Synoptic Unit: What does English Literature tell us about inequality? Inequality in literature is continuously portrayed through poems, plays and novels. The author uses story lines to express his/her view, or a common opinion, on inequality. In my three choices of literature, The Merchant of Venice, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas and Children Should Not Have to Be Homeless, the inequalities shown are about religion, the extremes of rich against poor, and again, religion, respectively. In all three pieces, the Authors express the unfairness of the world, how people are judged on their religion, race, appearance, lifestyle and wealth.
Different eras portrayed their beliefs according to the political correctness at that time. Firstly, in the novel The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, Bruno seems to be oblivious to the cruelty that occurs in the camps just beyond his home. The story is based on the time of the holocaust and how they were tortured and seen upon as nothing, but through the eyes of a young boy who does not seem to understand what is going on, even though his own father is part of the German army. This is seen when he says “Who are all those people outside? ” By this, he meant the prisoners in the camp.
Don’t waste your time!
Order your assignment!
Before asking his father this, Bruno explained to his sister what he saw outside his bedroom window, and they came to the conclusion it could be some sort of farm. Through asking this question, it is obvious to the reader that he doesn’t realise the suffering of the ‘prisoners’ just a few miles away. The book is about racial inequality, and in this example, one can see how people are unaware of it, while others are ignorant towards it, or perhaps agree with it. Conversely, in The Merchant of Venice, Shylock is aware of the hatred towards Jews, and has learnt to live with that. Still I have borne it with a patient shrug for suff’rance is the badge of all our tribe. ” Here Shylock is saying that although he knows about the religious inequality, he can just shrug off the insults and hatred he is faced with, because he knows that since he is Jewish, he must suffer, hence saying that suff’rance is the badge of all his tribe. This tells us that in this example, Jews were looked down upon and seen as inhuman to some people, and expresses how unfair their lives are.
Similarly, in the Poem, Children should not have to be homeless, the author suggests that people know about the poverty that goes on in the world, except with Shylock he learned to ignore it as there was nothing he could do about, whereas here, some people chose to ignore it, even when they can do something about it. “And money to some all that matters and money is married to success” However, the author shows us the greed and selfishness of those people, because the author also writes about how some children eat what others throw out.
Francis Duggan, the writer, uses emotive language to try and persuade the reader to see how these unfortunate children have to live, and how we, as the wealthier, can chose to ignore them, and continuously spend money on unnecessary luxuries. This ignorance also relates back to Bruno’s father, because he is aware of how the prisoners in the camps are being treated, and forced to work, yet chooses to do nothing.
Again, the reader can see the inequality, and the forgotten,”just beyond the leafy suburb is the suburb of neglect and decay” This expresses, that even though the wealthy are next to the homeless, they are, or choose to be, oblivious to the rotting, decaying, ignored area, showing the injustice, and financial inequality. The reader feels sympathy towards the children, and most people would feel they want to help in some way, because of the way the author hits people’s emotions.
In The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, a Jewish man working in Bruno’s house, from the camp, was serving drinks, and dropped the bottle on Lieutenant Kotler’s lap. “What happened then was both unexpected and extremely unpleasant” This is suggesting that Pavel, the Jewish prisoner, was badly beaten or worse, for something that he did not intend to do. Had it been the other way around, then Pavel would have had to pretend that it hadn’t happened, and change clothing. This really shows the unreasonable ‘hierarchy’ and unimaginable treatment of the Jews.
Likewise, in The Merchant of Venice, we see how Jews were treated, when Shylock talks of the way Antonio treats him. “You call me misbeliever, cut-throat dog, and spit upon my Jewish Gaberdine” At the time of when this play was written, these insults would have been normal to Jewish people, they would have been often offended, and if this play was watched, people would ‘boo’ Shylock when he was onstage, but today, we would see this differently, it would be racist, and people would get in serious trouble.
However, you can see the religious inequality shown, and Shylock is being treated as an outsider, stereotyped for his religion and this prejudice is the main misery in his life, because he was always mocked for his beliefs. One can also see that his is taunted, and described as an animal. If this was read today, the reader would be sympathetic towards him, and the author is teaching us how they were treated.
In conclusion, English Literature teaches us about the different types of inequality, and how they can link into our lives. It also shows that although it is not always noticed, inequality happens everywhere, even where it is least expected, and that people’s lives are affected by it. Finally, it shows how unfair it is, and that people should learn to be less selfish and help those who are less fortunate.