Study Guide

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing: Traitor to the Nation, Volume I: The Pox Party Part 1, Chapter 5

By M.T. Anderson

Part 1, Chapter 5

  • So there was this guy—a painter/scientist called Mr. 07-03—who was all into nature.
  • We're talking wood nymphs, forests, birds—an old-school granola-cruncher.
  • Octavian remembers this one time Mr. 07-03 got them all to have a picnic during a summer day in the country; all the scholars plus Octavian and his mother went.
  • It was a great day, for no reason other than everyone was just calm and happy, with good food and laughter all around. Here's what happened:
  • The men gathered around Octavian's mother while their wives went off to the side. (We're guessing the wives weren't too happy about that.)
  • Then 07-03 got it into his head that they should all be like animals again, crawling on all fours.
  • So a bunch of the scholars and Octavian crawled on hands and knees in front of Octavian's mother, who laughed.
  • That evening Mr. Gitney gave a speech that capped everything off: he basically stated that Nature is God's gift to civilized man and man should use Nature like it's his God-given right — like a new Eden.
  • Then they went back to Boston.
  • On the ride back, Octavian sits with 24-06, only when Octavian calls him "24-06," 24-06 tells him that's not his name; his name's Bono (no—not the singer from U2).
  • Bono's not cool with Octavian. How do we know?
  • Octavian wants to ask Bono about the moon and the sun, but Bono tells him to shut up or else he'll kick Octavian off the carriage.
  • Then he tells Octavian that Octavian can't cry, even though he starts to pinch Octavian hard.
  • Octavian tells us he stops feeling and becomes "observant" instead.
  • He notices the scenery, like felons hanging from nooses—you know, cheery stuff.
  • Then, when they arrive, Bono gets mysterious. He tells Octavian to "learn fear" because—we'll just quote—"fear is like happiness, but the smile is wider."
  • Creepy…
  • Octavian brings us back to the present and tells us that it was moments like this when—as a kid—he'd wonder who he really was.

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