2017 Year in Review

Yes, today is 2018 and Happy New Year, but I think today I shall write about last year.

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2017 was a tough, but wonderful year. I don’t remember some things that happened month after month, but will do the best I can.

January- all I remember about this month is my birthday. I don’t remember anything else. Part of 2017 consisted of being in St. Louis visiting my grandma over New Year’s.

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February- I remember two things about this month. I was house manger of my school’s production of Little Shop of Horrors and got to see a production of it. Plus, every year at my school around Valentine’s day, we are able to make a stuffed animal and I made a rainbow dog named rainbow.

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The bunny in this picture is Beatrice Rose, my stuffed animal I made at school in February of 2015. Rainbow is the dog next to her.

March- I have no clue what happened in March. Spring Break might have happened in March, but I just don’t remember.

April- this was when Gardner Webb’s Easter egg hunt happened. Each student is limited to just on egg. In both 2015 and 2016, I never managed to find one. But this year when I was looking at the prizes prior to the Easter egg hunt, I was eyeing this gigantic stuffed bunny. This year right when I saw the email that said it started, I immediately got dressed and started looking. The prize you are given is based off the number in the Easter egg. I actually found an egg this year and because I was the first one to redeem my egg, they gave me the gigantic bunny so they did not base my prize off of the number. I ended up naming the stuffed animal Chester.

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The last school production of the semester was in April. I was house manger of Full Moon over Montmartre, the school production and got to watch one production, but I found the show to be quite boring.

May- what happened this month was the Les Mis party. Since I knew the party was coming, but not surprised like 2016, I got to dress up as a character and I decided to dress up as Eponine.

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May- August- I grouped these together to talk about all the books I read over the summer. I ended up reading nine books in one summer and that is a lot of books. I read Oliver Twist (5/5), Clearing in the Forest (4.5/5), 2 Land of Stories Books (both 5/5), Queen of the Tearing (3/5), Five Little Pigs (3.5/5), 150 Years of Musical Theatre (5/5), Hundred Story Home (5/5) and Same Kind of Different as Me (5/5).

June- something my family does every year is going to a weekly Sunday Symphony in the Pops. Each year outside, we go to this outdoor symphony and each week there is a different. Earlier in the day, we lay out a tarp to reserve the spot. My family and friends spend time at this yearly event and everyone brings food and we have dinner like picnic style.

One of the symphonies is also dedicated to Fourth of July. Songs that represents America are played at that one and one of them honors solider and the songs each play each of the division’s hymn and when the veterans hear their hymn, they have to stand up and it is a wonderful thing to watch. At the end of that entire symphony, there are fireworks.

Another June memory was hearing my church’s choir sing at Duke Chapel. Hearing them sing at Duke Chapel reminded me of the time they sang at Bristol Cathedral.

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July- my family went on vacation to Ponte Vedra, FL.

What also happened in July was a day visit to Asheville. First stop was having lunch at Moose Cafe. What we do in Asheville is walk around and one of the stops usually involves getting ice cream at Kilwin’s. One place I love going is Malaprops. One section I love stopping at is the “mystery” book section. It is so much fun because the books are wrapped up in brown paper and adjective are written on it and we have to select the book based off of the wrappings and it is a lot of fun discovering the book we have picked and we are not allowed to open it till leaving the store.

August- that was the month I entered my last year at Gardner Webb. I made the move from dorms to suites, which ended up being one of the best decisions I ever made. August also consisted of going to a wedding.

September- I think September was when my school did a production of  Real Inspector Hound and I was house manger of that show. At the end of the month, I got to watch Rent with mom and dad. I have loved Rent since Fall of 2012, but never got to see Rent live. So I finally got my opportunity. I ended up buying a poster and t-shirt. We sat in the Mezzanine towards the center and those were perfect seats. The production was amazing, but the only complaint I have is that the couple next to us were talking the entire time and even though they were whispering, they were still taking and that was annoying. But other than that, I loved the show and became a bigger fan of Rent and it was so good that I was an emotional wreck.

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October- This is Halloween month. There was Pumpkin painting this month, and painted it Gardner-Webb themed. There was Octoberfest and of course Halloween and dressing up. For Octoberfest, I was dressed up as Rizzo from Grease since our club choose to do a Grease theme, which was our club’s homecoming theme in September, but I am not exactly sure if homecoming was in September or not. For Halloween, I was Eponine, my 2nd time this year and I was dressed up as her about 3 to about 10, so that was a long time to stay in my costume. I cannot believe I went to the Gathering dressed up as Eponine. This time as Eponine, I made myself look a bit dirtier and it was fun dressing up as her.

November- I ended up seeing Les Mis in Greenville with my school and I also participated in Pinterest Night. That same week, I went to the Big E, which was closed off starting at 11 and I saw Murder on the Orient Express, which started at 11:30, but think I fell asleep during part of it. Since it was November, I also celebrated Thanksgiving with family and I met family members I had no idea existed. I also was house manager of my school’s production of God of Carnage

This was my first time seeing Les Mis on tour, but 5th time seeing the stage production and 2nd time seeing it with a professional company. Just like Rent, I was an emotional wreck. It had this incredibly powerful cast with wonderful advanced staging, which gave Les Mis a fresh complexity. I had an understudy as Eponine during this production. I love  this 25th anniversary production and it allowed things to flow smoothly and some scenes were improved upon from the West End production. The production and the cast had a lot to live to after seeing the West End production in 2015, but this cast and production lived up to it in its own way and so did the cast in their own way.

December- the first half of December was not that exciting as it was time for finals. However, Winter Formal was during that time and I literally came looking at Glinda. The dress I wore reminded me of her “Popular” dress so my suite mates made me look like her during that  particular scene. In December, I got to decorate a Gingerbread house and visit Santa.

But the second half was Christmas Break. I ended up seeing the Man Who Invented Christmas, read two classics, and of course celebrated Christmas. The classics I read were Hunchback of Notre Dame and A Christmas Carol.

Outside of the two classics, a good church family friend gave me six classics since she was downsizing her book collection. So I have a lot of classics to read, but these books were be read after reading Nicholas Nickleby this coming summer and right after that book will be David Copperfield. After David Copperfield is when I will start reading these books.

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I went to two parties in December. One was when we were at a Christmas party at a friend’s house and it was the usual batch that we tend to be with at Christmas dinner. The second December party was for New Year’s.

Honorable Mentions:

Glow Zumba- I have no idea what month this happened in.

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Going to late night trips to Cook Out to get a milkshake

Trips to FATZ and a Mexican restaurant with friends

I had a wonderful 2017, but cannot wait to see what 2018 has in store.

Just spending time with college friends

How was your 2017?

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Hunchback of Notre Dame Review

Hunchback of Notre Dame is the main classic I have attempted to read over break and actually finish it. Believe it or not it took me only 11 days to read this classic book. Hunchback of Notre Dame is written by Victor Hugo, who also wrote Les Misérables, and it is his first masterpiece book.

Possible Spoilers:

Here’s the thing about Hunchback of Notre Dame, for the longest time I struggled with knowing what exactly the plot is. But as expected he spends a lot of time setting up characters, but he spent about the first fifth or so of the book talking about a minor character, but it helped introduce Esmeralda into the story. Setting up gave the background of Quasimodo, the hunchback in the story. Not only is he a hunchback, but he is also deaf and can only see out of one eye.

I feel as if this book is a love story. It appears as if three people love Esmeralda: Phoebus, Frollo, and Quasimodo, but Esmeralda loves Phoebus so we have a bit of a love square. It shows how love is beautiful, but also how it can be destructive. Two people in this story are coping with unrequited love: Frollo and Quasimodo and their responses to it are complete opposites.

About the plot, it is mainly about Esmeralda, Frollo and Quasimodo. Frollo raised Quaismodo. He does not respond to love he has for Esmeralda very well and it is an unrequited love and he responds in a Phantomesque way. He seems to get more evil and darker as the story continue. Because of how evil and dark he is, I do not like Frollo at all.   He eventually comes up with some evil plans and at one point he said something like “no one else can have her”, so he tries to force Esmeralda to love him, but Esmeralda keeps on saying no because she loves Phoebus and is terrified of him. At one point when Frollo hears that Esmeralda and Phoebus love each other, Frollo responds by stabbing Phoebus hoping to kill him so you see he does respond in a phantomesque way.

I love Esmeralda and Quasimodo. Esmeralda has this pet goat and I love the pair of the two of them together and she is a gypsy and just like Quasimodo is treated unfairly. When she shows kindness to Quasimodo, he falls in love with her in a selfless way. He ends up protecting her whenever he can. I love how Quasimodo treats her and love how despite his disabilities, he is so sweet and wonderful. I love how Esmeralda is capable of showing compassion towards others and she is sweet too.

I actually enjoyed the tangents in this novel because they were short and did not take away from the actual story. They were fascinating to read about because they talked about the architecture of Notre Dame and gives an overview of Paris. I would rate this novel about a 7/10.

What do you think about Hunchback of Notre Dame and if you didn’t read it, would you want to read it?

2017 Christmas Classic Book Challenge

Yesterday, I got home from school for break. But still have to write two essays for my last final. So this break, I will attempt to read and finish Victor Hugo’s Hunchback of Notre of Dame. It took a while till I knew if I wanted to read it or not. I just didn’t know if I wanted to read another book where the author interrupts the plot with boring history lessons. That is  just something Victor Hugo tends to do in his writing, but it doesn’t make him a bad writer. I already read one of Victor Hugo’s masterpieces, which is the unabridged Les Misérables.

Parallels Between Charles Dickens and Victor Hugo

Charles Dickens and Victor Hugo are two of the most well-known authors. They have written some of my favorite classic books. But I cannot help, but see many parallels between their works, which might explain why I love both of these authors.

Dickens and Hugo tend to focus on the lower rungs of society. True, I read more Dickens books than Hugo, but it still is very obvious. The title, Les Misérables, means the downtrodden, the fugitives, and the outsiders. Les Misérables is home to the prostitute Fantine, the criminal Thenardiers, the impoverished Eponine, daughter of the Thenardiers, and orphan Cosette among others. Even though those are major characters, it does show impoverished citizens as well. Even in the case of the students, they are fighting to stand up against the weak government since the government doesn’t care much about the poor.

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But in Dickens’, writing, two protagonists are actually poor. In Oliver Twist, Oliver is an orphan and was raised in poor conditions due to the poor conditions of the workhouses. And then later, after running away,  he comes across the two villains, Fagin and Bill Sikes, who hope to turn Oliver into a criminal. In Great Expectations as a matter of fact, Pip is also impoverished and he is the main character. While the main character in A Christmas Carol isn’t poor, the Cratchit family is very poor and that is difficult due to Tiny Tim being crippled. It is a bit hard to explain why Tale of Two Cities has the lower rungs of society.

So why do both authors tend to focus on criminals, the poor, prostitutes, orphans, and any person that would be on the lowest rungs of society? Well, when Dickens and Hugo wrote their books, both England and France were recovering from the most recent revolutions. England was recovering from the Revolutionary War and France was recovering from the French Revolution. In the time they wrote, they wrote in the style of Romanticism and one key aspect is the style liked to focus on the emotions. Both authors liked to focus on the them of redemption.

The reason why I am drawn to both Dickens and Hugo is because I have drawn to stories that focus on the lowest rungs of society due to a passion I have for helping that community. Dickens is much easier to read than Victor Hugo because Dickens doesn’t interrupt the plot with long history lessons. Hugo likes to constantly interrupt the plot with boring history lessons and that is the one downside to reading Victor Hugo. The next Hugo book I plan to read is Hunchback of Notre Dame and the next Dickens book I plan to read is Nicholas Nickleby.

Why do you think there are parallels between the two authors.

What Caused Me to Love Classical Literature?

Well, as some may know that this summer I am reading Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens. But what exactly is about the classics that makes me love them so much. I feel like part of the answer starts from how I was raised.

Well, I was raised watching A Christmas Carol every Christmas Break. So I was already exposed to at least one classic as a child. I learned to fall in love with the story early on so I think that is a big reason why I love the classics now.

But I honestly think a big reason why I love the classics might mostly have to do with Les Misérables. Yes, this list is talking about classical literature, but it is important to talk about the musical of Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables. Well, in December of 2012 my parents took me to the movie adaptation and little did I know that the musical was about to really change and impact my life in such a positive way.  The first time I saw the movie, I had no clue how to respond. I was confused and shocked when I realized it was a tragedy, which was figured out after the first death. As a result, I did not how to respond so due to that I had no clue if I liked the movie or not.

Despite that, I still started researching information about Victor Hugo and the musical. I soon decided that I just had to see the movie a second time. That was how I realized there was something special about the tragedy. I really wanted to know why it uplifts me in such a positive way despite all of the heartbreak I just felt. So I dug even deeper into the musical. I realized that it was a story of hope, love, compassion, forgiveness, humanity, sacrifice, and redemption.

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So I eventually decided that I just had to read the novel. I started with the abridged version. I enjoyed it that round, but felt like something was absolutely missing.  So I told myself that I needed to read the book again, but in the unabridged version. So when I read the unabridged version summer of 2015, I read the unabridged version and I did not skip over anything. The book truly felt like a masterpiece and the spirituality of the story was clearly shown. If it wasn’t for the spirituality of the story, I feel like I would be sick and tried of it by now. What was helpful in reading this book was my knowledge of the musical. Due to that, I could mark up major character and write in songs.

Due to loving Les Mis, my dad recommended me to read Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. So Les Mis led me to having the interest to read another classic. I read it and really enjoyed it. It was confusing at times because it was hard to tell if you were in France or in England. I enjoyed it, but couldn’t think of the reason why. It takes place during the French Revolution, which happens right before the events before Les Mis.

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Since Les Mis led to Tale of Two Cities, it also in a way led to Great Expectation. Because I learned to love Tale of Two Cities, the second Dickens story I fell in love with, I was recommended to read Great Expectations. I loved the character of Pip in Great Expectations and never could understand why I loved him. So Les Mis was essential to my love of the classics. If it wasn’t for Les Mis, I wouldn’t have wanted to read other Dickens books. I read Great Expectations Christmas of 2016. I wanted to review it on this blog, but couldn’t figure out why I enjoyed that book. The last Dickens book I was recommend is Nicholas Nickleby.

My dad also recommend me to check out Don Quixote. Les Mis did not lead me to Don Quixote, but led me to wanting to explore other classics. For a Spanish project at school, I choose Don Quixote to research since my dad recommended it to me. The moment I saw that Don Quixote was a tragicomic character, I knew I had to read the book. I loved the story of the knight errant righting all wrongs and the relationship to his squire. Well the school project did lead me to watching Man of La Mancha, the musical based off of Don Quixote. I actually read the book Summer of 2016 and I actually found it harder to read than Les Mis even though it was much shorter. That is due to hardly knowing Don Quixote at the time.

Now I am currently reading Oliver Twist, which I started last Saturday. I currently read close to 200 pages. I am loving the book as a matter of fact. I am especially fond of the character of Oliver. Last Christmas, I was going to read what classic I got. I asked for Oliver Twist or Hunchback of Notre Dame. What book I got would be the book I would read this summer and the other one would wait until Christmas. Dickens and Hugo have incredible parallels in their storylines, which I will talk about in another upcoming post of mine. After I finish Oliver Twist if I can come up with enough reasons why I loved it, I will review it.

So in a nutshell, A Christmas Carol did in a way shape my love for the classics since it was the first one I was exposed to. But Les Mis really brought out my love for the classics. I feel like I love the classics due to how challenging they are. All of them also seem to be well written. I read the classics in between semesters because I am able to find time to read them and focus on them. I feel like I might need to read some of the classics one more time, but in a longer amount of time. Les Mis and Christmas Carol were essential to falling in love with the classics.

What are your feelings on the classics?

Victor Hugo and Les Misérables

If the radical is the idea, yes, I am a radical…A society which admits poverty, a religion which admits hell, a humanity which sanctions war, seem to me an inferior society, an inferior religion and humanity, and it towards the higher society, the higher humanity and religion that I turn: society without a king, humanity without frontiers, religion without a book…I condemn slavery, I banish poverty, I teach ignorance, I treat disease, I lighten the night, and I hate hatred. That is what I am, and that is why I have written Les Misérables

-Victor Hugo

This a quote written by Victor Hugo, the author of the masterpieces, Hunchback of Notre Dame and Les Misérables. This quote explains why Victor Hugo wrote Les Misérables. Victor Hugo lived during a very rough time period in France. It was post French Revolution and France was still recovering from the aftermath. Multiple rebellions happened, a weak government existed, women weren’t being treated fairly, and misery seemed to exist all the time. Victor Hugo noticed all of this and his book helps show just how bad France was at the time. Much of his book is based off of things that Victor Hugo observed and some characters were created off of that.

He wrote Les Mis to show light in the midst of darkness. That book is a tragedy covered with darkness but with a beautiful spirituality that helps guide the book. The heartbreaking and the inspirational natures are wonderfully interlocked together. Victor Hugo based Fantine after a prostitute he saw being harassed by an abusive customer and he intervened to prevent her from being arrested and he began to wonder if she had a child and that was how he created Fantine. He observed part of the June Rebellion of 1832 and he  included the rebellion in the book. His book shows the worst and the best of society at the time period.

The Thenardiers represent the very worst of society because of how abusive, unloving, cruel, selfish, and greedy they were and there was no redeeming factor in them. They treated their five children unfairly. Their children were Eponine, Azelma, Gavroche, and two unnamed younger brothers. They raised Eponine and Azelma and kicked out the rest of their children. They terribly abused Young Cosette during the time she lived with them, but she was rescued by Jean Valjean. They raised their daughters, Eponine and Azelma to be criminals and taught them how to lie and to steal and to be cruel towards others. The abuse they used on Cosette was used on both Eponine and Azelma. I cannot imagine what must have been like for the Thenardiers’ daughters.

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Despite all of the abuse, Eponine was brave despite feeling neglected and lonely and she never knew what it felt to be loved by someone else. The only source of light in her life was Marius, but he could never be hers.

Cosette represents hope and light and was raised by a loving father. Eponine is not quite as greedy or selfish as her parents, but sometimes she does act in destructive ways due to jealously. I think it was important that Eponine was a Thenardier and she does raise above her upbringing in both the book and musical. Even though Eponine was killed at the barricades, her parents didn’t seem to care that both her and Gavroche didn’t survive the uprising.

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The Thenardiers do represent the very worst of humanity, but there are those that represent the very best of humanity. The bishop for instance represents that. The bishop gave Valjean a second chance in life. The bishop gave Valjean a place to sleep, food to eat and treated him with compassion and kindness. Even when Valjean stole the bishop’s silver, the bishop forgave Valjean and gave the silver to Vavljean as gift. Valjean lived by the bishop’s example throughout the rest of the book. He showed compassion towards the poor especially towards Fantine and rescued the broken Cosette from the hands of the evil Thenardiers. When a man was falsely accused of being Valjean, Valjean turned himself in and confessed his real identity. He rescued Marius at the barricade for the sake of his daughter.

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Les Mis represents humanity as a whole and is truly about the survival of the human spirit. Victor Hugo knew that as long as poverty, ignorance, and misery exist, his book will always be relevant. The musical stays very faithful to the book despite some differences in the characters. For instance, Eponine and Marius are only just acquaintances in the book, but in the musical they are portrayed as friends. Les Mis is still universal because poverty,  misery and ignorance still exist, but at the same time, sacrifice, hope, love, compassion, forgiveness, and redemption still exist on the face of this earth. I understand the success of Les Mis. It is extremely powerful and filled with several emotions. It knows how to strongly emotionally connect you.

Universal World of Les Misérables

So as long as there shall exist, by virtue of law and custom, decrees of damnation pronounced by society, artificially creating hells amid the civilization of earth, and adding the element of human fate to divine destiny; so long as the three great problems of the century-the degradation of man through pauperism, the corruption of woman through hunger, the crippling of children through lack of light-are unsolved; as long as social asphyxia is possible in any part of the world-in other words, and with a still wider significance, so long as ignorance and poverty exist on earth, books of the nature of Les Misérables cannot fail to be of use

-Preface of Les Misérables

The quote above is from the preface of Victor Hugo’s masterpiece, Les Misérables. The quote perfectly shows how universal his book is. It is so true that as long as poverty and injustice exists, the book will stay universal. The storyline feels so human and the length of the book is also what makes it such a masterpiece.There is a reason why this book is a classic and why it has become so successful. The book even was turned into a musical, which followed the book’s footsteps of success.

The songs, plot, and character are brilliant and all three are well-crafted together and the songs know how to capture the extreme power and emotion of the characters and storylines. “Les Mis” takes you on an extreme, inspirational and powerful journey. It does make you feel heartbroken and hurt several times, but hope, compassion, love, and forgiveness is always there. Even though the storyline is so tragic, it is still an inspirational musical. You learn to truly care about every single one of the characters even the ones you do not like.

There is a reason why the musical evokes such a powerful, personal, deep, epic, and emotional response in people. It is such a soulful and emotional musical and is highly universal. It has themes that resonate with people that are still shown in society today. One of the biggest themes Les Mis has is love itself, which is shown in many different forms. There is love for a child, love for a parent, love for friends, love for a country, romantic love: both requited and unrequited, and there is also the love for the musical itself. These different forms of love show why the quote, “to love another person is to see the face of God” represents the musical so well.

It has this wonderful batch of characters. It has the ex-convict, Jean Valjean and his journey of becoming a better person and his path to redemption. It has the obsessive policeman, Javert, who is trying to recapture Valjean after breaking parole. It has the tragic Fantine, who will do anything for her daughter, Cosette. Cosette represents light and hope in the midst of tragedy and falls in love with Marius. It has the revolutionary student, Marius, who falls in love with Cosette. It has the brave and lonely Eponine, who falls in love with Marius unrequitedly and who will do anything for the one she loves. It has the funny, but abusive Thenardiers, who are the characters you learn to love to hate and hate to love. It has the passionate Enjolras, the leader of the uprising, and the other members of the friends of the abc. It has the heroic and unloved Gavroche, who spends time with the students. It has all of these wonderful characters who have very different journeys and whose stories wonderfully connect to each other.

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Jean Valjean

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Javert

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Fantine

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Marius, Cosette, Eponine

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Enjolras and Students

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Gavroche

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Thenardiers

The songs in Les Mis wonderfully reflect the storyline. It evokes such a wonderful response in people. The songs have so much depth, insight, and truth along with power and strength. The musical is entirely sung-through and the songs reflect the incredible brilliance of Victor Hugo’s novel. There is just something about Les Mis that makes it the sensation that it is. It is a combination of the songs, story, and characters that make it so successful. The songs are brilliant, the characters are so brilliant and well-crafted, the story is so powerful, inspirational and tragic.

Why do you think the musical and book is universal?

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