Comparative Study of Reluctant Fundamentalist and Auden’s Poetry within the Premise of Power and Tyranny.
The ability of a text to channel a cogent political viewpoint is exemplified within ‘The Unknown Citizen” (1939), in which Auden sympathises with those impacted by political acts of the 20th century manifested within political ideologies fronted by unjust intentions in misrepresenting people for political power. Additionally, in “September 1, 1939” (1939), Auden denounces the dilution of morality in the contemporary era emanating from the rise of autocracies surrounding WWII. Similarly, Hamid’s 2007 novel, ‘The Reluctant Fundamentalist’, both repudiates the impact of capitalism on the individual, further denouncing the effect that economic power has on the morality of individuals.
Auden deplores the impact political acts have on individual lives to a substantial extent through the ‘Citizen’. He censures the false façade of political regimes, claiming to represent the people and civil aspirations, however in reality having egotistical motives to enhance their own power. Thus, Auden condemns the impact of this selfishly-motivated hunger for power, sympathising with the victims of economic and bureaucratic political acts; the powerless individual. Influenced by his cynicism following the rise of totalitarianism in Communism in the 20th century, Auden’s identifying of the subject with an alphanumeric identity, “JS/07 M 378”, conveys the loss of both identity and humanity of the individual under extremist ideologies, assessed in Mussolini’s fascist autocracy in Italy. Additionally, Auden’s satirical elegiac form conveys his disapproval of the rise of the modern bureaucracy, revealing his genuine concern for the modern world and the disparity between those in power and those without, imparting to the responder a warning of the dangers of secularised power. This is exposed within the capitalised form of state sanctioned institutions, “The Press”, “The Union”, sardonically conveying the power of the “State” over the individual.
Similarly, Hamid repudiates the impact of economic ideologies on the individual such as Capitalism, however contrastingly reveals how some individuals may resist economic oppression. Embodied within the dominant capitalist America, Hamid denounces the overarching power of economics within the 21st century. Through his bildungsroman, Hamid symbolises Changez’ initial embrace of such power within his metaphor, “something of the outside is now within us”, however juxtaposes this with the loss of culture and identity, “something of us is now outside”. Hence, Hamid deplores the impact of capitalist ideology and its disposition to induce conformity. However, following racial discrimination after 9/11, Hamid reveals the ability of radical individuals to confront and reject compliance, contrary to Auden’s forced political conformity and oppression. This is conveyed through Changez’ character transformation from “a lover of America” to one who is cynical toward capitalist power of the West, alluded to Changez’ language of imperial conquest, “they all seemed to proclaim; We are America, the Mightiest nation in the world”. Through the personification of America, Hamid alludes to the Empire of Genghis Khan, which translates to Changez in Urdu, meaning part of an Imperial Force, in which he is, working with the US to develop American economic power. Due to Underwood Samson’s global reach, he exacerbates the divide between the wealth of capitalist America and the comparatively impoverished regions of the Islamic world Underwood dictate.
Reprimanding the dilution of morality in the 20th century as a result of political acts, Auden addresses the impact of WWII through “September 1, 1939”. Auden’s more esoteric poem, centred around the outbreak of WWII, repudiates the elected neutrality of the United States’, utilising the metaphor of the “fort”, revealing his condemnation of the nation’s retreat into cowardly self-interest. Repudiating this “neutral status”, Auden creates meaning through suggesting a unified moral obligation to defend the “collective man”. Auden’s denunciation of the moral degradation of man is justified within his use of the ignorance of contemporary society, utilising the classical reference in Thucydides to convey how dictators abuse an “apathetic” population to accomplish their ends even in a democratic society such as America. However, the form of dictators within such democracies is not political, but rather is economic power, with Auden’s allusion to capitalism’s dictating of society evident, “where blind skyscrapers… proclaim the strength of Collective Man”. Additionally, in an anguished tone, Auden aligns with Thucydides, condemning the repetition of mistakes, stating “we must suffer them all again”. This is extended through the form of the poem, with the repetition of 11 lines within 9 stanzas suggesting this cyclic failure throughout history. However, Auden ultimately condemns that this neutrality and negligence of morality is unsustainable to humanity through his metaphor, “but who can live for long in an euphoric dream?”, which suggests that the era of “low, dishonest” politicians that seek isolationism in a period of necessary unity will end when the US joins their “collective man” in global conflict.
Similarly, Hamid denounces erosion of morality in the 21st Century, however as a result of the power of monetary value as opposed to political tyranny. Changez’ adoption of the Western world is denounced through Juan-Batista’s “janissary” metaphor, inferring “they were ferocious and utterly loyal; they had fought to erase their own civilisations, so they had nothing else to return to”. Through this admonition to Changez, Hamid’s metaphor extends to condemn the erosive effects of economic imperialism on the degrading of cultural values that manifest morality. Hamid additionally challenges the lack of morality within the machinations of Underwood Samson, symbolising capitalist values of the 21st century, through Juan’s rhetorical question, “does it trouble you to make your living by disrupting the lives of others?”. Hamid’s characterisation of Juan, neglecting capitalism, juxtaposes that of Changez, confronting the wider implications of capitalist values; Juan juxtaposes the capitalist values of Underwood Samson.
Both Auden and Hamid are attuned to the individual’s discontented response to vast historical events. Such a theme is exemplified within “Achilles”, which denounces actions within politics through the state of totalitarian regimes, “Citizen”, sympathising with those impacted by political acts of the 20th century manifested within political and “September”, denouncing the dilution of morality in the contemporary era.
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