Study Guide

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing: Traitor to the Nation, Volume I: The Pox Party Part 2, Chapter 14

By M.T. Anderson

Part 2, Chapter 14

  • It's starting… Octavian's feeling rebellious, particularly since seeing the pictures of slavery in Bono's book.
  • All of a sudden, he doesn't want to weigh his poop anymore.
  • He goes to Cassiopeia and silently signals that this is it; Cassiopeia gets him and tells him to go to Mr. Gitney.
  • So Octavian goes to Mr. G. and tells him he doesn't want to do it anymore, but Mr. Gitney tells him it's not Octavian's choice to stop the experiment—everyone knows it's Mr. Sharpe calling the shots these days.
  • Which brings Octavian to a question he has: Why does Mr. Sharpe want him to fail?
  • Mr. Gitney beats around the bush a little bit, but Octavian won't give up on the question.
  • So Mr. Gitney admits that Mr. Sharpe now represents a group of men—a lot of them from the South, plantation owners and merchants—who are invested in the experiment of Octavian in a different way.
  • Rather than wanting to prove Octavian's intelligence, these men want to prove Octavian's lack of intelligence.
  • So all the changes to Octavian's education go back to that point: these men do want to see Octavian fail.
  • But Mr. Gitney—who doesn't agree with these men—assures Octavian that he's on Octavian's side and that he thinks Octavian's clear intelligence will defeat these men.
  • Octavian leaves the room, but not without leaving the book in which he records all his poop weigh-ins.
  • The chapter ends with a paraphrase of Empedocles, about how babies have a backbone that's fused into one long bone in the womb, but that—through the pain of a birth that breaks that backbone into bits—gain a spine.

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