PART I - The Unbroken Engine
This novel is based on Jane Austen's last novel, "Persuasion". Jane Austen (1775-1817) is one of the most famous British authors of all time. She is known for her sharp wit and complex female protagonists. Perhaps her best known novels are "Pride and Prejudice," "Sense and Sensibility" and "Emma". It is fine if you have not read "Persuasion." There will be many annotations along the way that will make connections from Austen's novel to this one. (This annotation contains an image)
Elliot may seem like an uncommon name for a girl, but in this case Elliot North's name has literary significance. In Jane Austen's "Persuasion" the main character's name is Anne Elliot. This is clearly a reference to the novel this one is based upon.
Did you know that you can look up any word in the text of the book or the text of the questions and answers? Just click (or press on mobile devices) the word you want to define and hold until the blue text selector pops up. When you release, a define option will appear. Since it's so easy to look up words, make sure you use this feature frequently... Is there a word on this page you need to look up?
Which of the following aspects of Elliot and Kai's writing suggests that they are very young?
This paragraph helps to establish the setting of the novel. Given the strangeness of some of the terms used (Reduced, Post-Reductionists, etc) you can assume this story takes place in the future, as these terms have not been used to describe people in the present or the past. You can also draw some connections between this futuristic setting and the American South during slavery. The "Reduced" are seen as lesser, or even sub-human, just as slaves were. Post-Reductionists (or Posts) are the offspring of the Reduced, though Posts are not Reduced themselves. You can see similarities between the challenges supposedly "free" African-Americans faced after slavery and those of the Posts, who are technically free but who are still struggling to survive. What other connections do you see between these two worlds?
Based on what you have read so far, what can you infer about Luddites and their social position?
The word "Luddite" was not made up for this book. In fact, it is a term that was coined in the early 1800s. A Luddite was a person who destroyed machines. As England became more industrialized, many people had to work in horrible conditions in factories. Luddites rebelled against these terrible work environments by smashing, burning and destroying the machines that had created this awful work in the first place. While there are probably not many machine destroyers anymore, the word "Luddite" is still used to this day, but its meaning has shifted to describe someone who dislikes or disapproves of technology. It is unclear so far if the Luddites in this book shun technology, though it does seem like the Reduced and the Posts use complex farming tools like tractors and threshers. (This annotation contains an image)
In what ways does Ro conform to what Luddites think of the Reduced? In what ways does Ro differ from these stereotypes? Use textual evidence to back up your claims.
The tone of a piece of writing is the speaker's attitude towards whatever he or she is describing. For instance, if Elliot said, "It was so unfair that Kai couldn't go to school," the tone might be indignant, or upset. Mood is the feeling a piece of writing creates in the reader. The mood of the following sentence, "Elliot peered around the corner and gasped at what she saw," could be suspense or tension. To learn more about tone and mood, please watch the video below. (This annotation contains a video)
What is the mood of this sentence?
This is another reference to Jane Austen's "Persuasion". In "Persuasion," Anne Elliot falls in love with a captain named Wentworth. Because Anne comes from a noble family, Wentworth is deemed too low-class to be with her, and Anne is persuaded not to marry him. The rest of the novel revolves around whether or not Anne has made a mistake, and whether or not she and Wentworth will get back together again.
Which of the following does NOT represent a way in which Kai and Elliot's letters have changed over time?
A "debut" is a high society social event in which a young woman (called a debutante) is presented to her community as an adult. The festivities involve a presentation of the young woman and a ball. A debut is not unlike a quinceañera, though quinceañeras are less associated with the upper class than debuts are. Though debuts are still practiced in some parts of society, they were much more popular in the 18th and 19th centuries. The picture below illustrates a debutante ball in Harlem taken in the 1930s.
Which of the novel's emerging themes does this paragraph most closely relate to?
This sentence contains vivid imagery, thanks in part to a well-placed simile. A simile is a statement that compares two things and uses the words "like" or "as". In this sentence, the rich colors are compared to Ro's flowers. Others examples of similes are "he was as gentle as a lamb" or "she fought like a mother bear protecting its cubs". Authors use similes to make their writing more expressive and more colorful. To learn more about similes and a similar literary device, the metaphor, please watch the video below. (This annotation contains a video)
What can you infer from this exchange?
How does the shift from signing letters "your friend" to "yours" affect the tone of Elliot and Kai's correspondence? What can you infer from the fact that Kai signs his letter "yours" as well?
The phrase ad nauseam comes from Latin and means "to the point of nausea". If someone does something ad nauseam it means that he repeats it or does it for so long that it becomes tiring. Given what we know about her, Tatiana could probably discuss the superiority of Luddites ad nauseam. Please note that the book appears to have a typo here, it is in fact "ad nauseam" and not "ad nauseum". (This annotation contains an image)
What does the author imply with this statement?
This sentence contains figurative language. Figurative language is language in which words do not take on their literal meanings. For example, if someone says "I cried a river of tears," the reader knows that the narrator has cried a lot, but there is no actual river of his tears. In this sentence, Elliot's fingernails do not actually bite into her palm, but the author's use of this phrase makes it clear to the reader that Elliot's fingernails are digging into her skin. Writers use figurative language to create vivid imagery in their pieces. To learn more about figurative language, please watch the video below. (This annotation contains a video)
Tension is an intensification of the mood of a story, and it serves to build a reader's interest until the climax of the plot. In this novel, there is tension because of the perilous position of Elliot's estate and all of the people it employs, there is romantic tension between Elliot and Kai, and there is social tension created by the inequalities of the novel's society. To learn more about tension, please watch the video below. (This annotation contains a video)
How does the author's choice to alternate between past and present serve to create tension in the novel? Use textual evidence to support your response.
This passage contains vivid imagery thanks to figurative language ("her face split in two by a smile") and detailed descriptions. Imagery can be created by any number of literary devices, and it is used to create a mental picture in the reader's mind. To learn more about imagery, please watch the video below. (This annotation contains a video)
Which of the following best describes Elliot's state of mind in this passage?
Much like Elliot's name is not a coincidence, neither is the Groves's. In Jane Austen's "Persuasion," Luisa Muscgrove (notice the word "grove" in her last name) plays a love interest of Captain Wentworth's. Their flirtation drives Anne Elliot crazy, of course, as she still loves Wentworth. Just to recap: Anne Elliot is Elliot North, Captain Wentworth is Malakai (Kai) Wentforth, and now Louisa Musgrove is Olivia Grove. Keep all of this in mind as you continue reading.
Make connections between the world being described here and the world you live in today. What parallels do you see? In what ways are these worlds different from one another?
ERV is fictional, but its science and controversy both seem loosely based on GMOs (genetically modified organisms), which exist today. GMOs include plant and animal species that have had their DNA altered in some way to make them more useful to humans. Some corn, for example, has been genetically modified so that it produces a natural insecticide, which means that farmers do not have to spray their crops with as many chemicals. Some animals are genetically modified to be bigger, leaner or easier to care for. As you can imagine, many people see GMOs as progress, while others see them as a dangerous perversion of natural organisms. What do you think? (This annotation contains an image)
The Russian playwright Anton Chekhov once wrote "If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it's not going to be fired, it shouldn't be hanging there." The meaning of this quotation is that authors should only include details that are important in their writing, and that anything "extra" should be cut out. Pay careful attention to the information being explained in this passage. What might the directional whisper zones be useful for later on in the story? (This annotation contains an image)
What does this information tell the reader about Elliot?
What does the reader learn about Kai's character in this chapter?
Tatiana seems determined to ruin everything for Elliot all the time, doesn't she? While readers are not likely to sympathize with Tatiana, she does play an important role in this story. Tatiana is a foil for Elliot's character. A foil highlights certain characteristics of a protagonist by essentially being the opposite of those characteristics. For example, if an author wanted to underscore her protagonist's generosity, she could create a foil for that character who was extremely selfish. In "For Darkness Shows the Stars," Tatiana's strict adherence to Luddite principles is a foil for Elliot's active questioning. In what other ways does Tatiana serve as a foil for Elliot?
The tone of Elliot's unspoken question is
This passage contains euphemistic language. A euphemism is when something that is generally difficult to discuss (such as sex or death) is referred to in a milder, softer way. For example, instead of saying that a person is dead, you can say that person has "passed away". During the war in Iraq, the United States government famously used the euphemism "enhanced interrogation" to describe the use of torture to get information from prisoners. In the case of Elliot's use of the word "interested," it's true that Kai appears to be interested in Olivia, but that's probably a euphemism for finding her attractive, or wanting to be her boyfriend. Check out the euphemism in the cartoon below! (This annotation contains an image)
These are rhetorical questions. A rhetorical question is a question that is asked, but is not meant to be answered. Another example of a rhetorical question is saying "who knew?" upon learning something new. Rhetorical questions are meant to make the reader think. (This annotation contains an image)
Why would Kai's question cause Elliot pain?
Note the figurative language! Things do not become slippery in a literal sense, of course. What is meant by this statement?
This paragraph contains a lot of figurative language. What is the effect of all of this figurative, descriptive language? What would this paragraph look like if it were written literally?
A stroke occurs when blood stops flowing to the brain. Without blood the cells in the brain do not get oxygen, and they begin to die. If treated early, the damage done by a stroke can be minimized. Generally, strokes can cause paralysis, vision problems, difficulty speaking and even death. It is very bad news that Elliot's grandfather is having continued and numerous strokes.
What does it say about Elliot's character that she is reluctant to accept Felicia's kindness? What motivates Elliot to do so?
Given how much she likes nature and physical activity, it seems strange that Elliot is not good at riding horses. Why do you think this is? What other inconsistencies have you noticed about her character?
Elliot's curiosity represents
Please read the following quotation from Jane Austen's "Persuasion". In it, the narrator is describing Anne Elliot's thoughts as she ponders a negative interaction with Captain Wentworth. Remember that in "For Darkness Shows the Stars," Elliot's character is based off of Anne Elliot, and Kai's is based off of Captain Wentforth.
"Now, how were his sentiments to be read? Was this like wishing to avoid her? And the next moment she was hating herself for the folly which asked the question." Basically, Anne is thinking that if Wentworth really does not want to get back together with her, it is probably pointless for her to be worried about what he is thinking.
In what ways does Elliot's reaction to Kai's coldness in this scene relate to Anne Elliot's thought process in the quotation above? In what ways are these two reactions different? Use textual evidence to back up your claims.
This sentence contains loads of figurative language, including the literary device personification. Personification is when a non-human being or object is given human attributes. In this case, saying "autumn gasps" is personification, as is "winter taking charge." Those are ordinarily things that humans do, not seasons. Other examples of personification could be to say that an owl is wise, or that a warm fire beckons cold travelers to a campsite. To learn more about personification, please watch the video below. (This annotation contains a video)
What does this information imply about Tatiana?
Note the use of figurative language here. The description of the "massive sinkhole" in Elliot's heart can be classified as hyperbole. Hyperbole is a gross exaggeration, like when you say "I'm so hungry I could eat a horse". In this case, while it is clear that Felicia's words have hurt Elliot's feelings, saying that there is a massive sinkhole in Elliot's heart is a bit dramatic. To learn more about hyperbole, please watch the video below. (This annotation contains a video)
What does this passage reveal about Olivia's character?
Please listen to Puff Daddy's "Every Breath I Take". Be prepared to compare the lyrics of this song to the ones from Donovan's song. (This annotation contains a video)
How are Donovan's song and Puff Daddy's "Every Breath I Take" related? Use textual evidence to back up your claims.
What is the tone of Andromeda's question?
Elliot really is caught between worlds. She is able to masquerade as a protocol-following Luddite, but she has done more than her fair share of bending the rules. Have you ever felt like you were a part of two different worlds? How does that feel, or how do you imagine it would feel?
Since it has been coming up a lot in Elliot's thoughts, do you think that Kai cared about her as a child? Or, as Elliot fears these days, do you think he has always resented her? Keep this in mind as you read through their old letters.
How do these letters relate to Elliot's conversation with Andromeda?
Here's what an oxblood colored jacket might look like. (This annotation contains an image)
Which of the following does NOT contribute to the tension in this scene?
This statement is the exact opposite of a backhanded compliment. A backhanded compliment is an insult disguised as a compliment. In this case, Andromeda gives Elliot a compliment that is disguised as an insult! Some good examples of true backhanded compliments are "you are so much smarter than you look" and "I almost didn't recognize you, you look great today!"
How is Andromeda's attitude toward Elliot changing in this scene? What is motivating this change? Use textual evidence to back up your points.
The end of this chapter touches on one of the novel's themes: choice. In Elliot's world, what kinds of things do people get to choose? What kinds of things are not a matter of choice? Use textual evidence to back up your points.
What is the tone of these last two paragraphs? How does the author use language to evoke this tone?
This is a reference to a story in the bible called "The Prodigal Son". In it, a man begs his father to give him his inheritance before the father dies. The father agrees, and this son uses all of the money to live an extravagant life of travel and excess (prodigal means wastefully extravagant). Meanwhile, the father's older son remains at home with the father and toils on the land, like a responsible human being. The younger son runs out of money and returns to his father's home a beggar. The father is so thrilled to see his younger son that he throws a giant party for him. The older son points out how unfair this is: why should the young son receive a party, when all he did was blow his inheritance while living the good life? It was the older son, after all, who had stood by his father's side and worked so hard on the farm. The father replies that the return of his younger son is like having him come back from the dead, a wonderful event worth celebrating. While it certainly does seem fair that the responsible son gets nothing while the prodigal son gets a big party, the moral of the story is about grace and acceptance. (This annotation contains an image)
In what ways does the story of the prodigal son reflect Benedict's return?
Why is Dee working in a makeshift dairy?
Note the serious content of Dee and Elliot's conversation. Though they are discussing emotional and controversial things, their mutual respect is clear. Is Dee a mother figure to Elliot? Are they peers?
Which literary devices are present in this paragraph?
Note the playfulness of Horatio's banter with his sister. What other characters take good-natured jabs at one another?
What does this information reveal about the mindset of Luddites?
This letter is rather poignant. Kai's interpretation of what happened to the bridges must reflect his own thoughts and fantasies about getting away from the estate and making a life for himself as a free person.
How does this passage highlight Olivia's naiveté?
Notice the tension and excitement in this scene. Even though the reader gets to hear all of Elliot's private thoughts as she unwinds the mystery of the Cloud Fleet's seeming superiority, it feels quite fast-paced. The reason it feels fast-paced is that it is exciting. Elliot's head is spinning as she puts the pieces of the puzzle together. To learn more about pacing, please watch the video below. (This annotation contains a video)
This scene mimics a similar one in "Persuasion". In Jane Austen's novel, Louisa Musgrove (the inspiration for Olivia in this story) takes a tumble while flirting with Captain Wentworth (the inspiration for Kai). Anne Elliot (the inspiration for Elliot) remains calm and is extremely useful in getting help for Louisa, much like Elliot does for Olivia.
In Persuasion, a witness to Louisa's fall says: "Ay, a very bad business indeed.--A new sort of way this, for a young fellow to be making love, by breaking his mistresses' head!" What can you infer from this quotation are some key differences between the fall scene in Persuasion as compared to in For Darkness Shows the Stars?
What is the significance of this particular letter?
Notice how euphemistic the name "healing house" is. What really happens to people who are sent to the healing house? What might be a more appropriate name for it?
Please watch this video of Neil deGrasse Tyson discussing science and religion. Be prepared to answer a question about what you have seen! (This annotation contains a video)
Compare and contrast Elliot's perspectives on science and religion and Neil deGrasse Tyson's. What do their ideas reveal about the societies that they live in?
This is not the first time we have heard this phrase. In fact, the idea of "saving a life" is repeated throughout the novel. When a phrase or image has a recurring role in a text, it is called a motif. A motif has symbolic meaning and usually represents a link to a central idea or theme in a text. To learn more about motif, please watch the video below. (This annotation contains a video)
Which of the novel's major themes does this paragraph touch upon?
Notice Dee's maternal tone here. It is typical of parents to call their children by their full names when want their words to have an impact. What does this say about Dee and Elliot's relationship?
What does this paragraph reveal about Elliot's character?
This is rare. Elliot's self-censorship has been a running motif throughout the novel. We frequently hear of her fighting back her emotions and measuring her responses to people. Why do you think Elliot has let her guard down this time?
How is Elliot's relationship with Benedict similar to a typical relationship between cousins? In what ways is it different? Use textual evidence to back up your claims.
What purpose does Benedict's character serve in this chapter?
There is not much outright humor in this story. This well-intentioned misuse of the word "stewed" is a rare example of a truly funny moment in the book. What word should Elliot have used instead?
The frequently mentioned "Gavin and Carlotta" appear to be made up scientists from some time in the future (but before this book takes place). From previous chapters, we know that they have something to do with ERV. The other scientists in this list are real, though!
What do these two letters reveal about Kai and Elliot?
Here, again, we see Elliot's longing to say what she is thinking, but choosing to bury her thoughts. Why is she afraid to speak out? What does she have to lose?
Which of the novel's main themes does this conversation touch upon?
This sentence contains which of the following literary devices?
As you know, Pyrois is one of the Innovation horses. His name has special significance, however. Helios was the ancient Greek god of the sun. He pulled the sun across the sky in his golden chariot, which was pulled by special horses. These horses had names, and one of them was- you guessed it- Pyrois. (This annotation contains an image)
What is the tone of this letter?
This brief letter is extremely poignant. While Elliot's fear of science is clearly not meant as an attack on Kai, he uses her words and his circumstances to help her to see the inconsistencies of her position. Would you have reacted so calmly to Elliot's words? Why or why not?
Imagine this scene if Ro were not in it. How would Elliot and Kai's conversation and behavior be different?
What does Kai imply with this statement?
Does this predicament sound familiar? Here, we see that Dee and Elliot face parallel problems. Though Dee is a supporting character to Elliot's protagonist, we can see how her life may be following Elliot's in a parallel plot. To learn more about parallel plots, please watch the video below. (This annotation contains a video)
Is Elliot North a rebel? Some of her actions say yes, and others no. Use textual evidence to back up your claims.
Can you see any other reason for his spending so much time and energy on Olivia? At this point, how convinced are you of Kai's love for Olivia? Is there hope for Kai and Elliot?
How do the Posts and free Posts mirror the experience of slaves and freed African-Americans in the United States? In what ways are these groups dissimilar?
The barn is a symbol of Elliot's difference from other Luddites, and of her longing for freedom. More specifically, the barn represents Elliot's desire for freedom to love Kai and freedom to experiment. To learn more about symbols and symbolism, please watch the video below. (This annotation contains a video)
This series of letters reveals something important about Tatiana's character. What is it?
Elliot is about to speak her mind! Still, observe how passive her actions sound. She is not speaking, so much as allowing words to bubble out of her throat. What is the effect of the author's word choices here?
What does this exchange between Elliot and Tatiana illustrate?
Another Innovation horse with a name inspired by ancient Greek culture! Zeus was the king of the gods in ancient Greek religion. Please watch the video below to learn a bit more about ancient Greece. (This annotation contains a video)
Based on the video you just watched, why do you think the free Posts relate to the ancient Greeks? What similarities do they have with this ancient culture? What might they want to emulate from Greek culture?
Looking back, it is clear that the first time this detail (about the tractor controls on the sun-cart) was described, it was included as foreshadowing. Foreshadowing is a literary device in which an author shares bits of information that hint at something that will happen in the future. To learn more about foreshadowing, please watch the video below. (This annotation contains a video)
What is the tone of this conversation between Kai and Elliot?
How do the Posts and free Posts mirror the experience of slaves and freed African-Americans in the United States? In what ways are these groups dissimilar?
Notice that even Elliot's wishes for her own funeral mirror her preference for exploration and escape, as opposed to the Luddite life that she has been born into.
Charybdis is sea monster from Greek mythology. She is portrayed as a giant whirlpool. Charybdis sits opposite Scylla, a sea monster who lives in a rock. When ships sailed between Scylla and Charybdis they had to be extremely careful not to get too close to either, and many failed in this pursuit. In the political cartoon below, you can see that being described as "between Scylla and Charybdis" means "choosing between two evils". In this case, British people ford the treacherous waters on the way from monarchy to democracy. (This annotation contains an image)
Tatiana's tone changes from _____ to _____ in this scene.
How does the author underscore Elliot's struggle to decide what to do with her letters from Kai?
This feels a little bit creepy, doesn't it? Is Benedict really a good guy, or are we about to learn that he has something more sinister up his sleeve? Make a prediction before you move on!
Is this an act of tremendous power or extreme desperation?
Which of the following best describes the mood at the end of this chapter?
Why doesn't Elliot want to show the Innovations how devastated she is? Is it a matter of pride? Of not wanting to overwhelm them with her problems? Of not trusting them?
What is the effect of the simile in this sentence?
What aspects of Andromeda's story are specific to the time and world that she lives in? What aspects could happen to any child?
Tête-à-tête is a French phrase that means "a private conversation between two people". Literally translated, it means "head to head".
What does this information suggest about Tatiana's feelings?
The baroness is the only character in the novel who wears a veil. Since it does not appear to be a fashion statement, what else could this veil be about? What might a veil symbolize? Keep your answers to these questions in mind as you read on.
Of course, Elliot has also assumed that she is the only Luddite who questions the protocols. What do you think Elliot is feeling now, knowing that she is not alone?
The Boatwright compass is a symbol throughout the novel. What does it represent?
How does Elliot's use of power compare to her father's?
Tatiana has served as a foil for Elliot's character throughout the novel. At this point, though, the reader understands her motivations more clearly. Is Tatiana still a foil for Elliot, or is that no longer an appropriate description for her?
This sentence contains which of the following literary devices?
Does this sound like something Elliot really believes in, or is she just telling herself she can live with being Kai's friend because she does not want to be disappointed?
Given how curious she is by nature, it seems strange to be reminded that Elliot's world is extremely small. She has never even been to the city, much less to other islands! Does the reminder of this detail affect how you view Elliot, or her interactions with Kai?
In Jane Austen's Persuasion, Anne Elliot speaks the following words when she is given a second chance to be with Captain Wentworth: "If I was wrong in yielding to persuasion once, remember that it was to persuasion exerted on the side of safety, not of risk. When I yielded, I thought it was to duty; but no duty could be called in aid here." Compare and contrast Anne Elliot's reaction to her second chance with Elliot's.
Which literary device is NOT present in this passage?
Yet another Greek reference! Argos was a city state in ancient Greece, and was a stronghold during wars. Below, you can see what remains of the Argos theater. Why might Argos be a good name for a ship? (This annotation contains an image)
Compare and contrast the plot of Persuasion with that of For Darkness Shows the Stars. What similarities and differences do you see between the movie trailer and this novel?
Now that you have finished the novel, please watch this movie trailer for Jane Austen's "Persuasion". Be prepared to compare and contrast the trailer with this story! (This annotation contains a video)