Jessica's Book Compilation

Books included: Working by Studs Terkel, The Histories by Herodotus, The Nature of Things by Lucretius, A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft, The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx, On the Genealogy of Morals by Friedrich Nietzsche, and The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien

Working by Studs Terkel (++) Terkel captured the attitude of workers before the Information Age. In his time, agriculture and traditional industries dominated the job market. The shift to computerization had not happened. Technology did not play an essential role in careers. Today it is required that you have a basic understanding of computers and can use different operating systems. Can you imagine someone not knowing how to navigate the internet and landing a job? Me neither. In the 1960s, a person could have one job for their entire life (without a college education in most cases) and make decent money. It was secure; it put much needed food on the table. The jobs in Working are mainly about making or selling a physically tangible item. A prime example of this type of job is farming. Here, the elderly couple represent a dated representation of work.
The Histories by Herodotus (SB) The Mercator map shown is far from accurate. It is a portrayal that has its advantages and disadvantages. For instance, the general shapes of all the continents are accurate; however, the North and South Pole are greatly enlarged. This gives an unrealistic representation of their size. Herodotus knows the world looks distorted when you look at the whole picture. By looking at individual cultures and cities, you can understand the world better. Herodotus has the incredible ability to analyze a culture and make connections to the past and other cultures. Herodotus tries to relate cultures like Terkel tries to relate occupations. They both are interested in going beyond the surface. They strive to delve deeper. In this way, the two men are similar.
The Nature of Things by Lucretius (SB -) Lucretius is unusual to say the least. He discusses physics and philosophy interchangeably through poetry. It is a strange format for the topic at hand but somehow he makes it work. Lucretius talks about atoms and the principles of atomism. Nothing in this world came from nothing. In addition, nothing in this world can be reduced to nothing. Frankly, this is mindboggling concept. There had to be something in the very beginning right? These atoms are everywhere; their numbers are infinite. Lucretius did not know what these particles were or how they functioned. At this point in history, how could he? They simply had not advanced enough. These particular lyrics for “The Scientist” by Coldplay strike me as very Lucretius-ish. "I was just guessing at numbers and figures/ Pulling the puzzles apart/ Questions of science, science and progress/ Could not speak as loud as my heart." Lucretius is a curious man. He proposes questions and tries to answer them as best as he can. Unfortunately, he doesn’t know the exact details or figures. However, what he does have is a solid idea that he wants the world to know about.
A Vindication of the Rights of Woman by Mary Wollstonecraft (+) Wollstonecraft has a simple view: women are essential in society and men are not recognizing that fact. Women raise the children and are the companions of the men. They are far more than ornaments or purposeless figures. I was intrigued during class when a student mentioned the Biblical story of Judith and Holofernes. An Assyrian general, Holofernes, took over the city of Bethulia. One of the citizens, Judith, devised a plan to take back the city. Judith was a cunning woman and easily made her way into the general’s chambers. After getting him extremely drunk, she cut off his head with a sword. The painting captures your attention. There is pure fear on Holofernes’s face. Judith seems calm and determined to do what is best for her city. I find myself reminded of Wollstonecraft. She knows that women are fully capable of acting like men. This act, beheading another person, is shocking and gruesome. It goes against society’s definition of what a lady is. Wollstonecraft wants women to push boundaries; she wants them to ignore standards and preconceived ideas.
The Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx (FB) “Come mothers and fathers throughout the land/ And don't criticize what you can't understand/ Your sons and your daughters are beyond your command/ Your old road is rapidly agin'/ Please get out of the new one if you can't lend your hand/ For the times they are a-changin'” Bob Dylan captured how I envisioned Karl Marx perfectly (which is highly ironic). In my mind, I pictured him at a desk trying to put his innovative ideas to paper. He’s trying to capture the attention of the world. People might find his ideas radical and they would be correct. However, he does not want others to dismiss his thoughts without proper consideration. If they don’t understand them fully, how can they mock them? The world is changing. The poor feel neglected; the rich run the government. It is time for something revolutionary to happen. This is where Marx comes in with communism and socialism.
On the Genealogy of Morals by Friedrich Nietzsche (--) Nietzsche wrote about good and evil. He proposed that morality comes from rulers and conquerors. Wealth and success is viewed as good. Poverty is viewed as evil. This seems to go against how modern-day society defines these two terms. However, this is simply how the idea of morals originated. Morals evolved over time. I was struck by how Nietzsche's ideas were almost opposite to Marx's ideas. Marx wanted to show that the poor were more than just laborers. They had a purpose that the rich relied on. If they were to disappear overnight, society would crumble. By calling those in poverty evil, you are saying that their role in the world is not needed or appreciated. Marx would completely disagree with Nietzsche on this point. I imagined them fighting each other over their opposing viewpoints; they would desperately want to prove the other wrong.
The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien (++) I remember reading this book in 11th grade English class. Of course, I didn't want to read the book. In fact, I didn't want to even give it a chance and resented being forced to do something I felt was unproductive. It's ironic that I ended up absolutely loving the book. The pages were filled with beautiful and, at the same time, gruesome imagery. The author have the ability to transport you directly to the Vietnam War. You felt like you were there with the characters and you understood their pain. When I read this book, I can't help but hear war protest music. I attached my favorite, even though there are dozens that could perfectly accompany this novel.
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