The book has lots of evidence that supports the setting of the book. For example in the beginning the book talks about the place Matt is in is the drug empire. At page 98 Nancy says, “They ruled the drug empire that formed the border between the united states and Aztlan.” This intrinsically tells you where the book (up until the La Vida Nueva) is based in. As for the year I am unsure about how far in the future the book is based in. I can conclude that it is in the future because of all the advanced technology that they have. Some examples of this ‘future technology’ include eejits, cloning, using the clones body parts to give people transplants, using hovercrafts as transport, etc. Even though it seems like the book is based in the future some of the things in the book seem very old. For example, everyone is abhorred by the idea of Matt being a clone, the now thriving countries are poor, and El Patron thinks he can ‘own’ people. So basically the book is very futuristic and it has qualities that indubitably mean that it is placed in the future but it is still very old fashioned in old ways (or maybe that is just the way that El Patron likes opium to be like).
I think that the theme of the book revolves around power and competence. I think that it is about how power can be hidden and how it can come in all shapes and sizes. Throughout the book, I noticed some very obvious power. For example, El Patron has quite a bit of power and you would know this from doing something as meager as reading the back of the book. Even though there is some very perceptible power I also think that there is a lot of clandestine power as well. This power includes facets like how Matt, “son” of El patron, has exorbitant power but chooses not to show it off or even put it to use. For example, this is what Esperanza tells Matt near the end of the book, “It means you really are El Patron. You have his body and his identity. You own everything he owned and rule everything he ruled. It means you’re the new master of Opium.” (Page 367) I assume that it means that he is yet to use the power that he is (possibly because he thought that he was “just a clone” throughout almost the entire book). Matt has the hidden power because it is somewhat unexpected and I think that he has more leverage over everyone than he knows.
Beginning: Starts With Matt and Celia in the little house in the field and slowly transitions into when Matt is being held in the prison.
As for the rest of the narrative structure…I honestly think that the author didn’t have one “rising action” event or one “Climax”. I feel like if the book had a heart monitor on it would look like the diagram below. Meaning that there was never one solid problem but many that were all over the place.
I felt like there were many different rising action events such as,
1. When El Patron first meets Matt
2. When he finds the passageway in the music room closet
3. El Patrons 143 Birthday Party
4. When Tom leads Maria and Matt to the clone
5. When Maria and Matt are in the secret passageway and they discover that Felicia Killed fur ball and when they hear her and tom talking
6. The first time that El Patron almost dies
7. When El Patron has his heart attack (after Emilia and Steven’s wedding). This is also when Matt realizes his true purpose
8. When Matt and Maria try to escape to Maria’s convent (but then it doesn’t work out)
9. When Matt is strapped to the hospital bed, ready to be killed
10. When Matt comes very close to not crossing the border
11. When Matt is stuck in the pile of bones
Now for the climax:
In my mind there is honestly no apparent climax. I think that there may be three or four high points of action but I found it quite hard to determine throughout the course of this book. For Example, a point of climax may be when El Patron dies and Matt tries to escape, when Matt barely crosses the border or even when Matt is stuck in the pile of bones. I think that in this case there may be lots of problems. I find that for the average book like Insurgent (by Veronica Roth) there is one problem and usually it takes a while for the character to conquer it. In Insurgent, the main problem is a battle between all of the different social groups and it takes up about half the book. The house of the scorpion is very different. Each problem only takes up about 10 pages. I find that this can be very odd at times and can also cause confusion throughout the book. I don’t think that this book should be set up the way it is and I would have enjoyed it more if farmer would have created a book with the narrative structure shown in the diagram below.
I believe that a book should have a couple problems in the rising action but I also believe that the climax should be apparent. As for the falling action, because I don’t know where.
Real world concepts:
I find that the book contains many real world concepts and not all of them are about this futuristic idea of cloning, eejits, and mass opium production. I find that in Chapter 14 (Celia’s Story) one real world element is apparent. This element is about the Coyotes that Celia talks about. These coyotes exist in the real world and is basically someone who helps people get across the border of a country. For example: a criminal might need a coyote to escape the government who is trying to capture him/her and they would have to do that by using a coyote to help him across the border. Another real word element that I saw would have to be how right now in the U.S.A everyone is debating about having death as a penalty for certain crimes. In this book El Patron turns people into eejits (which in my mind is about the equivalent of killing someone) for punishment for their actions. For example, Rosa is turned into an eejit after keeping Matt in the cell in such harsh conditions. Even though Rosa was being cruel to Matt, I think that she was just scared that he was a clone. It would have been different if she would have murdered someone. I think that the punishment depends on the crime, if a murderer killed someone they should also die (a life for a life). At the same time I don’t think that people should have a punishment worse than death (being turned into an eejit) by just crossing the border or doing one thing wrong.
I thought that the author didn’t really answer all of my questions about the characters. For example, on one of my sticky notes I wrote, “What connections does Maria’s family have to the Alacrans? Why is Marias dad (the senator) allowed to visit opium if there was a border separating the USA and dreamland?” I found that in this case (and many others) I was left wondering. Personally, I like it when authors go into background details about the characters. Another thing I noticed was the Nancy never really explained what the characters looked like. I find it easier to read when I can picture the characters in the setting. I feel like the book had pretty general characters. For example, I think that Celia is a stock character. Celia is one of those ‘Loving Mother’ types. She always does her best for her child (biological or not) and she is really sweet and nice. I feel like you could change her clothes and name and just stick her in another book. For example she says “Don’t cry, mi vida. I love you more than anything in the world.” (page 6). Which is something that a mother in another book would say. Another stock character is Tom. He is a classic ‘evil brother’ type. Everyone likes him and thinks that he can do no harm but in reality he is nasty and mean to certain people (matt specifically). As for matt, he is a dynamic character and the protagonist. He changes a lot through the story. At first he is a scared, afraid, quiet little kid. As you continue reading he transforms into more of a confident, loud, outgoing, fearless, and smart teenager.
I think that in some ways Matt and Vincent (aka: Jerome) are very alike and yet very incommensurable at the same time. I noticed this when I compared the two characters “S.T.E.A.L’s” For the most part they were quite different but there was still a few very big similarities. Once of the many similarities I noticed was how Matt and Vincent both have a “defect”. Vincent has a heart problem and Matt is a clone. In the deranged societies that they lived in, this was a very big problem. Vincent should have been unable to go up into space because his heart was faulty and Matt shouldn’t have been treated well because he is a “…Filthy Clone.” (Page 27), because of this they both have somewhat of the same effect on others. At the start of the movie Vince is thought of as the other brother. No one thinks that he’ll ever go up in space because of his defect. I believe that he is always thought of as the ‘second brother’ and of the one that can’t succeed. Until the last couple chapters ofThe house of the Scorpion Matt is considered a wild animal/beast. No one likes him because of this. I think that towards the end of the book/movie they both start to realize that their “birth defect” (if you would call it a defect) won’t determine their future unless they let it. I also noticed that the two were also able to talk to (and in Vincent’s case be able to lie to) authorities without hesitation. A difference that I discovered was that Matt isn’t very violent but he can be cruel, yet Vincent can be violent. An example of this would be when Matt says ““Get it now,” Said Matt in the same cold, deadly voice he’d heard El Patron use on terrified servants.” (Page 109). Well Matt uses words and his power to convince them to obey him, Vincent uses violence. When watching the movie I found it very surprising when “Jerome” beat up the security guard that was chasing them. Personally, since I’m not violent at all I probably would have given myself up but that’s just me. So basically those are the most apparent comparisons between the two characters (in my mind).