importance of following rules. An instance where she introduces this idea is where Sarah's father forewarns her about swimming out beyond the raft. At the end of the excerpt we see Sarah looking out beyond the waters towards Fallen Island. This is when she meets a mysterious stranger...

As I was reading this, in the Rix building, I was able to overlook the sea. I think the message had a much deeper meaning since I was in an environment where this applied directly to the safety concerns. As well, I think that the space that I was in surely enhanced the quality of the excerpt due to my ability to better imagine the scene.

The Sea Devil
By: Arthur Gordan

When I was reading The Sea Devil I had a lot of questions about the protagonist. The author, Arthur Gordan, clearly made influential choices when writing his piece; one was to give no name to the main character. The protagonist in the short story was described in a very vague fashion, although we knew some of his hobbies and like we knew nothing of his background, family, or even his name. I believe that Gordan made this decision to help keep his reader's attention on the events that were occurring. A piece of foreshadow that was made, was when the protagonist's flashback of a porpoise in need. I think that the theme of this piece is that nature is equivalent to humans. Throughout the short story the author build up this message. There were often times where the protagonists would think something along these lines. In the end, he ties off the story by saying, "He knew one thing. He knew he would do no more casting alone at night. Not in the dark of the moon. No, not he."

Overall I think that the short story was enhanced by the surroundings that were around me. While I was looking out towards the sea I could clearly envision the scenes that the author tried to depict in the reader's mind. I could practically imagine and feel the actions that the man must've gone through. As the story ended, the air seemed to hang with a feeling of mystery and suspense.

Friday, 30 August 2013

Books I Read Over the Summer

  1. The Impossibility of Tomorrow by Avery Williams
  2. Before I Go To Sleep by S. J. Watson

The Impossibility of Tomorrow:

By: Avery Williams

The "Impossibility of Tomorrow" was a great summer book because it really focused on the idea of immortality. I as an individual have always been curious about life and how it works, so the idea of living forever was absolutely thrilling. Although there were parts of the book that were quite clique, I thought that the reader did a great job of her character development and sentence structure. The main character, Seraphina, is immortal due to her past love, Cyrus, an alchemist. Alchemists are very similar to chemist however they tend to olden day work such as elixirs and potions. After centuries of life, Seraphina is ready to welcome death as a friend. The day before her "exchanging" she comes up with a plan to escape the clutches of her Cyrus, and die. But right before she prepares herself, she accidentally takes a life of another and finds that life is worth living after all.

Before I Go to Sleep:

By: S. J. Watson

"Before I Go To Sleep" fell under the category of mystery and thrill. The main character, Christina, has an illness. 15 years ago, she experienced a tragic accident; every day when she wakes up she loses her memory and her husband, Ben, must explain to her who she is and what happened. 

I thoroughly enjoyed this novel because it created such a strong air of mystery that I wasn't able to predict what happened next. The book constantly kept me on the edge of my seat, although there were a couple pages that I had to skip... As you continue to read this book, you are able to strongly connect with Christina and her pain and confusion. Watson did an exquisite job at developing her characters and creating a special bond between the reader and the novel. I would definitely recommend this to anyone who loves a book that is impossible to put down.

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Books to Read Over the Summer :)

My To Read List:

  • The Mortal Instruments Series by Cassandra Clare
  • Clockwork Angel Series by Cassandra Clare
  • Vampire Academy Series
  • The House of Hades by Rick Riordan
  • The Host by Stephanie Meyer
  • Hush, Hush Series by Becca Fitzpatrick
  • Night World Series by L.J. Smith
  • The Selection Series by Kiera Cass
  • My Name is Rapunzel by K.C. Hilton
Comment below for any suggestions or comments that you may have :)


Sunday, 12 May 2013

The House of Scorpion: Theme

The House of the Scorpion: THEME

Written By: Heather Ngo
Novel By: Nancy Farmer

The theme of The House of the Scorpion is the difficulties and hardships an individual must overcome to develop and grow; internally and physically.

Throughout the novel we see that Matt is faced with both hardships and obstacles. Matt has one central obstacle that courses through the entire novel and blocks his every move; this being a clone. In the society that Matt lives in they strongly and firmly attests the production of clones and believe that they are "beast" (Farmer, 34) and "monsters" (Farmer, 44).

Over the years that Matt had been staying at the Alacran Estate, he had to endure the taunts and the words that hit like gunshots. Everything from "pig"(Farmer, 104), "beast" (Farmer, 37), monster (Farmer, 44), and "evil-tempered animal" (Farmer, 43) was used to describe Matt, yet this fuelled him to do the impossible and leap out of the grasps of the antagonist, El Patron. Matt has certainly faced much more than any average kid should however we should never forget the loyalty of Matt's loved ones and friends. Tam Lin, Celia, and Maria were able to lend him a shoulder whenever he needed it and also prepared him for success throughout the story.

On a smaller scale, this pushed Matt to prove himself worthy and better himself in every way possible, whether it being educational or simply hobby based. Farmer was not only able to spread this universal truth to her readers by using the protagonist but she was also able to do so using the other characters in the novel such as El Patron.

When El Patron was young, he was struck with the reality of being poor and was isolated in a small, poor town called Durango. Durango as El Patron has described it, had a "stream that roared with water two months of the year and was as dry as a bone the rest of the time." (Farmer, 58). "[He] was poor [to the point] that [he] didn't have two pesos to rub together" (Farmer, 101). On top of that all, El Patron lost his family at an early age."My little sisters caught typhoid at that feast. The died in the same hour. They were so small, they couldn't look over the windowsill -- no, not even if they stood on tiptoe. During the following years each of my five brothers died; two drowned, one had a burst appendix, and we had no money for the doctor. The last two brothers were beaten to death by the police. There were eight of us, and only I lived to grow up." (Farmer, 101) We see that El Patron was faced with a lot of hardships and burdens from a young age however by pushing through it all, he was able to achieve his dream and became a power drug lord in Opium. Although his devastating past still haunts him today, he is able to overcome those "obstacles" that held him back and is still able to persevere towards a better future for himself. "He was as skinny as a coyote , with not even two pesos to rub together, but he was filled with a burning desire to survive." -Matt's Thoughts on El Patron's Past

This quote shows us that although El Patron is an evil figure in the House of the Scorpion, and was ultimately trying to harm Matt, he was still able to recognize El Patron's pasts and the man's efforts. I think this realization and recognition helped Matt to get past the rough patches in his life and finally acquire his dream of running Opium.

Overall we can certainly see that Farmer did a great job at getting her universal truth across to her readers and was able to show us not only the theme but the importance of it as it coursed throughout the novel.

The House of Scorpion: Setting

The House of Scorpion: Setting

Witten By: Heather Ngo

Novel By: Nancy Farmer

The House of the Scorpion presumably takes places in a location in Central America; the land stretches from the border of the United States of America to the mid section of Mexico. We are able to draw inferences that this is the main location where all events take place because of a few supporting details that Farmer has given us. El Patron states that Atzlan was once known as Mexico and he even gives us a bit of historical information on the setting.

As we get specifically into our scene settings, we are introduced to four major places that have had huge impacts on Matt's life; Celia's house, The Big House (Alacran Estate), and Matt's prison cell.
Celia's home is a scene setting that has great influence over Matt and his actions because it was the very foundation that determined his values, beliefs, and overall thoughts and actions. As the novel courses on, a great question arises as to nature over nurture and we can strongly see that Celia's house is one of those significant places that taught him his morals and his manners. Farmer was able to use Celia's house as a key to the success in Matt's progress throughout the novel and was able to show her readers the true difference between himself and El Patron. Although one of the purposes of Celia's home was to keep Matt safe, "[he was often] swept with such an intense feeling of desolation that he thought he would die." (Farmer, 9) I think Farmer decided to create this scene setting to show the readers that nurture really does win over nature and it is also meant to show us the younger, human side of Matt. Celia's home was one of those havens that Matt could depend on and it was also a place where he was free from the burden of being a clone. Later on he is faced with the prospect of new surroundings that take it's toll on his character and his future choices.

The first time Matt encountered the Big House was when he was being carried up "a flight of wide, marble steps that shone softly in the darkening air. On either side were orange trees, and all at once lamps went on among the leaves. Lights outlined the white walls of a vast house above, with pillars and statues and doorways going who knew where. In the centre of an arch was the carved outline of a scorpion." (Farmer, 20-21) The Big House was a major scene setting that ran throughout the course of the majority of the novel. In this one place, Matt was faced with various hardships. In many situations, Matt was taunted and bullied frequently about being a clone and a beast. Although this occurred, Matt was able to take this into account and use it as fuel to push himself to gain respect and success in the story. Along the way, Matt also encountered a variety of minor characters that was able to pass down wisdom, encouragement, and inspiration for Matt. They were a beacon of hope and pushed Matt to do his best and tried to set him up for success.

Overall, Farmer was able to create a vivid image of the scene settings and was able to create clear, crisps descriptions of each place that had a great influence over Matt. Farmer is truly an exceptional writer as she demonstrates her expert use of the aspect time by using the protagonist's age. The novel, The House of the Scorpion is partially shaped as a personal journal and allows for her readers to connect with Matt as a whole by acknowledging his age and sympathizing for his life story.

The House of the Scorpion: Narrative Structure

The House of the Scorpion: Narrative Structure

Written By: Heather Ngo

Novel By: Nancy Farmer

The House of the Scorpion was truly a brilliant novel because of the changing and rocky narrative structure. The novel was shaped on various mini climaxes that eventually led to the main picture and goal of Matt. Farmer uses hints, similes, and metaphors to help her readers understand the true purpose of Matt and his importance to the antagonist. To say that this novel was "good" is definitely an understatement and Farmer makes sure that the importance of all events is recognized and pertain to the protagonist, Matt.

1.) Exposition:
I believe that the exposition first began when he saw the 3 children, Emilia, Steven, and Maria. At this point in the story, Matt is first exposed to a brand new beginning and is now open to the environment of new possibilities. From this moment, Matt's life changed and was one of the only times where he started to experience hardships and difficulties, this was also one of the last moments before Matt was known to be a clone. When Matt first encountered these "children", the only thought that came to his head was the pure joy of meeting them and having someone to play with. After many years of isolation and desolation he was faced with human faces that belong to someone other than Celia. "Matt was swept with such an intense of feeling of desolation he thought he would dies. He hugged himself to keep from screaming. He gasped with sobs. Tears rolled down his cheeks. And then -- and then -- beyond the noise of the soap opera and his own sobs, Matt heard a voice calling. It was clear and strong -- a child's voice. And it was real"(Farmer, 9)

Overall I thought that the exposition was expertly crafted and allowed the readers to have a basic understanding of Matt. We are entering into one of Matt's fears and insecurities and I think Farmer gave us many supporting details to back up this point. Although some may argue that the exposition was quite short, I think this enables the author to focus on developing her plot and create much more stronger events that later on pertain to the protagonist and novel.

2.) Rising Action:
I think there were many times that "rising action" was in effect and many can argue that there were multiple climaxes in the novel. If you look at my narrative map below, you are able to depict that the main rising action was when El Patron died and when Matt escaped from the boneyard of whales. Overall I thought that Farmer did a great job at crating her rising action because it truly kept her audience wanting for more. There were often times where there was insecurities of whether or not Chacho would die.

3.) Climax:
Although there are many mini climaxes spread throughout the novel of the House of the Scorpion, I believe that the central and main one that Farmer focuses on is located on pg. 367. "First of all, Matt, you aren't a clone" (Pg. 366) from this one statement, Matt's reactions were quick and startled. After living his entire life in the shadows of others and being referred to as a "beast" (Farmer, 34), "monster" (Farmer, 44) and "animal" (Farmer, 27), the news of not being a clone was unbelievable. From the beginning to the end I think Matt's main goal was to rule Opium and have society accept him, after Esperanza broke the news to him he is able to know that he does have a soul and that he won't be considered an outsider anymore.

I think the climax was well chosen because it adds a mysterious twist to the novel. I think Farmer did a great job at getting her point to the readers and was able to make them wanting for more. From the beginning to the end of the novel, we saw that Matt's sole purpose was to give his heart to El Patron. However by escaping, he was able to slip away from this terrible fate. Matt is one of the only individuals in Opium that has all the tools for success. Some examples of knowledge that only Matt was able to acquire ranged from the method to approach humans and servants and the way to make your enemy fear you. Although the other children of the Alacran Estate were equipped with the basic knowledge of the drug, only Matt had the advantage of first hand knowledge from Tam Lin and El Patron himself.

4.) Falling Action:
I thought that the falling action in the novel was when Matt travelled back to Opium and heard the eerie silence. After the excitement of learning that he is El Patron, he is faced with more shocking news that the people of Opium have died along with El Patron. "I went from one person to the next, trying to make them, but they were all dead" (Farmer, 375). This moment the excitement died down and instead of happiness, responsibility and small amounts of sorrow filled Matt instead.

Although the falling action was quite short, I think Farmer was still able to add just enough supporting details that her readers would be satisfied with. One of the only things that I am dissatisfied with was the death of Tam Lin. Although it felt like it was essential to have (grief and misery), I think Farmer could have include him into the sequel of the House of the Scorpion. Tam Lin played a fatherly figure in the book and it would have been very interesting to see where he ended up during Matt's rule.

5.) Resolution:
Just like the falling action, I think the resolution was the death of the Alacran people. Along with treasures and gifts, El Patron's dragon hoard included the death of people. I think this was the resolution because Matt no longer needs to face the difficulties of the society. Although he is now El Patron, nothing and no one stands in his way and the path to a new rule is evident.

Overall I think that Farmer was an exquisite writer who was able to provide her readers with substantial and strong supporting details that help with the development and growth of the story. I am certainly excited for Nancy Farmer's sequel!

My View on the Narrative Structure of The House of the Scorpion:

1st Point: The Encounter of the 3 Children --> Emelia, Steven, and Maria
1st Rising Action: The Big House + The Treatment ("Beasts", "Monster", ect.)
2nd Point: The Realization of True Purpose
     -"So many hints! So many clues! Like a pebble that starts an avalanche, Matt's fear shook loose more and more memories [that led to the realization of his true purpose]" -Matt Pg. 216
3rd Point: El Patron Dies
    -"There were eight of us and only I lived to grow up. Don't you think I'm owed those lives?" -El Patron Pg. 233
4th Point: Escape to Aztlan and Indirect Rebellion Amongst the Keepers (Aristocrat)
5th Point: Escape and Rescue from the Whale Boneyard
5th Rising Action: Time in the Hospital (After Whale Boneyard)
6th Point (Main Climax): Encounter of Esperanza and Discovery of True Identity (El Patron, Clones, and Challenge of saving Opium)
7th Point (Resolution): Alacran Family Dies
8th Point: The End!

The House of Scorpion: Film Study

The Contrasts and Comparison Between Vincent (Gattaca) and Matt (The House of the Scorpion):

Brave and passionate, both Vincent and Matt are the two main protagonists in the film Gattaca and the novel the House of the Scorpion, respectively. Although both may share many similiar aspects there are few differences in their characters that tell them apart.

Vincent and Matt are both blessed with the love and support from their loved ones, that help them through their journey. However, each character experiences his own hardship, uncontrollable misfortunes, and must face the cruelty of society. In the House of the Scorpion, Matt is referred to as a beast (Farmer, 42), monster (Farmer, 44), and animal (Farmer, 39). During Matt's confinement, he was constantly reminded of his flaws and was traumatized by his captor, Rosa. Even when he escaped that dark past, he was forever in the shadow of Tom, a bratty and devious boy. Just like Matt, Vincent faced the same obstacles in that he is also over shadowed by his genetically perfected brother, Anton. In one section of the movie, Vincent and Anton swim out to the ocean, playing their favourite game "Chicken." On this particular day Vincent wins, proving that effort and perseverance enable an individual to reach his goals and the aspirations he has set in mind. This serves true in the House of the Scorpion as well. Matt is able to show Tom and prove to the people of Alacran that he is able to do well by achieving academic achievements and by showing some musical talents as well.

Vincent and Matt are both equipped with people who love, care, and support them throughout their journey. In the House of the Scorpion Matt has Celia, Maria, and Tam Lin to care for him, whereas Vincent has Irene and Eugene. During one of their private moments, Vincent and Irene are sharing information about their genetics when Vincent offers her one of his eye lashes to prove to her who he really is. Irene replies, "[I'm] sorry, the wind caught it". Although this may not seem like a significant event, it demonstrates that the depth of their relationship is beyond what is on the surface and is more about the internal beliefs and thoughts the two share. This type of bond and understanding also applies to Matt and Maria. On page 154, Maria refers to Saint Francis as an excuse to explain her relationship with Matt as similar to that of "humans" and "animals." The support gained from their friends and loved ones greatly impact each character's actions and enables them to harbour their dreams and have high hopes even throughout their difficulties.  However, Matt and Vincent differ in their aspirations; Matt wishes to rule Opium while Vincent's dream to visit the vast unknown is much more adventurous.

The House of Scorpion: Connections to the Real World

The House of Scorpion: Connections to the Real World

Written By: Heather 

Novel By: Nancy Farmer

In The House of the Scorpion Farmer introduces to us a series of events that can be related back to real life issues that affect us everyday. A quick analogy that we can use to describe Rosa and the effect that society has on individuals is the trial of Jodi Arias.

On May 8, 2013 BBC News, issued a public news story on Jodi Arias and the first hand murder of her ex-boyfriend Alexander Travis in his Arizona home in 2008. Subject by the jury, Arias is accused with the initial murder of Alexander Travis and claims that the act was done solely for self defence purposes. Arias gives us farther information that Travis had originally abused her and she was often treated like a "prostitute". Travis was found in his home 5 days later, nearly decapitated, with 30 knife-wounds, and a shot forehead.

Rosa and the doctor have an on and off relationship that truly varies on their mood. "I love you. I'll do anything for you! The doctor pried her arms away. You're hysterical. I'll leave you some pills and see you in a month." (Farmer, 39) We see their relationship is very rocky and as the novel progresses their relationship does not remain stable but changes frequently based on events occurring and their attitude towards one another. During the imprisonment of Matt, we saw their relationship feed on the bitterness and evil intentions of the two. "You're a very strange woman, Rosa, but I have to admit the beast's in good condition." (Farmer, 43) They seek opportunities to bond over Matt's miseries and find that his sorrows are an enjoyment to watch.

Although Rosa's dementia and craziness does not reach to the extent of killing the doctor, we see there are many instances where she wants to cause physical harm because of the harsh verbal treatment that was used against her. "[Rosa] flew at the doctor and raked his face with her nails before he was able to grasps her wrists. She kicked and screamed, driving Willum back with the force of her rage. She actually bared her teeth like a wild animal..." (Farmer, 57) Rosa was pitted against herself and faced the brutal betrayal that the the doctor inflicted upon her. Later on in the novel we are reintroduced to Rosa once again; a mindless eejit that now tends to the horses. (Farmer, 147)

According to her claims, Arias is very similar to Rosa as she was also abused and verbally harmed by her "love interest". This current event and situation in the House of the Scorpion make it clear that both females were greatly impacted by the society and by other individuals. Arias is now faced with the prospect of going to jail for the rest of her life or being on the death toll. In both situations the two females are faced with frightful futures and are forever stuck to the consequences. These two analogies certainly show the toll of the society on individuals and how it may lead to dementia, craziness, and in this case, violence.

Overall I think that Farmer, did a great job at getting this message out towards her readers and was able to signify the importance of mutual respect and how it can lead to the sanity of individuals. These two examples, truly act as a moral for readers as it pertains to their own society. It also helps her readers connect with the characters in the novel and understand the hardships that they are going through; whether being emotional or physical.

Information on Jodi Airias From:
"BBC News - Jodi Arias convicted of premeditated murder of boyfriend." BBC - Homepage. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 May 2013. <>.

"Judge postpones next phase of Arias trial after meeting with defense -" - Breaking News, U.S., World, Weather, Entertainment & Video News. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 May 2013. <>.

MLA Citations From:

Monday, 6 May 2013

The House of Scorpion Characterization: Maria

The House of Scorpion Characterization: Maria

Maria Mendoza is an oval and static character that takes the role of the daughter of a US Senator and as  the younger sister, of Emilia (Farmer, 10 and 13) in the House of the Scorpion. Although we are given some initial and basic information of Maria, it is not enough for the readers to fully and deeply know and connect with her. Maria remains static throughout the novel because she consistently and continuously saves Matt. This same process occurs when Maria is angered with another character as well, each time that something is done to upset her, Maria eventually and almost instantly forgives them. Some may argue that Maria is a stock character because she is the classic heroine that authors usually include into their novels. Through the progress of House of the Scorpion, Maria acts as Matt's heroine and friend; encouraging him to develop as a character.

 She is a kind, yet loud girl who has a huge impact on the protagonists, Matt. Throughout the novel we see many instances where she acts as his best friend and heroine, an example of this would be at the church ceremony (Farmer, 154 and 155). Although Matt is declared to have no soul and is shunned by the priests, Maria comes to his side and defies her father's commands. She rescues Matt from the public humiliation and drags him along with her. Later on she says to Matt, "Gosh I missed you" (Farmer, 155) and gives him a kiss to mend their friendship. From earlier passages we can conclude and infer that Maria is the same age as Matt, giving them a closer and mutual relationship with one another. Maria is a character who changes Matt and helps him through his hardships in the novel.

This photo truly reminds me of Maria internally and physically. In a lot of ways, I can see Maria as having tanned skin and brown hair because of heritage and culture (Mexican). The fire in the background shows us her unchanging personality; haughty and bold.
Please note that this image does not belong to me and full credit goes to


Maria is a very loud and righteous character who is able to voice her thoughts and emotions. Although some may describe her as rude, Maria always thinks of the well being of others before herself  and ensures that they are well and safe. From the beginning of the story to the end, Maria stays static in her actions, her speech, and her views on clones and Matt as a whole. One of the first times where we see Maria defending Matt would be on pg. 66. In this section, Maria convinces Tam Lin that Matt was not guilty during the fight between Tom and Matt. In fact she even says that although Matt had hit Tom first, it was Tom who first teased him. This steered Matt out of trouble and in a safer zone with the body guard. In many ways Maria acts as the heroine for not only Matt but for Tom as well. In The House of the Scorpion, Matt is the character who is impacted the most by Maria, however we can certainly see places where Maria defends and helps Tom as well; an example can be found on pg. 104. Overall Maria is a haughty and impulsive girl that is able to save Matt from the midst of his troubles.


Although we aren't exposed and able to directly read into Maria's thoughts, we can infer that Maria is always thinking for the good of other people.
**To look into more about Maria's thoughts please refer back to the "Speech" section of the post.**


Maria has a colossal effect on Matt and she effects his actions; indirectly and directly as well. One of the first times that she saved Matt was on pg. 30. In this particular scene setting, Rosa has imprisoned Matt and has deprived him of his dinner. Later on Maria comes and saves Matt by giving him food and most importantly her company. In this one line, "I'm going to put them into your mouth one at a time -- but you have to promise not to bite me." (Farmer, 30) We can see that Maria is not sickened nor disgusted by Matt but instead she is trying to save him while being cautious. We can clearly see that Maria is obviously curious as to who Matt is. While they eat, they share stories making their connection stronger and more complex as the novel progresses. Throughout the story, Maria continues with similar acts and is able to provide Matt safety and comfortableness. She acts as his safe guide and heroine.


Although Maria is quite small she has a big heart and big dreams. Maria's actions are usually associated with Matt and the well being of others. When Matt is taunted or mistreated Maria never fails to come to his side and protect him. She is his saviour and heroine. A clear example of this would be found on pgs. 153-154, when the priests tells Matt that he has no soul and must leave. During this moment Maria quickly comes to his side and pulls him along with her, rescuing him from public humiliation. Although this is simply one example we are able to depict several events where similar outcomes have occurred.


Maria is slim and tall. From what the novel tells us we can infer that her hair is black and her eyes are dark brown (Farmer, 13). Matt describes Maria as "[one of] the most beautiful thing[s] he'd ever seen" (Farmer, 152). She has shoulder length hair and tanned skin. She has small, soft, and warm hands and she wears a soft spicy perfume that is able to make Matt head over heels for her.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

My Thoughts So Far -Youth: Chapters 1 & 2-

My Thoughts on The House of Scorpion:

Hi Guys!

     So far I have completed reading the "Youth" section of The House of the Scorpion. In these few chapters we have been introduced to a couple of characters that include Matt, Emelia, Celia, Maria, and many more. I think that the introduction of the book has been great and the author has managed to pull her readers in an effective manner. One of the inferences that I have created, has to do with the actual making of the clones and the worldview and personality of Matt, himself. In a lot of the sub chapters, the characters show great dislike towards Matt. One of the things that I am curious about is why they dislike him. In fact here is a quote taken from Rosa, Matt's master and/or captor, "It's a sullen, evil tempered animal." [Pg. 43]. This was one of the many statements that Rosa used to describe Matt. From this one quote, we can see that Rosa and the majority of people in Alacran Estate hate clones and they view them as beasts and as wild animals.

     As the chapter progresses, my curiosity to know why they hate them overtakes me and the question echoes in my head. From the beginning of the chapter, we learn more about the embryos that Eduardo harvests. On page 1, Eduardo briefly describes that the clones will know exactly what they look like, their preference in food, and even their common interests with their original person. However they don't talk about their values, beliefs, or personalities. Despite the facts that this is a fictional book, I can sense that one of the morals within the book, is to be yourself and don't give into peer pressure. I think that a lot of the clone's reputations are harshly given to them and a lot of the "problems" that they cause are due to the scientists and societies choices. I think that Matt will be able to prove himself worthy in the few final stages and will show us that everyone has a choice in life and no one is obligated to follow the "mainstream".

     One last question that I am going to embed into your mind is if the clones were introduced into our society, how would they be treated?

     If you have read this book or have any thoughts on this question please comment below! Hopefully you have taken interest in to our novel study and we are able to inspire you to grab a book and start reading. Along the way try and "digest" what you have read and keep those literary elements in mind. Remember to challenge yourself and have fun along the way! :)


Tuesday, 9 April 2013

The Scorpion Project Introduction!


Hey Guys!

Starting from April 10th, I will be starting a new humanities project on the novel, The House of Scorpion. It will be completed with a couple classmates and should have a timeline of 4-5 weeks. If you look on the side you will be able to access the website, along with our recent blog posts of literary elements and some of the conversations that we have of the book. One of the things that I am looking forward to is the individual blog posts on characterization, theme, ect. As the year has progressed, I have really enjoyed discussing literary elements and actually interpreting and using my inquiry skills to depict what the author is writing about. I think this project will be challenging because it will be taking a lot of  our inquiry skills to try and interpret the message and themes that the author is trying to express through her story. I think the challenge creates a great aura of excitement and I believe that my group members are as thrilled as I am to start this new assignment. With our the first introduction I am already able to tell that the story will be riveting and I;m quite sure that there will be plenty of plot twists. (older version on left and modern version from the right). You will be able to access our website by the link on the sidebar, along with the other members in my group. Well I hope you enjoy the new edition to my listpiration blog that will soon be coming your way and I hope you're able to be "litspired" ;).


Thursday, 14 February 2013

Term 2 - Vlog: The Hobbit an Unexpected Journey

Hey guys! Here is my VLOG on The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey

**Please Note: You do need a password to access the video, so please comment below if you would like to see it.**

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Term 2: Book Review on a Peer's Review - Stargirl

Written By: Jerry Spinelli
Review By: Heather Ngo

Stargirl; captivating, original, and diverse. Jerry Spinelli has successfully crafted a novel that leaves his readers wanting more and feeling as if they have now formed strong bonds with the characters. A fellow peer of mine, Danika V., has also read this story and has described it as heartwarming, love filled, and inspirational. In her book review, Danika, also talked about the main theme that Spinelli was tryng to get across to his audience. She had stated that the theme of the book was, “Stargirl taught us to always be ourselves, and never change for anyone else.” After comparing Danika’s opinions with my own, I would definitely agree with her commentary however her views on theme are very different from my perspective. Although it is true that Stargirl taught us to be ourselves, I felt that this was more of an allegory than a theme. Instead I would depict the theme as the thoughts of an “ethical” society and the desires of fitting in.

Jerry Spinelli wove an exquisite tale that manages to capture the hearts of his audience and make them feel in tune with the story and setting. Throughout the novel I was strongly captivated by Spinelli’s character development. In the novel, Stargirl, we are able to deeply connect with the characters mainly because it is from a first person perspective. Although Spinelli did not focus on describing Leo’s appearance, we are still able to see his thoughts and emotions according to the situation at hand. Leo is clearly the protagonist in this novel and I was able to understand his feelings and connect with what he was dealing with. The main setting in the novel, took place at Mica High. Once again, Spinelli did not focus on the physical attire of the school but he still managed to describe the community in spiritual ways using people and correlating events. I often felt that without Stargirl Mica High was like an empty shell, having a hard outer core but nothing magical on the inside. Mica High is the main setting in which, the characters would be affected by Stargirl; on the first day of Stargirl’s entrance she immediately puts the student body under a trance and changed their lives forever. Gone was the quiet, undisturbed Mica High and replaced, was a frenzy of individuality and independence. Here is a part of the novel that shows us her affects on the community and how the individuality starts.“A plain, timid girl painted her toenails kelly green. A boy showed up with purple hair. There was no PA announcements, no TV coverage, no headlines in the Mica Times: MAHS Students Astir Individuality Erupts. But it was there it was happening.” –Leo Page 41. Overall I thought that Stargirl was a fantastic book and Spinelli did a great job of keeping his novel short and sweet. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who loves to be inspired and who likes a heart warming story.