Sunday, January 16, 2011

A Great And Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

After the mysterious death of her mother in India, Gemma Doyle is sent to London to attend Spence Academy for Young Ladies. There, she meets Felicity, the most popular girl in the school, her best friend Pippa, and Gemma's roommate Ann. The four girls share a hope for something more than the expectations of their school and 19th century society and form a close friendship. However, Gemma is haunted by visions of tragic events that come true. In one of her visions, Gemma is led to the diary of a girl named Mary Dowd, who also attended the academy and suffered from similar visions. The diary reveals the story of two girls who could pass between the human world and others. Gemma finds that she is also able to do so, and she and her friends travel to the realms, a world where every desire, alongside every fear, can become real. She, Felicity, Pippa, and Ann explore the magical world on secret midnight trips that lead them to become more and more caught up in the magic.
Gemma finds her mother in the realms as well, who warns the girls not to take the magic out of the realms. Gemma later discovers that her mother committed a horrible crime, and the only way for Gemma's mother to be at peace is for Gemma to forgive her. During one trip they realize that something is not right. Before they can leave, a creature shows up and Pippa runs away. Gemma does not have time to find her, so she takes Ann and Felicity back and leaves their friend behind.
Gemma goes back to try to save her, and instead she finds the creature, which she defeats by forgiving her mother, an act that kills the creature, frees her mom, and reveals to her that she is grateful for what is real. After it is done, Gemma reflects, "In some ways, the mother I remember was as much an illusion as the leaves we turned into butterflies on our first trip to the realms. I'm going to have to let her go to accept the mother I'm only just discovering. One who was capable of murder, but who fought against the dark to come back to help me. . . . I want to make room for what is real, for the things I can touch and smell, taste and feel - arms around my shoulders, tears and anger, disappointment and love. . . ." (394). Gemma must let go of Pippa as well, who makes the choice to remain in the realms and cross over to the spirit world. Gemma returns to Spence alone.

1. The story makes a point about the role of women in society during the time period. The skills the girls learn in Spence Academy prepare them for a role that represents the repression of women in the Victorian age. Do you think that their trips to the realms allowed them to discover themselves and their identities or that they were simply escaping from the reality of the repressed lifestyle they felt doomed to lead?

2. When Gemma begs Pippa to go with her at the end of the book and tells her that she just has to, Pippa replies, "Have to. . . my whole life has been that" (395). She refuses to return to the real world, because there she is nothing to society but a pretty face, forced to marry a man she does not love. Gemma notes that as Pippa leaves, she radiates with life and on the horizon true love awaits her. If you had the choice to die and remain in a dream world or return to a life far from perfect to stay alive, what would you choose?

20 comments:

Hannah K. 1-2 said...

1. I believe that the Realms helped the girls discover themselves, because they were forced to make many difficult decisions throughout the book. However, they were also an escape, and the false realities they experienced were not a solution for the problems they faced in their society. However, they all found strength from the magic in the Realms to make changes in their own lives.

2. Since Pippa could have left her home or convinced her fiance that she was actually epileptic, she could have had a happy life. She was not without people to help her do this, either. I think that choosing the "dream" of the Realms over continuing life with her friends was the wrong choice.

Lisa T. 1-2 said...

Hannah, I agree that Pippa made the wrong decision. Choosing to stay in the realms was giving up on all the possibilities of life that she only failed to see.

Heather B. 1-2 said...

1.) I think in a way they were doing both. In a world that never really respected women and treated them as equals, they probably would not have been able to find themselves without escaping. By escaping they were no longer being repressed by unfair stereotypes.

2.) I think Pippa, now that she had seen that there was life outside of the "have to's" she could have been able to live and figure out how to escape the forced marriage. I would have chosen life and just tried to make it better.

Natesa W. 7-8 said...

1. Yes, I think it did probably help them find their true selves. The girls weren't being oppressed and forced to be things they aren't. Thus letting them be themselves.
2. I hope that I would stay in the real world and live my life. But the temptation of a perfect dream world is very large.

Mrs. Sherwood said...

Thread graded

Sarah N. 7-8 said...

1. I agree with Heather. I think that in part staying in the real would wouldn't let them find themselves due to the culture of the time. However, I also think that in finding part of themselves part was lost, because they have a fake image of society. They were living in a dream world and it would make it hard for them to transition back to reality.

Abby M. 1-2 said...

1. I think that the realms served both as an escape and helped them discover themselves and their abilities. Though they escaped from the societal constraints in the real world, they met new challenges in the realms like Gemma having to deal with her mother's commiting murder. The realms were not just an escape from reality, but they were a different kind of reality, with its own problems and challenges.
2. I would hope I'd choose to go back to the real world, but I can seee why Pippa was so desperate to stay in the realms. Still, I think that people need to face the challenges in life and part of life is having the strength to improve yours, not just escape it.

Josie D 7/8 said...

1. I think that although the realms were a way for the girls to escape from their lives, that the realms also allowed them to find themselves as well. It gave them the opportunity to find out who they were without the expectations of others to live up to.

2. I think I would chose to stay in reality. Not so much as a matter to stay alive and keep living, but rather because if you stay in a perfect dream world then you have never really lived life.

Sara D. 7-8 said...

2. I think it was a bad choice for Pippa to stay in the realms because she could have tried to deal with her problems by leaving her fiance and find someone she actually loved in life rather than escaping reality for a fantasy. A fantasy is completely fake and she would not have felt true happiness.

Ashlyn W. 7-8 said...

I think that the realms helped the girls to find themselves. Although, I think they also escaped life through the realms as well. It was a place where they could escape the reality of life.

AnaleeL7-8 said...

I think te realms helped the girls find themselves because it allowed them to express themselves and truly be who they are.

Nicole H. 7-8 said...

I think it was a bad choice for Pippa to stay in the realms because she could have tried to take care of her problems in reality and finding someone she loved instead of shrinking back into a fantasy.

Ashley B. 1-2 said...

During this time period women still didn't have rights so I can understand why Pippa would want to stay. she couldnt even voice her opinion in society and women's only choice was to get married. i do also believe it was the wrong the choice i think she could have tried to take care of her problems.

Sydney S. 1-2 said...

1. I think that going to the realms had them find a bit of themselves. They were allowed to express themselves, which is something that they couldn't do in their society.

2. I think that Gemma made the wrong choice. She was kind of giving up on her life, which she could've possibly made better.

Rafiq O. 1-2 said...

1.) I agree with Sydney. Going to the realms kind of opens new doors for them. Being able to express themselves more openly than they were able to in their society is definitely a plus.

2.) I would probably return to life, just so I could make something better out of it, hopefully.

Megan M 1-2 said...

1. I think the realms help the girls discovered themselves because all of the girls at Spence were the exact same way. They all did the same things and had the same expectations, so the realms helped these four girls discover who they really were and what their place in society should be.

2. I would chose to die in a dream world because there I could do whatever I wanted to do or be who ever I wanted to be, without limits set by teachers, parents or anyone else.

Freddy B. 7-8 said...

1. I think that the realms served as both an escape from their oppressive lives and as a place where they found their true identities.
2. I would live the rest of my life then go to the dream world when I was going to die anyway.

Garret Edward Patrick Graehling 1/2 said...

I agree with Stump when she says that they were more able to be themselves and express there interests in the realms.

Millie W. 7/8 said...

1) I think that the dream world is more of an escape.
2) Sad enough no matter how nice my life is in the real world, my dreams are where I always live. I look forward to each night just to see what I dream about next. So in the end I'd probably go to the dream world.

Mrs. Sherwood said...

Thread closed