Galápagos takes the reader back one million years, to A.D. 1986. A simple vacation cruise suddenly becomes an evolutionary journey. Thanks to an apocalypse, a small group of survivors stranded on the Galápagos Islands are about to become the progenitors of a brave, new, and totally different human race. In this inimitable novel, America’s master satirist looks at our world and shows us all that is sadly, madly awry–and all that is worth saving.
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Ecuador is located in northwest South America on the Pacific Ocean. If you click on the map, you will see a group of islands outlined in red off the coast. These are the Galápagos Islands from which this novel takes its title. (This annotation has embedded rich content)
The fact that the phrase "big brains" is repeated so often could suggest what about the narrator?
The Galápagos Island were made famous by Charles Darwin. In 1835, Darwin spent several weeks recording his observations of animal and plant life on the different islands. His observations became the foundation of his theory of evolution, published in The Origin of Species in 1859. (This annotation contains a video)
According to the narrator, what is the irony of having a large brain?
The first edition of Darwin's book can be seen below. (This annotation contains an image)
This is the image that Wait sees behind the bar. (This annotation contains an image)
Many of the details about Wait focus on what aspect?
Notice the asterisks. As of now, there is no explanation offered for them. What do you think they could mean?
This references the idea of "the survival of the fittest," a phrase explaining Darwin's theory of natural selection.
From what point of view is this novel told?
This strange statement could suggest all of the following except
Beethoven (1770-1827) is considered one of the greatest composers of all time, and his Symphony No. 9 is considered by some to be the greatest musical achievement in Western tradition. The narrator says the same brain that created this genius composition also created the famine. If you'd like, have a listen! (This annotation contains a video)
"But now her own big brain was urging her to take the polyethylene garment bag from around a red evening dress..."Which of the following literary devices does the narrator use to describe Mary Hepburn's brain?
Watch this short video on satire. There will be questions as you proceed through the book on satire. (This annotation contains a video)
Which of the following best explains Vonnegut's satire of the world's financial system?
The Flightless cormorant, also called the Galapagos cormorant, is the only cormorant that has lost its ability to fly. (This annotation contains an image)
What point is Vonnegut making with the satirical comparison between humans and the flightless cormorant?
Bikini Atoll was the site of several tests of nuclear bombs in the late 1940s through the 1950s. Live animals were placed on the island so as to measure the effects of the explosions. The destruction left the island uninhabitable to this day. This short video shows one of the detonations. (This annotation contains a video)
According to the narrator, how is Mary ironically like her ill husband?
Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis was married to President John F. Kennedy until his assassination. She later married Aristotle Onassis. She is perhaps best known for her style; in fact, she remains a fashion icon to many. (This annotation contains an image)
Notice that many of Vonnegut's sentences are short, simple ones. What is one effect of these constructions?
The narrator has foreshadowed many events, including deaths and the procreation of a new lineage of humans, in a very matter-of-fact way. Here, there is a note of humor in the foreshadowed observation. (This annotation contains a video)
What is the irony in referring to humans as "fisherfolk"?
Using context clues, choose the best synonym for the word "evanesced."
Vonnegut's Mandarax device is pretty close to a reality today. Google's Translate app does an excellent job translating languages (though probably not as good as Mandarax). Caltech researchers have invented a portable device that diagnoses diseases through specimen analysis. You can check out an article on the machine here. (This annotation contains a link)
Which of the following tools of satire does Vonnegut not employ in this paragraph?
Now, Mandarax is essentially described as the iPhone pictured below! (This annotation contains an image)
If the first marriage on the Galápagos was performed in 2027 and that last in 23,011, humans stayed on these islands for a long time.
What paradoxical truth does the narrator recognize about the human brain?
Blindness can, in fact, be inherited. According to the Cleveland Clinic, more than sixty percent of cases of blindness among infants are caused by inherited eye diseases.
In satirizing the financial system, what point does Vonnegut make?
This is true. In her book "A Natural History of the Senses," Diane Ackerman writes the following: "When we are told that a human has five million olfactory cells, it seems like a lot. But a sheepdog, which has 220 million, can smell fourty-four times better than we can. What does it smell? What are we missing? Just imagine the stereophonic world of aromas we must pass through, like sleepwalkers without headphones." Here is a short video that provides an overview on how dogs are able to smell with such precision. (This annotation contains a link)
All of the following are reasons this statement is offensive to Ortiz except
Huntington's chorea, today called Huntington's Disease, Huntington is a progressive brain disorder that causes uncontrolled movements, emotional problems, and loss of cognition. The most common form of this disease appears in adulthood, usually in an individual's thirties or forties. (This annotation contains a video)
The HD gene was discovered in 1993 and thus made it possible to genetically test to confirm or rule out a HD diagnosis. But in 1986, no test was available so a person was forced to simply wait.
What is the irony of not knowing if one is a carrier of the disease?
What is ironic about the choice of the marine iguana as the logo for the cruise?
The marine iguana is found only on the Galapagos islands. Rather ugly creatures, Charles Darwin described them "hideous-looking" and "most disgusting, clumsy lizards." Vonnegut's description of their behavior is accurate as you can see in this video. (This annotation contains a video)
The narrator has already mentioned in passing Mary's scheme to impregnate others with the sperm of the Captain. Here is some further information as to what Mary is up to!
How do the narrator's repeated allusions to his own death affect the narrative?
This is an allusion to Herman Melville's novel "Omoo: A Narrative of Adventures in the South Seas" published in 1847. This book is a sequel to his more popular first novel, "Typee."
What point is Vonnegut likely making with this statement?
Here's a video of the blue footed booby. Enjoy! (This annotation contains a video)
What is the purpose of the repetition in Noble Claggett's poem?
This is quite a passenger list! Henry Kissinger- former Secretary of State for the Nixon and Ford administrations; Mick Jagger- lead singer of the British rock group The Rolling Stones; Paloma Picasso- French fashion designer and daughter of artist Pablo Picasso; William F. Buckley, Jr.- conservative writer and political commentator; Rudolf Nureyev- Soviet-born ballet and modern dancer; Walter Cronkite- broadcast journalist and longtime anchor of the CBS Evening News
What can we infer about the Captain's personality from the interview with Johnny Carson?
The "blue tunnel into the Afterlife" could be a euphemism for dying, but it is more likely a "clinical" description of death from a character one million years into the future. Actually, many people who have had near-death experiences report seeing tunnels and light. Scientists are now studying this phenomenon. (This annotation contains a link)
From the paragraphs about parenting and protracted childhood we can infer that Vonnegut, were he alive today, would love to satirize which of the following?
Here is a great example of Vonnegut's dry humor where he presents something absurd (pregnant teens claiming they hadn't had sex) in a straightforward way. His wording is perfect, with the phrase "to the best of their recollection" the highlight of the joke.
When the narrator says that he "got into the head of Captain Adolf von Kleist," he is not speaking figuratively. He has literally gotten to the Captain's big brain. I know. Just go with it!
How is the Captain similar to James Wait and Zenji Hiroguchi?
Benjamin Franklin shared this sentiment. He wrote in "Poor Richard's Almanack" that "A full belly makes a dull brain." (This annotation contains an image)
What satirical tool does Vonnegut use in this paragraph?
This information about Darwin's finches is historically accurate. Here's a short humorous video (that Vonnegut would approve of) from Animal Planet about the finches. (This annotation contains a link)
In the late 1970s, Colombian drug traffickers began smuggling cocaine into the United States. During its heyday in the 1980s, smuggling resulted in more than 500 tons of cocaine shipped out of Columbia each year, a billion dollar industry. By the end of the decade, cocaine was considered most dangerous and addictive drug, linked with poverty, crime and death.
What is the ironic truth about Cruz's decision to abandon the Bahía de Darwin?
Cruz's decision, which saved humanity, illustrates the role of chance in evolution.
From the descriptions provided to this point in the novel, future humans resemble which animal?
Here's a punnet square that illustrates the odds that Selena's baby would be blind. Notice that a female child would either be blind or a carrier. (This annotation contains an image)
On what does the narrator place most of the blame for Delgado's behavior?
Rio Tiputini is located in east Ecuador. It is tied into a river system that connects to the Atlantic Ocean on the eastern side of the continent. (This annotation has embedded rich content)
How is the narrator's father more like the people one million years in the future and less like his own wife?
The Galapagos Tortoise is a remarkable animal. Here's a short video that shares five facts about the tortoise. (This annotation contains a video)
What is the irony in Prince Richard's statement to Wait?
Once again, Vonnegut shows himself to be prescient. Wait blames his brain for his crime, something that, according to this article, more and more defendants are doing today. (This annotation contains a link)
Based on her interactions with the Captain and now with Wait, what can we gather about Mary?
In his dialogue with Mary, we can see why Wait is good at what he does. He establishes himself as a sympathetic person, plays on her emotions, and flatters her, all while fishing for information about her wealth.
How does Beccaria's quotation apply to the novel?
Methuselah is a biblical character who is said to have lived for 969 years.
A mob resembles a "fibrillating organ" in all of the following ways except
This sentence is, of course, the famous opening sentence of Charles Dickens' "A Tale of Two Cities." It's inclusion in this novel makes sense. "A Tale of Two Cities" is both a story about an apocalypse (the French Revolution) and ultimate kindness, just like "Galápagos."
What can we now assume has caused the destruction of the human population?
Vonnegut isn't the only artist to present this type of analogy for planes. Director Stanley Kubrick makes a similar statement in opening credits of his great satirical film, "Dr. Strangelove" (1964). (This annotation contains a video)
All of the following poetic devices except ________ contribute to the humorous tone of the highlighted line.
Knowing already that the Captain becomes the father of an entire population of people on Santa Rosalia, this description of the Captain and his near-nakedness is likely an allusion to
When Plato offered this definition of a man, Diogenes the Cynic (a man's whose humor Vonnegut would certainly have appreciated) returned with a plucked chicken and said, "Behold Plato's man!" Plato then amended his definition to add "with broad flat nails."
Shockwaves can be extremely powerful and destructive. Watch this video from Discovery capturing a shockwave following a chemical plant explosion. (This annotation contains a video)
All of the following words could describe the tone of this line except
This is the first time the narrator has revealed his name!
The Captain, in his drunkenness, is likely recalling a story about the British naval officer Horatio Nelson who convened a court-martial on board his ship charging Admiral Francesco Caracciolo with treason. After Carocciolo was found guilty, Nelson ordered that he be hanged at dawn from the yardarm. This line could also be an allusion to Herman Melville's famous story "Billy Budd" in which Billy, a sailor, is "sentenced to be hung at the yard-arm in the early morning watch."
What is the irony of the highlighted passage?
The Waldorf-Astoria is an iconic luxury hotel in Manhattan. Siegfried is obviously speaking sarcastically to his brother. (This annotation contains an image)
Which of the following is an example of a conceit?
This quotation comes from Joseph Conrad's novel "The Nigger of the 'Narcissus': A Tale of the Sea" (1897). In addition, Vonnegut's character James Wait shares a name with the main character of Conrad's novel. Also, in both novels, the Waits are dying aboard a ship.
Well, that got weird! We finally learn the specifics of the narrator's death... and they aren't pretty. Also, the narrator says that he has always had the ability to "materialize." So, we might have a couple of questions. Does everyone have the power to materialize? Why does he materialize when he does? Do people have to be drinking in order to see a materialized person?
You can listen to the whippoorwill's song in the video below. The bird was named after the sound that it makes, so it's an onomatopoeic bird! (This annotation contains a video)
All of the following may be explanations for why Mary had her dream except
Also lost by having a smaller brain are the complexities of love. A million years in the future, people only mate in order to produce offspring. This is one of the few times the narrator implies that a large brain is preferable.
Though the humans with smaller brains don't commit the same atrocities as their big brained predecessors, what crime do the males commit?
Baltra is one of the main islands in the Galapagos Islands. Baltra was probably the Captain's choice because it is home to an Ecuadorian military base and an airport. (This annotation has embedded rich content)
Wait would have considered himself a survivor for all of the following reasons except
Mary has thus efficiently completed both requests made by Roy before his death. He told her to take the vacation to the Galapagos Islands and to find another man to marry.
The tone of this remark could be described in all of the following ways except
So the future generations of humans on Santa Rosalia will have no idea what a barking dog sounds like, among many other sounds. Does that feel bizarre to you?
How is Selena now like the Captain?
This famous line comes from T. S. Eliot's poem "Gerontion." Its selection is certainly apropos because the poem is narrated by a man who lived most of his life in another time and who feels lost and humiliated, much like the Captain. (This annotation contains a link)
Mount Ararat is the highest mountain in Turkey. It is the mountain where, according to Genesis 8:4, Noah's Ark came to rest. The Captain's answer is more ironic than he realizes because their boat is very much like the Ark because it carries the only humans to survive and reestablish humanity. (This annotation contains an image)
"St. Elmo's fire (also St. Elmo's light) is a weather phenomenon in which luminous plasma is created by a coronal discharge from a sharp or pointed object in a strong electric field in the atmosphere such as those generated by thunderstorms or created by a volcanic eruption" (Wikipedia). (This annotation contains an image)
What is Kilgore Trout's main role in the novel?
The epigraph is the following quote by Anne Frank: "In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart."
Which of the following questions has not been answered?
The Panama Canal is a forty-eight mile, human-made canal that connects the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean. Construction of the canal was finished in 1914 and allowed ship to avoid the long trip around the southern tip of South America. (This annotation contains a link)
What is the irony of the idea that "anything which can be done will be done"?
This is an example of a nonsense poem that Edward Lear is famous for writing. As much of the novel's plot plays with nonsensical occurrences, the poem fits nicely in the book.
How is Kamikaze like a sacred wind to the people of Santa Rosalia?
The Great Pyramid of Khufu, also know as the Great Pyramid of Giza, is located in Egypt and is oldest of the Seven Wonders of the World. (This annotation has embedded rich content)
The fact that Mary complains that the Captain doesn't work at the relationship implies what about her?
These lines come from Shakespeare's comedy "As You Like It." It is from the famous "All the World's Stage" monologue about the seven stages of a person's life. The stage quoted by Mandarax is, appropriately, the final stage, old age. (This annotation contains a link)
"Davy Jones's Locker" a euphemism for the sinking of a ship or the drowning of a member of a ship's crew. When a ship sunk, it was sent to the bottom of the sea, or Davy Jones's Locker.
The feet of the Captain and Mary signify that
Alzheimer's Disease has wreaked havoc on the Captain's brain. He has trouble making any sense of the world around him, not uncommon to those suffering from the disease. As you watch this short video, think about how this must affect the Captain's perception of the finches. (This annotation contains a video)
Which of the following statements is not suggested by the highlighted paragraph?
There is hope at the end of the novel, but a paradoxical kind of hope. Humanity has been saved but it has only been saved by losing its human qualities. Nature, and not humans, has repaired the mistake.