Category: Deep Thinkers

Deep Thinker 1.1 – The Idea of Him Makes Noise

Source: Grendel’s Guide to Love and War: A Tale of Rivalry, Romance, and Existential Angst by A.E. Kaplan, page 145

Quote: I was stunned by the quiet of the house with no one in it. Not that my dad is exactly loud, but the idea of him makes noise. 

Context: Tom Grendel is staying at home alone while his father, a veteran soldier living with PTSD, is avoiding being home by leaving on business with the military.

This Makes Me Think: This passage cleverly describes a feeling most of us have had, but few of us could describe. The character, Tom is used to having to be very careful at home because sudden or loud noises have a serious and harmful effect on his father because of his PTSD and unpredictable moods. When his father is out-of-town, Tom reflects on how much different his father being gone feels than just having his father in another room. Tom is comparing the tension he feels when his father is around to his father making noise. I thought this was an effective use of figurative language to describe a feeling that would be tricky to describe literally.

Deep Thinker 2.1 – “The Spirit of Things as they Were”

Source: The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury, page70

Quote: “Ask me then, if I believe in the spirit of the things as they were used and I’ll say yes. They’re all here. All the things which had uses. All the mountains which had names. And we’ll never be able to use them without feeling uncomfortable. And somehow the mountains will never sound right to us; we’ll give them new names, but the old names are there, somewhere in time, and the mountains were shaped and seen under those names. The names we’ll give to the canals and mountains and cities will fall like so much water on the back of a mallard. No matter how we touch Mars, we’ll never touch it. And then we’ll get mad at it, and you know what we’ll do? We’ll rip it up, rip the skin off, and change it to fit ourselves.”

Context: Jeff Spender, one of the astronauts on the first successful expeditions to Mars, is feeling conflicted in his role as one of the first men from Earth to visit Mars with the intention of opening the planet to settlement by colonists from Earth. He’s explaining to his captain, Captain Wilder, why he’s gotten into a fight with some of the other astronauts over their wild behavior during their first night on the planet. When he gets his first look at the remnants of ancient civilization on Mars, he’s deeply uncomfortable with the idea of settlers from Earth coming in to rename and destroy what the ancient Martian civilizations left behind.

This Makes Me Think: This passage jumped out at me because Bradbury is making some pretty strong connections between his fictional story about settling Mars and what actually happened when Europeans settled the North American Continent, especially the American West. He seems to be saying that this is what happened in the western states: the settlers had a hard time adjusting to the deserts the way the Native Americans did, so instead of trying to adapt, they reshaped the land and the way of living on it to suit the way they were used to living in Europe or in the Eastern states they came from.

 

Deep Thinker #1

Source: A Death in Belmont by Sebastian Junger, page 66.

Quote: A black man accused of rape was a stand-in for his entire race, and he was lynched or executed by the state because a gradual mingling of the races had started to occur that racist whites were powerless to stop. Ultimately, the purpose of lynching was not to dispense justice, but to control the black population. Since lynching was primarily an instrument of terror, it mattered little whether the accused were guilty or not. In some ways killing an innocent man made even more of an impression than killing a guilty one.

Context: This book is a man named Roy Smith who may or may not have committed a murder for which he was convicted. The book goes off on a tangent about how dangerous life in the southern United States could be for a black when when a crime was committed without a known perpetrator.

This Makes Me Think: This quote struck me as relevant and interesting because we are currently studying To Kill a Mockingbird in English 9. In that book, Tom Robinson is a man who is clearly innocent, but is still charged with raping a white woman. Before, during, and even after his trial, there seems to be little concern on behalf of the citizens of the town whether of not Tom actually did it. I always struggle to find a way to explain to my students, or to understand for myself, how this sort of thing could have happened, because there is plenty of evidence that it did all the time in the early half of the 20th century. I think this quote does a better job than I ever have at explaining how and why people would be willing to accept a capital conviction that they know isn’t right.

Deep Thinker 2.3

Source: The Lonesome Gods by Louis L’Amour, page 313

Quote: Reading had done that for me–that even when I disapproved of what my grandfather had done, I could understand him. It made his crimes no less, but left me with a clearer view.

Context: Johannes Verne, at this point in his mid-to-late teens, is reflecting on his grandfather’s motives in hiring men to hunt him down and kill him. Johannes’s grandfather, Don Isidro, is trying to have Johannes killed because Johannes’s father eloped with Don Isidro’s daughter, Consuelo. After Johannes was born, Consuelo died of tuberculosis. Don Isidro has succeeded in having Johannes’s father killed, and now wants Johannes killed to erase the shame brought on his family when Consuelo eloped with Johannes’s father.

This Makes Me Think: Even though he doesn’t want to die, Johannes says that he can understand why his grandfather is trying to have him killed. He understands because he read about similar situations and feelings of pride in Robinson Crusoe, by Sir Walter Scott. He doesn’t agree with his grandfather, but he understands why his grandfather is doing what he is doing.

Being able to understand why your enemies think and feel the way they do is an important skill. It’s part of being able to see both sides of any issue, which is a skill I try to teach my students. One of the best ways to develop this skill is by reading widely. When you read, you get used to seeing things from someone else’s perspective, and this is a real-world skill that can benefit a reader for the rest of his or her life. I like that Johannes points out that he gained this skill by reading.

Deep Thinker 2.2

Source: The Lonesome Gods by Louis L’Amour, page 205

Quote: I knew the image of that hand would be with me forever, for we who pass do not own this land, we but use it, we hold it briefly in trust for those yet to come. We must not reap without seeding, we must not take from the earth without replacing.

Context: Johannes Verne, who is growing up an orphan in the California frontier when California was still part of Mexico, is reflecting on a story his father once told him (before he died) about coming across a Native American cliff dwelling in which he could see impressions of the hand of the ancient builder in the mortar.

This Makes Me Think: I agree with this philosophy that we need to protect the deserts of the American Southwest. There are plenty of people who promote the idea that the land is here for us to use and that we should use it. I agree with this idea within the limits of what L’Amour says through the character Johannes in this quote. I think we should make sure that anything we do to or with the land leaves it in as good of shape or better than we found it. Generations will come and go, but the land will stay, and I can’t imagine anything more selfish than to strip and waste the land and leave it desolate for future generations to deal with.

 

Deep Thinker 2.1

Source: The Lonesome Gods by Louis L’Amour, page 83

Quote: “There was a cowhand once who said that Shakespeare was the only poet who wrote like he’d been raised on red meat.”

Context: Peter Burkin, a cowboy, is talking to Johannes Verne, a six-year-old boy about the books Johannes’s father has been reading to the boy.

This Makes Me Think: I like this passage because I love reading, watching, and teaching Shakespeare. One of the hardest things about liking Shakespeare is having to defend Shakespeare to all the Shakespeare Haters. I think a lot of people dislike Shakespeare because they have a difficult time with the language and assume, because of all the cultural misinformation out there, that Shakespeare was all love-sonnets, and love-plays. I used to share the same misconceptions, but once I started really reading and studying his plays, I was surprised to discover that there is a lot more to Shakespeare than lovey-dovey poetry. His plays feature all kinds of gritty stuff, such as the following:

  • tongues cut out, hands chopped off (Titus Andronicus)
  • eyeballs ground out (King Lear)
  • school friends murdered for spying (Hamlet)
  • girlfriend’s dad murdered for spying (Hamlet)
  • mother slapped around for marrying uncle (Hamlet)
  • wife strangled out of jealousy (Othello)
  • king starved to death for seizing someone’s property (Richard II)
  • kids murdered so their killer can be king (Richard III)
  • king murdered, murderer haunted and killed (Macbeth)
  • Caesar stabbed to death by circle of friends (Julius Caesar)

Thus we see, it is fair to make the statement that Shakespeare is a poet who “wrote like he’d been raised on red meat.”

Deep Thinker #2

SourceThe Emperor of Any Place, by Tim Wynne-Jones, page 186

Quote: “There was no celebration. Not that night. The creature was finally dead; I was able to grasp that, but it was harder to let go of the fear it had engendered.”

Context: Isamu Oshiro and Derwood Kraft, a Japanese and an American soldier stranded on an uninhabited Japanese island, have just trapped and burned a mythical monster that has been terrorizing them.

This Makes Me Think: I think it’s true that, even once the threat has been removed, it’s harder than it seems to stop fearing something we’ve learned to fear. In some ways, I think people find their fears comforting because it makes you feel like you understand and have some control over things. Once the threat is gone, it’s hard to go back to feeling comfortable. I think this applies to all kinds of human emotions and behavior. For example, kids are practically programmed by our culture, media, and friends, to think that they hate school. So even when school is enjoyable, or when we’re learning about something we like, we still complain that it is dumb, lame, boring, or totally not legit.

Deep Thinker 1

Source: The Emperor of Any Place by Tim Wynne-Jones, page 62

Quote: “There were many such songs extolling the proud deaths we soldiers would earn on the battlefield. Curiously, there were not a lot of songs about what to do if you happened to survive.”

Context: A Japanese soldier stranded on an uninhabited Japanese island is thinking about how he feels like a coward for not dying in battle.

This Makes Me Think: I’ve been reading a lot of books about World Wars I and II lately. It’s been interesting to look at reasons different people in different cultures had for going to war. The Japanese would not allow themselves to even consider the thought of surrender or losing the war. There was a lot of pressure not only to go out and fight, but almost to be sure that you died fighting. It’s both impressive and sad that they could inspire so many people to want to die for their country.

Deep Thinker 2 from Dandelion Wine

Quote: “In all the years not one single dish resembled another. Was this one from the deep green sea? Had that one been shot from blue summer air? Was it a swimming food or a flying food, had it pumped blood or chlorophyll, had it walked or leaned after the sun? No one asked. No one cared.”

Context: The narrator is explaining what dinner was like in the boarding house run by Douglas Spaulding’s grandmother. He’s making the point that Doug’s grandmother can make a great meal out of anything, and that no one ever cares to even ask what it is because it is so delicious.

This made me think: Aside from the cool and unusual way the author was able to describe people enjoying a meal, this quote reminded me of the way people enjoy food today in a world very different from the world Bradbury is describing in Dandelion Wine. Today, we get food from the store, from a restaurant, or from Burger King without ever stopping to think where it comes from, and sometimes without even thinking about what it actually is. It’s kind of ironic that this passage is used to describe people enjoying delicious homemade food, but it could also be used to describe very different people enjoying processed garbage mystery food.

Deep Thinker from Dandelion Wine

Quote: “Yesterday Ching Ling Soo died. Yesterday the Civil War ended right here in this town forever. Yesterday Mr. Lincoln died right here and so did General Lee and General Grant and a hundred thousand others facing north and south. And yesterday afternoon, at Colonel Freeleigh’s house, a herd of buffalo-bison as big as all Green Town, Illinois, went off the cliff into nothing at all. Yesterday a whole lot of dust settled for good.”

Context: Douglas and Tom Spaulding have just found out that Colonel Freeleigh, whom they refer to as a “time machine” because he is so old, has just died. In this passage, Douglas is commenting on the fact that there is no one else they know who can tell them about events of the distant past from personal experience.

This made me think: I thought this passage was cool because of the unique way it described the death of a person. Instead of just seeing Colonel Freeleigh’s death as sad or as loss, Douglas explains that the boys no longer have a direct link to the great events of the past through Colonel Freeleigh. I thought that the final sentence, “Yesterday a whole lot of dust settled for good,” was a particularly cool and well-worded image.