It’s been said there are only two plots: A Man Goes on a Trip and A Stranger Comes to Town. These “master plots” can be found in every time and every literary form: classical epics and medieval poetry, fairy tales and children’s books, novels and plays. Homer’s Odyssey is the classic example of the “man goes on a trip” plot. Odysseus spends more than ten years wandering the Mediterranean while trying to return home after the Trojan War. Other examples of these master plots include Marlow’s trip down the Congo to find Mr. Kurtz (Heart of Darkness), the Joad’s journey from Oklahoma to California (The Grapes of Wrath), Mr. Bingley’s arrival at Netherfield (Pride and Prejudice), and Mark Twain’s short story “The Mysterious Stranger.”
The theme of the library’s Spring 2011 Reading and Discussion Group is one of these master plots: A Man Goes on a Trip. All of the books discussed feature people who find adventure on the road. The group meets from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. on Monday, February 14; Monday, March 14; Monday, April 11; and Monday, May 9. Register either online, by phone (248-684-0845), or in person at the library’s Adult Reference desk.
In February’s book, A Room with a View by E.M. Forster, a woman goes on a trip. Lucy Honeychurch, a naïve young lady from England, is on her first trip to Italy. She is chaperoned by her older spinster cousin, Charlotte. Lucy has been particularly looking forward to visiting Florence, where they have been promised rooms with a view of the Arno. But when they arrive at their pension, they find their rooms overlook a courtyard rather than the river. The Emersons, a father and son who are also staying there, have a view and offer to trade rooms with Lucy and Charlotte. But Charlotte fears that accepting would put them under an improper obligation to people of not quite the same class. She is eventually persuaded to make the exchange, but her fears seem confirmed when she sees Lucy and George Emerson kiss. Forster’s novel of Edwardian manners takes readers through countries, classes, cultures, and customs. The discussion leader is Cecilia Donohue of Madonna University.
The book for March is The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. Huck Finn is Twain’s classic story of the adventures of a boy and a runaway slave on a raft on the Mississippi River. Huck’s adventures begin when he escapes from his brutal drunken father by faking his own death and hiding out on an island. There he finds Jim, a slave who ran away rather than be sold down the river to a cruel new owner. Huck’s sympathy for Jim leads him to agree to help Jim become free. But he worries about the morality and legality of concealing stolen “property.” When their hideout is discovered, Huck and Jim use a raft they’ve found to head down the river and escape from the “sivilization” found on its banks. Huck Finn was published in 1884 and reflects the typical language and attitudes of the pre–Civil War South, which has led to occasional attempts to ban it from libraries and school curriculums. Madonna University’s Will Horwath leads the discussion of Twain’s controversial novel.
“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit. Not a nasty, dirty, wet hole filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy hole with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat: it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.” April’s book is J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic fantasy The Hobbit, or, There and Back Again. It’s the story of Bilbo Baggins, a respectable middle-aged hobbit, who somehow finds himself leaving his comfortable hobbit-hole for a very uncomfortable adventure with thirteen dwarves and a wizard. The dwarves are going far over the Misty Mountains cold to their ancestral home, the Lonely Mountain. They plan to reclaim their home—and especially its fabled treasure—from the dragon who had conquered the Mountain and stolen the treasure. The wizard, Gandalf, has selected Bilbo as the dwarves’ “burglar” in the venture. The burglar is supposed to enter the dragon’s lair through a small Side-door and then locate the treasure. But first they have to get past trolls, goblins, wolves, and giant spiders… The discussion of The Hobbit will be led by Sandra Sutherland, who recently retired as a Professor of English from Oakland Community College.
The final book in this series is The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon. It is the story of Christopher John Francis Boone, who is 15 years and 3 months and 2 days old. He knows all the countries of the world and their capital cities and every prime number up to 7,057. He does not like to be touched by other people. He finds people confusing. Christopher likes dogs. Dogs are always faithful and they do not lie. When he finds his neighbor’s dog dead with a pitchfork sticking out of its side, he is sad. The dog’s muzzle was still warm but nobody else was around when Christopher found it. So he realizes it must have been killed. Christopher is autistic. He cannot read people’s faces, but he does like to read murder mystery novels. The Hound of the Baskervilles is his favorite book. In murder mystery novels someone has to work out who the murderer is and then catch them. Christopher decides to work out who killed the dog and then catch them. Christopher is writing a murder mystery novel about how he catches the killer. Doing so requires him to go from his home in Swindon to London, even though the thought of going somewhere on his own is frightening. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time is Christopher’s story, in his own words. The May discussion will be led by Carla Iris, who has led book discussions in Allen Park and on Grosse Ile.
Join us as we discuss these books with the “masterplot”: A Man Goes On a Trip.
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