Thursday, 13 December 2012

More Short Story Summaries

This is a continuation from a previous post in which I briefly summarised 5 short stories.

6) The Custody of the Pumpkin - P.G Wodehouse (pg. 119)
This portrayal of an Earl, the Lord Emsworth highlights social class and society's perception of titles. Emsworth has a son who he is embarrassed about, who in his eyes will amount to nothing. This son, Freddie, wishes to marry Emsworth's gardener's cousin. Emsworth is outraged and fires his gardener who was probably the best in growing pumpkins (a pumpkin competition was one that Emsworth sorely wanted to win). The pumpkin starts to falter in its growth, and Emsworth need to win this competition to bring honour to his house, so he travels to London to find a new gardener. In London he finds his son who is planning to elope with his fiance. Emsworth is outraged and goes to the gardens to gather his thought, there he picks a flower and attracts the attention of the authorities and a large crowd. His former gardener and his Freddie's  fiance's father, save him from further embarrassment, and he realises that his son is marrying into money.

7) The Rain Horse - Ted Hughes (pg. 271)
The author poetically describes many aspects of this story. This story involves a man returning home, feeling unwelcome as he treads across the hills to his childhood upbringing. As he trudges through the muddy hills, he encounters an unnaturally behaving, black horse. This horse appears to be aggressively stalking him and the relentless grey rain drives him to act and ask insane questions of himself. After scaring off the horse, the man appears to fall apart mentally. This leaves the reader wondering if the horse was even present or just a figment of a disillusioned man's imagination.
Further information in an essay styled question

8) Sandpiper - Ahdaf Soueif (pg 370)
This story highlights the cultural differences as the author depicts a western woman and an Arab man, and their growing apart in the face of the woman being unable to be accustomed to his homeland, completely foreign to her. The couple's name's aren't mentioned and the author portrays their daughter, Lucy, as the reason for holding the woman back. There are themes of fading love, growing progressively apart.
An essay question and its answer providing great information on this short story
A response to a reader's question

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

My Privacy Policy

Here at Relevant Now (, while I provide you willingly with free information that I hope you can use to further yourself intellectually, there are certain things that I am obliged to disclose. I stumbled upon the need for a Privacy Policy over at TentBlogger, so follow that link to see the importance of this policy yourself.

Primarily, this post primarily entails a Privacy Policy which basically just tells you, the reader, that there is certain generic information that is captured by search engines and third party analytic tools from your visits. Since I am looking to include Google Adsense on this blog, according to their policies, I should stipulate the use of their system, but it is not only for that reason why I am writing this post. I am looking to further this blog, providing information to more readers, and thus it is only responsible for me to abide by the laws and other 'blogging practices' to stipulate the use of cookies and logs. All information is not linked to anything personally identifiable.
Not these Cookies, even though they do look decent!

Cookies are basically small pockets of data that is collected and stored, that enable faster loading time on your part when you (hopefully) re-enter my blog. Cookies are also used by search engines to provide you with more relevant results in the language you desire. Many 3rd party sites use cookies for providing you with the best, most relevant adds that are applicable to what you're searching for. You can adjust the settings in your browser yourself if you wish to send, accept or receive cookies at all. Log files are used to calculate clicks, date and time stamps and is used by every single website out there.

I reserve the right to make any alterations to this privacy policy at any time. By accessing this blog in any form is perceived as your acceptance of this Privacy Policy.

Finally, just to re-iterate, the use of any generic information is purely for the optimisation and benefit of your reading experience.

Thanks for reading and if you like the work that I am putting out there don't forget to subscribe. Hope this blog has been beneficial and I look forward to providing you with more information relevant to your studying life.

Short Stories from Stories of Ourselves Summary

This is just a brief plot summary of what happens in 5 of the short stories found in Stories of Ourselves. This is by no means precise but exists to provide brief happenings in each of the short stories. Below a few, you can find a more detailed analysis or an essay relating to a topic on each short story.

1) The Son's Veto - Thomas Hardy (pg. 46)
Sophy, a young woman, twists her ankle, rendering her with a life-long injury, whilst being a house servant to a vicar, Mr Twycott. She accepts the vicar's marriage proposal after refusing to marry a young man, Sam Hobson, of the same station as her. The vicar marries her, his house keeper, and they move to London due to the social implications of marriage between different classes.

In London, after Mr Twycott passes away, their well educated son starts to distinguish his mother's flaws due to her 'improper' education. She grows lonely as her son is away at boarding school and she is unable to venture into the world due to her crippling ankle. One day, she meets her former love interest, Sam. They rekindle their friendship and love and she longs to move away with him back to their childhood village. The son, Randolph, wanting to become a priest because of its title and social rank, vetoed his mother's courting with Sam since he perceives that this romance with a grocer, Sam, would impact his ambitions negatively.
Essay question on a key topic found in The Son's Veto

2) Her First Ball - Katherine Mansfield (pg. 103)
Leila, a young woman arrives in the city from the country for her first ball. The ball is magical, majestic and beautiful, captivating this young woman. She dances and eventually dances with an old, fat man. He shows her the repetitiveness and eventual predictability that her life will amount to. He shows her the harsh truth and effectively he portrays the difference between ages and the author highlight the predictability and eventual drab sense of youth vs experience. Leila, emotionally moved by the enlightening conversation with the old man, leaves to go outside but on her way she dances with a young, attractive man and she quickly forgets the whole conversation with the old man.

3) The Fly in the Ointment - V.S. Pritchett (pg. 112)
This story starts with a young man visiting his bankrupt father, who lost his business amidst scandal. The father is disappointed with his son's profession. The son is worried about his father as he is bankrupt and has lost his life's work. Everything seems alright with the father being strong and accepting of his predicament until a fly enters the room and the father over-reacts to its presence.
The father states he has no need of money and his show of weakness to the fly perhaps is the reason why the son offers his father money. The father then brutally demands why this offer was not forthcoming.
Detailed analysis providing you with need-to-know information

Monday, 10 December 2012

Answers for Riddles in the Hobbit

Here are the answers to the riddles in my previous post

1) mountain
2) teeth
3) wind
4) dark
5) egg
6) time

7) skin
8) forgiveness
9) fire
10) the letter 'e'
11) a clock
12) a river

Great Riddles from the Hobbit

So in keeping with The Hobbit theme that I've really started to enjoy lately. I stumbled across the official site for the movie. Remember that amazing scene in the book where Gollum and Bilbo have the riddle competition, they've put up those riddles and there's also few user submitted riddles on the site. So check it out if you want; but I've selected a few of the better ones for you here.

Imagine having to answer riddles asked by Gollum
Riddles from the book: The Hobbit 
1) What has roots as nobody sees, 
    Is taller than trees
   Up, up it goes,
   And yet never grows?

2) Thirty white horses on a red hill,
    First the champ,
    Then they stamp,
    Then they stand still

3) Voiceless it cries,
     Wingless flutters,
     Toothless bites,
     Mouthless mutters

4) It cannot be seen, cannot be felt
    Cannot be heard, cannot be smelt.
    It lies behind stars and under hills, 
    And empty holes it fills.
    It comes first and follows after,
    Ends life, kills laughter.

The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien book review

An unexpected hero quests to recover stolen treasure guarded by a ferocious dragon whilst undergoing dramatic self discovery during an epic adventure; getting more difficult as the hero progresses further from home. This brief synopsis might sound so predictable to us in the modern world, but told by the pen of Tolkien, who has influenced modern fantasy so remarkably that his basic plot structure present in the Hobbit has become the go-to for many subsequent works.

Why did I decide to write about the Hobbit:
Well unless you've been living in Hobbiton, in a hobbit hole then you should know that The Hobbit (published in 1937) has been released as a movie! My anticipation to see it has reached fever pitch and thus, I have decided to use some of that inspiration to wright this review. If you are new to Tolkien's fantasy world, The Hobbit is perhaps the ideal place to start as it introduces many aspects as well as some background to the Lord of the Rings series that will follow. Tolkien wrote this book for his children and it is therefore an easy read for younger children while also showing of its literary genius for adults.

Alright, to the book itself:
The book starts in a village where a race of people, known as hobbits, small in height, with hairy feet and no beard dwell. They don't welcome adventure and prefer the solidity and comfort of their community. Anyway, one hobbit, Bilbo Baggins is visited by Gandalf, a wizard, who seeks 'someone to share in an adventure with'. Bilbo is unwilling to get involved in an adventure of any sort (since adventures make one late for dinner).

Saturday, 8 December 2012

The Fly in the Ointment by V.S Pritchett Analysis

A younger man visits his bankrupt father, who is depressed following the collapse of his business. The son is a disappointment to the father due to his choice of career. The father seems strong until, during their conversation, a fly enters the room, with the father overreacting in an attempt to get rid of this simple fly.
This overreaction is perceived as weakness by the son, and driven by pity, he offers his father some money. Immediately the passion and vigor returns to his father, and the shrewd, cunning businessman reemerges and brutally demands to know why he had not been offered this money sooner.

What does the title mean?
Firstly we should take a look at the title since it could provide some insight into why certain aspects of this story are present. 'A fly in the ointment' is a proverb or saying that basically means that something spoils a situation that could have been pleasant. This is shown in the short story literally by a fly which enters the room and causes such an overreaction by the old man that foreshadows text that shows that everything is not as they seem; things are not alright.

Why the father is such a memorable character:
The young man, the son, is shown in the first paragraph to rather walk a distance than show up in a cab in front of his father since he thinks 'The old man will wonder where I got the money'. This quote is the first sign that shows the reader that the old man is concerned with money.

The author uses two statements to show the demise of the business, firstly '...building a business out of nothing, and then, after a few years of prosperity, letting it go to pieces in chafer of rumour, idleness, quarrels, accusations and, at last, bankruptcy.' The sons questions whether 'they were telling the truth  when they said the old man was a crook and that his balance sheets were cooked?' and then secondly, later in the story the narrator shows the son's thoughts when he thinks the father will tell him the embarrassing truth which he already knows about, that of  'the people you've swindled'. These show the father in a bad light, a cheating businessman that fixed his sheets for acknowledgement and was concerned with money and the class of men it put him with.

The father's concern with social status is shown when he the author states 'A small man himself, he was proud to be bankrupt with the big ones; it made him feel rich.' This also foreshadows that despite the old man's statements about having no need for money, he is still truly concerned about it, since he has a desire to feel rich.

The use of foreshadowing and its role together with humor and irony
There are many instances of foreshadowing, a few that have been mentioned above. One that is apparent is the use of 'his father had two faces.' which shows the contrasting emotions the old man can show and his ability, like a businessman to show the face that will suite his end needs. This piece of foreshadowing should show the reader the truth behind the father but instead the reader is made to believe the old man, that he no longer has need of money.

In the old man's speech to his son on the irrelevance for money he states, 'If you came in now and offered me a thousand pounds I should laugh at you.' this shows the reader that the father has outgrown his cruel, greedy ways. The irony emerges when the son does in fact merely mention raising cash when the father, instead of refusing it, brutally demands why it had not been forthcoming. This complete 'change of face' (intended pun) is ironic since it goes against what the reader expects.

It is almost humorous in the emergence that the father has not changed, and the reader will see the amusing side behind the fly. An actual fly foreshadows the proverb, that pleasantry will be spoiled, by the fathers demands of cash after his apparent no longer need for fiscal bounds.

Friday, 7 December 2012

The Destructors by Graham Greene Analysis

This short story by Graham Greene is a critical yet humorous one in which a group of young teenagers have formed a gang in post-blitz London and plot to tear down the only symbolic house left standing after a bombing raid leveled an area. It would be wise to look at the characters and their influence in this short story and the results they have on various subsequent view-points that the reader will see.

Main Characters:
Trevor or T. is the protagonist in the story as the plot revolves around his actions and decisions. Defining the antagonist is a bit more complicated, since we can look at the Old Misery's house as an antagonist but deeper inspection could point one to recognise that the fact that society's current state is perhaps more accurate. Trevor is looking to destroy the house as it is a symbol for hope for society as it has survived the war and thus the two are working against each other; Trevor against society.

A picture from Blitzed London to show the grey despair 
The name Trevor is common and isn't anything special, whereas T. creates a sense of power and leadership. This could show that the gang might not accept society's values of a birth name and thus alter it to suite their acceptance. When Blackie calls T., Trevor, the reader can sense the shift in power between the leaders.

How Suspense is created:
Suspense is created throughout this story, perhaps most obviously when the gang questions T. of his whereabouts and T.'s responses are short and curtailed, with his eyes looking down as shown by 'He looked at the ground, as though he had thoughts to hide.' The manner of his short responses creates tension and in turn suspense, this reaches a climax when 'T raised his eyes, as grey and disturbed as the drab August day.' this sentence confirms the author's build up of tension and thus the reader focuses on the following 'We'll pull it down' which is central to the story.

Suspense is expanded upon later in the story by the premature return of Old Misery and T's breakdown and the subsequent 'He protested with the jury of the child he had never been.' is completely against T's previous way of acting and this sudden change creates suspense while also showing the uncanny or unnatural view that Trevor never had a childhood in which he behaved like a child.

Why is the setting so significant?
In many short stories there is not enough time for authors to build up a interesting setting that adds significant value to the plot. Yet, Greene uses a blitzed, grey, downcast London;  a city with little hope as a central and important focus point. The setting in turn shapes the characters and their fellow gang members and might be responsible for their willingness to destroy this beautiful house. The house stands as a symbol of hope and triumph over adversity and thus serves the community.

The humor present:
There is plenty of humor present in this short story, most notably by the Top Hat that is identified by the lorry driver and is amusing considering in is worn by a man who was locked in a loo, whose house had just fallen down and the top hat should be a symbol ironically of high society.

T. tells Old Misery 'There's nothing personal'  just before he tears his house down and after that, upon seeing the house torn up, the lorry driver coincidentally repeats the exact same line after openly laughing at Mr Thomas' predicament. One might find humor in the fact that 'There's nothing personal' shows that the destruction was not personal for T. but was deeply personal for Mr Thomas.

What does this short story show?
The author uses the story to show the underlying need for destruction present in human nature, and our ability to destroy beautiful objects for pointless reasons. The destruction of the house is seen as pointless in itself since nothing is gained.

Post-war London's changing social structure could also show the fact that the youth is no longer as connected to the past as previous generations. Thus changing social dynamics and shifting power between generations is an integral part of this story.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

The Mark of Athena review

The Mark of Athena is the 3rd book in the 'Heroes of Olympus' series and is Rick Riordan's 8th book that chronicles the adventures of demigod teens descended from either Greek or Roman gods. Riordan's projection of mythology into his quirky, amiable characters have been a major characteristic in all his novels.

Like the previous two books in the Heroes of Olympus, the Mark of Athena is written in alternating 3rd person narrative, giving the reader a view of each character's thoughts on different situations.
US cover

Summary: (don't worry, hardly any spoilers)
The prophecy:

Wisdom's daughter walks alone,
The Mark of Athena burns through Rome.
Twins snuff out the angels breath,
Who holds the key to endless death.
Giants bane stands gold and pale,
Won through pain from a woven jail.

Like all Riordan's books, the central plot focuses on the character's trying to fulfill a prophecy to save the world. In this book, seven powerful demigods team up to stop the resurrection of the evil titan, Gaia.

Perhaps for many, Percy and Annabeth's reunion is a major event and subsequently their relationship and feelings towards each other is shown continuously by both characters. When the two camps, the Greek Camp Half-Blood and the Roman Camp Jupiter meet, things don't go according to plan. As was foreshadowed extensively by Riordan's constant reminder that Greeks and Romans do not get along.

Subsequently, the greek-demigods Annabeth, Percy, Leo and Piper team up with the roman demigods, Jason, Frank and Hazel. Percy and Jason have knowledge of both camps as was detailed in the previous two books.

Annabeth is perhaps the most centralised character in this book as it is her path alone to fulfill the task given to her by her mother, Athena, to follow the Mark of Athena and restore Athena's pride.

My Rating: 6.5/10
UK cover
Since I have read all Riordan's previous books and have grown up with his writing, I can notice the apparent similarities present in all his work. It is indeed getting a tad repetitive and I would enjoy a change up in basic plot structure. Riordan should remember that the children that read his first few books have grown up over the years and he should perhaps in turn, write in a more developed manner.

Personally, I got the feeling while reading this books that it has become very commercialised and that publisher might be trying to milk an extremely profitable series. The character's dialogue felt very forced and grossly cliched. Considering how many pages are in the book, I was disappointed that the plot only progressed as far as Rome.

Overall, Riordan's writing is above average, easy to read and enjoyable. This books saving grace is its amiable characters and Riordan's fantastic ability to introduce ancient mythology to a young generation. A definite must read if you've read the Percy Jackson series or you are looking for a light holiday read.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Feedback Time

Well, I haven't really had a post that gives anyone a chance to just throw a few words around.

Basically, if you've read through a few of my previous posts, I would love to hear you're thoughts on the work I'm providing and whether it has been helpful or not.

Next, I've been messing around with the overall look of the blog and I think I've settled on this basic, clean, minimal distraction sort of look.

Thanx guys, cheers