The House of the Scorpion book report - detailed analysis, book summary, literary elements, character analysis, Nancy Farmer biography, and everything necessary for active class participation.
The House of the Scorpion is an adventure novel that speaks about cloning, humanity, ecology, technology's development and science. The plot is set in the near future in which cloning is a part of everyday life.
The novel has four parts that keep up with the milestones of the main character, Matt Alacran. Matt is a clone made from the DNA of El Patron, a 140-year-old drug dealer who ruled the country Opium located between the USA and Mexico.
Matt had a little tattoo on his foot that said "Ownership of the Alacran's state". After discovering it, he found out that he is, in fact, a clone, and the adventure begins. The novel is filled with exciting twists, as the author tries to make young readers think about the ethical questions imposed by the fast technology and science development.
The theme is original and the characters are vividly described so much so that we can imagine them and their psychological state which is heavily emphasized. It is interesting to see that the author didn't idealize Matt as the main hero. She was very realistic while describing him and she described both his good and bad sides.
Genre: a novel, science fiction
Setting: Opium, USA, Aztlan, San Luis, plankton factory; the time is unspecified
Point of view: third-person
Narrator: Matt's imaginary best friend
Tone: tense, worried, mysterious
Mood: upset and sad
Theme: the story is about the search for personal identity and the struggle to survive as a free individual
Age 0 - 6
Eduardo saw 36 drops of life through his microscope. Every drop had already preordained how she will grow up. When the samples became bigger, he placed them in an incubator. Everything seemed to be going well, but suddenly half of them died. They placed the other embryos into cows, but their bodies rejected them until there was only one left. Eduardo took care of it because he knew that if he lost the last embryo he would be sent to the farms and he would never know what had happened to his family. The embryo survived and a child was made, Matt. Matt Alacran was rather special and was not to be touched.
Matt was almost six and he had never left the house. Celia never explained to him why he can't leave the house and she only said there were many dangerous things out there. When she would go to work, Matt would stay locked up in his room. While he was a child he didn't have a problem with it but as he grew his desire to get to know the world was growing. He saw children outside, and he wanted to meet them. Celia covered the walls of his room with pictures she cut out of magazines. Matt knew how to speak both English and Spanish. He watched soap operas but none of it was real and he felt very lonely and alone.
One day he heard a child's voice. Celia warned him to be careful while looking out the window, so he just took a peek. There were children around the house and they were trying to get in to find out who Matt was. Matt decided not to tell Celia anything about it because he knew it would make her angry.
Celia worked as a chef in El Patron's mansion. She cared a lot about Matt but she let him know that he wasn't her son and that he was given to her for just a period of time, Matt didn't know exactly what that meant. Celia often told him all about the spoiled children living in the mansion and Matt fell asleep that night thinking about the children who tried to get to know him. When Celia left for work the next day, Matt hoped the children would be back again.
They came and talked to Matt over a window, the whole time he did not know how to talk to them. As the children got bored they started going home and Matt decided to do something because he was craving company. The windows were locked so Matt took a pot and broke one of the windows so the children could hear him. He said his name and asked them if they wanted to play with him. Since he didn't leave the house Steven, Maria and Emily wanted to go home. Matt jumped out the window onto the broken glass and was hurt. The kids were worried and they took him to their house. The maid Rosa recognized him and she took him to the most beautiful room in the house. There she took the glass out of his leg and then she spotted the tattoo on his foot.
Some man ran into the room and said that he wanted to see that creature thrown out of the house. Rosa had to take Matt outside and leave him on the front lawn. Steven soon realized what was going on; Matt is a clone and their brains were destroyed at birth, but it appeared that Matt's owner wanted him to grow up as a normal child.
People considered clones to be disgusting and were often thought of as animals. The doctor came and they took Matt to the other side of the house. Matt asked about Celia but the doctor didn't let him see her. He was left alone in a room with bars on the windows and he was scared.
Maria came and brought him dinner. They talked about movies and monsters, Matt was happy because he had some company and he knew everyone else hated him. He told Maria the scary stories Celia told him and she was scared to walk the empty hallways alone so she spent the night in Matt's room. In the morning Rosa came yelling that they were looking for her the whole night.
The doctor came to check on Matt every day, but they never talked. El Patron asked about Matt for years. Rosa was angry at Matt because no one wanted to talk to her since she was the primary caregiver of the clone. She constantly threatened to kill him and she insulted him. Rosa even took his bed away and Matt had to sleep on the floor. She filled his room with sawdust as if he was an animal. Matt hid some food underneath it to attract bugs because they were his only friends.
A boy named Tom came to his room one day and insulted him, that was the purpose of his visit. Matt threw a rotten orange on him and Tom threw peas at him. When Tom left Matt heard Celia's voice through the window, Maria had brought her. Celia didn't know how they managed to hold him captive. Maria sent a letter to her father, Senator Medoza, hoping he will help Matt. She promised to set him free but Matt didn't care anymore. He was locked up for such a long time that the small, sawdust-filled room became his home. He even stopped talking.
Age 7 - 11
In the morning Rosa woke him up and took him to the bathroom. He hadn't had a shower for months. Rosa threatened to kill him if he said anything about the way she treated him. Matt was taken to a luxurious room in which El Patron was. He was skinny, his hair was gray and he was wearing a robe.
Celia was also there and she told him all about Matt being held captive for six months and being treated like an animal. The doctor came and blamed everything on Rosa, despite being a witness of her behavior towards Matt. El Patron liked Matt because he saw something familiar in his eyes and face, which was no surprise as Matt was cloned from his DNA. They were left alone to talk and El Patron told him all about his childhood.
He was born in Mexico, people from his birth town were called Alacranes, which meant scorpions. When Patron made his first million, he turned the nickname into his last name - Matteo Alacran. El Patron fell asleep and Matt moved into his new room in the mansion with Celia. All of their stuff was already there. Maria came to hang out with him and try to get him to talk again, but Matt didn't talk out of fear. El Patron was about 140 years old during this period.
Before leaving the house he decided to present Matt to everyone who stood in line in front of the mansion. Mister Alacran (the terrifying man who kicked Matt out of the house the first night) stood there with his wife. Alacran's father, El Viejo, stood by them and their children Benito, Steven and Tom were also there. They all despised Matt and no one liked the sight of him, except for Maria. Patron explained Matt was his clone and the most important person in his life and that everyone had to treat Matt the way they treat him.
They had to educate him and they were forbidden from harassing him. He left one of his bodyguards, Tam Lin, to look out for Matt. As soon as Patron left everyone started ignoring Matt.
Matt didn't leave the house because his room was his safe place, but eventually, he started going out a little bit at a time. Tom hated Matt a lot, while in his company he treated him respectfully but he would often insult him. Tam Lin disliked Tom. Matt mostly hung out with Maria but when the vacations were over, she had to go back to school. Tam Lin told Matt some things about El Patron. He had a good and a bad side and, when he wanted to, he could get vicious.
Tam Lin thought that El Patron was given a second chance through Matt. Steven and Tom went to a boarding school and Matt was the only child in the house. He got a teacher who was boring and repetitive. After six days of hearing he was a good boy, Matt stood up and shouted he wasn't a boy, but a clone and that she should leave him alone. He surprised himself with his voice. Tam Lin entered the room, excited to hear Matt speaking. Matt tried out his voice and as a prize, Tam Lin took him on a picnic.
Matt was excited about riding a horse for the first time. Everything was new for him and talked the whole time about everything that he could see and was doing. They went through the fields and saw workers gathering opium. They also found a man lying on the ground.
Matt wanted to help him and he didn't understand why the others had left him on the ground. Tam Lin explained that the man had died from heat or dehydration. They came to a well where they gave horses water. They decided to walk the rest of the way. Tam Lin took Matt to a little oasis, a pond with many fish in it. He took him there because no one could hear them talk. Tam Lin explained to Matt he was a special boy.
A long time ago doctors took a sample of El Patron's skin and froze it. Eight years ago they took it and made a new El Patron, Matt. Matt looked exactly like El Patron when he was eight years old. Everyone feared him because he was different and that's why he had a teacher in the house and didn't attend school. The teacher was an "eejit". They were programmed to do simple things like the horses and the workers in the fields. The worker who died, ended up that way because no one ordered him to drink some water. Matt was a bit shaken by all of the new information. They spent the rest of the day sightseeing.
Matt studied watching a school program on TV. He had a normal life but felt empty because he knew he was only a human replica. Matt often had dreamt about the dead man he saw in the fields. Maria visited him with her dog Furball. Matt had a problem with her dog because he knew that people looked upon him like an animal. Matt had fun exploring the house. He loved listening to Alacran's wife playing the piano, one day he hid in the room to listen to her play and he discovered a secret hallway.
Once while walking though, he heard Alacran convince his father to go and have chemotherapy or receive implants but the old man wanted to die. Matt didn't understand what they were talking about and he couldn't tell anyone about it because then they would know he was eavesdropping. When no one was around he tried to play the piano because the music relaxed him. Tam Lin heard him play and found him a teacher. It didn't take long for him to learn how to play. Matt always tried to be the best at everything so that people would love him and forget that he was a clone. Matt had an incredible thirst for knowledge.
El Patron celebrated his 143 birthday, he was increasingly stranger with each day and seemed to become senile. Matt was supposed to sit next to him during dinner and Celia told him that if something bad happens, he should come straight to her in the kitchen. Matt went to dinner with Maria, but Furball was missing. Matt and Tom went looking for him. Matt found the dog in the toilet. Tom's plan to drown the dog didn't work. Matt didn't say anything about it because he knew no one would believe him. Everyone treated him nicely during dinner because El Patron was there.
Another farmer came to dinner. His name was Mr. MacGregor. He had a farm near San Diego. Something about him made Matt feel uncomfortable. The guard brought two wheelchairs for the MacGregor and El Patron. Patron said that the doctors who took care of him will start taking care of MacGregor and he also told the story of his childhood and how he was the only one out of eight children who survived. El Patron went to rest before dinner.
Matt decided to get his revenge for the dog. He knew everything would be going his way because El Patron was in the house. He changed the card with Tom's name and placed him at the children's table and he placed Maria next to him. Maria didn't want to sit next to him, but she had to obey El Patron. Alacran's father, El Viejo, was actually Patron's grandson. He didn't want to take the implants which could prolong his life because he was extremely religious; God gave him enough years to spend on Earth and he didn't want more. Patron was angry at him because of it.
Tom's mother was worried about Tom because he was at the children's table. The gift-giving took place in the garden. The guards gave Patron his gifts and Matt read the birthday cards and opened up the gifts for him. Patron loved receiving gifts but there were little things he didn't already own. Farmer's gave him guns and Matt gave him a wallet.
Later Matt opened up his own birthday gifts. After everything that had happened during dinner, Maria didn't want to give him her gift but he made her do it. When he wanted to, he could be as cruel and cold as old El Patron and he knew this and took advantage of it. He even asked her for a kiss. Everyone was repulsed by his idea because he was a clone and Matt's behavior was worrying El Patron so he told Maria to grant his wish.
After the party, Matt went to his room to open up Maria's gift. It was a small candy jar she made herself.
When he woke up in the morning, he knew he had to apologize for his behavior, but he wanted to give Maria some time. Felica came to his room saying that he had Maria and that she wanted to see him but that she couldn't because her father won't let her. She told him to come to the hospital where he will be able to see Maria. Maria was in the waiting room.
Matt realized she didn't invite him, he came because thought he wanted to see her. Matt apologized for his behavior and just at that time Tom arrived. He tricked them into coming to the hospital because he wanted to show them something creepy. Tom took them down the hall to a room where a clone was kept. He was tied to the bed, had claw-like hands and red hair. He was kicking and screaming. This was MacGregor's clone. Maria asked Tom to take her away and Matt stood there frightfully looking at the clone.
Matt told Celia everything he had seen. She told him that Tom was actually MacGregor's son, that Felica ran away with MacGregor but since El Patron didn't let anyone take what was his, he made Felica come back. Mr. Alacran didn't want to accept her after everything but Patron didn't care much for his opinion. Six months later Tom was born. Felica spent her days drinking and everyone lost all respect for her.
MacGregor's clone was ruined because he was injected with drugs that turn clones into idiots. They do it to all clones, but Matt was an exception. Maria was to go to boarding school soon and, after the visit to the hospital, she didn't talk to Matt anymore. He decided to do something about it. He took some opium dissolved in alcohol from Felica's room and he wanted to pour some of it into Furball's water so that he would fall asleep.
In the end, he didn't do it because he gave the dog so much food he fell asleep on his own. He took him to the lake house and left a note for Maria saying she should meet with him after midnight if she wants to find out where her dog is. When he came to the lake at midnight Tam Lin and Daft Donald grabbed him. Maria's father, senator Mendoza, waited for him. He was forbidden from seeing Maria ever again because he had killed her dog.
They found the opium which he had left in the lake house and presented it as proof. Matt explained his intentions and claimed he didn't kill the dog but no one listened to him. What hurts the most was Tam Lin distrusting him because he was the only one who treated him as a real person. Patron soon left and Tam Lin went with him because Matt didn't need anyone to take care of him anymore.
The Alacran's state was built based on a vision El Patron had in his childhood. New inventions and technology were only allowed to exist in the hospital. Matt thought about everything and remembered how Tam Lin always thought he could be something more than just a clone. Matt promised himself he would become just that. Tom was banished from the house because it was discovered he took Maria and Matt to the hospital to see the clone.
Celia explained to Matt that El Patron owned people the same way he owned things and that he also owned her. She was born in the same city as El Patron and she wanted to run away to the USA. The farms were in between her birth town and the USA. She was caught and when Patron realized they came from the same town he took her in and hired her as a chef. The other people who were caught were turned into eejit es.
Age 12 - 14
All of Matt's days were alike. He couldn't write to Maria because she was at a boarding school. He took one of the horses to go to the place which Tam Lin showed him a while back. There he saw a big metal case and a stash of water next to it. There he found Tam Lin's message explaining to him that he had to go with Patron and that he was leaving him groceries in case he needed them.
There was also a book about the history of Opium and maps at the bottom of the case. He came back to the house and there was informed that El Viejo died. Maria came, holding hands with Tom. When it was time for each and every one of them to say goodbye to El Viejo the priest attacked Matt because, and as far as he was concerned, Matt was an animal and he didn't belong at the ceremony. Maria defended him and took him out of the room.
They went to the piano room. She told him that she forgave him for everything and Matt didn't insist on not killing her dog because he didn't want to spoil the moment. When they heard some voices Matt took her to the secret hallway. They found a room with computer equipment and they talked there.
Again they heard noises and exited the room before Felica and Tom entered. There was a surveillance system in the house and the two of them were looking for Matt and Maria. They heard them and Felica said she had killed the dog to hurt Matt. Maria apologized to him. Later they told Tam Lin what they had heard and Maria went back to school.
Matt went on his horse to the oasis to read the history of Opium. Opium was a land situated between the USA and Aslan. 100 years ago Aztlan was named Mexico. In those days Matteo Alacran was a drug dealer and drugs were illegal. He made a deal with the USA. The US agreed to invest money in farms on which Matteo will grow opium and stop the immigrants from Mexico from crossing the border into the US. Matteo agreed not to sell drugs to the USA and Mexico but to export them to Europe, Asia and Africa.
The MacGregors and the Alacran's were the two most powerful families which managed to impose their politics on others. When Matt read that El Patron was the cruelest and most selfish man, he just could not believe it. Matt was interested in farms and he wanted to know how to farm opium. He hoped that, if he manages to learn all about it, he will be able to lead a farm one day.
One day he rode to the north of the farm. The place was very contaminated because people threw trash there and that is where the eejit's quarters were. He started getting nauseous from the polluted air and he got dizzy. Two guards caught him thinking he was trying to run away. As soon as he explained who he was, everyone got nice to him. They were guards, just like Tam Lin, El Patron brought them over from Ireland.
They uncovered to Matt that Tam Lin was a terrorist adding that he planted a bomb underneath the prime minister's house in London to achieve some political cause but he didn't know there was a school bus in front of the house and he ended up killing 20 people. Matt couldn't believe that Tam Lin would do something like that because he always spoke about honesty and justice.
In the morning Celia woke Matt to take him to the hospital. El Patron had a heart attack. Matt was still feeling bad from the chemicals he inhaled the day before. He hallucinated and thought he was talking to Saint Francis. When he woke up he saw Tam Lin. El Patron was given a new heart and Matt was feeling happy about him being all right. While El Patron was recovering, Matt spent a lot of time with him, and suggested to El Patron that he should give some of his stuff to the poor people, El Patron became angry. Tam Lin compared him to the dragon which guarded his gold, not because he needed it, but because he always wanted more of it.
Matt entertains Patron by singing to him but one day his voice suddenly cracks. It was a sign he hit puberty. Celia tried to cover up the fact that she was worried about this development. In the evening they quietly celebrated his growing up. He wanted to know whether he had a birthday and how old he was. Tam Lin rudely responded that he was bred for nine months inside a cow which was later on turned into steaks. Matt connected the dots.
Clones were being made for their organs. MacGregor's clone in the hospital was the way he was because MacGregor took his brain and liver. Matt still believed he was different because Patron saved him and educated him. He wasn't alive for his spare parts. Tam Lin told Matt that he is now 14 years old.
Matt discovered that the book about the history of Opium was written by Esperanza Mendoza, Mendoza's ex-wife and Maria's mother. She fought slavery and lived in California. Matt was surprised because Maria had told him her mother left when she was five and that she was dead. In two months, Steven and Emilia were supposed to get married so Matt decided to show the book to Maria when she comes for the wedding. He went to the lake to swim, despite Tam Lin forbidding it. He came home with the worst nausea ever.
Celia gave him medicine which made him feel worse. He had headaches for a week and he was very weak. Matt spent his time with El Patron who was getting more and more senile. He talked to Matt about the cabin near the lake and Matt figured out it was Patron who made the oasis. Patron referred to Matt as Felipe and Celia explained that Felipe was Patron's biological son who died eight years ago. A strong desire to run away started growing inside of Matt. He realized what was going on with El Patron and he just could not handle it. He wanted to go to Aztlan, Celia's and Patron's hometown.
The preparations for the wedding had started, it was very well known that Steven and Emili would get married because Patron decided that it should be that way. It was a lucky coincidence they were actually in love. Matt goes to the oasis only once to take the book. Every day more guests arrived. MacGregor got hair transplants and the similarity between him and Tom was clear. Emilia and Maria finally arrived.
The two of them went to the secret hallway. Matt told her all about the eejit's buildings and El Patron's heart attack. Matt told her that he thought he wasn't like the other clones and that Patron loved him more than Tom. Maria told him they were planning on marrying her and Tom. She thinks that she could change him. Matt gave Maria her mother's book. He thought she could contact her mother from school, which was in Aztlan, where people hated Opium and wanted to destroy it. The next day was the wedding, Matt watched it via a telescope from his room and he was under surveillance. When Steven and Emilia got married, Patron collapsed and Tam Lin carried him out.
Matt was hiding in the hallway. He felt sorry for El Patron, but at the same time was scared because he knew that he was brought to Earth to give his heart/organs to Patron. Maria came and told him El Patron's people were looking all over for him. Word quickly spread that Matt had taken a horse and was headed north. Maria planned this escape, telling Matt that she will help him dress like an eejit and that he will go to school with her. Later on, Maria brought him his disguise. Tam Lin told her about the secret way which will get them out of the house. They managed to get to the airplane, but Steven and Emelia were there also, they then took Matt to the hospital.
The scared Matt was tied to a bed, two bodyguards came and took him to Patron. He explained that he was a good man for giving him a childhood he himself never had and he explained he should feel grateful. Celia was also in the room. She told him she poisoned Matt with arsenic the first time they wanted to take his heart and that from that day on she kept giving him arsenic in small doses. It couldn't hurt Matt but it could hurt Patron, who was already very weak. The heart was useless to him.
El Patron was furious and the doctors took him out of the room. Matt was alone. Alacran and Tam Lin came. They told Matt his services were no longer needed and he ordered Tam Lin to kill him. Tam Lin promised to put him down. Matt couldn't believe it because he was convinced Tam Lin was his friend.
Tam Lin tied him up to a horse and they headed for the eejit's buildings. When they got away from the guards, Tam Lin set him free and took him to the oasis. Tam Lin advised him to go to Aztlan and he prepared a small bag for him and gave him money. Tam Lin also told him not to be afraid because there was no difference between him and people and that he shouldn't be surprised by the world outside Opium because technology has advanced while the farms remained like they were 100 years ago when El Patron was young. Tam Lin told him to use a chopper from Aztlan to San Louise and look for Maria's school.
Matt went to the oasis and had something to eat because he had no idea how long his journey would last. He mapped out his route and spent the night in the oasis. When he woke up in the morning he heard a strong noise. After filling his backpack he headed off. The first part of his journey was easy but then he reached the canyon. After climbing the mountain he started crying because he missed Celia. Matt heard engines and cars. T
here were factories and buildings in front of him. He saw the guards patrolling the border. He took a chance when a few people were running towards the border but a guard grabbed his backpack. He left the guard with the backpack and kept on running. He crossed the border and fell into a pool filled with black fluid. He made it.
La Vida Nueva (New Life)
Two men in uniform congratulated him on his courage. He presented himself as Matt Ortega, so they wouldn't know who he actually was. The guards took him to take a shower and fed him. One of them, Raul, took him to a room full of boys. The day after he was supposed to be sent over to a factory to work. He was looking forward to it because it was a chance to see Maria. The boys approached him and started asking all sorts of questions. Matt met two boys Chacho and Fidelito. All of the kids had lost their parents and they were trying to cross the border. Matt realized that he was in an orphanage.
He went from one group to another, gathering information about people. They had guardians who took care of them and made them useful society members but everyone hated them. Matt didn't know why.
Opium was referred to as the "Dream Lan". The boys would spend their days working and they would get paid only if they managed to fulfill a certain norm. The workshop would be transformed into their dormitory in the evening. Every night, before bedtime, Raul would tell them a story. The moral of every story was that only through work and unity people can reach their goals. Everyone had to work equally. Matt had a comeback to Raul's story, which upset Raul but the other boys loved his answer and courage. Matt was happy about being accepted as a human being for the first time.
The next day Chacho, Fidelito and Matt flew to San Louis. When they arrived, they felt ill because of the smell of dry rot in the air. They worked at a plankton factory. Carlos was their guardian there. The three of them were supposed to grab the mature plankton which will be transformed into hamburgers and milk. Matt felt bad about having to work there until he turned 18. It was hot, moist and smelly. The building had an electric wire around it. Before each meal, they had to recite the 5 characteristics that make a good citizen and 4 opinions that lead to rightful thinking. They had plankton for each meal. Chacho explained that not all Aztlan was like that.
Matt was called an aristocrat because none of the boys were used to kindness, manners and sophisticated way of speaking. That night Jorge came to tell them their story. Every boy had to confess something bad they had done in life. The boys stated out dumb reasons which weren't enough to satisfy Jorge so he couldn't punish them. Matt said that he hadn't done anything wrong and then Jorge started saying all the things that he thinks Matt had done wrong. Then every boy started reproaching Matt about something, things like cleaning his nails every day and using unknown words. Day after day Fidelito, Chacho and Matt cleaned out the tanks with the crabs. Matt thought more and more about running away.
Every night before bedtime Jorge would ask boys about their sins and they would attack Matt. He was already numb to their accusations and reproaches. He only had to confess some of it and he wouldn't get punished. Matt didn't give in and it made Jorge furious. Jorge picked one boy and decided to punish him to scare Matt. He beat him up until he started to bleed. Matt still didn't want to confess to anything and Jorge punished him as well. When Jorge left, the boys told Matt that they admired his courage and took him to the sanitorium to help him. They gave him some sort of fluid and Matt realized it was the same fluid with which he wanted to feed Maria's dog.
The other boy who was beaten up was Ton-Ton and was also there with Matt. He knew a lot about the guardians because he cleaned their rooms. They drank the fluid every night. Matt saw himself in the mirror for the first time since leaving Opium and he noticed a lot of acne across his face. Everyone looked like that because they worked in a polluted environment. Matt was planning an escape but first, he had to figure out how to turn off the electricity in order to cross the fence.
Ton-Ton didn't want to go to San Luis to look for a grandmother of his who lived there because Jorge saved him from the patrols and saved his life. He was studying to become a guardian himself. Matt decided to become his friend because he thought Ton-Ton could help him escape. In the evening Jorge had his eye on Matt. This time he decided to beat up Fidelito and the other boys disapproved because Fidelito was very tiny, fragile and skinny.
When Jorge started beating him up Matt jumped on him and made him stand in the corner. Chacho started hitting Jorge with his fists. Mat stopped him and Jorge ran away and came back with 20 guards to the room. They caught Matt and Chacho, tied up their arms and placed tape over their mouths. Carlos threatened all of the boys and they told him it was Jorge's fault for trying to murder Fidelito. There were 200 boys in the room and they blocked the guard's exit. Jorge blamed it all on Matt and he discovered the tattoo on Matt's foot. The boys stepped away from Matt, he was taken away to some small room with Chacho and the other boys were locked.
In the morning they were taken to a dump filled with dead whale's bones and they threw them inside. The more Matt and Chacho tried to get out, the deeper they would sink in. They used the sharp bones to cut the ropes around their hands and feet. Matt managed to get out but Chacho was left there. Matt encouraged him the whole night and told him all about his childhood. In the morning he heard some noise and he was scared it might be the guardians but it turned out to be Fidelito and Ton-Ton who helped him get Chacho out.
Chacho was unconscious and Ton-Ton gave him some strawberry juice he took from the guards. All of them headed for San Luis. The guards didn't follow them because the boys locked the building and placed bags of salt on the windows. When night came they had to stop because their vehicle used solar energy. They weren't very far away from San Luis, but Chacho was getting worse. Fidelito and Matt went walking to the town to find a doctor.
They had to cross the river Colorado to get to the city. When they reached the river, they felt a strong smell. The air was polluted and Matt's asthma came back. He collapsed and Fidelito ran to get help. Soon he came back with a woman named Consuelo. She gave him an inhaler and took him to the city. Fidelito told her all about Chacho and they sent an ambulance to get him.
The Day of the Dead was being celebrated and it was the first time Matt saw people celebrating death. Chacho was taken to the hospital which belonged to the school in which Maria was. Fidelito and Matt went with him and Consuelo gave them masks to cover up their faces so that the guards wouldn't recognize them. The crowd was celebrating on the streets; they were singing, dancing and having fun. The school was located on the hill and it looked like a castle.
A nurse opened up and told them to watch out for the guards roaming around because there was a rebellion in the saltworks. Chacho's bed was guarded by two nurses, Jorge and Carlos were there too, Ton-Ton was on the floor. Matt got into a fight with the guards and the nurses tried to stop them. Esperanza Mendoza entered and ordered them to stop. Ton-Ton told her all that had happened. Jorge denied harassing the boys and throwing them in a dump. Esperanza didn't believe a single word he said because thanks to Ton-Ton the police found the fluid the guardians were drinking and they found out they were drug dealers. The police took them away and Maria came running to hug Matt.
Matt enjoyed the hospital and Maria's company but Esperanza had an assignment for him. Since Patron died they didn't have any news from Opium and it was declared that no one can exit or enter Opium. The only choppers which can fly over it are the ones with Patron's DNA and fingerprint. Matt was legalized as a clone and it benefited them all. The law stated that when a person has a clone, one of them has to be declared a non-person and be destroyed.
Since Patron died, Matt has to take his place and obtain everything that once belonged to El Patron. Esperanza said she will do everything in her power to give him what is rightfully his and make him president of Opium if in return he destroys Opium and establishes a relationship between USA and Aztlan. Matt came to the mansion but it seemed no one was there. Mr. Ortega was playing the piano and when he saw Matt, he got scared and ran away. Matt played Beethoven when Celia came and took him to the kitchen where Daft Donald and Ortega were.
Celia told him all that had happened in his absence. Tam Lin didn't turn Celia into an eejit, he was only faking it. Patron died and 6 guards took his coffin into an underground room filled with gold where they celebrated his death. Tam Lin even brought special wine made in the year Patron was born to celebrate. He only told Daft not to drink the wine. When the gang cheered they fell down dead. El Patron had a plan for his death. Even in the afterlife, he wasn't ready to let anyone have his fortune so he told Tam Lin about his plan and he killed everyone.
Daft Donald went to get some explosives, set it on the entrance and blew it up. That was the weird noise Matt heard leaving the oasis. Matt was angry at Tam Lin for not saving himself. He ran to the horse and went to the oasis. Matt found a scorpion sign on the mountain and when he pressed it he entered the place where El Patron's body and all of his treasure were. Matt shut the secret doors and decided to start destroying Opium the next day. He will have a lot to do but he has his friends Chacho, Fidelito, Ton-Ton, Maria, Celia, Daft and Esperanza to help him.
Characters: Matteo Alacran, El Patron, Celia, Maria, Emilia, Tam Lin, Daft Donald, El Viejo, Felica, Benito, Tom Steven, Espreazna, MacGregor, Fidelito, Chacho, Ton-Ton
Matteo Alacran (Matt) - the main character of the novel. He was Patron's clone made to give Patron the organs he needed. With the help of Celia and Tam Lin he managed to escape his faith. Matt was in love with Maria. He grew up protected from the outer world and he was despised and rejected for being a clone so he always aspired to something more – becoming a man and a decent human being.
The author used his character to question the morality of cloning and talk about identity. Matt was able to tell right from wrong and overcome what was genetically implanted in him. He fought between the feeling of gratitude for Patron and the notion he was only there as an organ donor. The good and bad were in a constant battle and sometimes the bad side would surface as a response to rejection and the desire to be accepted.
He disliked Maria's dog because it reminded him that he too was perceived as an animal and not a human being. He felt empathy for animals and eejit was forced to serve the Patron. When he ran away from Opium he got some friends who didn't care whether or not he was a clone. In the end, he decided to change his life and destroy Opium.
Celia - the mansion's chef and Matt were under her surveillance until Patron needed him. Celia grew fond of him and raised him as if he was her son. She was able to sacrifice a lot. In the beginning, she protected Matt from knowing who he really was and later on she fought for his life standing up to Patron. Celia wanted a better life so she tried to immigrate to the USA and that's how Patron got his hands on her. She grew up in the same village as Patron. She longed for her home and didn't like being someone's property. Tam Lin and she had a plan to save Matt from his upcoming death.
El Patron - a drug dealer and Opium's leader. He was the most powerful and vicious man in the whole world. He was about 146 years old because he took organs from his clones. El Patron was the only one who protected Matt from the other household members but he didn't do it out of love, but the need for organs. The only thing he cared about was money.
El Patron didn't care about anyone's opinion and he spent his days giving orders and building everyone's faiths. He kept on telling the story of his childhood in poverty and how he was the only surviving child. The hard child made him fight for his life and grew a desire for money but with time he became greedy and had to own everything he saw. He never let anyone make a decision without his blessing. Alacran's estate was made by the model of an estate he saw as a child. Time stopped on the estate because he didn't let anyone bring in new technology.
Tam Lin - Patron's guardian. Matt saw a father figure in him and he was his only friend. Tam Lin trusted Matt and didn't treat him as an animal, he encouraged him to get an education and become a better person. Tam Lin also helped Matt escape because he saw hope in him and he ended up drinking the poisoned wine to punish himself for the crime he committed before coming to Opium. He unintentionally killed 20 children. Tam Lin was an honest and loyal man who had high moral standards, hated lies and served the Patron because he saved him from the police but Tam Lin never approved of his behavior. He thought Matt was Patron's second chance to change his ways and do a good deed.
Maria - Senator Mendoza's daughter. She often came to Alacran's house. Ever since she was a little girl she was different because she helped everyone and she was very sensitive to people's needs and suffering. Despite knowing Matt is a clone, Maria believed he had a soul. She didn't believe Tom was bed until she saw it with her own eyes. Maria got easily attached to people because she missed her mother whom she thought had died. Maria forgave Matt for everything. Later on, Mendoza sent her away to school where she had a chance to meet her mother. Maria was Matt's support and she always encouraged him in everything.
Nancy Farmer was born on July 7th, 1941 in Arizona. She grew up in her father's hotel on the border between Arizona and Mexico and she worked at the reception since she was 9 years old.
She graduated from Reed College in 1963 and later on she studied chemistry and ethnology at Berkley, California. Nancy joined the peace corps and went to India. She worked in Mozambique and Zimbabwe.
In Rhodesia, she met her husband Harold Farmer. She is currently living in Arizona and has a son Daniel.
Nancy started writing when she was 40 years old. She writes science fiction, children's and young people's books. Her first book "Do You Know Me" was published in 1993 and she received an award for it. The prize Newberry Honor was given for "The Ear", "The Aye and the Arm", "A Girl Named Disaster". "The House of the Scorpion" got her a National Book Award.
Nancy wrote nine novels, three picture books, and a few short stories. Her books have been translated into more than 26 languages.