A Hologram for the King: A Novel
In a rising Saudi Arabian city, far from weary, recession-scarred America, a struggling businessman named Alan Clay pursues a last-ditch attempt to stave off foreclosure, pay his daughter's college tuition, and finally do something great. In A Hologram for the King, Dave Eggers takes us around the world to show how one man fights to hold himself and his splintering family together.
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A holographic teleconference system would allow you to see and even touch a 3D image of the person you are talking to. (This annotation contains an image)
We are reading the "exposition" of this novel, the beginning part of the plot where the setting, characters, and main conflict are usually revealed. We already can assume that this novel is realistic fiction because it is set in 2010, in today's world. The protagonist, Alan Clay, seems to be an ordinary man with financial problems.
Did Charlie Fallon take his own life? Charlie's interest in Brook Farm may suggest that he is disillusioned with society. Brook Farm was an experimental communal farm near Boston inspired by the Transcendentalists in the 1900s. The Transcendentalist Movement was a philosophical belief in the power of the individual, the innate goodness of man, and his oneness with nature. Transcendentalists strove to be self-reliant, to live among nature, and to separate themselves from organized religion and government. Ralph Waldo Emerson is one of the most famous members of this movement. (This annotation contains an image)
You should recognize al-Qaeda as being the fundamental Islamic terrorist group responsible for 911.
Based on what we've read so far, which of the following is not true of Alan?
Alan is in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, right on the Red Sea. Look at the picture below of this beautiful city. (This annotation contains an image)
What type of figurative language does the writer use here to reveal that Alan is often lost in thought?
This may be a central social issue of this novel: the decline of American manufacturing and the American worker. Men like Alan, and this man on the plane, are ghosts of the past, irrelevant to a rapidly changing world.
How is this section about Alan's house related to the emerging theme of Alan's place in the world?
Certainly you've noticed how deftly the writer uses figurative language. Watch the video below which reviews many common types of figurative language. See how many you recognize. (This annotation contains a video)
This text implies that "cultural norms" ________________.
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?
Below is a picture of the cast iron statue of Vulcan in Birmingham, Alabama. Vulcan is the Roman god of fire and iron. (This annotation contains an image)
The women in Saudi Arabia must completely cloak themselves in burqas if they go out in public. (This annotation contains an image)
On the drive Alan continues to drift off into his thoughts. Here we get another glimpse into his past. What literary device is this an example of?
This sure is thought provoking. How could that be? Why were the police and firemen watching and not doing anything to rescue Charlie? Certainly the writer wants us to wonder, so he leaves us hanging.
Dubai is a global city located on the Persian Gulf. It is considered the most modern and best place to live in the Middle East, but also the most expensive. The city is known for its economic boom and its modern construction; it is home to the world's tallest sky scrapers. (This annotation contains an image)
King Abdullah was the king of Saudi Arabia from 2005 until his death in January of 2015. His personal fortune is said to exceed eighteen billion dollars. (This annotation contains an image)
A hijab is just a type of scarf worn around a woman's head. It reveals her face, but fully covers her hair. This picture represents a modern woman of Saudi Arabia, a privilege most women in that country do not have. (This annotation contains an image)
What item has Alan spent a great deal of his career working with?
Using your background knowledge, what is unrealistic about this scene in the film?
This flashback helps support what seems to be a major theme in the novel. Using Schwinn as an example, it shows how an American business got lost and swept away in the new global economy. Clearly Alan is both embarrassed and bitter about what happened to Schwinn. Watch the video below on emerging themes. Try to pick up on places in the text where this theme is further developed. (This annotation contains a video)
The writer uses this paragraph to further develop which part of this novel?
What does Alan compare his purpose of life to in this metaphor?
Charlie must have died from hypothermia. It is absurd that the police and firemen would not act to save him because of bureaucracy--budget cuts and liability--but a young teenage girl does react and tries to save him. This is important because it underscores another possible theme in this novel: man's insignificance in a world that has moved on without him.
There is a great deal of irony in this situation. Alan and his coworkers are here to present advanced technology to an extremely rich king who wants to build an extremely advanced economic hub. Yet here they sit in the middle of a desert in a tent. Reliant, the company Alan represents, is a major IT company and yet he and his coworkers can't get a strong enough signal to even send an email. Watch the video below on the different types of irony. Then determine what is the type of irony represented in this scene. (This annotation contains a video)
Which of the following is the main idea of Alan's thoughts about his ancestors?
The world is advancing so fast. In with the new and out with the old. Except the old isn't even old yet, and there's no place for it, but it is discarded just the same. Do you see how this is symbolic of what is happening to Alan?
This memory is when Alan was much younger, working his first job selling for Fuller Brush. Apparently, Joe Trivole is teaching Alan the art of door to door sales. In today's modern world, this type of sales is nearly obsolete.
The ending of this chapter reinforces which of the following themes?
Things are getting to be a little absurd which is exactly the writer's point, of course. This business venture is crucially important to Alan; he desperately needs it to be successful to pull him out of debt and restore his career, his dignity, and his role as provider for his daughter. Yet the king doesn't even show up, he and his coworkers are stuck outside in a tent, seemingly forgotten, and now his main contact for the deal reschedules for tomorrow.
It's easy for anyone who saw footage of the BP leak to relate to what Alan is feeling now. It was hard to watch. Click on the link below to see underwater footage of this disaster. (This annotation contains a video)
Which one of the following is not one of the four sales angles Trivole teaches Alan?
Alan has a great deal of shame about his role in training workers in China to make Schwinn bikes. As soon as they learned how to make the product, they cut Schwinn out and made them on their own, except for a lot less money. Outsourcing labor and having what once were American products made overseas is a huge social issue in this novel. As a protagonist, Alan is a lot like the famous literary character of Willy Loman in Arthur Miller's play Death of a Salesman. We will look more closely at this play and how it compares to this novel throughout this curriculet. (This annotation contains an image)
Here Alan is slipping into illusion--what he wishes was true. As readers, we know better. This business venture has not panned out at all and seems like a bust. We should feel a little sorry for Alan because he is clinging to this dream.
What is the most probable reason why Alan hangs up on his father?
Which of the following is the best interpretation of the highlighted paragraph?
We should consider why the writer has Alan become so clumsy as he ages. Is it to make him look more ridiculous and absurd? Is it to illicit our sympathy for Alan? Is it foreshadowing about Alan's health concerns with the lump on his neck? Does it symbolize the theme of man's gradual loss of importance and competence as we age?
Click on the link and look at the cover of the play Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller. What commonality does it share with the cover of this novel?http://www.playbillder.com/static/productions/Lynbrook_High_School/2014/Death_of_a_Salesman/images/D...
Notice Alan only seems to encounter bad news from the TV. It adds to the despair he feels about the world.
In this metaphor, who are the fleas?
These flashbacks of Alan's memories reveal a lot about other characters like Ruby and Ron. As a reader, we are privy to only Alan's thoughts in this novel. But Alan is not our narrator; the narrator is outside the story. Watch the video on the different types of point of view. Determine which type is used in this novel. (This annotation contains a video)
What is the writer implying in this metaphor about raising a child?
The "muttawa" are Islamic religious police. These men enforce religious rules and virtues and seek out vices. (This annotation contains an image)
Why does Yousef look for a bomb in his car?
In many Middle Eastern countries, people sit down on the floor to eat. (This annotation contains an image)
It is sad the way Alan clings to what he feels he once had: the American dream. Again, we can compare this novel to Arthur Miller's classic play, Death of a Salesman. Watch the video clip as the theme of the American dream is discussed in reference to this play. (This annotation contains a video)
This is an important paragraph in further developing the theme. Remember, the book opens with a quote by Samuel Beckett, an American writer. "It is not every day that we are needed." In many of Beckett's works, the issue of man's insignificance is a major theme. Beckett wrote a famous play, Waiting for Godot. In the play, two men are waiting to meet a man named Godot. They wait and wait, but Godot never shows up, even though the two men are told several times that he will "surely come tomorrow." Sound familiar? (This annotation contains an image)
Remember, Charlie ends up taking his own life. This novel is considered a work of absurdism. In this philosophy a man searches for meaning in his life, but can never truly grasp it. Many times, that man will resort to suicide. Samuel Beckett was considered a writer of the absurd. In his play, Waiting for Godot, the two men who are waiting contemplate hanging themselves from the tree they are waiting by. In Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman, Willy Loman ends up committing suicide so his son Biff can have the insurance money. Watch the video below as it discusses the philosophy of Absurdism. (This annotation contains a video)
Which line of text best supports the same theme that Schwinn represents in this novel?
This is an example of which literary device?
This is a profound line. What does he mean, "people like him"?
Use the Define feature on the word "quixotic." What literary character's name provides the origin of this word?
Of course all of this about Banana Republic is meant to convey the absurdity of how the credit system works. What literary device is specifically used in the highlighted sentence?
This character also helps further the theme of the disappearance of the American dream. An American architect from Iowa has been working in Asia for over ten years. The one place he hasn't worked lately, of course, is America.
What is the likely meaning of Amreeka?
Writers often use body language to characterize characters. What trait is the doctor revealing here?
Remember, in absurdism, death is seen as a relief. That's why many literary characters in absurdist literature commit suicide. An integral part of the American dream is that a self-made man is able to fully provide for his family. When a man feels he can no longer do that, he feels like a failure. Watch this summary of the play Death of a Salesman and think of how it connects to Alan's conflicts in this novel. (It is a Smoop video, so it does contain some silly animation/humor!) (This annotation contains a video)
This is an allusion to Jonestown in Guyana where a religious cult led by Jim Jones performed massive suicide, leaving over 900 men, woman, and children dead in 1978. An allusion is a cultural reference a writer makes to bring about some recognition or connection for the reader. (This annotation contains an image)
Below is a picture of a cowrie shell. (This annotation contains an image)
What do these details reveal about Alan?
What can we infer from the way Alan remembers Ruby and these letters she wrote?
"Rio Negro" means "black river." Below is a picture of this river Alan is remembering. (This annotation contains an image)
This story, like many others in the novel, makes Alan seem ______________.
Why does Alan not want to stand up for himself and do what he wants to do? Instead, he's says "Yes" when he really means "No."
Alan claims he wants nothing to do with sex because he wants ________________________.
Alan finds solace in which of the following?
One work of Transcendentalism is Henry David Thoreau's book Walden. Thoreau lived in the woods in a tiny cabin and subsisted completely on nature. (This annotation contains an image)
This is certainly a depressing perspective on getting older. Do we live longer than our usefulness?
This is important. In most tragedies, the hero brings about his own downfall.
Where is Alan's "strength" coming from?
This is an allusion to what in our culture?
Alan is always thinking back on his "glory days" as a more successful salesman.
Why is Reliant's plan ironic for Alan?
Did you see the Michael Jackson hologram at the 2014 music awards? Watch the video clip below to see this amazing hologram and how they made it. (This annotation contains a video)
Why is all of this "glitz" put on so quickly?
This is exactly what Alan was hoping for. It seems, despite the king not actually arriving, that everything is falling into place finally for Alan. But why do we have this feeling that it will not last? Has the structure and theme of this novel prepared us for a sad and tragic ending?
This scene is probably symbolic. Amid all the luxuries and riches in this emerging city, the immigrants who are building it, fight over a broken, outdated phone. What point might the writer be trying to make here?
Of course, we know Alan has not stepped into the future. This line just emphasizes that he has entered into ______________ from __________________.
What is one major problem with KAEC?
We can infer which of the following from this sentence?
Which phrase makes us feel bad toward Salem and Alan for simply pointing to the sky?
The Sarawat mountains are home to the Hamadryas baboons. (This annotation contains an image)
Most men in Saudi Arabia wear a white thobe. (This annotation contains an image)
Alan is very _________________ with Yousef's father.
Alan gets so much satisfaction and fulfillment from building the wall and garden. But then he has to pay to have it torn down. This flashback refocuses the reader on the ridiculousness of bureaucracy and how after many years of this type of experience, Alan has become this worn down, beaten man.
What can we infer from these body gestures of the man in the truck?
Which of the following is the main point of Alan's thoughts in this long paragraph?
Alan really wants to feel useful, to help build or create something substantial.
Now Alan is excited by the prospect of hunting wolves. The building of stone walls and hunting the wild must be symbolic of a deep need in Alan.
Do you think this is true? Which of the following wars is not an example of America fighting to support other people who are trying to be free?
This desire to shoot and kill the wolf comes from what feeling at the center of Alan's character?
Notice how the writer repeats the phrase, "Because... he had almost done this." It is effective in showing that Alan nearly killed a child because of his feeling of worthlessness and that his life has been a failure.
What is this in reference to?
How did Alan's mother deal with his whining when he was a child?
The Kennedy Space Center is in Cape Canaveral, Florida. (This annotation contains an image)
This is important. It has come up several times in the book. The difference between Ron's generation and Alan's generation represents the difference in American business. Ron does seem to rub the decline of the American dream into Alan's face, as if Alan is personally responsible.
NASA is currently trying to build up America's space program to eventually propel men deeply into space to reach Mars, perhaps. Watch this video of the spaceship Orion being launched in December of 2014 at Cape Canaveral. (This annotation contains a link)
Boy, is this an understatement! Does Alan have "spirals of self-doubt"? Indeed!
Zahra is not driving because she is a woman. Read the article below about the many things women are not allowed to do in Saudi Arabia. (This annotation contains a link)
This paragraph best supports which of the following elements of this novel?
Which line of text is an example of personification?
This may be similar to the scene Alan is seeing below water. (This annotation contains an image)
Which cultural/social/religious issue does this text support?
Read the following quote by Carl Sagan. Then answer the question that follows."Who are we? We find that we live on an insignificant planet of a humdrum star lost in a galaxy tucked away in some forgotten corner of a universe in which there are far more galaxies than people."This quote and this paragraph both speak to which of the following themes?
Alan is his own worst enemy.
This line, of course, has a deeper meaning in this story. Must man build (create) something in order to save himself? Remember Alan's strong desire to build the walled garden? Does creating make a person feel more significant? Think about this.
Maybe these feelings of insignificance are male problems. Maybe women, like Zahra, do not feel the need to produce, create, and provide in order to feel self-worth. Or maybe producing children is our fulfillment. It seems that Zahra finds Alan's need to prove himself very sad.
What can we infer is happening here?
We can infer that the Chinese IT company was notified exactly when King Abdullah would be here for the presentation. In many ways, the Americans have simply been toyed with. They've waited in a tent outside of the building for weeks, uninformed, easily dismissed, and forgotten. It's as if Reliant was never a serious candidate for the contract to wire the city.