City of Glass Essay Questions

Essay Questions

  1. 1

    Choose two families in the novel (biological or adopted, your choice) and compare and contrast the dynamics between them.

    From his entrance in City of Bones, Valentine makes very clear the nature of his relationship with his daughter, Clary- he wants to use her power to further his cause. Although the two are biologically related, he has no desire to form a personal relationship with his daughter and has no desire to care for her as a parent should care for their child. Instead, he wishes to harness her power for creating runes to help establish his demon army and take over the Shadow world, destroying all of what Clary loves in the process. In stark contrast is the relationship between Jace and his adoptive family, the Lightwoods. Although he is not biologically related to them, Maryse and Robert accept him as their child, and Alec, Isabelle and Max accept him as their brother. The relationship that Jace has with them is one of care and compassion, and Jace frequently puts their needs ahead of his own.

  2. 2

    Explain the means by which Valentine attempts to gain power. Why do they ultimate fail?

    Valentine tries to gain power through fear and violence. He gathers an army of demons and uses them to terrorize the Shadowhunters into submission so that they are afraid to resist, and he also manipulates them to turn against each other, weakening any kind of resistance that could be formed. He paints the Downworlders as subhuman and unworthy of care or respect and blames them for all of the problems that the Shadow world has experienced. In doing so he rallies support for his own cause, claiming that he will restore the Shadow world to its former glory. These methods ultimately fail because he does not attempt to gain respect and rules only through fear, which ensures that there will always be enough people who aren’t afraid of him and are willing to rebel. He lacks the charisma that so many dictators have, that which enables them to rally faithful supporters.

  3. 3

    Throughout City of Glass, many characters must redefine their identities and come to terms with who they are as people. Select a character who embarks on such a journey, and explain how they find their identity and what they overcome.

    Alec Lightwood struggles to accept himself throughout the entire series, but in City of Glass specifically he comes to terms with his sexuality and is confident enough to be open about it. The Shadow world is very prejudiced against the LGBT+ community, and Alec had previously been too afraid to share his sexuality in fear that he would be banished from the Clave, or his opinions no longer taken seriously. He also fears the reactions of his parents, as they are both very traditional people. As the novel progresses, however, he realizes that with a war on the horizon there are more important things to worry about than his sexuality, and wants to come to terms with himself before he goes to battle and faces the risk of dying. He finally shares his feelings with Magnus Bane and comes out to his parents, and although they are initially disappointed, his mother eventually accepts him.

  4. 4

    Love serves as the driving force for many characters’ actions throughout the course of the novel- love for a romantic partner, love for family, love for a cause, etc. Choose a character whose actions are motivated by their love for something else, and explore the nature of that love and how it causes the character to ultimately be successful or unsuccessful.

    Isabelle Lightwood’s actions are motivated by her love for her family. After being seriously injured by Sebastian she returns to the battlefield, although doing so proves to be dangerous because she desperately needs to seek revenge for her brother’s death. Her love for her brother pushes her to bury her fear and grief, instead confronting the man who caused his death and avenging Max the only way she can: through fighting him. She continues to fight in the Shadowhunter army to protect the family that she has left- her other brothers, her parents- so that she does not lose any more family members. In the end, her efforts are successful, and Sebastian meets his well-deserved end. Rather than Sebastian, she doesn't fight for power or glory: she fights for her family, and this personal cause that she has allows her to be successful.

  5. 5

    Using examples from the novel, explain how innocence and purity can be corrupted by violence and war.

    As the Mortal War wages in Idris, its brutality destroys innocence and purity at home. Max Lightwood is a nine-year-old boy who is years away from ever needing to fight in a battle, and is safe at home when Idris is attacked. Because of the brutality of war, however, no civilian is safe from Valentine and his army, and in one of the first waves of the attacks, Max is killed by one of Valentine’s spies hiding in the Lightwood home. The lives of the other Lightwood children are shattered: while Isabelle, Jace and Alec are only sixteen, seventeen and eighteen respectively, the loss of their brother permanently changes their lives and destroys the purity and comfort they found in their family.

  6. 6

    In many ways, the Shadow world mirrors our own in terms of discrimination. Using specific examples from the text, explore at least two groups of people in the Shadow world who are marginalized, and how that discrimination is carried out by the perpetrators.

    The Downworlders are marginalized both by Valentine and the Clave throughout City of Glass- Valentine blames them for the problems plaguing the Shadow World and sets them as one of his targets in his conquest, but the Clave also considers them to be subhuman and does not grant them the same rights as Shadowhunters. When Valentine’s army attacks Idris, only the Shadowhunters are sent out to fight them, while the Downworlders are not asked for their help and are instead left to die in their homes. It is only after Clary designs the binding rune to connect Shadowhunters and Downworlders in battle that the Downworlders are allowed to fight at all. Furthermore, the Clave is deeply prejudiced against the LGBT+ population- Alec Lightwood spent years terrified to tell anyone that he was gay because of the Clave’s traditional, homophobic views, and even after he came out he continued to face discrimination from high-ranking members of the Clave, including his own father.

  7. 7

    How does Clary develop as a character in City of Glass? Consider her development throughout the entire series.

    At the beginning of City of Bones, Clary was a shy art student who wanted absolutely nothing to do with the Shadow World- rather than claim her Shadowhunter identity, she simply wanted to save her mother and return to her normal life. By the end of City of Glass, however, she has gained confidence and bravery and becomes a primary instrument in the fight against Valentine. She is unafraid to fight back against her father’s tyranny, and even designs runes that can be used in battle, such as the binding rune that connects Shadowhunters and Downworlders during battle. Rather than running from her identity, she embraces it, and where she may have been afraid to fight she readily accepts her fate. She also loses some of the anger she had felt towards her mother at the beginning of the series- she understands why her mother kept the Shadow World a secret from her and understands why she made the choices that she did.

  8. 8

    How does Magnus' role in the plot change throughout City of Glass?

    At the beginning of City of Bones, Magnus Bane served only as an information service- when the Shadowhunters had questions regarding magic or unknown enemies, they went to him for answers, in a strictly business relationship. As the series progresses, however, Magnus grows into an essential part of the Shadowhunter team, and each of the characters develops a personal relationship with him. While he began the series as a disinterested business partner, his role expanded out of business as he grew more involved with each of the team's missions- he did not need to go to Idris in City of Glass, but his love for Alec and his friendship with the rest of the crew motivated him to travel across the sea and help them in any way that he could. Befriending them also made him want to become involved in the fight against Valentine, and he soon became an active warrior, using his power to help win the war.

  9. 9

    How does the third person omniscient narrative of City of Glass help serve the story?

    City of Glass is a very complex series with many characters and many small plotlines. Throughout the entire novel the characters are split into small groups across the entirety of Idris- Simon in the Inquisitor's prison, Isabelle and Sebastian at the Lightwood house, Clary and Jace at the Wayland manor, to name a few- and because all of these characters and their stories are vital to the plot as a whole, it is essential for each of their narratives to be told, so that readers receive the full plethora of information within the book. The third person narrative helps track every character whose story contributes to the plot.

  10. 10

    Why does the Clave stick to its traditional values? Are their actions justifiable?

    The Clave has lasted through centuries of war and devastation, and through all of it has remained strong. They likely fear the change that would come with adopting more modern views, and likely worry that if they change their actions and views the world as they know it will crumble. While these actions may not necessarily be justifiable- they discriminate against innocent people, and often cause innocent lives to be lost- they are explainable, and it can be understood why they are unwilling to bend to change.

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