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Civil Peace, Lone Ranger and Saboteur, Essay Example

Pages: 4

Words: 983

Essay

The relationship between the main characters and their environment in Chinua Achebe’s “Civil Peace”, Ha Jin’s Saboteur and Sherman Alexie’s “The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven”

Space is a very important concept in any work of fiction.  Chinua Achebe’s “Civil Peace”, Ha Jin’s Saboteur and Sherman Alexie’s “The Lone Ranger” are three short stories which depict the main characters’ relationship with their environment. More exactly, the stories focus on the manner in which Jonathan, Mr. Chiu and Junior, three adult men, exponential of their respective cultures, evolve in a chaotic world.   This paper argues that, even though the response of each character to his renewed space is different, the stories are connected by the existence of a chaotic world to which the characters must adapt .

In “Civil Peace”, Jonathan has to learn how to live in a space which, though it is not new, it is extremely different. After the civil war, the rules of the society have changed and each man has to learn how to live on his own, and to survive in a chaotic world. Jonathan considers himself lucky because he did not lose everything. He still has his bike, his house and his family, and these valuable possessions prove to be essential for his survival. Jonathan learns the rules of his new world fast, which proves that he is adaptable and flexible. For example, in the beginning, we see him using his bike to make money for his trip home (Achebe 1). Also, later, when he acknowledges the state of his home, he immediately starts the reparations since  “he had returned to Enugu early enough to pick up bits of old zinc and wood and soggy sheets of cardboard lying around the neighbourhood before thousands more came out of their forest holes looking for the same things”(Achebe 1). In this new world, Jonathan is able to adapt and to benefit from what it is given to him, without complaining or  thinking back to the old days.

Mr. Chiu, the main character of Jin’s “Saboteur”, also acts in a chaotic world, namely China at the end of the Cultural Revolution (Jin 411) and the beginning of the Communist era. Mr. Chiu seems to be adapted to his environment, since he is a Communist party member (412), therefore agreeing with the new doctrine, and abiding after its rules. However, his response to the policemen’s throwing tea on his shoes is not that of a man who knows the rules of his world. Rather, he reacts violently, protesting against the act and believing that he is entitled to apologies. Moreover, even after he is proved wrong, he still trusts the system, and says to himself that “all citizens were equal before the law. The police ought to be a law-abiding model for common people” (Jin 411). This shows that Mr. Chiu feels that he knows the rules of his world.

In Alexie’s  short story, Junior confronts a new space as well, namely, Seattle. For a Native American who grew up in a reservation, Seattle is a chaotic world as well, because it functions after different rules than those which are familiar to Junior. Because his new space is so much different and because, unlike Jonathan and Mr. Chiu, Junior does not feel that he has a connection with his world, he is not able to adapt to it. This is demonstrated by his melancholy, in his feelings of loneliness and isolation. Junior feels lost in this new world: “sometimes though, I would forget where I was and get lost. I’d drive for hours, searching for something familiar. (Alexie182). In a quest for his own identity in a space that he does not recognizes as his own, Junior will enter conflict.

Conflict with other members of the society appears in each story. In Alexie’s “The Lone Ranger”, Junior enters conflict with his white girlfriend, the ‘7-11’ cashier and the policeman. Junior’s conflict is with better adapted inhabitants of the space, that is, European Americans from Seattle.  In his interactions with them, one can see that Junior does not make efforts to reinsure them, or to establish a peaceful relationship with them. Rather, he reinforce their fears regarding his ‘Otherness’, as it is shown in his reply to the cashier: “hot enough to make you go crazy”(Alexie 182-183).

In Achebe’s story, Jonathan also has a conflict with other members of his society. They may also be seen as adapted to their space as the society is a chaotic one and therefore, their actions are not surprising, or unexpected. Jonathan once again adapts to the situation and gives his money always with ease and without protesting, since he counted it “as nothing” (Achebe 4). He conforms to the new situation and accepts it.

Finally, Mr. Chiu is in between these two forms of conflict management in a chaotic world. In his conflict with the authorities, Mr. Chiu first protests against the injustice and seems unable to adapt to the situation. Then, he seems to accept his defeat, thus meaning that, for the sake of Fenjin, he will conform to the situation. Finally, he takes the most extreme attitude against his new space, trying to kill all the inhabitants by getting them sick.

As it was shown above, each of the characters of the three analyzed stories are confronted with a chaotic space in which they must act. Each of these characters has different methods of managing conflict with adapted members of their respective societies.  While Jonathan accepts the new situation and learns to live abiding its rules, Junior and Mr. Chiu rebel against it and cannot abide the laws. Junior will return to the reservation, in search for his own identity while Mr. Chiu will take rebellion to the extreme by trying to revenge on the space itself.

Works Cited

Achebe, Chinua. Civil Peace. 1971. Web.

Alexie, Sherman. The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfighting in Heaven. 1997. Print.

Jin, Ha. “Saboteur”. Antinoch Review, 54.4(1996):409-419.

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