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Animal Farm: There are pigs in every society
Guests of the Nation: Inhumanity and Senselessness of War
 When Cultures Clash in Hanif Kureishi´s Buddha of Suburbia
  
 

Animal Farm: There are pigs in every society

Orwell´s fable analyses the reasons for the failure of the revolution in the USSR

This novel written in the form of a fable deals with the rebellion of animals against a farmer called Jones on Manor Farm. It starts with a speech of a wise old boar called Old Major on the eve of his death, in which he points out the living and working conditions of the animals on the farm. He describes their life as "miserable, laborious and short" and complains about exploitation of the animals by human beings by stealing their products. He comes to the conclusion that all animals are comrades, all men are enemies and that all animals are equal. Three days later Old Major dies and the animals begin to carry out his ideas by throwing out Mr Jones and by and by the "intellectual" pigs, who are the best in reading and writing, begin to organize the new form of life on Animal Farm. But the pigs compete with each other, especially the leader pigs Napoleon and Snowball; the situation gets serious and is finalized by Napoleon, who expels Snowball. Now the rulership of Napoleon begins, he disregards the Seven Commandments and a totalitarian system is being established with secret police (the dogs), propaganda, manipulation, show trials and executions of animals holding different opinions. Finally the pigs begin to walk on two legs and the conditions for the majority of the animals turn out to be worse than before. It becomes evident through the new commandment "All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others" that the objects of revolution were betrayed.

The reason for the failure of the revolutionary achievements lies in the fact that the working animals have no access to further education, so they are not able to develop their personality and minds and stay inferior to the "brainworkers" (Napoleon and Snowball). It would have been absolutely necessary that these animals (workers) are represented by independent leaders they can trust. A society should be based on every person, the best case would be that everybody has the courage to use his own mind and makes himself free of minority brought about by one`s own guilt, as Immanuel Kant said. Only then they could reflect upon their situation and would be able to do something against such a declining development.

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A revolution cannot be successful when there is not any structure of rules, laws and limitations of power of individuals. Although on Animal Farm they had certain principles - the Seven Commandments – in which they defined their differences to human beings, those limits were not sufficient to guarantee their internal affairs.

A division of power is absolutely necessary, so that "the pigs in every society" have no chance to get unlimited power. A critic of Orwell´s book states "that there have been, are and always will be pigs in every society and they will always grab power". Orwell wrote this novel between 1942 an 1944 – during World War II; it was published in 1945. Possibly he chose the form of a satire/fable in order to prevent the confrontation with censorship. He analyses the reasons for the failure of the revolution in the USSR and he points out the dangers of power in the hands of an intellectual minority that manipulates and betrays the common man by means of totalitarian propaganda.

Left: Gleb Struve and his wife, Maria Kriger, translated Animal Farm into Russian. Its small size made it easy to smuggle into the Soviet Union.

 

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Frank O´Connor, Guests of the Nation

Depressing short story about inhumanity, cruelty and senselessness of war

This short story by the Irish author Frank O`Connor (1903 – 1966) was published in 1931. His experiences during the struggle for national independence of the Irish against the English provided him with material for his first collection of short stories, of which "Guests of a Nation" represents the title story.

Two soldiers of the Irish Republican Army, the narrator Bonaparte and his compatriot Noble have the mission of guarding two English captives called Belcher and Hawkins. This job turns out to be rather easy because a good relationship between these four men is quickly established. They spend time by playing cards, and Noble and Hawkins discuss religious questions, while Belcher, a huge man with an uncommon lack of speech, whose one and only passion is cards, helps the cranky old woman in the house, which serves as a "prison" and where he makes her his friend for life. Donovan, the superior of the two Irish guards has no great love for the two Englishmen. In contrast to Bonaparte and Noble he knows from the beginning that the two prisoners are kept as hostages to save the lives of a few Irish rebels in the hands of the English.

Then comes the day when they receive the information that the Irish rebels have been shot and now the two Englishmen are to be executed in revenge. Noble and Bonaparte are desperate, they are not able to kill human beings whom they treated like guests and regarded as friends. So Donovan has to carry out the order and leaves the two guards in loneliness and Bonaparte, the narrator, "felt somehow very small and very lost and lonely like a child astray in the snow. And anything that happened to me afterwards, I never felt the same about it."

But how is it possible that political enemies become friends? What about the logic of war? This story describes a situation during a war between two nations and shows the absurdity of war by telling a story about four men - actually enemies - who become friends by living together, talking, playing and recognizing each other as human beings, as individuals.

When a war or struggle is to take place the governments try by conviction or measures of propaganda and manipulation to influence people so that they are willing to fight for either economic, ideological or religious reasons. Men and nowadays also women become soldiers to defend their country or their political system against another.

Enemies could become friends under different circumstances, because during a war only an abstract idea of the enemy exists in their heads, against whom they are ready to fight, but they do not have any idea of individuals. The abstract imagination of the enemy in a war wavers, when the propaganda does not work any more or when they are in a different situation: When they have the chance to get to know each other, they see the others as persons with a character, feelings, thoughts etc. and, consequently, their duty in a different light. At such a moment everyone would question dubious orders and he might also realize that they are tools of their government or, as Hawkins reproaches Donovan shortly before he is executed by him, the "tool of any capitalist" (p.35, line 30).

The logic of war is limited when a soldier starts to think by himself and questions the sense or the reason of his order. In this case the fact that these four men have a similar social background and speak the same language, has made them friends or ‘guests’ rather than enemies.The government’s objective in a war can never focus on the individual enemy: Bonaparte and Noble, individual friends und human beings, have to be killed for political reasons. In the end, when the Irish guards are told to do their duty and kill the hostages, they cannot do any harm to them. But they have to be present while Donovan, their superior carries out the execution. Bonaparte and Noble have to bury their friends and this incidence has a longlasting influence on their life. By depicting a few persons brought together by a war situation O`Connor shows in this short story the inhumanity, cruelty and senselessness of war and the desperate influence on human beings who have to go on living with these experiences when war is over. in this story a situation is established, in which two soldiers go through a personal and moral contradiction, when they carry out the order. For human beings realizing ideals in war through killing is not compatible with the values of humanity.

 

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When Cultures Clash in Kureishi´s Buddha of Suburbia

Hanif Kureishi portrays unavoidable gaps between first and second-generation immigrants

buddha.jpg (12744 Byte)In his book "The Buddha of Suburbia", published in 1990, the author Hanif Kureishi describes the experiences of second generation immigrants and the problems arising when traditional values and moral standards of first generation immigrants are confronted with those of the new society they live in – in this case the British society .

Karim, the narrator, visits his cousin Jamila at her parents´ home. He enters the dirty and neglected flat and realizes immediately that his uncle Anwar seems to be very sick and he is sure, though he had never seen anyone dying, that his uncle will be dying soon. By talking to Jamila, it turns out that her father is not really sick, but has not eaten or drunk anything for eight days because he wants his daughter to marry a boy he selected with his brother. He is convinced "that she must do what I say or I will die. She will kill me". Karim cannot understand him and tries to explain to him that in modern life it is out of date to marry someone whom you do not love.

This story describes in a drastic way the moral gap and what can happen when cultures clash. Due to their different religions, traditions and moral values of their native countries it is extremely difficult for first-generation immigrants to integrate in new societies. Is it possible to find a consensus between two cultures and to which extent an immigrant has to adapt himself to the moral standards of the West and to which extent he can cling to his tradition?

Jamila, the daughter, represents the second generation of immigrants, grew up in western civilization and confronts her parents with a behaviour her father cannot accept. His social upbringing in a different social and cultural system makes it impossible for him to understand his daughter´s way of thinking. He is not able to understand that in his daughter´s consciousness the moral standards and behaviour of western civilisation get mixed with the upbringing of her parents. Conflicts between the generations become harder. Second-generation immigrants are confused about the demands made by their parents and religion on the one hand, and the modern liberal approach of British society on the other. The father clings to his traditonal values and thinks he can get his family to obey him and his firm rules by threatening with his death. The scene reaches its climax when the father quotes Gandhi to confirm his way of conduct. So he puts political acting on the same level as his personal reaction. The conclusion he draws shows how essential tradition is for him, even by being ready to kill himself in order to hold up his tradition.The father´s readiness to die shows that he is not able to reflect about his tradition, because his life has always been determined by it. He creates a situation in which one of them has to give in. Karim cannot understand his uncle`s behaviour either and tries to help Jamila in convincing him of his old-fashioned thinking.

The story makes clear the possible escalation of the immigrants´ conflicts, which may arise "when cultures clash" and which is happening in all countries allowing immigration. Possibly the author shows Karim´s view, because Karim is an immigrant of the second generation and realizes the absurdity of this situation, and that is why he describes it in an ironic and sometimes sarcastic way.

 

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