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Oppression & Criminal Activity - Essay Example

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Social work research indicates that familial background and cultural influences can be a cause of criminal tendencies. On its romantic side, poverty makes one contented and honest as in the case of Charlie who ends up as Willie Wonka’s heir. …
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Oppression & Criminal Activity
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Download file to see previous pages On the other side, poverty is a harsh reality which has a language and dialect of its own and it has the power to adversely influence one’s social and spiritual health. This other side is heartrendingly established by Meridel Le Sueur in her novel ‘The Girl’. The girl is one of those for whom the childhood is not a sweet memory. Quite on the contrary, it is an account of pain, humiliation and patriarchal brutality. It is explicitly revealed in the playfulness and rejoicing of children when the girl’s father is dead. Though the story was originally set in the backdrop of the Great Depression in the United States, its implications remain valid irrespective of time and space; that a delay of four decades in the publication of ‘The Girl’ did not have any effect on its popularity is a testimony to the timelessness of the relevance of its theme.
When starvation, sexual abuse, monotony and lack of opportunities become the order of life, they create the ground for the evolution of a naïve farm girl into an accomplice in a bank robbery. The girl’s anonymity does not cause any confusion because the applicability of her experiences is universal. It is the same stimulus – poverty – that makes the girl indulge in recreational sex (Coiner 111), gives Belle the courage to operate a speakeasy or pushes Clara into prostitution. It may be noted that none of them ever had any feelings of guilt nor any qualms of conscience over what they did.
Le Sueur’s focus in the novel, which was intended as a memorial to the women of the Depression, was primarily on the lives and condition of women of the proletarian class in the thirties, but the story, through the character of Butch, the girl’s lover, incidentally throws light on the evils of the capitalist structure (Sueur 135). Butch’s speech before his death (after the foiled bank robbery attempt) exposes how the system and institutions in vogue contribute to unequal opportunities thereby making a section of the population desperate and furious. The significance of the story’s tragic end is that the desperation and fury of the oppressed are not of any consequence, as is indicated by Clara’s unwept death or the kind of end that Hoink, Ganz and Butch eventually meet with. In the struggle for survival, it is always the mighty that win; the rest is foredoomed to become extinct. The personal good and bad traits of the characters notwithstanding, they have a common source of motivation – lack of options – that drives them towards planning and executing (often unsuccessfully) criminal activities. Modern theories on self-improvement suggest that if one thinks one can do, one can. Examined from the perspective of Butch’s experience, the validity of such theories becomes debatable. Butch feels good, feels strong, has a passion for winning and claims that he is a natural winner, that winning is in his bones. What, then, turns such a man of attitude into a criminal is an eternal mystery. What, however, turns out to be obvious is that poverty is not quite the right platform to produce winners. It is the population at the lower rungs of the economic ladder that fills prisons and never the other way round. By and large, there are prisons because there are slums and these slums produce a lot of blind men with pistols. ‘Blind Man with a Pistol’ by Chester Himes is less a detective novel and more an anti-detective novel in which the plight of the poor and the disenfranchised and their victimization by the law and order enforcement machinery is realistically depicted. The prostitutes, homosexuals and janitors chased by Grave Digger Jones and Coffin Ed Johnson are invariably from ghettos or tenements. Here it is not only the question of survival ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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