Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Great Fire

By: Jim Murphy (Used for our Literature Discussion Group)

Murphy, J. (1995). The great fire. New York: Scholastic Inc.

Chapter 1-3

Looking back at these chapters I am awed by what all is taking place. It is hard for me to believe how some people look down at others and do not worry about them because they are from a lower income family. I could never imagine looking down and not carring about someone who is in the process of loosing everything they have a possibly their on life. I would want to help.

This brings me to another point I wanted to bring up. In chapter two it states "Fires were extremely common back then and thought to be as exciting and dramatic as a night at the theater." What in the world were they THINKING?! A night at the theater--I don't think so. I can not help but to wonder if more people had joined in and tried to put out the fire instead of just observing and watching it like a play or movie--Would things have turned out differently and not so terrible?

I'm curious as to what actually started the fire? It talked about how the wealthier Chicagoans blamed Mrs. O'Leary and her cow for the fire, but I do not remember where it stated what the cow did to start the fire. Maybe it will get explained later on?

After reading this, I am also thankful for our technology today and how we handle fires differently. We have come a long way since the times of 1871.

One final note, in chapter three I really became drawn to Claire. I wonder exactly what she had in her bundle and why she was so persistant not to drop it even after her dad told them to? Is is because she has something special in there or is it because she knows this will be all she has left from her home and life as she knows it? I wonder if she will be able to hold on to it or will she loose it? I hope the book will continue on her and answer some of these questions later on.


brooke dycus said...

I agree with you Angela about the fire being like theater. I was wondering what those poeople were thinking when they said that. Did they not realize that these fires were basically ruining peoples lives? It isn't like they had insurance to help rebuild their lives. It is hard to imagine what these people did after the fires died out.
I also wondered about how the fire started. I was thinking that one possibility would be a small ember from a previous fire, but I don't think that it would have taken so long to actually catch fire. I was amazed how many mistakes could be made during such a short time. I really wonder if Bruno Goll actually pulled the fire alarm. The text left a lot to the imagination, but I felt that it was leading in the direction that his statement could have been a bunch of bologna.
I am very interested to find out what happens next, and in response to your thoughts Angela I was wondering if the entire family makes it out together. The text says "...people began turning and pushing against us. There was no resisting the crush and we were swept along." I hope that they do, but to be able to stay together during such a panic seems difficult.

Tassie Rosamond said...

Hi Ladies!
I am enjoying this book so far and it sounds like you both are too! It's funny that we all were all struck by the statement about the fires being entertainment. Don't we still do that today? How many of us will slow down to gawk at accidents or people being pulled over on the side of the highway? I guess some aspects of human nature don't change. When I read this part, I couldn't believe they were being entertained by the fires either.

Some things I've liked so far is that Murphy uses very vivid writing. The descriptions of the fire and the night..."the moonless sky was made even murkier by the swirling, smoky haze" and "...the yellow-orange flames leaping from roof to roof and listening to the horrible crackle pop of dry pine being consumed." Murphy does a great job of describing what is going on! I also like the way he switches points of view from different people experiencing the same things. I've read books that are difficult to follow when the author shifts character.
At the end of chapter 3 we've seen so much destruction....it's hard to believe that there will be even more. As I read, I'm anxious to find out more about what happens next!
My husband's parents had a fire destroy their house about 10 years ago and I know they are still recovering. It makes me sad to think that so much was lost during that time...I'm glad people where documenting what happened so we can learn from history.

Christy said...

I agree with all three of you. Why is the fire being compared to entertainment? Of course, I do belong to a small community that loves to run jump in their car evertime they hear a fire truck just to see where the fire is. It distrubs me that the people are indifferent to other's losses until it involves their own lives. Murphy does a great job of painting this picture as he talks of people not being concerned to panic stricken when they realize how close the fires are to them.
I believe I know how the fire started. Murphy states that, "The barn's loft held over three tons of timothy hay, delivered earlier that day." I know from a friend whose husband bails hay for a living that given the right conditions hay can ignite. It is a delicate process. If the hay gets too wet, it is uneatable. If heat builds up in the center and the wind is just right, it can ignite. I believe this is also why the people blamed it on O'Leary and her cow. If she didn't have the cow, she wouldn't need the hay to feed the cow with. However, they don't consider that without the cow many people she delivers to will be without milk. I'm anxious to read on and see if the book confirms my prediction.
I am suspicious of Goll. His tetimony seems defensive to me. I wonder why the fire alarm did not work when he used it, but it worked later that night when fireman Dorsey pulled it. If Goll didn't pull the alarm, why? And if he didn't pull it at first, why didn't he pull it when he left the store to see the fire?
I wonder if the community people pitched in more with the fires, if they would have been more successful at putting this one out. If nothing else, why were people not out helping direct the fire engines to the fire?
Murphy uses vivid language to paint a picture of the fire and how the people's moods turn from noncompliant to panicked. This was wonderfully done with Alexander Frear. He at first was walking and even took time to stop in and buy a cigar on his way to check in on his sister-in-law, then it seemed to kick in that this fire was serious and his walk turned into a run.
In response to Brooke and Anglea, I am interested in finding out what happens to Clarie. I also hope to find out what she had in her bundle that she did not want to let go of. I'm ready to read on!