98 pages 3 hours read

Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

Fiction | Novel | YA | Published in 2012

A modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, SuperSummary offers high-quality Study Guides with detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, and more. For select classroom titles, we also provide Teaching Guides with discussion and quiz questions to prompt student engagement.

Discussion/Analysis Prompt

Birds feature prominently throughout Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, appearing at several points in the narrative. For example, when Ari and Dante bury a bird and stand in silence, Ari asks, “Why do birds exist?” Dante replies, “[T]o teach us things about the sky.” Later that day, when Ari thinks about Dante’s answer, he realizes that birds can teach humans “to be free.” Dante loves birds because they represent freedom. Dante is willing to risk everything to be free, while Ari doesn’t yet understand what it means to be free.

Unpack the symbolic significance of birds—and particularly sparrows—as seen throughout the novel. If birds represent freedom, what are they freedom from? How are birds used as a way of foreshadowing key moments that later occur in the novel?

Teaching Suggestion: Ari and Dante seek freedom from many things: from heteronormative social conventions, from their own self-hating tendencies, from the confines and restrictions of youth. The symbolic significance of birds, especially sparrows, is explored through Ari’s frightening dreams. His dreams of sparrows covering him in blood are prophetic. These violent visions foreshadow the accident that will change Ari’s and Dante’s lives, forever connecting them through a bond of self-sacrifice and love.