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Fahrenheit 451 Predicts Flat Screen TV
Feb 03, 2020  
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*Featured Artist: @trishalyonsart

The flat screen TV in Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 was so big it was called “the wall.” Today’s largest TVs boast seven-foot screens. According to Fahrenheit, it’s not the size of the screen that matters, it’s the content.

Like modern media rooms, game rooms, and home theaters, every house in Bradbury’s futuristic novel has a TV wall. Bradbury predicted in 1953 that television screens would get bigger, programming would become mediocre, and technology would become the center of our lives. In Fahrenheit 451 TV shows are like reality TV. Characters interact with the wall much like we do on Facebook, Twitter, and Skype.

Bradbury predicted other inventions in Fahrenheit 451 including 24-hour banking machines, earbud headphones, electronic surveillance cameras, and listening devices in the form of Bradbury robot dogs that sniff around your house recording conversations.

The most prophetic trend in Fahrenheit 451 is technology’s dehumanizing effect on modern culture. Characters in the novel suffer from loneliness and isolation from watching the wall’s mindless programming. The character of Mildred spends her days interacting with the wall and taking sleeping pills at night.

Viewers have finally turned away from the mind-numbing reality shows the networks developed to cut costs. Quality dramas and sit-coms are back, but they are produced by internet companies, not the networks. Netflix and Amazon have hired talented writers with fresh ideas. For the first time CBS, NBC, ABC, and FOX did not win 2015 Golden Globes. HBO won a single award. Netflix and Amazon were big winners, signaling a power shift from the traditional television industry to tech companies, and the viewers’ shift from TV to computer.

The new players in the media biz seem to have heeded Fahrenheit 451: “The good writers touch life often. The mediocre ones run a quick hand over her.”

Download the Study Guide Now: Fahrenheit 451: Movie Version

Ethan Frome: Movie Version
Jan 10, 2020  
Ethan Frome MV Title Page

THE MOVIE VERSION OF ETHAN FROME IS NOT LIKE THE BOOK by Edith Wharton
Find the recommended movie and book here:
DVD: Ethan Frome
Streaming: Ethan Frome
Book: Ethan Frome

Study Guide compares the book Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton to the movie Ethan Frome

RECOMMENDED MOVIE: Ethan Frome (1993) starring Liam Neeson, Joan Allen, and Patricia Arquette. Directed by John Madden. A Miramax Films Picture.

WHAT’S IN THE BOOK THAT’S NOT IN THE MOVIE?
the engineer . . . the graveyard . . . the suicide pact . . . Ethan’s red scar . . .
Mattie’s red hair ribbon . . . the church picnic . . . the pillow . . . Ethan’s study . . . the shaving scene . . . Ethan’s letter to Zeena . . . Mattie’s note to Ethan . . .

WHAT’S IN THE MOVIE THAT’S NOT IN THE BOOK?
Reverend Smith . . . Ruth as narrator . . . the pump scene . . . the love scenes . . . the fox . . . the poison . . . the gift from Denis . . . the comb . . . Mattie’s singing . . .

WHAT’S THE SAME?
the dance . . . the search for the key . . . Zeena’s trip to the doctor . . . the pickle dish . . . the sawmill . . . the smash-up . . . 

Download the Study Guide Now: Ethan Frome: Movie Version

WHY DO WE SAY “MERRY” CHRISTMAS?
Dec 24, 2019  
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We say “Happy” Birthday, New Year, Thanksgiving, Easter and lots of other holidays. But Christmas is the only “Merry” greeting. The answer lies in the tradition of drinking alcohol at Christmas. “Merry” used to mean “tipsy” or “drunk” and the custom of getting drunk at Christmas goes back to the 4th century.

- 324 A.D. Early Christians celebrated Easter only. Pope Liberius added Christmas to the church calendar and set the date December 25. The idea was to attract more converts who liked to celebrate the Roman winter festival Saturnalia when houses were decorated with evergreens and everybody played games, gave gifts and partied.
- Middle Ages. Christmas was celebrated as a rowdy party with dancing, drinking and sexual revelry.
- The Reformation. In the 1500s Protestants banned the wild festival of Christmas, but Catholics partied on.
- The Restoration. In England the Puritans banned Christmas when they seized power in 1640. When the monarchy was restored in 1660, Christmas made a comeback. So did the drinking and revelry.
- 1844. Charles Dickens published A Christmas Carol, a novel where Ebenezer Scrooge says, “Merry Christmas!”
- Temperance Movement. In the late 1800s in England, women campaigned against drinking alcohol at Christmas. They proposed doing away with the tipsy “Merry” and replacing it with “Happy.” To this day the English and Irish say “Happy Christmas.”

Three Reasons Why it's still in the Curriculum
Nov 01, 2019  
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*Featured Artist: @trishalyonsart

Stephen Crane's The Red Badge of Courage has always been way ahead of its time.  That’s one reason the book has never been out of print since it was first published in 1894. The novel has also been required reading in middle school and high school for over a hundred years. Set in the American Civil War, Crane’s novel is so realistic that battle descriptions are like live tweets from the front lines. The novel is all the more remarkable because Crane did not fight in the Civil War or any war. He was born 6 years after the Civil War ended.  He wrote the book when he was 24. The magazine and newspaper accounts he read of battles were dry and factual. As a writing exercise Crane decided to create emotional passages that describe how soldiers feel before, during, and after battle. Crane wrote in a style totally different from the conventional style of 1894. The result is a novel that still seems modern and unique. Here are 3 reasons why The Red Badge of Courage is still in the curriculum: 

  1. Entry-level Classic. The low reading level (Grade 6) makes Red Badge easy to read while exposing readers to complex themes and sophisticated literary style. Young readers have to build up vocabulary, reading comprehension, and experience with figurative language before diving into adult fiction. Red Badge is a good start. The book provides a solid bridge between young adult fiction and the more challenging adult classics. Readers first must learn to interpret irony, symbolism, and literary devices before tackling the English classics of Dickens, Hardy, and the Brontes, and the American classics of Twain, Steinbeck, Faulkner, and Hemingway. Red Badge is a good basic introduction to adult literature. 

  2. Universal Themes. Red Badge explores what war feels like to a young recruit. The book could be about a soldier in any war who experiences courage, bravery, heroism, loyalty, and survival in the face of dehumanizing forces outside an individual’s control. Red Badge is not a historical novel full of events, dates, and battle strategies. Instead Crane zeroes in on the feelings of the soldiers who are portrayed as victims of war. The characters in Red Badge do not spout political ideology or religious beliefs. They speak of home, family, uncertainty, fear, and survival. 

  3. Modern Style. Red Badge also serves as an introduction to modern style.  Sentences are short and descriptive. Modern literary devices used in the book include flashback and stream of consciousness. The emotional and psychological reactions of characters are exposed. Crane’s descriptions of battle are surrealistic. Examples include: Tents sprang up like strange plants. Camp fires, like red, peculiar blossoms, dotted the night. The red sun was pasted in the sky like a wafer. The trees began softly to sing a hymn of twilight. The youth could see the two flags shaking with laughter amid the smoke remnants. The moon had been lighted and hung in a treetop.

Download the Study Guide Now: The Red Badge of Courage: Movie Version

Frankenstein: Movie Version
Oct 31, 2019  
FRANKENSTEIN MV Title Page

THE MOVIE VERSION OF MARY SHELLEY’S FRANKENSTEIN IS NOT LIKE THE BOOK by Mary Shelley
Find the recommended movie and book here:
DVD: Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein
Streaming: Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein
Book: Frankenstein

Study Guide compares the book Frankenstein by Mary Shelley to the movie Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1994) The movie changes the plot in places, but this is the most reliable movie version. Robert De Niro as the 8-foot-tall creature is fantastic!

RECOMMENDED MOVIE: Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1994) starring Robert De Niro, Kenneth Branagh, Helena Bonham Carter, and Aidan Quinn. Directed by Kenneth Branagh. Produced by Francis Ford Coppola. A TriStar Picture.

WHAT’S IN THE BOOK THAT’S NOT IN THE MOVIE?
The letters to Margaret Saville, Victor’s mother dying of scarlet fever, Justine’s trial, Felix’s sister Agatha and his girlfriend Safie, nature’s power to refresh Victor, the books the creature reads, Victor’s trip to England with Henry, Victor’s laboratory in Scotland, Henry’s murder in Ireland, the creature’s repentance . . .

WHAT’S IN THE MOVIE THAT’S NOT IN THE BOOK?
Victor’s mother dying in childbirth, Victor’s father is a doctor, Waldman’s death, use of Waldman’s brain in the creature, cholera epidemic, the mob that hangs Justine, the flute, Felix’s wife and children, the landlord, the good spirit of the forest, Elizabeth in Ingolstadt, the engagement locket, the murder of Victor’s father, the bodyguards, the ripping out of Elizabeth’s heart, use of Elizabeth’s corpse to make a female creature, Victor’s funeral . . .

WHAT’S THE SAME?
Robert Walton’s Arctic expedition, the sighting of the creature on the ice, the rescue of Victor Frankenstein, Justine’s hanging, the old blind man, how the creature learns to read and write, Victor Frankenstein’s journal . . .

Download the Study Guide Now: Frankenstein: Movie Version