The Book of Daniel is about this 25 year old tall man who gets to tell his life’s story. In the book, Daniel is portrayed as a self-possessed, older looking, and opinionated man who is married with one child. A vivid picture is painted as the author dresses Daniel with a full-brown mustache, steel-rimmed spectacles, a blue prison jacket, dungarees, and a 1930s look. This picture enables the reader to feel like he or she is looking at Daniel as the story unfolds. In the same aspect, the author tells of Daniel’s wife, Phyllis, as a 19 year old freshman dropout, who his parent did not want to Daniel to marry.
In addition, Phyllis is perceived as a very talkative woman who is wearing bright colors of a flower bellbottoms and a khaki rain poncho. Yet, this book is about how Daniel’s life is always filled with some type of suspense and drama that always keeps the reader on alert. In the book, Daniel’s parents, the Issacsons get put on trial for possible treason (conspiracy to give the Soviet Union atomic secrets). Daniel’s sister, Susan does not take the news too well and attempts to take her own life (Doctorow, 1996).
The book is broken down into four sections which are discussed throughout this essay. In addition, Marxist views are presented. Discussion The Book of Daniel is based on a true story of the life of the author. In the book, there are many references made to the religious content in the bible. This is especially true for the Book of Daniel in which the main character, Daniel, talks about his wife getting on all fours. In the Holy Bible, King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon displeased God and had to live as an animal, roaming the fields and eating grass (Daniel, King James Version).
The book discusses the human side as one that can be wild-like and in-humane. While the biblical reference is a point well taken, the book mainly portrays the pain that Daniel had from his parents being executed (Doctorow, 1996). Wikipedia (2007) discussed the book as being written in four parts. These parts symbolize some type of national holiday or evident symbolism. For example, Wikipedia (2007) wrote, 1. Memorial Day—Opens, in 1967, with Daniel, his young wife, Phyllis and baby Paul, walking to the sanatorium to see Susan; closes with the dropping of atom bomb in Japan.
2. Halloween—Closes with the lawyer, Ascher, telling Daniel and Susan of the forthcoming start of the Lssacsons’ trial. 3. Starfish—closes with Daniel’s bruising involvement in an anti-draft march, whilst his sister (the starfish of the title) is lying dying from complications following her suicide attempt. 4. Christmas—Recalls later search for, and discovery of Mindish, now senile, in Disneyland; and the funerals of Daniel’s parents and his sister Susan. (Plot summary, para. 2)
The Memorial Day reference conveys what is happening in the book with what occurs in reality. An example is the fact that Memorial Day is a national observed United States holiday in which Americans pay tribute to those who lost their lives in battle or through an act of heroism. Yet, in the book, the Memorial Day has an occurrence where Japan receives an atom bomb. Thus, the day becomes a tragedy. In the second part, Halloween is occurring. The American observed holiday is one where children get to dress up and go out trick or treating.
In the book, Daniel learns that his parents are about to be put on trial. Here, the parallel is the symbolism of Daniel’s parents being cleared at the trial and letting go free as the treat. The simple fact that his parents are on trial is symbolic of a trick. Holcombe (2007) mentioned, “Marxists believe that economic and social conditions determine beliefs, legal systems and cultural frameworks. ’ ‘Art should not only represent such conditions truthfully, but seek to improve them’” (Overview, para. 1).
Daniel’s parents were in trouble for “…conspiring to pass atomic secrets to the Soviet Union…[and] were executed in the electric chair” (Bookdiva, 2007, para. 2). Yet, one can argue that Daniel’s parents were not guilty. So, the word trick means the same thing as a joke, only none of Daniel’s family members were laughing. Thus, in the third part, Daniel talks about his sister Susan, as a starfish. A starfish does not have to rely on others for help. In addition, a starfish can redevelop any arms that it loses. Here, two things can be noted.
One, that Daniel might have been hoping that his sister could recover from making an attempt to take her own life. Two, that those people who caused Susan to want to take her own life might be perceived as the starfish, especially since a starfish preys on (eats) those things weaker than itself that are too slow to move and get away. In either case, the starfish can be a good thing in terms of being independent. Yet, the starfish can be a bad thing, having five arms but lying motionless. Which brings up the fourth section of the book from a naughty or nice perspective and that is Christmas.
The fact that Daniel parents were found guilty and executed is symbolic of a child not receiving a Christmas gift for being naughty. In the same respect, the fact that Mindish (also accused) was living it up in Disneyland, is symbolic of a nice gift. In America, Christmas is perceived a time for giving and being happy. Yet, the only one happy in the book is Mindish who is at Disneyland and perhaps all those who believed Daniel’s parents to be guilty and deserving of execution. Consequently, it is only right that discussions about this book are geared to make people realize life’s ups and downs.
In fact, Bookdiva (2007) reiterated, Doctorow’s brilliant writing has created a classic novel, and one that should be on the shelves of every household. It is a sad story, and was emotional, and painful to watch Daniel grow, to watch his sister institutionalized, to watch Daniel try to understand his parents’ actions, and for him grow into a 60s radical, yet try not to be like them in his political zeal and zest, living in constant fear that he would turn out like them, behind bars with electric currents shooting through him.
With clarity and intensity, Doctorow brings the political past to the forefront, and we realize that things haven’t changed much with the political climate, in the fifty years, as we continue to live in the after-affects of September 11, 2001. The century is different, the decade and year is different, but the alarmist mindsets are still in ever present force. (para. 6) With that being said, the book brings together the past with the present. Conclusion In conclusion, the book is a good read.
The book shows all the emotions a person can encounter throughout life: joy, despair, fear, loneliness, adulthood, loss, death, pain, happiness, etc. In addition, the book discusses all the aspects of life from a political, social, religious, and nationality (patriotic) perspectives. Thus, many lessons are able to be learned. Of those lessons, the most important is that life is sometimes unpredictable and too often, situations occur that are beyond control. The best thing is to do the best we can and do not repeat the mistakes of the past.
Significantly, just to know the difference between being humane (love, courage, and understanding) and inhumane (bringing about death, causing war, and inflicting pain).
References Bookdiva. (2007, September 13). The Book of Daniel—A Novel. Retrieved November 12, 2007, from website: http://www. bookdiva. net? p=172 Doctorow, E. L. (1996). The Book of Daniel. New York: First Plume Printing. Retrieved November 12, 2007, from website: http://www. amazon. com/gp/reader Holcombe, J. C. (2007). Marxist views. Retrieved November 12, 2007, from website: http://www. textetc. com/theory/marxist-views. html