DON QUIXOTE

Don Quixote fully titled The history of the valorous and wittie Knight-Errant Don-Quixote of the Mancha (Spanish: El ingenioso hidalgo don Quixote de la Mancha) is a Spanish novel by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra. Published in two volumes, in 1605 and 1615, Don Quixote is considered the most influential work of literature from the Spanish Golden Age and the entire Spanish literary canon.

Plot Summary

Alonso Quixana is an older gentleman who lives in La Mancha, in the Spanish countryside. He has read many of the books of chivalry and as a result, he has lost his wits, and he decides to roam the country as a knight-errant named Don Quixote de La Mancha. Neither his niece nor his housekeeper can stop him from riding his old horse, Rocinante, out into the country. Quixote’s first sally ends quickly. He insists on having an innkeeper knight him into the chivalric order. Quixote believes that the inn is a castle. Returning home for clothes and money, Quixote is beaten and left for dead. A commoner rescues Quixote and brings him home.

The niece and housekeeper deliberate with two of Quixote’s friends, the priest and barber, and they decide to destroy Quixote’s library, burning many of the books of chivalry. These books are the culprit. When Quixote recovers, he asks for his books and his niece tells him that the sage Muñaton has taken them. Quixote believes it was the sage Friston, his mortal foe. Having found a squire, a common peasant named Sancho Panza, Quixote leaves yet again. This second sally provides the story for the rest of Book I. Panza quickly realizes that his master is mad, but the squire hopes that Quixote will make good on his promise to name Sancho as the Governor of an island. Quixote attacks a windmill, believing it to be a giant, destroying his lance in the process. Indeed, Quixote gets involved in several altercations and violent disputes while traveling on the road.
There is a peaceful and pastoral interlude when Quixote joins the goatherds who mourn the death of their friend Chrysostom, a poet who died of a broken heart. Continuing on the road with Sancho, Quixote has a run in with some horse-breeders and he is beaten so badly that Sancho has to quickly get the knight to an inn. Quixote perceives the inn to be a castle, yet again. Quixote believes the innkeeper’s daughter to be a beautiful princess who has promised to come to his bed during the knight. Later that night, Quixote ends up caressing Maritornes: the half-blind, hunchbacked servant girl. Her lover, a mule carrier, is enraged and the carrier beats Quixote when he realizes that his lover, Maritornes, is struggling to get away from Quixote. In the darkness a brawl ensues, including Sancho, Maritornes, the innkeeper, the mule carrier and Quixote‹who quickly passes out. An officer of the Holy Brotherhood enters the room, having heard the commotion, and he fears that Quixote is dead.

Quixote is not dead. When he revives, he asks for the ingredients so that he might prepare for himself the “true balsam of Fierabras.” He prepares the balsam, vomits, passes out, and wakes up feeling better. Sancho drinks the balsam and nearly dies. The next day, knight and squire leave the inn without paying. Quixote believes it to be an enchanted castle and he is offended by the suggestion that he should pay. Sancho does not escape as easily as Quixote does. Indeed, the squire is tossed in a blanket and his bags are stolen. In an arc of violence, Quixote murders some sheep, loses some teeth, steals a barber’s basin (believing it to be Mambrino’s helmet) and sets free a chain of galley-slaves who repay the knight’s kindness with bruises.
Quixote befriends Cardenio, The Ragged Knight of the Sorry Countenance, who mourns the fact that his true love, Lucinda, has married another man: Don Fernando. Cardenio has gone mad with grief, running half-naked through the hills of Sierra Morena. Quixote imitates Cardenio, pining for his beloved lady, Dulcinea del Toboso. Quixote sends Sancho with a letter to deliver to Dulcinea but instead Sancho finds the barber and priest and leads them to Quixote.

With the help of Dorotea, a woman who has been deceived by Don Fernando, the priest and barber make plans to trick Don Quixote into coming home. Dorotea pretends to be the Princess Micomicona, desperately in need of Quixote’s assistance. The final chapters of the novel combine romantic intrigue with the comedy of errors surrounding Don Quixote. Dorotea is reunited with Don Fernando and Cardenio is reunited with Lucinda. This takes place at the same inn which Quixote visited earlier (where was boxed by Maritornes’ lover). Numerous guests arrive at the inn, as long-lost brothers are reunited, two other pairs of lovers are blessed and Don Quixote is almost arrested. The Holy Brotherhood has an arrest for Quixote’s arrest on account of his “setting at liberty” a “group of galley-slaves.” The priest begs for the officer to have mercy on Quixote because the knight is insane. The officer assents; Quixote is locked in a cage and carted home. Quixote believes the cage to be an enchantment, but when it is clear that he is going home he does not fight back. Of course, in Book II, Quixote goes out on his third and final sally, so Book I is not resolved.

Download the book: Don Quixote.pdf

ANIMAL FARM

Animal Farm is an allegorical novella by George Orwell, first published in England on 17 August 1945. According to Orwell, the book reflects events leading up to the Russian Revolution of 1917 and then on into the Stalinist era of the Soviet Union. Orwell, a democratic socialist, was a critic of Joseph Stalin and hostile to Moscow-directed Stalinism, an attitude that was critically shaped by his experiences during the Spanish Civil War.The Soviet Union, he believed, had become a brutal dictatorship, built upon a cult of personality and enforced by a reign of terror. In a letter to Yvonne Davet, Orwell described Animal Farm as a satirical tale against Stalin (“un conte satirique contre Staline“), and in his essay “Why I Write” (1946), wrote that Animal Farm was the first book in which he tried, with full consciousness of what he was doing, “to fuse political purpose and artistic purpose into one whole”.

Plot summary

Old Major, the old boar on the Manor Farm, summons the animals on the farm together for a meeting, during which he refers to humans as “enemies” and teaches the animals a revolutionary song called “Beasts of England”. When Major dies, two young pigs, Snowball and Napoleon, assume command and consider it a duty to prepare for the Rebellion. The animals revolt and drive the drunken and irresponsible farmer Mr. Jones from the farm, renaming it “Animal Farm”. They adopt the Seven Commandments of Animalism, the most important of which is, “All animals are equal.”
Snowball teaches the animals to read and write, while Napoleon educates young puppies on the principles of Animalism. Food is plentiful, and the farm runs smoothly. The pigs elevate themselves to positions of leadership and set aside special food items, ostensibly for their personal health.
Some time later, several men attack Animal Farm. Jones and his men are making an attempt to recapture the farm, aided by several other farmers who are terrified of similar animal revolts. Snowball and the animals, who are hiding in ambush, defeat the men by launching a surprise attack as soon as they enter the farmyard. Snowball’s popularity soars, and this event is proclaimed “The Battle of the Cowshed”. It is celebrated annually with the firing of a gun, on the anniversary of the Revolution.
Napoleon and Snowball struggle for pre-eminence. When Snowball announces his plans to modernize the farm by building a windmill, Napoleon has his dogs chase Snowball away and declares himself leader.
Napoleon enacts changes to the governance structure of the farm, replacing meetings with a committee of pigs who will run the farm. Through a young pig named Squealer, Napoleon claims credit for the windmill idea. The animals work harder with the promise of easier lives with the windmill. When the animals find the windmill collapsed after a violent storm, Napoleon and Squealer convince the animals that Snowball is trying to sabotage their project. Once Snowball becomes a scapegoat, Napoleon begins to purge the farm with his dogs, killing animals he accuses of consorting with his old rival. When some animals recall the Battle of the Cowshed, Napoleon (who was nowhere to be found during the battle) frequently smears Snowball as a collaborator of Jones’, while falsely representing himself as the hero of the battle. “Beasts of England” is replaced with an anthem glorifying Napoleon, who appears to be adopting the lifestyle of a man. The animals remain convinced that they are better off than they were under Mr. Jones.
Mr Frederick, one of the neighbouring farmers, attacks the farm, using blasting powder to blow up the restored windmill. Though the animals win the battle, they do so at great cost, as many, including Boxer the workhorse, are wounded. Despite his injuries, Boxer continues working harder and harder, until he collapses while working on the windmill. Napoleon sends for a van to take Boxer to the veterinary surgeon, explaining that better care can be given there. Benjamin, the cynical donkey who “could read as well as any pig”, notices that the van belongs to a knacker and attempts a futile rescue. Squealer quickly assures the animals that the van had been purchased from the knacker by an animal hospital, and the previous owner’s signboard had not been repainted. In a subsequent report, Squealer reports sadly to the animals that Boxer died peacefully at the animal hospital; the pigs hold a festival one day after Boxer’s death to further praise the glories of Animal Farm and have the animals work harder by taking on Boxer’s ways. However, the truth was that Napoleon had engineered the sale of Boxer to the knacker, allowing him and his inner circle to acquire money to buy whisky for themselves. (In 1940s England, one way for farms to make money was to sell large animals to a knacker, who would kill the animal and boil its remains into animal glue.)
Years pass, and the windmill is rebuilt along with construction of another windmill, which makes the farm a good amount of income. However, the ideals which Snowball discussed, including stalls with electric lighting, heating and running water are forgotten, with Napoleon advocating that the happiest animals live simple lives. In addition to Boxer, many of the animals who participated in the Revolution are dead, as is Farmer Jones, who died in another part of England. The pigs start to resemble humans, as they walk upright, carry whips, and wear clothes. The Seven Commandments are abridged to a single phrase: “All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others”. Napoleon holds a dinner party for the pigs and local farmers, with whom he celebrates a new alliance. He abolishes the practice of the revolutionary traditions and restores the name “The Manor Farm”. As the animals look from pigs to humans, they realise they can no longer distinguish between the two.

Download the book: Animal Farm.pdf

TREASURE ISLAND

Treasure Island is an adventure novel by Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson, narrating a tale of “buccaneers and buried gold”. Its influence is enormous on popular perceptions of pirates, including such elements as treasure maps marked with an “X”, schooners, the Black Spot, tropical islands, and one-legged seamen bearing parrots on their shoulders.

Plot summary

PART I—”THE OLD BUCCANEER”
An old sailor, calling himself “the captain”—real name “Billy” Bones—comes to lodge at the Admiral Benbow Inn on the west English coast during the mid-1700s, paying the innkeeper’s son, Jim Hawkins, a few pennies to keep a lookout for a one-legged “seafaring man“. A seaman with intact legs shows up, frightening Billy—who drinks far too much rum—into a stroke, and Billy tells Jim that his former shipmates covet the contents of his sea chest. After a visit from yet another man, Billy has another stroke and dies; Jim and his mother (his father has also died just a few days before) unlock the sea chest, finding some money, a journal, and a map. The local physician, Dr. Livesey, deduces that the map is of an island where a deceased pirate—Captain Flint—buried a vast treasure. The district squire, Trelawney, proposes buying a ship and going after the treasure, taking Livesey as ship’s doctor and Jim as cabin boy.
PART II—”THE SEA COOK”
Several weeks later, Trelawney sends for Jim and Livesey and introduces them to “Long John” Silver, a one-legged Bristol tavern-keeper whom he has hired as ship’s cook. (Silver enhances his outre attributes—crutch, pirate argot, etc.—with a talking parrot.) They also meet Captain Smollett, who tells them that he dislikes most of the crew on the voyage, which it seems everyone in Bristol knows is a search for treasure. After taking a few precautions, however, they set sail on Trelawny’s schooner, the Hispaniola, for the distant island. During the voyage, the first mate, a drunkard, disappears overboard. And just before the island is sighted, Jim—concealed in an apple barrel—overhears Silver talking with two other crewmen. They are all former “gentlemen o’fortune” (pirates) in Flint’s crew and have planned a mutiny. Jim alerts the captain, doctor, and squire, and they calculate that they will be seven to 19 against the mutineers and must pretend not to suspect anything until the treasure is found when they can surprise their adversaries.
PART III—”MY SHORE ADVENTURE”
But after the ship is anchored, Silver and some of the others go ashore, and two men who refuse to join the mutiny are killed—one with so loud a scream that everyone realizes there can be no more pretense. Jim has impulsively joined the shore party and covertly witnessed Silver committing one of the murders; now, in fleeing, he encounters a half-crazed Englishman, Ben Gunn, who tells him he was marooned here and can help against the mutineers in return for passage home and part of the treasure.
PART IV—”THE STOCKADE”
Meanwhile, Smollett, Trelawney, and Livesey, along with Trelawney’s three servants and one of the other hands, Abraham Gray, abandon the ship and come ashore to occupy an old abandoned stockade. The men still on the ship, led by the coxswain Israel Hands, run up the pirate flag. One of Trelawney’s servants and one of the pirates are killed in the fight to reach the stockade, and the ship’s gun keeps up a barrage upon them, to no effect, until dark when Jim finds the stockade and joins them. The next morning, Silver appears under a flag of truce, offering terms that the captain refuses, and revealing that another pirate has been killed in the night (by Gunn, Jim realizes, although Silver does not). At Smollett’s refusal to surrender the map, Silver threatens an attack, and, within a short while, the attack on the stockade is launched.
PART V—”MY SEA ADVENTURE”
After a battle, the surviving mutineers retreat, having lost six men, but two more of the captain’s group have been killed and Smollett himself is badly wounded. When Livesey leaves in search of Gunn, Jim runs away without permission and finds Gunn’s homemade coracle. After dark, he goes out and cuts the ship adrift. The two pirates on board, Hands and O’Brien, interrupt their drunken quarrel to run on deck, but the ship—with Jim’s boat in her wake—is swept out to sea on the ebb tide. Exhausted, Jim falls asleep in the boat and wakens the next morning, bobbing along on the west coast of the island, carried by a northerly current. Eventually, he encounters the ship, which seems deserted, but getting on board, he finds O’Brien dead and Hands badly wounded. He and Hands agree that they will beach the ship at an inlet on the northern coast of the island. As the ship is finally beached, Hands attempts to kill Jim but is himself killed in the attempt. Then, after securing the ship as well as he can, Jim goes back ashore and heads for the stockade. Once there, in utter darkness, he enters the blockhouse—to be greeted by Silver and the remaining five mutineers, who have somehow taken over the stockade in his absence.
PART VI—”CAPTAIN SILVER”
Silver and the others argue about whether to kill Jim, and Silver talks them down. He tells Jim that, when everyone found the ship was gone, the captain’s party agreed to a treaty whereby they gave up the stockade and the map. In the morning, the doctor arrives to treat the wounded and sick pirates and tells Silver to look out for trouble when they find the site of the treasure. After he leaves, Silver and the others set out with the map, taking Jim along as hostage. They encounter a skeleton, arms apparently oriented toward the treasure, which seriously unnerves the party. Eventually, they find the treasure cache—empty. Two of the pirates charge at Silver and Jim but are shot down by Livesey, Gray, and Gunn, from ambush. The other three run away, and Livesey explains that Gunn has long ago found the treasure and taken it to his cave.
In the next few days, they load the treasure onto the ship, abandon the three remaining mutineers (with supplies and ammunition) and sail away. At their first port in Spanish America, where they will sign on more crew, Silver steals a bag of money and escapes. The rest sail back to Bristol and divide up the treasure. Jim says there is more left on the island, but he for one will not undertake another voyage to recover it.

Download the book: Treasure Island.pdf

A PRAYER FOR OWEN MEANY

A Prayer for Owen Meany is the seventh novel by American writer John Irving. Published in 1989, it tells the story of John Wheelwright and his best friend Owen Meany growing up together in a small New Hampshire town during the 1950s and 1960s. According to John’s narration, Owen is a remarkable boy in many ways; he believes himself to be God’s instrument and sets out to fulfill the fate he has prophesied for himself.
The novel is also a homage to Günter Grass’s most famous novel, The Tin Drum. Grass was a great influence for John Irving, as well as a close friend. The main characters of both novels, Owen Meany and Oskar Matzerath, share the same initials as well as some other characteristics, and their stories show some parallels. Irving has confirmed the similarities. A Prayer for Owen Meany, however, follows an independent and separate plot.

PLOT SUMMARY 

The story is narrated by John Wheelwright, a former citizen of New Hampshire who has become a voluntary expatriate from the United States, having settled in Toronto, Ontario, Canada and taken on Canadian citizenship.
The story is narrated in two interwoven time frames. The first time frame is the perspective of John in the present day (1987). The second time frame is John’s memories of the past: growing up in New Hampshire in the 1950s and 1960s alongside his best friend, Owen Meany.

Download the book: A Prayer For Owen Meany.pdf

GLASS CASTLES

The Glass Castle is a 2005 memoir by Jeannette Walls. The book recounts the unconventional, poverty-stricken upbringing Walls and her siblings had at the hands of their deeply dysfunctional parents.

PLOT

Jeannette Walls is the second oldest of 4 children born to Rex Walls, an alcoholic and Rose Mary Walls, a painter and artist. Until Jeannette is 6, the family moves around Arizona and California every few months when Rex and Mary’s debts grow too numerous. When Jeannette is 7 the family moves to Battle Mountain, Nevada where they enjoy stability for the first time as Rex works for the mining company and the family lives in a converted railway station. Eventually Rex loses his job and the children grow hungry. Rose Mary, who has a teaching certificate, is able to get a job teaching at the local school but Rex quickly siphons away her pay check. Even so, the family is happy there until a young boy develops a fixation on Jeannette and attacks her with a bb gun when the children are home alone. Jeannette’s older sister Lori retrieves their father’s pistol to scare him away but the police are called and when Rex and Rose Mary learn that the children might be taken away from them, they decide to run away to Phoenix, Arizona. Jeannette initially believes they are moving to live with her maternal grandmother, Grandma Smith, but on the way over she is informed Grandma Smith is dead and they are going to live in the property Rose Mary has inherited from her mother.
Initially life is happy for the children as their mother’s house is huge and Grandma Smith also left her a significant amount of money. However the money quickly disappears and the house falls into a state of disrepair. For Jeannette’s 10th birthday Rex asks what she would like and Jeannette asks him to stop drinking. He ties himself to a bed for a week in order to get over his need for alcohol and afterwards decides to take the family on a trip to the desert. When their car breaks down in the desert a woman who picks them up and takes them to the city refers to them as “poor” causing Rex to relapse. Rose Mary decides since they have no money it is time to move again and takes the family to their paternal grandparents in Welch.
In Welch the children meet their paternal grandparents and uncle for the first time. They are enrolled in school, however since Rose Mary abandoned their records and the children have different accents than the locals they are placed in a class for slow children. Jeannette is repeatedly beat up by local girls, however when she helps the neighbour of the lead bully she is eventually no longer targeted. Rex and Rose Mary decide to return to Phoenix in order to retrieve some valuable items they abandoned. While they are gone Jeannette walks in on her grandmother molesting Brian. Lori gets into a physical altercation with their grandmother and they realize it is likely their father was molested as well. Rather than defend his children Rex admonishes them upon his return. They are thrown out of the family home and relocate to a small rotting home with no indoor plumbing which Rex acquires as it has land large enough to build his dream house, a glass castle on the property.
Though Rex assures the children that their situation is temporary they live at the house for years as it falls further into disarray as Rex refuses to repair it. The only money they have during this time is through odd jobs that Rex provides and infrequent checks Rose Mary receives from an oil company leasing a piece of property she owns. The children take to dumpster diving to survive. Jeannette eventually begs her mother to leave her father so they can at least go on welfare but her mother refuses. Rose Mary eventually takes a teaching job after a man from child protective services pays them a visit. The children believe their lives will change after their mother has work but money continues to evaporate and their mother suffers repeated nervous breakdowns from teaching.
The summer she is 13 Jeannette is left in charge of the household as her mother leaves to take teaching classes and her sister is away on scholarship. Left with the money to run the household Jeannette gives some to her father and ends up unwittingly working with him in a pool hustling scam where she is groped and almost raped by a much older man. Afterwards she refuses to indulge in any more of her father’s scams and in an effort to find money is hired at her first real job working at a jewelry store.
When Rose Mary returns from her teaching seminar she decides to quit teaching to focus once again on her art. Disgusted, Lori and Jeannette hatch a plan for Lori to move to New York City with Jeannette following shortly after. Lori, Jeannette and Brian work for the better part of a year trying to accumulate money to finance the move. Shortly before Lori is set to move Jeannette discovers that Rex has stolen their money. Lori is disheartened but Jeannette receives an offer to go babysit for the summer and get a ticket back home and asks the couple to take Lori instead and buy her a ticket to New York.
Jeannette begins to make plans to go to university in New York City and realizes that if she wants she can leave a year early and complete 12th grade there. Rose Mary is indifferent to her leaving but Rex seems heartbroken and sees her off to the bus station. In New York Jeannette is able to get an internship at a newspaper after graduation and encourages her brother Brian to move to New York with her and Lori to which he acquiesces. When Maureen is 12 Lori asks her to move in with them as the house in Welch is on the verge of being condemned. Maureen readily agrees. A short while later Jeannette receives a call from Rose Mary who informs her that she and Rex have moved to the city to be with their children. Though Lori and Brian attempt to help their parents they eventually have to block them from their apartments and their parents become homeless. They finally locate some abandoned buildings and squat there and Maureen eventually moves back in with them as she enters her twenties. A fight eventually breaks out between Maureen and Rose Mary and Maureen tries to stab Rose Mary. She is arrested and forced to spend a year in a mental institution. When she is finally released she decides to move to California.
A few years later Rex calls Jeannette and tells her he is dying. He dies a few weeks later. Years later the family gathers together on Thanksgiving where they toast Rex.

Download the book: The Glass Castle.pdf