Friday, July 13, 2007

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

Murphy, J. (1995). The great fire. New York: Scholastic Inc.
Chapters 4-5
After reading these chapters I can only think of one thing--DESTRUCTION! I can not imagine what these people went through. Fire shows no compasion to anyone. It does not matter if your rich, poor, white, black, male, female, grown, or young. It destroys everything in its path. I was awed at what took place and felt like Murphy did a great job of helping the reader understand what was taking place in Chicago and with individuals. He used very decriptive words that intrigue the reader and draw you into the story to want to keep reading to find out what will happen next.
For example, I'm still intrigued by Claire and now that it has started raining will she finally find her family. I'm also still dieing to find out what is in her bundle and does she still have it or did she leave it in the alley where she got caught in the fire.
I'm also intrigued with Frear and what will happen with him. He got word about the children, but are they going to get them? And finally, isn't it amazing at how strong women truly are. Look at Lemos and what she did to save her children. I can relate to this with Joshua because last summer I had to leave him at the hospital, kind of like Lemos had to leave her children at the orphanage. It was the hardest thing I think I have ever had to do. But, I was there every time the doors opened for visitation in the ICU department and you better believe if there was harm headed toward that hospital my son would have been leaving with me. Mothers have that since of power and strength to do whatever it takes to keep our children safe. Through destruction and all moms fought to keep their children save. Women do have a great responsibilty as mothers and I loved how Murphy talked about looking "beyond the condescending references" to find "strong and very active women emerging." Women can and will rise to conquer what they are being faced with.


Tassie Rosamond said...

I just couldn't believe that any more destruction could happen, yet it did! I felt so bad for Claire when she was separated from her family-I hope she finds them! As I read on, I was depressed again when Frear's neices and nephews were lost too. Once they found their location, you'd think someone would go and get them. I know that having children with you at a time like that would have been hard, but not knowing about them when separated seems worse to me! I really liked how Murphy uses maps in the different chapters and shows the progression of the destruction. When reading about the fires, it's hard to get a mental image of how wide spread the destruction was, but when you look at the progression of the maps, it's much easier to get a clear picture. I also like how he labels things in the map that he's written about in the chapter. I was able to look at how far Julia Lemos's house was from the origin of the fire and was amazed! I wish the book had more photographs-I find that I look at those much longer than the illustrations!

brooke dycus said...

I was very relieved to see that Claire was still with her family when the chapter began, but only a couple of paragraphs later she was lost! She must have been such a brave little girl to be alone in a burning city. I am very glad that she made it through unharmed. Like Tassie, I was also upset about Frear's nieces and nephews. I could not imagine what it would be like to loose your children during a major catastrophe. As if the fire was not enough, you have to go and find your children when everyone else is running for their lives.
At first I was surprised to see that the Tribune building remained standing through the fire. Then I was even more surprised to read that it did end up burning down. I absolutely loved Charles mackintosh's quote " was fireproof up to the date of its destruction".
I could not get over some of the illustrations in the book. It is like some of those people are staring right at you. The illustrations and photographs really managed to bring what ws happening to life. It is so very sad that it happened and all those people lost their homes, their valuables, and in some occasions their life.

I love nonfiction said...

Why do you think the author included Claire in this book?

WOw! A powerful response related to your own experience as a mom!

Christy said...

Hey guys, I’m back from vacation and a little behind. I read chapters 4 & 5 while I was gone and am going to finish up tonight. I didn’t want to read on until I was able to read your blogs.
Clarie has me worried in the book. I guess I’m worried about her more because she is a young lady by herself with no idea where her family is. Will she end up in an orphanage? She seemed to have a good life with her family and after reading the books I’ve had about children losing family, I don’t think I can take another thought of a child being lost. She seems very brave and witty. Although the book doesn’t go into deep detail, she manages to escape the fire’s path. Murphy emphasizes her holding on to her bundle… which still leads me to wonder what is in it?
Mr. Frear is still looking for his nieces and nephews. I like the way Murphy stops in his story to put into words the exhaustion and worry that he felt. As we are reading a book it’s easy to think, oh, that was bad. But, when you are given a physical description of the weariness, it seems to bring the character to life. I like the picture he paints when he says, “My clothes were burnt full of holes on my arms and shoulders and back…I fell down in the hallway and went to sleep.” He didn’t bother looking for a bed! I feel that his story ended when the children were found and he was able to find a warm bed to sleep.
Murphy was quick to mention at the injustice women were dealt with then. Other authors described them as…”passive and helpless…” which was far from the truth. Lemos was a woman of great strength and control. She did what she had to for her family in a time of hardship and when she saw that her family was in danger, she took charge to make sure they all get to safety. It’s easy for us to judge her by leaving her children at an Half-Orphan Asylum, but in those times, I believe she was doing what she thought was right for her children. Angela’s empathy with her runs deep for me as a mom. I have not been in the position where I had to leave my children and cannot imagine the heartache and pain a mother has to fill. All of this heartache was replaced with admiration as she took control to save her family.