Extracts Grendel: Page 113 -114 “In ratty furs… … your wart-hog son” The Emissary Page 88-89 “Although no one had heard anything… …it to the government”
Global Issue: Totalitarianism
Aspect: The role ignorance and thought control plays in maintaining a totalitarian regime.
Totalitarian Government. We talk about it like it’s a figment of the past or mirage of the future. We carefully avoid the reality that much of the world is controlled by totalitarian rulers who care little to nothing about their people.
– John Gardener’s novel Grendel and Yoko Tawada’s Novel The Emissary demonstrate government’s where totalitarianism is both present and accepted
– Grendel is a beowulf spinoff and portrays the Hrothgar’s Kingdom of the Danes from Grendel’s perspective
– The Emissary is the story of the life of a man and his disabled great-grandson in post-apocalyptic Orwell-esque Japan
– The extract in Grendel is a poetic soliloquy by Hrothulf on the servitude of the peasants to his Uncle the king as he plans a coup
– The extract in Emissary is the main character Yoshiro reflecting on his memories of the governments decent to totalitarianism
– Both these novels demonstrate that:
Thesis: Thought Control allows totalitarian rulers to maintain power. Thus, it requires an influx of new thoughts to upset totalitarianism.
Idea: Totalitarianism sustains itself through ignorance
Examine: the next generation of farmers are a “mindless hoe”
- The redundancy of mindless emphasizes tools can’t think only can be wielded de-personification (metaphor)
- Deliberate slur- makes people upset; supposed to
One manifestation of how the shaper control’s the thoughts of people (even Grendel)
Examine: Japanese in emissary practice self-censoring: “keeping their intuition as sharp as a knife” because they are “afraid of being burned by laws they hadn’t heard of” (simile)
- Initially hyperbolic example of ignorance enslaving
- Ironic parallel of household injuries shows futility and ignorance
In the Emissary people can’t tell one thing from another. Hot and cold, light and darkness, can’t even get chronologically straight. Paradoxical how everyone can’t tell apart opposites, but shows that no one can think
Idea: There is a cycle of totalitarianism
Examine “Revolution … is not the substitution of immoral for moral, or illegitimate for legitimate violence; it is simply the pitting of power against power, where the issue is freedom for the winners and enslavement of the rest.” Pg. 119
- Antithesis shows this cycle EFFECT on READER
- Contrasts the opposites and declares this opposition faulty—everything is in shades of gray
- Not only natural but there is nothing wrong with it
- All the same your supposed to rebel and deny this statement
- Even repetition in the antithesis shows repetition of cycle of violence
In fact, Gardener chooses to show the falling of Hrothgar’s empire as well as it’s rise. He discusses new King’s with a reputation as terrifying as Hrothgar’s. The forging of such a Kingdom is a repeated event. Hrothgar knows this and sees know way out. Trapped by destiny in totalitarianism.
In the Emissary the elderly people and cannot die. The young people die prematurely. Symbol for how the old ways cannot be changed, all new ways are futile.
Idea: It requires new thoughts, radically outside our current habits, to break free of the cycle of totalitarianism.
Even though the children in the emissary will never be walk and move like their parents, they necessarily don’t need to.
Examine: Yoshiro observes that his son Mumei moves like an octopus and express a desire to move like an octopus. Even suggest that maybe humans are evolving towards the octopus. Symbol
Examine: In the Grendel extract Hrothulf implores the peasants to “Think, sweating beast! Look up and think”
– Switch to 2nd person perspective = emphasis stands out also indent
– Perspective leaves audience vague- also implores reader
– Sweating beast – look up evolution; also look “up” b/c don’t repeat what you see look beyond
In Grendel the cruelest ruler is fate or wyrd. Grendel lashes out in anger against his fate to be the monster. Dying words “Grendel’s had an accident. So may you all” while on one level a curse of a human-hating monster according to destiney there is no accidents. Grendel want’s the cycle of destiny (that is the totalitarianism) to be changed. Hope
Neither Grendel nor the Emissary are cheerful. They reflect the grim, ignorant, restricted nature of totalitarianism in different ways.
They agree that it is difficult if not impossible to escape the cycle of violence and oppression.
All the same, there is hope and it comes from looking up and not down, past reality and to potential.
Ultimately the message is this: without free thought you cannot be free. (try to say this in a better way) When you are called to ignorance respond by turning around and thinking not in the way you are expected to think but like the octopus—in a new way.