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January 3, 2013

The Poisonwood Bible – Emily.L.

Filed under: Uncategorized @ 10:31 pm and

The Great Awakening

  • Part 1 ***(scroll down for part 2)

In Barbara Kingsolver’s novel The Poisonwood Bible, four characters caught my attention for their distinct personalities: Nathan Price, Adah, Leah,and Ruth May. Nathan Price, the father of the girls, is a devout baptist preacher who reminds me of the Great Awakening Preacher Jonathan Edwards (Text to Itself). Jonathan Edwards is best known for his sermon entitled “sinners in the hands of an angry God.” You can listen to Edward’s sermon at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4m-uR7RumaA. Jonathan Edwards basically warns people of the danger in becoming too attached to wordily things, and reminds all of the burning fires that are never ending and consuming. His method of conversion is to strike fear into people, and to speak forcefully as a pose to gently. Nathan Price is more severe than Edwards, and goes as far as to beat his wife and children if they enjoy something as simple as the feel of grass under their feet or a warm bath.

Albert Achabe is famous for his African culture novel Things Fall Apart. http://www.bookrags.com/essay-2005/4/19/191947/415/. The main character in this story is a man named Okonkwo – he is the strongest man in his village and takes his duty as leader very seriously.Nathan Price and Okonkwo have much in common despite their far different cultures (Text to Text). Okonkwo’s determination to show his strength and never appear weak, may seem like typical male psychology, but the reader later learns what’s hiding behind his cold outer shell. Okonkwo’s father was poor and lazy, the entire village hated him and thought Okwonkwo would grow to be a disgrace of a man like his father; this is the reason Okonkwo refused to back down in an argument  had to show his dominance, didn’t show love to his children, and acted with force and agression- all the characteristics of Nathan Price. I began to wonder what secret past Nathan Price was hiding that made him tough to hide his soft spot. Nathan Price retreated in war, and he could never escape the feeling of being a weak coward. The similarity in the behavior between these two men caused me to wonder if what appears to be male dominance and ego is truly a latent reaction to a fall that he is trying to defend himself from.

Edward C. Tolman (1886-1959), was a pyschologist who proposed the Latent Learning Theory http://www.lifecircles-inc.com/Learningtheories/behaviorism/Tolman.html  which states that sometimes in life, behavior at the time of learning (in childhood) may not be present, but can develop later when a certain circumstance appears that requires a specific response. (Text to world).  The Latent Learning Theory can be effective in describing the reason for the behavior of Nathan Price,who has developed a sharp personality in response to a hardship in life. Tolman would probably describe Nathan Price as being driven by a significant goal that caused him to sacrifice not only himself but also his family. This goal is psychologically driven and used to repair Nathan’s subconscious guilt and shame at leaving his troop to die in the war.

Adah is Leah’s crippled twin, but despite her handicap, her mind is far greater than any of her sister’s. Adah is the odd one out, or the black sheep of her family because of her deliberate seclusion, and her deep insight that far surpasses her age. Often times in literature, the blind and the lame “see” better than any other character, as is the case with Tiresias, in Oedipus the King (Text to Text)Tiresias is a blind seer (http://vccslitonline.cc.va.us/oedipusthewreck/blindness.htm) who’s advice and prophicy, which by the way are true, Oedipus dismisses and mocks. Adah with her acute brilliance can not walk fast, speak clearly nor has the endurance of her peers, yet she makes note of every detail, values life more than the others, and recognizes truths her sisters can not.

Tiresias the Blind Prophet

Adah serves as the exact opposite of her twin sister Leah, and constantly makes note of the tension between the girls. Once when the twins were walking through the forest on an errand assigned by their mother, Leah left Adah behind, not caring what peril may come to her crippled sister. Adah returned home late and until her arrival was believed to be dead. In a sense, Leah indirectly killed her sister, which can be related to the tale of Cain and Abel (http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis+4&version=NIV) (Text to Text) . Cain was jealous of his brother’s intelligence and superiority in their father’s eyes- although Leah is her father’s favorite.

Cain and Abel

Similarly  when their mother sent them on a chore, Cain, overcome by jealously,  murdered his brother Abel. Leah can be compared to Cain because her intentions were to forget her sister, or at least that is how Adah describes it. In a sense, the image of Cain and Able are present in both Leah and Adah because both sisters envy each other, compete for their father’s attention, and bash one another in their journals. The rivalry between Leah and Adah holds Biblical imagery, although it is not specifically stated in the novel.

Leah is different from her sisters- she is a tom boy, active, with a love for nature. Leah’s pet parrot Methuselah brought back memories of  my turtle Timothy. My father made me get rid of him when he grew too big for his case, as did Nathan Price when Methuselah became unable to keep as a house pet. Methuselah stands for a distorted symbol of freedom, showing that not even the native species are unable to escape Africa alive, as the parrot is later eaten. Page 82 “When he hurled the bird up at the treetops, it didn’t fly at first but only sailed across the clearing like a red-tailed badmitten.” Methuselah never left the Price’s yard, after becoming dependent, and it was hard for Leah and Ruth May to release him. My turtle was initially a wild turtle, as was the case with Methuselah- the lesson that had to be learned was not to take a wild animal out of its habitat because nature will provide for the wild who are trusting, but not the domestic who are not. (Text to Self). This shows the fate of taking a species out of it’s natural home, and a parallel can be drawn between Methuselah leaving his avocado tree, and the Prices leaving Georgia. It also shows how the families in Africa trust that nature will provide and know how to live off the land, as do the other wild animals- the Prices do not.

Scout Finch

Ruth May is the youngest sister, around age six when the novel begins. When spying on the local African rebel army, Ruth May climbed to the top of a tree, fell, and broke her arm. When I was eight years old, my cousin and I were “spying” on our grandparent’s neighbors, and I too fell out of a tree, straight onto my back. Luckily though, nothing was broken. It always brought to mind the old saying “curiosity killed the cat.” I read a poem by Alastair Reid called “Curiosity” http://www.poetryarchive.org/poetryarchive/singlePoem.do?poemId=11921, and the poem disagrees with the statement regarding the cat. Instead, Reid claims that curiosity inspires of to live, to grow, and to learn. The poem also suggests that because children are curious, it is what drives them to ask questions that allow them to mature. I agree that curiosity brings maturity, and as a child, I always believed in taking risks because I thought it better to try to know, than to never have known at all. (Text to self).

Barbara Kingsolver’s description of a child’s perspective told my Ruth May is similar to Harper Lee’s perspective through Scout in To Kill A Mockingbird. Little Ruth May is perhaps the most comical of the characters with her innocent view point, and childish analogies, all of which remind me of Scout (Text to Text). Ruth May and Scout are both younger sisters, were born and raised in the south in similar time periods, use similar diction, and are about the same age. More so, both little girls enjoy climbing trees, and playing outside with boys. Scout’s father tries to defend an African man in a time of prejudice, while Ruth May’s father tries to save the souls of an entire African village. Because of this, both little girls are aware of prejudice feelings, and other adult issues that the children describe with their own thoughts and take on the event. To Kill A Mockingbird has always been my favorite novel because it condenses a complicated and controversial subject into small pieces a child can recognize  love, hate, right, wrong, and play. Ruth May and Scout both take elaborate ideas and condense them into meaningful truths that only a child can see. Scout and Ruth May are used to contrast the values between adults and youth and show the corruption of the adult world through the eyes of a child.   http://www.directessays.com/viewpaper/1589.html

Although Leah is not a young child, her viewpoint still holds innocence, but more understanding than that of Ruth May’s. On page 232, Leah compares the distribution of wealth by noting the luxury house of the other Baptist family, the Underdowns, compared to the African families. Leah states “I thought of the Underdown’s home in Leopoldville, with its Persian rugs, silver tea service, and chocolate cookies, surrounded by the miles of shacks and shanties.” In the novel, the Congo is in the middle of a revolutionary war, and the Africans are burning down the homes of the white ministry families. The uprising in the African villages is like Shay’s Rebellion http://shaysrebellion.stcc.edu/, when poor early American colonial farmers burned down the House of Burgess in Virginia

Shay’s Rebellion

the rich mansion where the governor lived. The farmers were angry about their state of poverty, and how the king’s workers were living in luxury without providing for their people (Text to World). As American resentment was turned towards the British in the 1700’s, the Congo resents Belgium in 1960’s.

More so, the African families in the Congo were angry that Belgium was basically stripping the land and using the goods to benefit Europe. Anatole expalins this to Leah on page 229 when he states ” Diamonds yes, and cobalt and zinc. Everything your country has that my country wants.” Anatole explains how Belgium took over the Congo for the goods on the land, and with no concern for the people. This is the same reason why the United States annexed Hawaii and the midway islands, in order to have control of the sugar and fruit plantations, and to establish ground for naval basis. Both the US and Belgium have annexed countries for imperialistic purposes. (Text to World). 


  • Part 2 **links are embedded into words
A reoccurring theme in the novel is the sibling rivalry between Leah and Adah. In the second half of the novel, Adah finds that she is betrayed and forgotten by sister again, although Adah directs her anger at her mother, instead of at her sister. Leah, although she is not being condemned any longer by Adah, only now begins to feel guilty for leaving her sister to the aunts, in other words, Leah’s epitome comes after it is no longer needed. On page 3o0, Leah describes herself as Peter the apostle saying she betrayed Adah three times. I was easily able to recognize Leah as Peter, as he was the Lord’s closest follower, the most adventurous, and interacted the most with the people: all qualities that fit Leah. It struck me odd however, that if Leah was the betrayer, that would make Adah a symbolic figure of Jesus. I think that in the Poisonwood Bible, Kingsolver was not trying to create Jesus in the practical Christian way that everybody assumes him to be, but instead tried to paint the Lord as insightful, openminded, able to see the beauty of small things, and intelligent. Most importantly this made me realize that Nathan Price is not what Kingsolver intends for Christ to be like. This realization is important for understanding Kingsolver’s message about religion, and recognizing that Nathan Price is the example of what should not be done. (determine importance)
Continuing with religious imagery, Nathan Price can be seen to represent Doubting Thomas. I believe that doubt is one factor that contributes to Nathan’s ethnocentrism and stubbornness. Nathan doubts anything that is not supported by his Bible or the American culture, and because of this Nathan is unable to neither accept, nor adapt in Africa, which eventually leads to his own death. The perfect example of Nathan doubting can be found on page 373, which states “Our father came out of the house and stood looking at the sky. It seemed to take him a long time to believe in the rain.” This caught my attention because while the Price family women are able to enjoy the rain and take it as both an end and a new beginning, Nathan stays forever frozen in that moment and never does leave the village; Nathan instead continues with his attempt to baptize as he did that day, and he refuses to take the rain as a rejuvenating cleanse. I think that Nathan doubts his own religion and his own faith as he is fearful that his own daughter Ruth May will not reach heaven after her death. Nathan doubts the rain because he is unable to recognize the change that has come, and the signal to leave and start over. Unfortunately, after because Nathan doubted and remained set in his own mind, his family left him and the women all made their own drastic changes, as they were able to take the rain as the start of a new path in life. (text to itself)
When I was about age 6, I learned about Smokey Bear at a summer camp. The counselors told us how a giant fire came and destroyed the forrest and left Smokey an orphan. I went home that day upset because I thought forrest fires were a terrible thing, and everything must have died. My father cheered me up by telling me that forrest fires are natures way of destroying the old so that new can grow, and even though they are destructive and harmful, the forest often grows back more beautiful than it initially was. This reminded me of the deep rain that came down on Africa, that flooded the villages but also left the land more fertile than it was before. (Text to self). 
I was able to spot changes in all of the women in the novel, except Rachel, who’s self centeredness became more apparent in the second half of the story. Rachel says on page 516, “So thats my advice. Let others do the pushing and shoving and you just ride along. In the end, it’ll be your own neck that you are saving.” Rachel obtained this advice from a book of what to do in a calamity that she values, and which symbolizes her selfishness. Rachel’s philosophy is to only worry about yourself and not help those around you. Each member of the Price family fell in Africa because of their own innate flaws, and Rachel’s flaw was her vanity and selfishness. (text to itself). 
A part of Rachel was still left behind in Africa when her mirror broke on the night of the ants. I see the mirror as a symbol of the luxuries of the western world, and Rachel’s materialistic mindset. While the mirror was still in tact, it allowed for Rachel to cling to part of her old life, and as long as that part of her was still alive, that part of the American lifestyle, Rachel would be unable to succeed in Africa. When the mirror broke, so did the string between Rachel’s old life and her new life. Much like the rain storm, the breaking of Rachel’s mirror was her own start to a new beginning, and the end to her old ways of life. The mirror also in a way trapped Rachel in Africa, as all though she was able to leave the Congo and move on, she was never able to return to the old American ways.(determine importance) Rachel states in the novel that she can not return because she is afraid of what people would think of her if they knew she had “pooed in a bush” and eaten animals with the hair still on. Rachels vanity is what traps her because she is fearful of what the civilized world’s opinion of her will be if she returns.
 Instead of going back to the United States, Rachel escapes with Axleroot, who is described as her “devil savior” on page 396. This is an example of a dual character, as Axleroot is corrupt, yet still does the Price family great favors by saving Rachel from a horrible marriage, and bringing the family food and other goods. Dual characters are important to the novel, as it helps Kingsolver prove the hypocrisy of missionaries and other aid groups in the Congo. Where as Nathan Price is supposed to be a holly man who comes to help, he also  is close minded and beats his wife and children. This proves that not all religious men truly come to help despite what many believe. (text to itself).  Rachel is said to have made a “deal with the devil” om page 404, as in order to escape, she must act romantically with Axleroot regardless of how she truly feels about him. Rachel’s deal with Axleroot reminded me of the process I go through when I weigh my decisions. I always think about what I have to put on the line, or what negative thing may come if I choose one way or the other, and is the decision ultimately worth it. This way of thinking applies to everything I do whether that be where I go on a Saturday night, to my school work. It is called, cause and effect thinking, and I use it to avoid making deals, or decisions that do not completely benefit me. I see it as a great way to help manage the future. (text to self).
Orleanna changes in that she is now able to defend the Congolese culture, and see that their politics are not a threat to the world. Orleanna gains the conviction to stand alone and the strength to leave Nathan after the rain fall, marking a new beginning in her life in that she is no longer dominated by her husband. Orleanna becomes an activist for Africa, and much of Kingsolver’s attitude is revealed through Orleanna’s work. When Orleanna says on page 319 “Patrice Lumumba, a danger to the world?? The same Patrice Lumumba mind you who washed his face each morning from a dinted tin bowl and relieved himself in a carefully chosen bush?” Orleanna’s statement can be applied to other times in history when the United States saw third world countries as threats and threw a coup using the CIA in order to over throw that country’s government. Much like President Eisenhower’s plan to overthrow Lumumba in the Congo, was the 1953 Iranian coup that replaced the shah. The Congolese reacted the same way to the American’s involvement that the Iranians did almost ten years prior. (text to world).
A parallel can be drawn between Orleanna’s critical attitude of American philosophy, and that of Kingsolver. After Orleanna leaves Nathan, she becomes a spokeswoman for truth and helps bring the novel’s message into life, where as Nathan remains a bad example of American involvement in the Congo. More so, Orleanna’s changed character acts a tool to send a more universal message, as the reader can connect to a woman who is deserving of sympathy and affected by her husband’s poor choices and dominance. This is a common situation, and because the reader is probably accustomed to hearing of controlled women  the reader will better see how Nathan’s self ideals affected not only the African way of life, but also his marriage and own family. (determine importance)

February 28, 2012

A Separate Peace

Filed under: Uncategorized @ 11:20 pm and

When I was reading A Separate Peace, I couldn’t help but think of Catcher in the Rye, not because the characters were similar, but because both stories are told through a 17 year old boy’s experiences of growing up, showing the stereotypical American childhoods of teenagers in the early 1940’s to 1950’s. A Separate Peace is told through Gene Forrester, who is much different than Catcher in the Rye’s Holden Caulfield-regardless of the boy’s differences, I noticed one thing they have in common- both boys think that the adult world is nothing but “a joke”. Holden notices that adults are binded by money, work, careers, relationships, children, etc. and are unable to escape and simply enjoy life without worries; because of this Holden becomes depressed (I like a A Separate Peace much better because it’s tone isn’t as depressing as Catcher in the Rye) . Gene is also unwilling to become an adult, recognizing that when he does, he will most likely be drafted into World War Two. Gene’s story begins with his 16th summer, when he says ” I think we reminded them [the adults] of what peace was like, we boys of sixteen.We were careless and wild and I suppose we could be thought of as a sign of life that the war was fighting to preserve.” Gene knows this will be his last year to be able to be young and free, without any worries, just as Holden does. Both boys are at the end of their adolescence, struggling between staying a child, and becoming a man. (text to text)

The saying “opposites attract” is obvious in this novel. Finny is Gene’s mischievous and exciting best friend, who helps Gene find confidence in himself, and learn to be adventurous. In a way it reminds me of myself and my best friend who is very shy, quiet, and easy going, much like Gene. I myself am like Finny, who is the one who plans all their adventurous and drags Gene along with him, who is sometimes hesitant to go. Finny teaches Gene to overcome his fears and come out of his shell, while Gene keeps Finny grounded, and Finny depends on Gene for this reason. I realized that the reason I probably chose  my best friend is because she always goes along with my crazy ideas, just like Finny and Gene. She never goes against what I have planned and supports me in all my decisions. (text to self).

The boys’ dependency on one another is much like the relationship between Reuven and Daniel in the book The Chosen by Chaim Potok. A Separate Peace doesn’t show the life and outcome of one character, but of two: Gene and Finny; The Chosen is the same way, it shows how the friendship between the two boys affected their lives as they grew older. Finny and Gene, as well as Reuven and Daniel are complete opposites which builds their dependence on each other. Both Daniel and Gene are scholarly, and focused on studying the world through a realistic view point. Their friends Finny and Reuven help them to be open minded and creative in thinking. Both Reueven and Finny have an unusual thought process because they are able to analyze the world around them and manipulate it how they so desire; however they often stray away from more practical studies because of their creative desire to experience things differently; therefore, their friends help to keep them grounded. Also, they help them in their studies, such as when Finny needs help in French class after he returns to school, and how Daniel needs to be tutored in his physics studies. (text to text)

Sports are a second life to the boys at Devon, especially Finny. They create extreme competition among the students which only leads to problems. Finny is the best at sports, and Gene becomes envious of his athletic ability, although Finny hates competition and does not consciously try to defeat Gene. Gene is confused by his overcome jealously, and he purposely causes Finny-his lifelong friend- to fall from a tree and break his leg; Gene is the most competitive and wants to be better than his friend which causes him to become his own greatest competition. Gene begins to fight against himself, making his own personal actions his enemy and not Finny. Gene does not understand this though, and thinks that Finny is manipulating him, although in reality, Finny has never been keeping score, because to him, it does not matter whether you win or lose; page 34 says “He broke the school record but wouldn’t even tell anyone about it.”. (text to itself). When I was younger I played golf and soccer, and the reason I decided to quit is because I hated competing- like Finny, I enjoyed playing the game, but did not like the rivalry between myself and my peers. I used to have to play in tournaments against my own cousin, and I absolutely hated it- my cousin like Gene always wanted to be the best, even if that meant beating me! I have never liked sports for this reason. (text to self).

When Gene Forrester turned 17, World War II had just started, and the worry of being drafted was among all the students at Devon (the boarding school he attends.) Some boys were eager to sign up like Leper, who was eager to join America’s ski troops, to help the men in Finland. During the winters of WWII, Finland was the first country to develop an army mobilized by skis. Leper, as well as many of the other Vermont boys who enjoyed skiing as a winter hobby, joined this branch of the military during the winter. In reality, the troops had much success in stalling the German and Russian progression into other northern European countries.(text to world)

Speaking of their school, Devon, in a way it can be related to our school, because they have all honor classes, and there were many allusions to different things we have studied as well, such as Edgar Allan Poe, Hemingway, foreign language, etc. The boys recently got done reading the Iliad, which we raed our sophomore year, and they studied Caesar as well. Every Sunday they attend mass which I was able to relate to, and their funny stories about incidences that happened while they were in church were similar to what I have experienced. A lot of what these boys said reminded me of my dad, because when he was a teenager, he went to an all boys school too, and his teachers were allowed to hit the students if they misbehaved. Often times they would get smacked for having their shirt tucked out, or leaning against the wall- the same happened with Gene and Finny whose teachers, especially in a time of war were striving to teach them manners and discipline. (text to self).

Others were completely against the idea such as as Gene’s best friend Finny. Finny’s opposition to the war reminded me of the New York Draft Riots in 1863 (text to world)-all though this was 80 years before the boy’s time, this riot showed other young men who were also scared and did not want to participate in the war either- the main reason the riots occurred is because these men felt they shouldn’t have to fight a war that wasn’t theres. It also reminded me of the court cases in 1919 Schenk vs The United States, where Schenk argued that drafting was against the 13th amendment because it defies a person’s right to object to involuntary servitude. This shows that through out history, drafting has always been a worry, and an unwanted obligation (text to world).

World War II affects the novel in many ways-the boys are always relating their daily actions to something involved with the war. Jumping out of a tree symbolizes jumping from a torpedoed ship, swimming in a pool is equivalent to swimming in the ocean with burning oil and sharks. Although Finny is opposed to the war, he constantly makes such comparisons. Finny is the only boy at the school who is not afraid of the war because he doesn’t understand the idea of somebody deliberately trying to harm him- such as when Gene admits to being the cause of Finny’s fall. Gene’s jealously over took him and he delibrately broke the branch Finny was perched on in order to injure him. Even though Gene confesses his crime to Finny, Finny refuses to believe it. (text to itself) Like Gene, the war represents an enemy that the young boys were oblivious to during the summer, protected by the childhood games Finny created for them; he kept them young and innocent by forcing them to focus on childhood enterprises, such as their creation of the game BlitzBall, or their Super Suicide Society of the Summer Session. Finny’s crazy ideas keep the boys from growing up, and spare their minds from the stress of the war. After Finny leaves because of his injury, they can’t escape the reality of the war, and they begin to realize that they have matured and it is time to enlist….Finny returns even more unaware, and shocked that his friends have enlisted. The fact that Gene caused Finny’s injury, allows leads to Finny’s inability to mature, and causes him to become dependent on Gene, as a pose to Gene being dependent of Finny. Gene is not able to enlist because he has to care for his friend, showing that once again, Finny has indirectly stopped  Gene from moving with his life.(text to itself)

I see Gene and Finny as somewhat of a more sophisticated version of Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer. Finny, ironically has a similar name to Huckleberry Finn, but regardless, their personalities are similar: both boys are adventurous, mischievous, and want what is best for others. They are not concerned with the problems that occur in the world around them, and they are able to get away their mischief without getting in trouble because they are good at conning the people around them. Gene can be related to Tom Sawyer, not because of their personality, but because while Tom is always following the adventurous that Huck has planned, as is Gene with Finny. Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer is also a tale about two best friends, the way their friendship affects one another, and the adventures they share. (text to text) . Overall, A Separate Peace is a story many teenagers can relate to, about friendship, growing up, jealously, and finding a place in high school to fit in.

December 30, 2011

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

Filed under: Uncategorized @ 9:19 pm and

The mental state of those who were regarded as “insane” was quite alarming in the early 1960’s, as was the treatment of patients in mental hospitals. After coming in contact with Ken Kesey’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, I’ve been overcome with the strongest urge to become the next Dorothea Dix. If you are unfamiliar with Ms.Dix, she was a leading reformer in the 18th century who worked to improve the conditions of asylums and mental hospitals, change how they were viewed by society, worked to  rehabilitate patients, and protest isolation (text to self/text to world). I was strongly under the impression that the reforms made during the Second great Awakening had transformed the mental institutions into immaculate facilities which have continued to improve ever since. My mind has been filled with concerned inquiries over whether or not the service provided to those who are mentally ill, remains corrupt to this day.

And what about those who are not truly mentally disable but are thought to be? I honestly feel that many doctors regard people as “insane” for the wrong reasons- or at least they used to in the 1800’s and 1900’s.From an early age I’ve always been interested in therapy, and concerned with what society thinks is “weird” or “insane” and how certain people who are not  truly “insane” are treated as outcasts. This all came to me the first time I watched Disney’sBeauty and the Beast (Text to text). Bell’s father was sent to away to an asylum because he told people about the Beast and they thought he was crazy. This was heartbreaking to me at a young age to see a normal man torn away from his family because his community thinks he is mentally crazy. This reminded me of the character of Mr.Harding in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Mr.Harding, as well as many of the other acute patients, are not crazy, but because society thinks they belong in a hospital ward, they are placed there. What’s worse is that these patients have the ability to leave any time they chose but they do not because they have been made to honestly believe that they have a problem. (text to itself). I found that one of the most disturbing factors of this novel- the fact that the patients are free to leave and go back to their homes but they are either scared, or incapable of doing such because they have been brainwashed to believe something is the matter with them, when evidently, it is not. Most of the patients suffer from normal conditions that everybody else does, heartbreak, speech impediments, broken families, all normal hardships of life, but these patients think they are unnormal because they are going through these things, and what’s worse is that the staff tells them this is the truth.

It seems more common in the past to hear stories about people being sent to special institutions, more so than it is today; such as John Kennedy’s sister Rosemary (text to world). Could the horror of these hospitals be, that at the time, new technology was being tested, such as electric shock therapy and frontal lobe lobotomy. This procedure operates on a person’s front brain, which was believed to dictate one’s personality and behavior. Unfortunately, many people were not able to function properly in society after receiving such treatments. Rosemary Kennedy was left a” vegetable” after having this surgery, the same way McMurphy was in the novel. I was very disappointed with the ending.

People I am close to have recently informed me, that during the 1970’s, they have had personal experiences with friends and neighbors who were sent to mental institutions. I have been told that after they visited the hospital wards they agreed that it was similar to the one portrayed in this novel…minus Nurse Ratched, or so it seems. The corruption is not seen by outside visitors or social workers. Every Halloween, there is a haunted house called the Asylum, that is set up across from the Sun Coast, and I remember visiting it as a young middle schooler (text to self). Of course, the patients there were all actors, and it was dramatized to illustrate Hollywood horror, but now I can’t help thinking, that even though Hollywood proports it’s media, the popular chiller stories of asylums, must derive from some sort of truth….the book was more horrifying than the haunted house. After reading it, I’ve come to understand what the movies are based off of.

A major theme of the novel is that women  belittle men. Ironically, most of the men in the ward were there because of problems with women. Harding was having issues satisfying his wife so she started having affairs, Billy Babits mother babied him and did not allow him to mature into a young man, McMurphy was there because he was having too many relationships with women, and Chief Bromeden was there because he had an over controlling mother who turned his father into an excessive drinker and made them both timid and weak. Miss Ratched is a key instrument in expressing the idea of women inflicting pain and stripping a man of his pride, freedom, and ego. She dictates the men on the ward, and suppresses their individuality, as well as their natural impulses as men. The characters begin to develop a fear of women, that prohibits them from functioning normally in life (text to itself). Miss Ratched has become a cliche term used to describe a wicked lady or nurse, after this novel was published, the term gained much popularity.

I was reading this article about a court in Philadelphia that is trying to change the possible outcomes for  criminal offenders. Instead of being sent to prison, this court is trying to send criminals to disturbed hospitals where they can try to be cured as a pose to beng sent to penitentiaries. This reminded me of McMurphy who faked his illness inorder to be sent to a hospital, and not a prison, in hopes of receiving a less harsh punishment, and gaining his freedom much quicker. (text to itself) In modern day society, there are many more opportunities for criminals, or people with problems that need to be overcome; but there are also many more disorders that people can be classified under. Bipolar,anger management, Autism, conduct disorder, the list goes on and on. My question is, What gives a person the power to determine if another person is “insane”? I fear that many people recieve less harsh punishments because they are defended under an odd disorder- this can be both good and bad. One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest allows the reader to make their own opinion, and decide whether or not they think McMurphy is mental or not. This made me realize that how can insanity possibly be measured by people, when each person views it so differently?

I know many kids who are thought to be “hyper-active” or depressed, so their parents immediately put them on medicine and take them to therapy, when really the child is nothing more a 6 year old boy who is naturally hyper, or a teenage girl who recently experienced a breakup…all normal phases of life. I’ve never met a young child that isn’t hyper, nor have I met a teenager who has not had a broken heart. The novel expresses this idea when showing how McMurphy was sent to the ward for going through normal phases of a male life- only the doctors saw his impulses and behavior as unstable. McMurphy makes the point that everyone has experienced what he has, so why is it wrong? This made me think about the behavior of those around me, and if it is just a natural part of life, or if it is really a disorder. To me it’s like having a cold, every body runs to the doctor when they have a cold, but really the doctor can’t do anything except til you your nose is clogged and til you to rest…something you already knew in the first place. It seems to me that some of us are afraid to deal with our problems on our own because we think we can’t, or we think it’ll become something serious and dangerous. McMurphy wasn’t afraid to handle anything on his own, and he didn’t fear his problems turning into something bigger; therefore he denied medical attention and was punished for it.

When I was a child, I talked funny, my speech was a little off. Immediately, doctors thought something was the matter with me, they said I needed medicine and therapy because I couldn’t pronounce things correctly….I outgrew it by age seven. (text to self). The point I’m trying to make, is that sometimes, doctors and therapists go over board. A person starts off with a normal symptom, but once they get on medication and therapy, they begin to think their problem is worse than it is, and it turns into something bigger. This happened to many of the patients in the novel. Billy Babbit had a speech problem as well, and instead of the nurses trying to work with him through it, they put him on strong medication that made him worse. What angered me about this book is the way the nurses treated people with medication and “therapy”. This book really made me angry, which I like because it caused me to become involved. I even considered becoming a social worker, or a lawyer for social work so I could defend patients or help them in some way.

Like I said, I’ve always been interested in two things: law and psychology, which is partly why I chose this book. Another book I’ read a long time ago, is called Girl Interpreted by Susan Kaysen. It is very similar to Ken Kesey’s only the main character is a young female who is locked up for being accused of insanity, when really, she possesses more intelligence and a greater insight than the rest of her peers. (text to text) Kaysen portrays the hospital in the same way as Kesey and both novels were based in the mid 1960’s. Kaysen’s characters though, are seen to have legitimate problems that are not adressed properly, where as Kesey’s novel, the characters do not have extreme mental sicknesses but are treated as such. This book reminded me of Marilyn Monroe. Many people don’t know but Marilyn Monroe’s mother was put in an asylum, and so was she at an early age. Not for a long period of time, but she did do time at a mental institution until her husband, Joe Dimaggio came to take her out. Much like in Kaysen’s novel, Monroe had similar challenges, she was troubled by her mother, as well as not finding a place to fit in, so she was sent away to a mental ward, only there, she was not mistreated in the institution as most other people were. (text to world). Luckily, today there are not many stories of asylums, because it has left our culture, it has become outdated. Now days there are special ways of dealing with such people and allowing them to remain a party of society.

October 26, 2011

East of Eden

Filed under: Uncategorized @ 12:09 am and

“And Cain went out from the presence of the Lord, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden.”-Genesis iv 1-16

East of Eden is mainly an allusion to the biblical story of Cain and Able, where every character in John Steinbeck’s novel, symbolizes a character from the bible story. In the novel, the father, Adam Trask, strives to raise his sons in the best paradise he can find; the name East of Eden is a reference to the garden of Eden that God set up as paradise for Adam and Eve. The garden of Eden became corrupt after Eve bit the sin filled apple, and persuaded Adam to follow her. Adam, the father from Steinbeck’s book, directly symbolizes Adam from the bible, for he did not know sin until he was tempted, and fell for the love of the undependable and wicked Cathy. Cathy then corrupted the paradise Adam endeavored to create for his sons. The older generation of brothers in the novel, Charles (symbolizing Cain), and Adam (symbolizing Able), grew up, when Adam had boys, Cal who became Cain, and Aaron who became Able. In the bible, Able was favored by God, much like Adam was favored by his father, and the way his son, Aaron was favored by him. In the end of the novel, Cal indirectly kills his brother, representing the biblical prophecy that Able (represented as Aaron) would not make it to the promised land. (text to text)

East of Eden is a series of extremely ironic events, as if history were repeating with each generation.The book starts with the first generation showing Charles and Adam as young children- Adam was born first by a different woman. Their father fought in the Civil War, (text to world) and would later expect Adam to go off to war as an Indian resistance fighter which woud show his favoritism of Adam and anger Charles. During the civil war, their father had an affair with a black slave, developing a disease from her that he passed onto Adam’s mother who drowned herself in the river because of her shame. Their father then went on to remarry and have Charles by the new lady who ironically also died later. Their father forced Adam off to war against his will. As the boys grew, they discovered after their father’s death, that the war stories he told them of his glory days really were not true. They were disappointed but inherited a great deal of money that they were unaware their father had been saving, and from here they went their separate ways. Adam met Cathy, an evil lady who he went on to have his children with. The irony is that Cathy secretly had an affair with Charles right before she had relations with Adam. When the children were born, it’s possible that Cal was a product of her affair with Charles, Cal possessing many similarities to his uncle, or maybe father. This is ironic because the Adam and Charles were born by different women and now Adam’s sons could have been from different men. This is just one example of irony, the more obvious  things such as the death and abandonment of their mothers, the relationships between the boys, the favoritism of the parents, the accepting of the gift, all show the irony of the novel. (text to itself)

Neither Charles and Adam nor Cal and Aaron truly knew anything about their fathers. Adam claimed to his sons that he was an Indian resistance fighter, but in truth, he did not have the heart to harm any. Instead he fell in love with an Indian girl which shows the irony of how his father fell in love with a slave girl while away at war. The Indian resistance movement was a time in America where people admired the soldiers who killed the tribes. They viewed Indians as savages, and less equal than Americans. Adam’s ability to love an Indian maid shows his pure and gentle heart. (text to world, text to itself)

While Adam was away at war, Charles stayed home to farm the land, much similar to how Aaron would go onto college and Cal would stay to run a business. Charles bears an ugly scar on his forehead that he inherits from losing his temper while plowing the field after a large rock collided with his head. This symbolizes the mark God gave Cain to make sure no one would kill him. Charles writes about his scar when Adam is away at war by saying “I don’t know why it bothers me, I got plenty other scars. It just seems like I was marked.” Charles scar is a reminder of his temper as if he too was marked like Cain. This scar reminds me of Disney’s the Lion king;

 there is a lion with the name Scar who got his mark, and his name, by a fight he had with his brother, which demonstrates the universal theme of sibling jealousy and rivalry. In the Lion King, Scar killed his brother Mufassa just like Cain killed Able. (text to text, text to itself)


John Steinbeck’s novel East of Eden illustrates the immediate connection between sibling  rivalry and the fear of not being accepted or loved by a parent. The competition between siblings is created as an attempt to gain a parents love and approval, often caused by the child’s  jealousy of the other sibling. Sibling rivalry in the novel is expressed in both violent, and emotional offenses between both generations of brothers. The older generation, Adam and Charles Trask, go through violent fights, often instigated by Charles who is portrayed as the less loved child. His brother, Adam, is their father’s pride and favorite. On their father’s birthday, Charles takes pride in his thoughtful and costly gift- a German army knife; Adam brings home a stray puppy to give to their father. When Cyrus Trask receives his gifts, he unappreciatively thanks Charles for the knife, places it in a drawer where it would only collect dust, and marvels over Adam and his new beloved furry gift. Charles feels hurt and rejected by his father’s favoritism of Adam so he lashes out by beating his brother. The sibling rivalry continues into the next generation when Adam’s sons Cal and Aaron bring gifts to Adam (showing the irony in the novel that will be addressed later). Adam, who favors Aaron, rejects Cal’s financial gift; Adam then lectures Cal about his gift, expresses his derogatory thoughts about him,then finishes his hurtful speech by praising Aaron. Cal feels the same rejection and pain his uncle Charles did, and reacts by verbally abusing and revealing a secret to his brother that he knows will drastically harm him. Through the ironic events of giving gifts to their fathers, John Steinbeck illustrates the favoritism of the parents, sibling rivalry, and the hurt felt by the rejected child. (text to itself)

This is the movie trailer to Avalon High, a novel by Meg Cabot which started out as an unpopular novel, but gained more recognition after Disney Channel recently turned it into a film. The novel is similar to East of Eden because the book is based off the characters of King Arthur, symbolized by High School students- mainly two brothers. In the novel, the good brother represents King Arthur and the bad brother represents Mordred (the actual story of King Arthur has various interpretations of the relationship between king Arthur and Mordred but in Avalon High, Mordred is represented as Arthur’s brother.) Mordred tries to kill Arthur and cause Camelot to fall, showing another example of sibling rivalry, only in this case, the cause was over the thrown and not for the love of a parent. (text to text)

The story has a sad ending after Cal informs Aaron of their indecent, prostitute, mean old mother. Cal forces Aaron to go see her, who like Adam, had such a king heart, he was not able to bear such evil as Cal exposed him to. Out of emotional distress he joined the army where he eventually died in World War I in Europe. (text to world). This ends the story on the same terms as Cain and Able. Cal ran off with Aaron’s old girlfriend which shows the irony because his mother had been with both his father and their uncle, and now Arba is doing the same between Cal and Aaron. Adam eventually dies as well leaving Cal alone in Eden. Adam leaves Cal with the only peace of mind that he does not hold him responsible for the death of his brother, and shows his love before he dies.

September 28, 2011

Challenging Thoreau

Filed under: Uncategorized @ 12:25 am and

*Please note the content of this essay does not reflect my personal views or beliefs on the following topic. It was written in the theme of a rebuttal to the novel.*

Dear Mr.Thoreau,

It is a fact that renovations to technology, and the creation of exceedingly complex designs, are an outcome of the growing range of intelligence in the human being- proof of why I chose go to a tech school (text to self).  That being said, why would one chose simplicity over the luxuries that one could have in the modernized world we abide in?-that is luxuries that prove to be beneficial and more efficient to man kind. By refusing to incorporate such luxuries and advancements into one’s life, would not the world become stagnate and improvident? Was not that what started the medieval time, the fact that Europe began shifting backwards as a pose to progressing on (text to world).  I understand your point that it is impractical to strain one’s self while striving for wealth and luxuries, but would not the strain entail the hard labor a person need experience in order to gain their leisure? Here I’d be able to reference my mother, who, along with many other Americans, works extremely hard to provide us modern luxuries (text to self). Placement of social class in today’s America should be determined by one’s perseverance and work ethics as a pose to their household appliances (text to world). Your confrontation with the Irish Family (text to itself) you met in the rain storm, demonstrates how some people are content with not working, despite their finical circumstances.

An assumption could be made that some do not work because they are unmotivated, or question what it is they’re working for. When dealing with such people, it would be wise to enlighten them by explaining that through hard work, determination, and time, one may achieve the luxuries of life-which serve as a goal to work towards. By advising a man to stop once he’s achieved basic needs,is like telling a man to give up because he has nothing else to work for. If he has nothing else to work for, he would in time not work at all, thus falling back into his original state of not working that you tried to advise him to leave in the first place.During The Great Depression, (text to world)

people continued to work, no matter how dirty the job; thus digging themselves out of the ditch they were in. If during this time, you were to advise Americans to only work for “what they needed”, America today would not be notorious for being a modernized, civilized, developed, nation.  The old proverb “you must aim high to shoot the bird” (text to text) can be applied here, for a man must aim high to gain what he so desires. In The Old Man and the Sea, the old man never gave up trying to catch his fish all though his circumstances were unfavorable; instead he forced himself to remain on the ocean until he caught he pulled his dreams from the ocean on a hook. (text to text) He did not stop once he caught a fair size fish- although this would be beneficial to him, and was all he needed to survive, he refused to quit until he caught what you could call “a luxurious fish.”

Your solitary life style can be explained through the beliefs of individualism (text to itself), yet why pursue something that isn’t practical for human beings? People were not designed to live in isolation, which I understand you’re not completely dismantled from people, for your poet friends come to visit you on occasion (text to itself); however, by relying only on your self for personal, social, and working affairs, would you not be considered as isolating yourself from the basic foundations of human society? It seems as if you chose to take the easy way out, by only choosing to deal with people you can easily tolerate, and excluding yourself from those you can not.

Most living things are known to live together, such as herds of buffalo, flocks of sheep, schools of fish, packs of dogs, colonies of bees; the English language has invented a variety of words to explain groups of homogenous species, and the word used for people is community. A community can further expand into society, through which everyone is linked (text to world). You commend the raccoons for isolating themselves from people (text to itself), but was in not in The Scarlet Letter, that Hester Prynne was scoured and chastised for attempting to distance herself from her strong puritan community. (text to text) This conveys the way people view those who disregard their role in society- they look at them as outcasts because its unnatural for a human to want drastic separation.

So why is it you think it better to live away from the civilization we’re designed to be a part of? In a colony of ants, there is not one ant that choses to support only itself, and not contribute to the group work force. In wishing to create an immaculate country, should not all people work together to benefit not only themselves, but their neighbors as well. In the novel Things Fall Apart,  it is known, that each member of the community will do their expected task that helps the entire tribe; men hunt, women weave, children pick fruits (text to text). An economy can not consist of one person, for a group of people must be involved. Humans are tied together through the outcome of the economy, and that will be true for each generation (text to world). If the economy is bad, everyone should feel the effects- a specific member should not have the right to remove themselves from the problem.

In a community, people should be more or less a team, and remember, there’s no I in team. By given a mouth to communicate, we were made to socialize to form bonds and relationships with our fellow neighbors. It is  unnatural to refrain from reaching out to people, and I am curious as to why you chose to be so heavily guarded. Although your experiments may seem beneficial to you as an individual, they are impractical and do not fit well with the modern day times.


Emily Liles

March 2, 2011

Establishing a leader

Filed under: Uncategorized @ 2:01 am and

When ever people gather together in a limited amount of space, one person has to rise to the power of being a leader. Especially in a time of chaos, one person will always step forward to take control and try to lead the others out of a tough situation.  Take wolves for example, or other packs of wild dogs. One dog will rise to be the alpha of the pack. Or students in a class, the teacher has the authority. In a home, the parents are the leaders. On a ship there is a captain. At a job site there is a boss. One person has to be in charge in order to make an efficient controlled environment.


In the middle of the Pacific Ocean, Pi becomes the leader of the boat by taming the tiger Richard Parker. Pi is in charge of food supplies and keeping them alive. Richard Parker respects and does not disobey Pi because Pi has showed him that he is the dominant member of the boat. Pi sets boundaries and restrictions that teach the tiger where he can and can not go. In order to live together, there always has to be certain boundaries so the other person knows not what to do.

A leader is someone who is able to provide for the others and help them along the way. A leader doesn’t have to be smarter or physically stronger, just someone capable of standing up and taking charge. In Life of Pi, Pi is not the leader because he is stronger than Richard Parker, or necessarily because he is smarter. Pi becomes the leader because animals have to be tamed in order for them to cooperate with people.

Do You Make Your Own Fate?

Filed under: Uncategorized @ 1:37 am and

Defying Gravity-Glee Version  This song reminds me of how Pi goes against the laws of nature, and breaks through his limitations in order to survive.

Is it possible for someone to fight against unfavorable outcomes that are probably going to happen? In Life of Pi, it is most likely Pi’s unfortunate fate to die. The odds against him surviving are extremely unlikely, yet somehow, he manages to carry on.

Some say fate comes from the Gods, or you are born into your destinty and that is what will happen to you. Some believe fate can not be controlled, no matter what we do, we can not fight it. What is bound to happen will happen, you can not decide what is going to happen to you. Life of Pi proves in some cases, this is not true.  The saying “if a man’s chi says yes then the man says yes” comes from the novel Things Fall Apart, and can be related to this. If a person has their mind set on something, even if odds are against them, they can develop the power to over come it.

Some think people have the ability to make their own fate based on the choices they make in life, how hard they’re willing to work, and how strong they are.  If you don’t like something, then you have the power to change it. The things we do effect how we end up, therefore we make our own fate by making our own decisions. Pi proves this when he is stranded in a life boat with a tiger; chances are, he is going to die.

Pi’s chi says yes, therefore he is able to survive.Its all in the mind. Also, it’s about what motivates you to stay strong. For Pi, religion and the love of life encouraged him not to give up hope. If a person sets their mind to something, they will be able to over come it. People who are shipwrecked are able to survive when they stop depending on others to save them, and start relying on themselves. You are you’re own power; when forced to survive, you can not rely on anyone else but yourself. Even if you do not have the strength to over come something, if you think of a way to do it, you will. The first step is to wish for something, and the mind is more powerful than anything else.


February 28, 2011

When Forced to Survive

Filed under: Uncategorized @ 12:25 am and

When a person is put into an extreme state of danger, and everything they depend on in every day life is taken from them,  almost always do people forget about their morals and fall into desperate acts of survival. People in modern day society, when surrounded by abundance of food, water, clothes, basic tools, and homes, are content. Because all of their basic needs are satisfied, they are able to function normally. People develop their own personalities, and their sense of judgement is controlled properly. The only reason people do not act like savages, is because they are given material objects that allow them to live without a hard struggle.

But what happens when a person is put into a situation when all of this is taken away from them. Food, water, technology, shelter, all the things we depend on to survive.  After a while, people begin to abandon their principals and do things they never would have dreamt they would have done before. For example, eating a spider. The only reason we wouldn’t pick a spider up and eat it right now, is because we don’t have to.  If someone is desperate enough, they will do whatever they need to in order to live.

The fear of death is the only power great enough to strip someone of their morality, principals, and dignity.  Everyone has natural instincts much like animals. The thing that makes us different however, is that we have developed ways as to where we don’t have to use our natural instincts to survive. We are who we are because of what we have, not because of our natural instincts.

What would we be then if we didn’t have material goods? Who would you be if you were alone in a life boat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean on the verge of death? In Life of Pi, Pi finds out he is is willing to defy his better judgment in order to survive. He also finds, the only thing keeping him motivated to fight for live, is the love for god, andthe fear of death. A person finds out who they truly are when everything is taken from them, and they have no other worry or obligation except to survive.

February 27, 2011

Religions: Standing on Ground

Filed under: Uncategorized @ 11:23 pm and

Religion is a very contraversal topic, each with vast differences that people often argue over. The most popular question that people debate is “who is right?” Well I can’t answer that, but after reading Life of Pi, I have developed a new way of looking at things.

Religions basically are all a guideline for people to live their life in the best way they know how to.  All religions encourage people to live a good life here on Earth. That’s the first thing we all have in common, we’re all here, right now.  If a person is standing on rocks, another person on grass, and another on dirt, why waste time argueing over which ground is best, why not agree they’re all standing on some sort of ground, and at least they’re standing.

Relgions provide faith. It was once said “If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything”. So why should it matter what you’re standing on as long as you are standing? The main character in the book, Pi, decided he was going to try out many different religions because in each one, he found at least one thing he liked.  Pi doesn’t chose a religion based on culture, or his parents, or what he’s been taught. I noticed how Pi defies the basic “chose only one” concept, instead he choses many religions because he has such deep faith.


Pi connects with himself differently through different religions, each time he enters a different church, he finds a different part of himself he never knew exisited. His faith in differnt beliefs helps him find himself as a whole; which is what faith grants you, finding you’re self and following in what you believe in.



Pi also demonstrates the best way to find a religion is to test them all. It allows you to practice your faith through whatever method you find most suiting to you Pi’s desire to learn and experince many different religions, shows an open mind, and a stronger faith. It was also once said, “seek and you will find”. If you search for any sort of faith, you will find one that suits your needs.


Zoos: Freedom or compression?

Filed under: Uncategorized @ 11:03 pm and

The definition of freedom is the state of being free or at liberty rather than in confinement or under physical restraint. So technically animals in the wild are not completely free. Yes, they have no boundaries, they are able to run, and rome where they please, they have unlimited amount of space, but they are still under slef limitations that bind them from complete freedom. They have to worry about food,  predators, finding a shelter, and not going into other animal’s terrotories. These natural restrictions found in the wild, control an animals life completely.



The definition of compression is pressed into less space; condensed. Animals in zoos are compressed by space but are given better care than animals in the wild who have to fend for themselves. Animals are creatures of routine, they, like most people, do not like change. In zoos they are given a rountine schdule that animals learn to adapt to. Zoos eliminate the competetion in the wild, provide a permanent habitat and the right amounts of food. Before  reading Life of Pi, I always thought that animals in zoos are unhappy, and it is cruel to lock up wild animals. Now I look at zoos as a house. The homes we live in are restricted by space, but it doesn’t matter because they provide shelter and are big enpugh for us to live in. I think a zoo is the same way, it’s a home for the animal.

Then this made me wonder, can people…or animals… ever be truely free? Free from all obligations and work, relationships, and rules. Animals in the wild are not even free to go about as they please because of the survival of the fittest. They have to follow the seasons, and stay away from predators. People can never be completely free either because we have to worry about our duties in society, laws, jobs, school, etc.  There is always something we have to worry about it.

This idea made me view zoos as an escape from natural obligations. A resort where people care for animals and they don’t have to worry about anything. Zoos in a way are like a permanent vacation for animals, and now I encourage the rasing of animals in zoos as appose to being against it.

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