The Twenty-One Balloons

by William Pene du Bois

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what is chapter two about in The Twenty-One Balloons?

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1984 takes to extremes some aspects of our society that some people believe represent troubling trends. For example, some people say that the internet has given the government too much ability to spy on its citizens and use the information it can glean about us to control us. While this is not yet happening as much in the real world as in 1984, Oceania shows us what a society might look like if we allowed the government to spy on its citizens all the time. People would lose their freedom. Another similarity is endless warfare in far-off places. Oceania is constantly at war, which the government of "Big Brother" uses as an excuse to deprive people of consumer goods and to justify spying. Some say the United States also has gotten caught up in endless wars in the Middle East as well as wars on "terrorism" that suck up too many of our resources and justify too much curtailment of our freedoms. Finally, much has been written about turning of news into entertainment in this country and making it into more of a spectacle than actually informative. This lack of information is compared by some to the way Oceania works to ever more simplify its language and message. Some would say that without an informed citizenry, our democracy cannot work. In Oceania we see a country where people are given very little information and encouraged not to think, which increases the government's control over them. To what extent our country has gone "too far" in spying on its own people, waging war and not developing an informed population, is worthy of conversation and is certainly debatable.

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Professor Sherman, having insisted on telling the amazing tale of his balloon adventure to the Western American Explorers' Club first, is on his way to San Francisco on the Presidential train. In preparation for his arrival, the city is decorating with balloons of all shapes and sizes, with some hilarious results. For example, the large balloons adorning the cupola atop the Explorers' Club building pull the dome right off the building and carry it to an Indian Reservation to the East, where it is made into a new house for the chief! A young boy notes that the Professor may have beaten the longstanding record for circumnavigating the world in eighty days by half, multiplying the atmosphere of speculation and excitement. The chapter ends when the train finally arrives with its long-awaited guest.

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