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The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency: Chapters 19-22 June 18, 2007

Posted by Han in Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Sm.
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Is in The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency a feminist novel? Does the fact that its author is a man complicate such a reading? How well does Alexander McCall Smith represent a woman’s character and consciousness in Mma Ramotswe?

Alexander McCall Smith’s Precious Ramotswe books have been praised for their combination of apparent simplicity with a high degree of sophistication. In what ways does in The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency have the appeal of simple storytelling? In what ways is it sophisticated? What does it suggest about the larger issues of how to live one’s life, how to behave in society, how to be happy?

Mma Ramotswe does not want Africa to change, to become thoroughly modern: “She did not want her people to become like everybody else, soulless, selfish, forgetful of what it means to be an African, or, worse still, ashamed of Africa” [p. 215]. But what aspects of traditional African culture trouble her? How does she regard the traditional African attitude toward women, marriage, family duty, and witchcraft? Is there a contradiction in her relationship to “old” Africa?How appropriate is the ending of the novel?

The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency: Chapters 16-18 June 18, 2007

Posted by Han in Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, The No.1 Ladies Detective Agency by Alexander McCall Sm.
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Mma Ramotswe imagines retiring back in Mochudi, buying some land with her cousins, growing melons, and living life in such a way that “every morning she could sit in front of her house and sniff at the wood-smoke and look forward to spending the day talking with her friends. How sorry she felt for white people, who couldn’t do any of this, and who were always dashing around and worrying themselves over things that were going to happen anyway. What use was it having all that money if you could never sit still or just watch your cattle eating grass? None, in her view; none at all” [p. 162]. Is Mma Ramotswe’s critique of white people on the mark or is she stereotyping? What makes her sense of what is important, and what brings happiness, so refreshing? What other differences between black and white cultures does the novel make apparent?

In Light of Grapes of Wrath…thought provoking list on signs of coveting May 28, 2007

Posted by Han in Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck.
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Grapes of Wrath has me thinking so much about what I consider my needs to be and how selfish I can be etc etc.  Well this Sunday at church our Pastor did a message on giving and he had this list that was very provoking to me and I thought it really related well to what we are reading about in this book.  It is from ” A Christian Directory”  Richard Baxter’s signs of Covetousness.  It was an eye opening list for me….because covetousness isn’t just the envy of our rich friend down the street…it is how we respond as a whole to those around us and our priorities and earthly versus spiritual riches.   Anyhow here it is:

1)  Not preferring God and eternity over our own worldly pleasure; loving worldly pleasures more than we should.

2)  Esteeming and loving the creatures of God as provisions for ourselves and not to further us in serving God.

3)  Desiring More than we need or can use to further God’s kingdom.

4)An inordinate eagerness after earthly things.

5)Being distrustful and consumed with cares about our future provision.

6)Discontent and troubled when we feel poor, having only “our daily bread.”

7)  When our thoughts run more easily to the things of the world than they do toward better things, and these thoughts are more pleasant and sweet to us than thoughts of Christ, grace, and heaven.  Thoughts of experiencing any lack are bitter and grievous, more than thoughts of sin and God’s displeasure.

8)  When our speech is freer and sweeter about worldly wealth than about concerns of God and our soulds.

9)When worldly possessions sway our families and conversations, crowding out and cutting short our involvement in God’s kingdom.

10)  When we are dejected and impatient over losses and worldly injuries.

11)  When worldly matters cause us to engage in contentions and break peace with others, living more by demanding our rights than the honor of God and the good of another’s soul.

12)  When in our trouble and distress we get our comfort more from the thoughts of our money and possessions than from our trust in God, and our hopes of heaven.

13)  When we are more thankful to God or man for outward riches, than we are for our hope of salvation, or a powerful ministry, or good books, or seasonable instruction for the soul.

14)  When we are quiet and pleased if we have plenty in the world, even though our soul is miserable, unsanctified, and unpardoned.

15)  When we are more careful to provide a worldly than a heavenly portion for children and friends, and rejoice more in their bodily than their spiritual prosperity, and are troubled more for their poverty than their ungodliness or sin.

16)  When we see someone in need and have something to give but shut up our compassion by either giving nothing, giving unwillingly, or by giving sparingly.

17)  When we will venture upon sinful means to gain riches; such as lying, overreaching, deceiving, flattering, or going aginst our consciences, or the commands of God.

18)  When we expect too much generosity from others without considering their sacrifice or even resentful of their generosity toward others.

19)When we make too much of worldly riches and we take on too much just to impress others.

20)  When we hold our money tighter than our innocence, and are unable to part with it for the sake of Christ.

21)  When we use our riches only to pamper ourselves and leave “some inconsiderable crumbs or driblets” for God.

The Grapes of Wrath: Overview May 28, 2007

Posted by Michelle in Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck.
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When The Grapes of Wrath was published, it was banned, publicly burned, and it’s author criticized for his political and social views from both sides of the spectrum. How do you respond to Steinbecks depiction of the plight of the poor? Of the farmers? Is Steinbeck a propagandist? A socialist? A believer reflecting Gods word? Did the book earn the Pulitzer Prize it received? Did Steinbeck deserve the Nobel Prize that he was awarded?

The Grapes of Wrath eventually led to congressional hearings on migrant camp conditions and changes in labor laws. Are you provoked to make changes in your view and/or lifestyle? If so, what?

What would you say this book is about in one word or one sentence?

Do you see any parallels between the Christianity and the book? Teachings? Characters? Etc? If so, what and why?

Anyone want to take a stab at explaining why Steinbeck chose the title he did? What it means?

The Grapes of Wrath: Chapters 27-30 May 27, 2007

Posted by Michelle in Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck.
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What do you think about Tom’s revelation that the greatest calling is to put yourself into service for the collective good? Do you see parallels between this theory and Christianity?

Why do you think Rose of Sharon acted the way she did when she found out about Al’s engagement?

The Grapes of Wrath: Chapter 26 May 25, 2007

Posted by Michelle in Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck.
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Thought worthy quotes:

To Pa, in response to his feeling weighed down in looking for work: Ma says fiercely, “You ain’t got the right to get discouraged. This here fambly’s goin’ under. You jus’ ain’t got the right.”

To the shopkeeper after he lends them a dime, “Learnin’ all the time, ever’ day. If you’re in trouble or hurt or need – go the poor people. They’re the only ones that will help – the only ones.”

The Grapes of Wrath: Chapters 23-25 May 23, 2007

Posted by Michelle in Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck.
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Chapter 25 “… And in the eyes of the hungry there is a growing wrath. In the souls of the people the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage.” Thoughts?

The Grapes of Wrath: Chapters 21-22 May 20, 2007

Posted by Michelle in Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck.
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Ok, which of you mothers have breast fed while tending a fire and preparing breakfast and just how difficult was it?

Let’s all just take a collective sigh and share how relieved and excited we were that the Joads have finally cut a break and found some small pleasures and hope.

The Grapes of Wrath: Chapter 20 May 20, 2007

Posted by Michelle in Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck.
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Uncle John, who had a history of treating children very well, was unable to eat his stew in front of the camp children’s hungry eyes. It took his appetite away. Yet, instead of giving his stew to the children, he gave it to Tom. Why do you think he did that?

What are your thoughts about Casey’s sacrifice?

Do you really think Connie left Rose a Sharon and their baby?

The Grapes of Wrath: Chapters 18-19 May 11, 2007

Posted by Michelle in Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck.
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The Joads are warned for the second time that there is no work in California. If they were going to be serfs and work someone elses land, do you think it would have been better to stay in Oklahoma and do it there? Should they have turned back or continued on? What would you have done?

Why do you think Noah stayed behind at the river? Because he liked the river? Because he was afraid of CA? Was it Pa’s fault? …?

Do you think the Joads were justified in leaving the Wilsons since they left cash and food or do you think they should have stayed? Why?

The local Californian’s had essentially stole the land and imported slaves. They intentionally repress the okies in an effort to protect their abundance and wealth. Do you think this still happens in modern day America? How? (side note: Ha. I actually wrote this question before I saw the NPR story.)

The Grapes of Wrath: Chapters 16-17 May 11, 2007

Posted by Michelle in Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck.
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Rose of Sharon and Connie are planning on living in the city, studying and opening up a store, but Ma Joad dismisses it as a dream. Why? Do you think Rose of Sharon and Connie could have a chance at success?

Was Ma Joad’s decision to usurp Pa’s authority and demand that the family stay together a wise one?

In the News May 9, 2007

Posted by Michelle in Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck.
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This article was on the front page of NPR today. I found it interesting since it involves importing workers and paying them a low wage.

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=10079556

The Grapes of Wrath: Chapters 13-15 May 8, 2007

Posted by Michelle in Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck.
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An immediate sense of community formed when the Joads set up camp with the Wilsons- essentially strangers on the side of the road. Yet Cpt 14 says the thing to bomb is the beginning from I to We. Why do you think there is so much fear in community?

Why do you think the truckers left Mae such a large tip? Was it a reward for her compassion in giving the kids the candy? Was it a statement toward her initial lack of compassion? Was it something else altogether?

The Grapes of Wrath: Chapters 9-12 May 6, 2007

Posted by Michelle in Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck.
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There seems to be a sharp contract in morals being presented – there are wealthy men taking advantage of their fellow man in need (car sales, car repairs, pawn men, the bank). Yet the Joads, when faced with the prospect of another mouth to feed (Cary) when they are likely to starve, refuse to turn their back on him. “It ain’t kin we? It’s will we?” or on pg 156 there is a story of a family of 12 being cared for by a stranger in a sedan envoking “faith in their own species”. Do you think this is an accurate representation of life as you experience it – that those who have much give little and those that have little give much?

Why do you think it was so important for Muley and Grampa Joad to stay in Oklahoma?

The Grapes of Wrath: Chapters 6-8 May 4, 2007

Posted by Michelle in Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck.
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How do you feel about Willy (the deputy sheriff) or Joe Davis’s boy (the man plowing the fields) staying and working the law and the land when that means they are pushing their friends and neighbors out? Is it justified? What would you do if you were in their position?

Tom confesses that if in the same situation, he would kill again. Does that cause you to think differently about prison or our reform system? Do you think Tom was justified in killing his friend?

Has anyone ever bought a car and had it NOT feel like it did when you read Chapter 7? 😉

Do you have any initial thoughts on the family? Have you noticed any interesting dynamics or personalities already?