Holden Caulfield tells his story and relates to the reader a lot about how alienated and lost he is.
This book has been one of the most controversial and censored high school books due to its vulgar language, supposedly communistic leanings, sexual references and encouragement to drink, smoke and rebel
What I got out of it:
A very interesting read and I think one that the vast majority of teenagers, regardless of generation, can relate to. Holden offers a clear view into his world and how he deals with feeling alienated and sad
George Orwell writes so convincingly about this haunting future and the most powerful aspect is that although everything is somewhat exaggerated, it is still extremely believable. 1984 has captivated and horrified people for decades and will continue to do so.
Winston Smith, who thinks O’Brien is part of an underground brotherhood who wants to take down Big Brother and the government, actually is part of the Thought Police and out to catch people like Winston. Winston is tortured and brainwashed to the point that he truly believes that “2+2=5.”
Big Brother brain washes people by controlling the present. By controlling the present, they control the future and those who control the future control the past. They can make up facts and then go back and change news articles or books or anything so that they are always right.
People have no incentive to care about anything because any “fact” can be altered at any point.
Winston snaps and gives up his girlfriend, Julia, when a metal cage filled with starving rats, his biggest fear, is about to put over his head. This is what O’Brien wanted all along. Winston is released and a broken man who at the very end of the book decides that he really does love Big Brother.
What I got out of it:
This world is so depressing. Every moment of their lives is recorded by monitors or by the telescreen. There is no love, they cut down on adjectives and words so that there are so few ways to express yourself that you just stop thinking altogether, constant fear, constant drunkenness, nothing beautiful, nothing to look forward to. Winston is so in love with this little piece of glass with a pink piece of coral in it. It is so “useless” but so beautiful and he loves it for that reason. Definitely an alarming wake up call and we would do well to heed Orwell’s prophecy.
An incredibly deep and captivating book which delves into the lives of the 3 (maybe 4) Karamzov brothers and their brute of a father. Dmitri, Ivan and Alyosha (and maybe Smedyakov) are the brothers and Dmitri and Fyodor, the father, are in love with the same woman, Grushenka. Dmitri is thought to have killed his father over money and to have Grushenka to himself and much of the book revolves around this but there are also many other subplots. The genius of this book lies not in any action but in Dostoevsky’s in-depth analysis of the characters and what those characters come to represent. It would do the book injustice to try to summarize it so briefly here but it was clear to me after I finished why this is one of the most revered books of the last century and why it has influenced countless people from Freud to Kafka.
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Details the life of faith vs the life of doubt. Dostoevsky clearly favors the life of faith even though it is the more difficult option and often never gets any recognition. Alyosha represents faith and Ivan represents doubt.
Free will is at times seen as a burden because if people are free to make their own choices, then they should choose the hardships that often come with faith and religion as opposed to the comfort of doubt.
People are not capable and should not judge one another – the only true judge is one’s conscience
One must first truly know and love oneself before you can love God and others and the primary way to know oneself is through suffering
The choice to believe in God cannot be explained in rational terms
Ayosha’s elder monk, Zosima, dies and his body quickly becomes putrid which is seen as a sign of his sins even though he was greatly revered before dying. This can be seen as a symbol that great religious devotion and faith often does not receive any recognition or reward.
What I got out of it:
Again, this book is too deep and complex to try to summarize here but I am very happy I read it and definitely understand why it is so revered in literary circles. I have added the rest of Dostoevsky’s works to my reading list after finishing this masterpiece and know I will come back to this book and re-read it at some point