Title and Author: The Big Orange Splot by Daniel Manus Pinkwater
Field of Philosophy: Aesthetics; Metaphysics; Social and political philosophy;
Plot Summary: Mr. Plumbean, who lives on a street where the houses are all the same, painted red with olive-colored roofs and windows with green trim. He and his neighbors all like this, characterizing their street as a "neat street." One day, a seagull drops a can of bright orange paint on Mr. Plumbean's house, leaving a big orange splot on the house. Everyone on the street sympathizes with Mr. Plumbean, who will have to paint his house again, and that's what Mr. Plumbean plans to do. But, instead, he looks at the house for a long time. Finally, in response to his neighbors' urging, Mr. Plumbean takes out some paint and paints his house. But instead of using the house's original colors, he paints it a rainbow of colors. Over the next couple of days, he adds to his house a clock tower, palm trees, a hammock and an alligator. Horrified, one by one the neighbors stop in to see Mr. Plumbean to talk with him about their dissatisfaction with what he's done to his home and remind him that all the houses have to be the same for their street to continue to be a "neat street." And, one by one, after each neighbor visits with Mr. Plumbean, sitting under the palm trees, drinking lemonade and talking, each neighbor repaints his or her own house to "fit his dreams."
Some discussion questions:
Why do you think Mr. Plumbean painted his house the way he did?
Was he right to paint his house in a way different from his neighbors, when part of the community agreement was that they would keep their houses looking the same?
Did Mr. Plumbean have the right to paint his house however he liked?
What if he painted words expressing his hate for an ethnic group? Would that be okay? At what point does his right to make an independent choice give way to his obligations to his neighbors?
Do you think Mr. Plumbean dreamed of a house that looked like the way he painted it or do you think he just dreamt of an extremely colorful house?
Do you think that Mr. Plumbean house truly looks like his dreams? Or did he just interpret his dreams and painted his house the way he thought it would have looked like in his dreams? Is there a difference? If so, what is it?
Do you remember your dreams? Why or why not?
If you dream about something is it real?
-What is the difference between the dream world and what we call the “real” world?
Is there something that you identify with as strongly as Mr. Plumbean identifies with his house?
Why do you think Mr. Plumbean felt so strongly about his house (after he had painted)?
What made Mr. Plumbean's decision to paint his house to "fit his dreams" so compelling to his neighbors, so that after spending time with him they all changed their minds about how their street should appear?