Study Guide

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing: Traitor to the Nation, Volume I: The Pox Party Part 1, Chapter 15

By M.T. Anderson

Part 1, Chapter 15

  • So if 09-01 is like Octavian's best academic teacher ever, 13-04 is his favorite music teacher.
  • Why? It has a lot to do with the way he treats Octavian and Cassiopeia, but we'll get to that.
  • First, a description: 13-04 is all about the music, which means he's not about the way he looks.
  • Another way to put it: 13-04 is dressed like a hobo as much as Octavian's dressed like a little prince.
  • Which is totally awkward for Octavian because it's not like he chooses to dress like a peacock (03-01 makes those decisions for him).
  • 13-04 is also incredibly well educated in music and studied with all the "great masters" in Italy.
  • Under 13-04, Octavian plays some serious classical music, we're talking Handel, Gluck, and Corelli—composers known to serious music students.
  • But what really makes 13-04 really cool is how open he is to different kinds of music.
  • For example, he hears Cassiopeia singing one night and is just bowled over by her music even though it's totally different from the Western classical music he knows. (She's singing a lullaby from her homeland.)
  • He asks her if he can write down every song she knows from her homeland.
  • Cassiopeia assents reluctantly, and 13-04 starts on the project of documenting her songs.
  • He even tries to get Octavian to sway Cassiopeia into singing the songs in private to Octavian so that Octavian can remember his own musical history.
  • So Octavian does just that, but instead of singing to Octavian one of their folkloric songs, she recites a passage from the Book of Psalms (as in the Bible).
  • The passage is all about a group of people in Babylon who are weeping because they don't feel like they can sing the songs of the Lord in a foreign place, even though their captors are trying to force them into singing songs of Zion.
  • Cassiopeia gets really into the reading, takes off her wig, and puts her hand on Octavian's head.
  • She continues with the passage, which goes on to condemn those who would forget Jerusalem in favor of a place like Babylon.
  • In fact, the passage is really negative about those captors of Babylon, especially the "daughter of Babylon," for forcing the captives to sing about Zion.
  • The last part of the passage is all about hoping for the death of the "daughter of Babylon's" babies, as revenge for what she's doing to the captives.
  • Octavian's kind of stunned by what his mom is reading (we don't blame him; it's all a little scary) and isn't sure what country his mother is actually describing in the end.

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