Sunday, 12 May 2013

Connections to real world issues

The House of the Scorpion touches on many different issues that are still relevant in today’s society from slavery, to dictatorships, to child labor. I will be discussing the real world issue of oppression with you today. Oppression is a very broad subject, as many different cultures and races have been oppressed throughout history. In The House of the Scorpion, Matt is born a clone. From his young age, he has difficulty comprehending and understanding why people were treating him differently from the other children, why was he shunned? This quote from the book describes Matt’s reaction when he reflects on the scene where he is first revealed as a clone:

“What was it Rosa had called him? A “filthy clone”. Matt had no idea what that was but he recognized an insult when he heard it. Rosa hated him, and so did the fierce man and the doctor. Even the two older children had changed once they knew what he was.”

Throughout the novel Matt is oppressed by the society he is in, and directly by other characters all because of a slight difference from the rest of the population- and this is also the case with other examples of oppression throughout history. These differences do not make us lesser or more important than the other. Examples of oppression in modern day include homosexuals and, to a minor degree, women. People today are in the same type of situation as Matt- shunned because of something they cannot control. Directly relating to the oppression of gays: homophobia. Throughout the world, there are still many homophobes, but luckily that number is dropping every year. In the end of the novel, Esparenza reveals that Matt was always human, just given the label of “clone”. It was this superficial label for which people and society judged him, but that is just the surface of him as an individual.

 Martin Luther King once said "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character." We are all human beings; no one person is of greater value than another because of superficial projections, and a day should come when everyone realizes that.


I’ll be discussing the different characters of the novel and their development throughout the story. First of all the general character development Farmer was implemented was very mysterious and elusive. She fed us information bit by bit- satisfying our want for character background, unanswered questions, and character depth- but not explaining too much too quickly to diminish our curiosity of the story and our investment in the characters. I’ve picked my three favorite characters form the book to discuss with you.


Matt is the protagonist of the novel- constantly dynamic and growing more round throughout the story. Matt’s character development fascinated me throughout the book, from start to finish. At the beginning of the novel during the exposition, we learn barely anything about him. As the story progresses we learn more about Matt and his purpose as heart-donor for El Patron. I found myself empathizing with Matt and his isolation/rejection, understanding how lonely and frustrating a situation like that can be and the toll it can take on someone mentally (his loss of speech, repetitive behavior). Matt learned to hate himself as a coping mechanism to deal with everyone treating him as scum, and again felt myself sympathizing with Matt. Matt’s dialogue often shone light on the fact that he had a lot of pent up emotions, and no way of releasing them (his behavior towards Tom). Although I’ve used this quote as evidence in a previous post, I’ll use it again to prove my point:

“… the Alacrans will have me put to sleep like an old dog. I’m a clone in case you’ve forgotten. I’m livestock.” (Page 366)


Throughout the novel I believed Maria’s character a metaphor for purity and innocence.
All of her actions throughout the novel were based on her personal moral, which differed so much from the other characters of the story. Her personal beliefs and thoughts about right and wrong were not as influenced by the society she grew up in as everyone else in the upper class (in Opium). She is relatively static throughout the novel, her views on Matt never being completely wavered by others’ opinion of Matt:

“I love you,” Matt said.
“I love you too,” Maria replied. “I know it’s a sin and I’ll probably go to hell for it.”
“If I have a soul, I’ll go with you,” Matt promised.
(Farmer, page 222)

I found Maria’s character very likable and relatable throughout the novel. I think I became more invested in her character than anyone else’s because I connected with her attitude, perspective, and reactions to scenarios presented throughout the book! Throughout the book she is a round character, we know most things about her from when she is first introduced except what happened to her mother, and that is explained further in the novel. Maria was, in simplicity, innocent.

El Patron

To me, El Patron is the most intriguing and complex character of the novel. From his personality traits that evolved throughout his lifetime, to his impoverished upbringing and his rise to power, El Patron is the underlying mystery and menace of the story. I personally believe El Patron was a static character. Throughout the book, his mannerism did not change nor did his malicious and controlling behavior, not even after his demise:

“Listen to me,” said Celia. “El Patron had ruled his empire for 100 years. All that time he was adding to his dragon hoard and he wanted to be buried with it. Unfortunately-” Celia stopped and wiped her eyes- “Unfortunately that dragon hoard included people.” (Farmer pages 375-376)

I think as the story continues, more depth to his character is revealed and he becomes rounder. Though others may disagree, I don’t think El Patron is the antagonist. He just happens to be a very evil character that did very heinous things. During the time he was alive, he does not want to thwart Matt, he wants him to succeed (until he is needed as a heart donor for El Patron). After finishing the book, I tend to think that society is the antagonist of the novel. The society Farmer has implemented into the story has a blind prejudice and distaste for clones like Matt because of the idea of what clones should be (disgusting, uncivilized animals), and this and the limitations that come with it is what thwarts Matt throughout the book.

Narrative Structure

Hello! In this post I will be discussing the narrative structure of The House of the Scorpion.

The exposition begins in the very first chapter “In the Beginning”, but is most prominent in “The Little House on the Poppy Fields” where you are first introduced to Matt’s life in an elusive and lonely manner (Celia repeatedly telling him she is not is mother, his longing for social interaction). I thought there was a lack of information about Matt and was slightly disappointed as I was not invested in his character from the start as I should have been. We also get a first impression of the setting and it’s importance in the novel. I found the exposition very short-winded with the Rising Action beginning in the end of the second chapter. As the rising action ensued, you became engrossed in the mystery and confusion of Matt’s situation, his isolation as a clone, and what it all meant. As the rising action continued, we gained more knowledge about the setting and figured out Matt’s true purpose causing more tension set in by Farmer’s minimalistic yet substantial writing technique.
Though there are several sub-climactic points throughout the story (strategically placed to keep you interest peaked), The climax of the story occurs when Matt returns to Opium and the Alacran estate at the end of the book. I felt that this was a suitable and momentous occasion with Matt accepting his “duty” per say, but really he was doing an act of great bravery and selflessness. The end of the book was both expected and unexpected at the same time. The notion that “once El Patron owns something, he never lets it go” is a reoccurring idea throughout the book and mentioned by multiple characters. Though you understand it is an important element of El Patron’s character, you never anticipate how literal the sentiment is until the end of the novel. I found the resolution and falling action too short and story lines left unexplained. I’m glad that Farmer is finally coming out with a sequel, I’m curious to see whether she will talk about previous minor story arcs or focus on the main arc as the ong thing I definitely disliked about the falling action and resolution was that no minor story arcs were revisited/resolved. What about Tom and Maria’s engagement? How did Maria find her mother? This was the bitter to the slightly bittersweet ending of the book.
One last thing I would like to talk about is that I thought it was curious how Farmer categorized the events of Matt’s life in age sections. In chapter 19 titled “Coming-of-Age” we see Celia and Tam Lin celebrating Matt’s growing up and while reading this scene, we become vaguely aware that perhaps they are celebrating this birthday with an undertone of preparatory mourning and/or grief. As I re-read and analyzed this chapter, I thought that it was conceivable to perceive that maybe the reason it was so momentous for Matt to live to 14 was because he wasn’t supposed to live long at all- and that was why it was called his “old age” in the contents. It then became clear that the categorization of the story by age (or Matt’s progression in his perceived lifetime) was a huge hint Farmer gave to the reader from the get-go- something that surprised me and made me love the novel even more.


My group discussed in length what our theme should be. In the end we decided on “the differences of people's morality and its influences”. Though my idea is very similar, it differs slightly (mostly in how it’s worded). I think the theme is the subjective facets of morality and how it influences our society, values, and decisions. Throughout the novel, we see many different characters and a wide array of different situations, all surrounded by the idea of morality- what should be considered “right” and what “wrong”. For example, in the book we see El Patron and Mr. MacGregor discussing “fetal brain implants” giving the impression that they bred clone infants for the sole purpose of using them as organ donors. To most people, just the suggestion of this is disgusting- sickening even- but to characters like El Patron and Mr. MacGregor, this is just a necessary measurement to keep themselves alive. Characters like Maria and Celia have a much different moral agenda than characters like Mr. MacGregor and El Patron. Maria does not fully comprehend all of the events taking place around her (i.e. the eejits, the drug empire) but see’s good in everyone. Celia on the other hand is fully aware of all of the heinous actions taking place around her and is whole-heartedly against it, taking action to stand up for what she believes is righteous. These attributes makes them much more likable than most characters in the novel because we can identify with their views and opinions.

“Was it wrong to blow 20 men to smithereens? El Patron wouldn’t have worried one second over it. Tam Lin had tried to blow up the English Prime Minister but had killed 20 children instead. “Murder is wrong brother wolf, said a voice in Matt’s head. He sighed.” (Farmer, page 312)

This quote is an example of my chosen theme from the book. It specifically exemplifies how the differences of morality impact our decisions- El Patron not thinking twice about killing 20 men while Matt understanding that murder is (to Matt) immoral and wrong. Some actions are stereotypically known as immoral (i.e. stealing, murder, slavery, ext.). I think that it’s very compelling that The House of the Scorpion explores a society where these “crimes” are not only done openly, but are socially accepted. The eejits forced into slavery are socially acceptable in Opium as the people running Opium see them as collateral damaged - as a necessary action- and are dismissive and contemptuous to those they forced to work for them. The deaths of these eejits are in fact murders, and Matt begins to understand that those beautiful white poppy fields are tainted red with the blood of thousands of dead slaves. Once Esparenza asks Matt to take over Opium, to become El Patron and dismantle the empire he has built, Matt comes to this realization:

“He [Matt] understood the full extent of it now. It wasn’t only the drug addicts throughout the world or the Illegals doomed to slavery. It was their orphaned children as well. You could even say the old man [El Patron] was responsible for the Keepers. If Matt had become El Patron then he’d gotten the whole package… and the evil that created it.”

Our idea of what is “right” and what is “wrong” is subjective based on our worldview and experiences, and that is what my chosen theme articulates.