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.