The House of the Scorpion

By: Nancy Farmer


Matt Alacran finds out early on that he was not born, but harvested. A clone, from the DNA of the original Matteo Alacran known as El Patron, a powerful drug lord, Matt was created. Being isolated on a farm estate in the poppy fields, Matt struggles to know his reason for existing. As he continues to solve this mystery, he also finds his existence allures threats from powerful leaders. Escape is his only friend now as Matt struggles to discover why everyone is out to get him. The only person who seems to enjoy his existence is El Patron himself, who appears to be holding a dark secret from not only Matt, but everyone on the entire Opium estate.


The first original setting in House of the Scorpion is on Opium, a country estate that is owned by many drug lords, including El Patron. Opium's physical description includes dry and deserted plains. It is said the only major plant that grows here are the white poppy flowers that spread across the estate. Later stated in the book, Opium is located in the whereabouts of the United States in Arizona, by the border line.

About Nancy Farmer

Born in 1941 in Phoenix, Arizona, Nancy grew up in a hotel along the New Mexico border. Known to have a sense of adventure, Nancy traveled with a friend to Africa on a freighter after finishing her schooling. Spending her time here was what proved to enhance Nancy's writing abilities. Nancy hadn't begun writing until the age of 40. Here she had published many books among the Zimbabwe, which had drove her to wanting to publish in the U.S. Along being the author of House of the Scorpion, has written a total of eight novels. Among these, she has won the National Book Award for children's literature and the Newbery Honor for many books such as A Girl Named Disaster, The Ear, The Eye and the Arm (runner up), and more.

Book Reviews

"An inspiring tale of friendship, survival, hope, and transcendence."—Kirkus, starred review

“Mind-expanding fiction.”—USA Today

“This is a powerful, ultimately hopeful story that builds on today's sociopolitical, ethical, and scientific issues and prognosticates a compelling picture of what the future could bring. All of these serious issues are held together by a remarkable coming-of-age story.”— Booklist, starred review

The Characters

Matteo Alacran

Matt is the main protagonist of this story. He is a clone, created from the DNA of El Patron. Not much can be said about his physical description besides having short brown hair and eyes. Since he is El Patron's clone, who is of Mexican heritage most can assume Matt is as well. From the beginning of the story, Matt is shown to be oblivious, narrow minded and even ignorant at times. As the story progresses though, Matt begins to become to open and determined to reach his goals and his loyalty to friends.


Acting as Matt's caretaker, Celia plays an important motherly role in his life. It is obvious Celia cares deeply for Matt, as she watches over him as a child on the farm estate by herself. For his safety, Celia keeps Matt's identity a secret from both him and the other workers. On Opium, Celia works as the head cook and is shown to be a very traditional woman.

Tam Lin

Later introduced in the novel, Tam Lin is originally one of El Patron's bodyguards and eventually becomes Matt's. By first impression, he seems as a man made of steel. Tam Lin gives off a menacing aura without words. Stated by Matt, being around is "like having a tame grizzly bear walking around your home". It's not until later on in the story that he reveals himself to have multiple qualities of a likable character, where he later on aids Matt in the story line.


Maria is the younger daughter of Senator Mendoza, who lives on Opium with close ties with El Patron also a drug lord. She is the only other companion of Matt who is his age, allowing them to communicate well. They also get along well due to both of their well developments in character. In the beginning, Maria is shown to be crying most of the time, due to being overly emotional over petty things. With progression, Maria turns from being naive to a mature and loyal companion as Matt becomes as well.

Book Recommendation

Most people can relate to Matt's lifestyle: being told what to wear, eat, and being extremely restricted on where he could go. Despite being in otherworldly circumstances, the challenges Matt faces in his life can be related to current day ones as well. As he struggles to figure out why he exists as a clone, Matt suffers issues with bullying, violence, and as well as poverty. Although his position is of any ordinary one (multiply by one hundred), it is very understandable to be in a world where someone feels completely out of place with others. By society's rules, Matt was extremely restricted by his abilities to contribute to this world, which in the end, he broke spreading unlimited boundaries to what anyone is capable of doing to make the world a better place.