Notes on The League of Nations

The birth of the League:

• Wilson wanted the League of Nations to be like a world parliament
• Representatives of all nations to meet together regularly to decide on any matters that affected them all.
• British leaders wanted a simple organization that would just get together in emergencies.
• France proposed that the League should have its own army.

The aims of the League:

• Discourage aggression
• Encourage co-operation business and trade
• Encourage disarmament
• Improve living and working conditions

Depended on:

• Economic reconstruction
• Political stability
• Social/cultural stability
• Popular consensus
• 42 founding nations

Self-Interest of the Leading Members:

• Selfish interests
• Not all countries joined the League
• Slow decisions
• Japan & Italy completely ignored the League
• League had no army of its own
• After WWI – lack of army and loss of economy

Why did USA not join the League?

• Anti-British and Anti-French sentiments
• Did not want to be involved with economic sanctions
• Did not want to be responsible for mobilizing troops
• German immigrants did not want USA to be included in anything related to the Treaty of Versailles

Structure of the League:

The Secretariat: Kept records and managed reports.

The Assembly:

• League’s parliament
• Admitted new members
• Appointed temporary members in the council
• Decided on the budget of the League
• Discussed ideas put forward by the council
• Met once a year

The Council:

• Met about five times a year
• Permanent members- Britain, France, Italy and Japan.
• Temporary members – elected every 3 years.
• The permanent members had a VETO power.
• Moral condemnation – decided which country is the aggressor
• Discussed and sanctioned economic and financial sanctions
• Could advocate military force in case of an aggression

The International Labour Organization:

• Aim: Improve working conditions of working people
• Brought together employers, governments and workers’ representatives once a year
• Collected statistics and information about working conditions

The Permanent Court of International Justice:

• Settled disputes between countries peacefully
• Based at the Hague, Netherlands
• Made up of judges from the member countries
• Had no way of making sure that countries followed its rulings

The League of Nation Commissions:

The Mandates Commission: Made sure that Britain and France acted in the interests of the people of the assigned territory.

The Refugee Committee: Returned refugees to their original homes.

The Slavery Commission: Worked towards abolishing slavery around the world.

The Health Committee: Dealt with the problem of dangerous diseases and worked towards educating people about health and sanitation.


Upper Silesia, 1921
• Industrial region on the border between Germany and Poland.
• Both wanted control of it – Rich iron and steel industry
• Plebiscite organized for the Silesians to vote which country they would like to join.
• Industrial areas – Germany
• Rural areas – Poland

Aaland Islands, 1921

 In between Sweden and Finland
 League declared the region as part of Finland
 Sweden accepted.


Vilna, 1920

• Poland and Lithuania were two new states created by the post-war treaties.
• Vilna (Vilnius) had a large Polish population.
• Poland invaded.
• Lithuania appealed for help.
• Poland was clearly the aggressor.
• Poland did not withdraw.
• The British and French could have sent troops to force the Polish out of Vilna but the French did not want to upset Poland as they saw it as a buffer state against Germany.
• Britain did not want to act alone and send troops to the other side of Europe.
• The League did nothing.
• The Poles kept Vilna.


 In the 1920s, the League had been quite successful. In the 1930s, it failed terribly.
 In the 1930s there was a worldwide economic depression.
Countries wanted to increase their wealth at the expense of other nations.
 Fascist governments, which believed in the survival of the strongest, came to power in Germany and Italy
 Japan tried to overcome the depression by building up an empire.
 In 1932, the Japanese army invaded Manchuria and threw out the Chinese.
 They set up their own government there and called it Manchukuo.
 China asked the League to help.
 The League sent a group of officials led by Lord Lytton to study the problem (this took a year).
 In February 1933 the League ordered Japan to leave Manchuria.
 Japan refused
 Instead, Japan left the League
 Many countries had important trading links with Japan.
 The League could not agree on sanctions or even a ban on weapons sales.
 Britain and France did not want to support a war, so nothing was done.
 The Japanese stayed in Manchuria
 The League had failed.


 By 1935, most countries did not think that the League could keep the peace.
 When Hitler began to defy the Treaty of Versailles in the 1930s, the League was powerless to stop him.
 Mussolini got ready to invade Abyssinia (Ethiopia)
 Abyssinia asked the League to help.
 The League start negotiating with Mussolini
 He simultaneously sent an army to Africa.
 The League suggested that a part of Abyssinia was to be given to Italy.
 Mussolini ignored the League, and invaded Abyssinia.
 The League banned weapons sales, and put sanctions on rubber and metal exports.
 The Abyssinian Emperor Haile Selassie went to the League to appeal for help, but it did nothing else
 Britain and France secretly agreed to give Abyssinia to Italy (the Hoare-Laval Pact).
 Italy conquered Abyssinia. The League had failed.

Success or Failure?

Corfu, 1923

 Border dispute between Greece and Albania
 Italian general Tellini was sent to supervise one of the border conflicts
 Tellini and his men were ambushed.
 Mussolini blamed the Greek government for the murder
 Mussolini demanded compensation
 Greece appealed to the League
 League announced that compensation was to be paid and it would be kept with the League till the murderers were found.
 Mussolini bought his way around the conference of ambassadors and claimed the compensation.

Bulgaria, 1925

 Bulgaria was invaded by Greek troops
 A few Greek soldiers were killed
 Bulgaria appealed for help
 League condemned the Greek action
 Greeks agreed to pull out and pay compensation although they complained that the League had a different rule for major powers.

How did the League of Nations work for a better world?

 The League got refugees and former prisoners of war back to their homelands.
 Acted quickly to stamp out cholera, smallpox and dysentery in the camps.
 The International Labor Organization (ILO) was successful in banning poisonous white lead from paint and limiting the hours of work in the case of children.
 ILO improved the working conditions and introduced a resolution for a maximum 48-hour week, and eight-hour day, but only a minority of members adopted this as they thought it would raise industrial cost.
 World Health Organization (WHO) worked hard to eradicate leprosy.
 A global campaign was started to exterminate mosquitos, which reduced cases of malaria and yellow fever.
 The League made recommendations on marking shipping lanes and produced an international highway code for road users.
 The League blacklisted four large German, Dutch, French and Swiss companies involved in illegal drug trade.
 Freed 200,000 slaves in British owned Sierra Leone.
 Organized raids against slave owners and traders in Burma.
 Death rate in Africa, which was 50% was brought down to 4%.
 Records were accurately measured and noted.

International agreements of the 1920’s:

Washington Naval Treaties

1. Involved USA, Japan, Britain, France
2. Aim: To improve US-Japanese relations
3. Limited naval growth
4. Guaranteed China’s independence
5. Promised to respect territorial possessions in the Far East.

What worked?
It restricted military strength and improved relations.

What created problems?
It left Japan with the most powerful navy in the Far East (important consideration in 1931 – Manchuria).

Genoa Conference 1922

1. Involved Britain, France, Germany, Russia
2. Aim: To improve French-German relations, sort out European war debts (to USA), rekindle relations with Russia.

 USA refused to attend
 Germany and Russia left (came up with another treaty – Treaty of Rapallo).
 Indicated serious problems that could arise out of French-German relations and US isolationism.

Dawes Plan 1924

1. Involved Britain, France, Germany, USA
2. Aim: To sort out reparations (1923 crisis – France/Belgium invaded German industrial region, the Ruhr, to take reparations. Led to hyperinflation in Germany)
3. Reparations instalments (not the total) set according to what Germany could pay.
4. US loans made available to Germany.

What worked?
– Germany could pay reparations
– French troops left the Ruhr
– German economy recovered
– International tension eased

Problems created:
– German recovery/ stability was tied to US prosperity

Geneva Protocol 1924

1. Weakness in League of Nations Covenant: unanimous decisions difficult to reach
2. Britain and France suggested that members should involve the League to sort out disagreements and disputes and accept the decision of the Council
3. Aim: to strengthen the League
4. Elections in Britain brought the Conservatives to power
5. New government refused to sign the Protocol

Locarno Treaties 1925

1. Involved Germany, France, Britain, Italy, Belgium, Poland, Czechoslovakia
2. Aims: To confirm European borders (especially German) and reduce hostility.
(i) Germany, France, Belgium agreed to respect their borders. Britain and Italy agreed to be guarantors.
(ii) Germany agreed with Poland + Czechoslovakia that border disputes would be arbitrated not fought over.
(iii) France promised to help Poland and Czechoslovakia if they were attacked (by Germany).

What worked?

• There was apparent reconciliation between Germany and France (end of hostility over WWI, Versailles, Ruhr occupation)
• Germany was allowed to join the League of Nations.
• Regular meetings were held between Stresemann (Germany), Briand (France) and Austen Chamberlain (Britain)
• Started ‘Locarno Honeymoon’ – a period of goodwill and hope

Problems created:

- Superficial – French people did not forget about WWI nor did the Germans forget about Versailles and the Ruhr invasion?
– No German guarantee about eastern borders (with Poland/Czech) was discussed
– Britain offered no guarantee to Poland and Czechoslovakia – would Britain help them if Germany attacked?
– Germany was invited to discuss these issues; this suggested that the rest of the Treaty of Versailles could also be discussed.

Kellogg-Briand Pact 1928 (Pact of Paris)

1. Involved USA (Kellogg), France (Briand) + a total of 65 nations
2. Part of the Locarno Honeymoon.
3. Countries signing it agreed not to use war to get what they wanted (‘renounced war as an instrument of policy’)

What worked?
+ Sounded good and helped to further the Locarno Honeymoon feelings
+ USA played an important part despite its policy of isolationism

Problems created:

- No way of making those who signed keep to their promise (Japan signed, but invaded Manchuria in 1931)
– If the League of Nations received ongoing and complete support, there was little need for the Pact

Young Plan 1919

1. Involved France, Germany, USA, Britain
2. Aim: To settle the final amount of German reparation payments
3. The total was reduced

What worked?

+ Showed French willingness to compromise (unlike 1922) so it held potential to improve French-German relations
+ Showed willingness to accept that the terms of the Treaty of Versailles Treaty were harsh and could be changed

Problems created:

- Showed willingness to accept that the clauses of the Treaty of Versailles were harsh and could be changed
– Wall Street Crash/ Depression/political turmoil meant that it never happened

Analysis of ‘Top Girls’

Top Girls – Caryl Churchill


Caryl Churchill was born in 1938 in London. During the war years, the family moved to Montreal. After schooling there, she came back to England to study at the Oxford University. While she studied there, she wrote several plays which were performed by student theatre groups. Caryl Churchill had a lot of interest in non-naturalistic techniques, feministic themes and the styles popularized by Bertolt Brecht and Antonin Artaud. Top Girls was written in 1982 when feminist movements were at their peak. It ponders about the price women pay for success in professional life and also about what being a successful woman means in society.

The play focuses primarily on Marlene, a successful head of an employment agency. The play opens with one of those dreamy surreal openings made famous by the author. We see famous strong women personalities from history and fiction coming together at a dinner party and talking about their experiences in life. The story moves back and forth in time and the audience can understand the past and present side by side.


The setting for the opening scene of the play is a restaurant where Marlene awaits her guests. Marlene is celebrating her promotion as head of the employment agency where she works. Soon the guests, who were strong historical or fictional women, talk about their struggles in life when they tried to achieve personal goals. Often, they had to struggle against authority and society and face adversities but they did not give up their struggle. Some of them even had cruel and uncaring husbands or lovers; some lost their children for trivial causes.

Lady Nijo went to meet the emperor of Japan seeking his help on certain issues but she is raped by him. She considers this her destiny but she cannot be with the child she gives birth to as he has royal blood. In the ninth century Joan hid her true identity and became the Pope but it was revealed that her had given birth to a child and hence was a woman. It was heresy for a woman to be a Pope and she was stoned to death. Griselda’s husband was obsessed with making her prove her loyalty and in that effort she loses two of her innocent children. All these women have lost their children in one way or the other.

In Act Two, Scene One, Marlene interviews Jeanine who is not particular about what job she does as long as it fulfills her passion for travel and provides her with the opportunity to be with her husband. Marlene isn’t that kind of personality but she finds Jeanine interesting. Scene Two opens with the young girls Angie and Kit playing with each other. Angie is a foul mouthed girl uninterested in studies. She seems to dislike her mother and tells Kit that she plans to kill her mother, Joyce. For all her macabre talk, she is immature.

The Top Girls employment agency is the setting for the third scene. Two office workers Nell and Win spend their time gossiping before starting work. In comes Louise who is a client, looking for a job as she finds herself at a dead-end. She has worked very hard for several years but is always overlooked when promotions are offered. She has no interests outside her office but she feels that it’s time to move on and look for a new job. Marlene has a visitor, her niece Angie who idolizes her aunt. She has left home doesn’t want to go back. Marlene is not pleased but she offers to keep Angie for the time being. Another visitor drops in, Mrs. Kidd, the wife of Harold who lost to Marlene in the race for promotions. She says her husband is devastated and wants Marlene to give up her present position which Marlene flatly refuses to do.

The person to enter is Shona who comes with highly inflated credentials. She claims to be twenty nine with many years of experience working in a sales office. Nell is initially impressed with her resume but soon finds out it is all hollow. Meanwhile, Angie is chatting with Win about her aunt and Win’s lives but midway she falls asleep. The office gets the news of Harold suffering a heart attack but no one is very concerned.

The next scene goes back in time by a year; the setting now is Joyce’s kitchen where Joyce, her daughter Angie and Marlene Joyce’s sister sit chatting. When Angie goes to bed, Joyce and Marlene continue talking about politics and Thatcher’s economic policies. The topic now moves to Angie and Joyce states that Angie shows no promise and nothing much will come of her. Marlene feels that Joyce is taking an extreme view regarding Angie. Soon it is revealed that Marlene is Angie’s biological mother but she had left her in Joyce’s care as she did not want to sacrifice her career. This trauma probably caused Joyce to lose the baby she was carrying.


This is a play which in three acts, deals with the question, what does success mean to women and what price do they pay to achieve it. All the characters who appear in the play are women. Caryl Churchill uses a surreal setting as the opening scene. The occasion is a dinner party that the main character throws to celebrate her promotion as the head of an employment agency. The guests are fictional and historical characters who had come into conflict with society and with individuals. Some of the guests are Lady Nijo, Pope Joan, Dull Gret and Lady Griselda. All of them have suffered privations with most of them losing or having to give up their children.

In the first scene of the second act, the action switches to the employment agency where Marlene interviews Jeanine who isn’t a career minded woman. The second scene mostly consists of Marlene’s niece Angie and her friend Kit spending their time playing with each other. Angie is a sullen unpleasant kind of child who shocks Kit by saying that she is planning to kill her mother Joyce. Joyce is Marlene’s sister. In the third scene the focus shifts back to the employment agency where Nell and Win are indulge in office gossip in the morning. The first client for the day is Louise who is 46 years old and is looking for a change in profession. She has worked selflessly for many years in an office but now she feels she can’t grow anymore at her current workplace because she never gets promoted. She has been so devoted to work that she has no social life or other interests. Marlene is visited by Angie who has come away from home with no intentions of going back. Marlene is not pleased though she lets Angie spend the night at her place. Mrs. Harold Kidd, the wife of the man over whom Marlene has been promoted suddenly drops in. She says that the loss of promotion has devastated him. She suggests that Marlene should give up her new position, something which Marlene rejects outright.

Shona is a client who claims that she is twenty nine years old with years of experience working in the sales department of an office. Initially Nell is impressed with Shona but soon realizes that her resume is inflated. Angie meanwhile chats with Win about her aunt whom she idolizes. Halfway through the conversation, she falls asleep. News comes in that Harold has had a heart attack but no one is bothered by the news.

The next scene goes back in time. Marlene, her sister Joyce and her daughter Angie are in Joyce’s kitchen chatting. When Angie goes to bed the two sisters discuss Mrs. Thatcher’s rule and her economic policies. They disagree on most matters. Joyce tells Marlene that Angie is neither intelligent nor hard working. Marlene thinks she is exaggerating. It turns out that Angie is actually Marlene’s daughter and she had left her with Joyce so that she could focus on her career. This trauma led to Joyce having a miscarriage and losing her own baby.



Marlene is the central character in the play. She has just been promoted and now heads the employment agency where she works. Success means a lot to her. She has abandoned her daughter, leaving her in the care of her sister in order to pursue her career unhindered. She does not bond with her biological daughter and she is ruthless when it comes to preserving her job. She wastes no sympathy on Harold when he suffers a heart attack brought on by his inability to get promoted.


Joyce is Marlene’s sister who adopts Marlene’s child because Marlene wants to pursue her career. Joyce loses her child as a result of a miscarriage and she is resentful. She recognizes that Angie, the daughter she brings up has no special talents and isn’t intelligence. Her politics are left of center and she is not impressed by Thatcher’s policies.


Angie is Marlene’s biological daughter but she does not know that. She thinks her mother is Joyce. Her equation with Joyce is poor and she tells Kit that she plans on killing her mother. Joyce’s assessment that Angie is neither intelligent nor hardworking is true to a certain extent.


Women and Careers

The main theme of Top Girls is women and careers and the adjustments they make to their personal life to achieve success. The main character, Marlene, is a successful woman but she has achieved success at the cost of a normal private life. Marlene has abandoned her child in order to be a professional. Her sister Joyce on the other hand is a stay-at-home mother but her views regarding politics and economics are less conservative than her sister’s. The guests to the surreal dinner party are mostly women who transcended traditional gender roles. But their lives weren’t complete. Caryl Churchill brings issues that vex women who seek balance in their professional and private lives to the forefront.

Thatcher’s England and Feminist Politics

Caryl Churchill has in several places mentioned the rise of Margaret Thatcher as the Prime Minister of England as the chief inspiration behind Top Girls. Margaret Thatcher was a powerful role model for all the women in England who were aspiring to be career women. Thatcher was married and had children and a successful career even before she entered politics. The conflict in Thatcher’s role as Prime minister comes from the fact that in spite of being a woman, her policies were anti-feminist. She was deeply conservative. But feminist politics has traditionally been identified as being connected with leftist politics.

Notes on Peace Treaties after WWI

Dates to remember:

• 1870- Alsace Lorraine taken from France
• WW1- 1914-1918
• 1917- Treaty of Brest-Litovsk (Germany took advantage of treaty and took over Brest-Litovsk)
• 1917- when USA joined the war
• 1919- Treaty of Versailles, Treaty of St Germain, Treaty of Neuilly
• 1920- Treaty of Sevres, Treaty of Trianon


• Britain was the most powerful nation – many colonies, largest navy, overseas trade
• Germany threatened Britain’s position – second largest naval fleet, colonization, trade
• TRIPLE ENTENTE: Britain, Russia, France
• TRIPLE ALLIANCE: Germany, Austria/Hungary, Italy

What caused WW1?

1. Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria was assassinated in Serbia by the Slavs
2. Austria questioned Serbia and served an ultimatum
3. Russia comes to the rescue of the Slavs (common ethnicity)
4. Britain and France are bound by the Triple Entente to help Russia
5. Austria is backed by Germany and Italy

End of the War

• Armistice: laying down of arms in 1918
• The Big Three:
1. Woodrow Wilson – USA
2. Georges Clemenceau – France
3. David Lloyd George – Britain

What did they want?

Woodrow Wilson:

1. not a very harsh treaty (feared that revenge would lead to another war)
2. cooperation amongst allies to achieve world peace
3. democracy for Germany
4. set up the proposed League of Nations
5. self-determination for the people of eastern Europe


1. revenge for Alsace Lorraine
2. compensation for enormous damage suffered
3. harsh treaty
4. break up Germany into smaller states
5. cripple Germany’s military to avoid another war

Lloyd George:

1. not a very harsh treaty (feared that revenge would lead to another war)
2. reduce Germany’s naval strength
3. take away Germany’s overseas colonies
4. help German industry (biggest trade partner)

What were the compromises?

Wilson got self-determination for the countries of eastern Europe by giving in to Clemenceau’s demand for demilitarisation of the Rhineland and claim over the coalfields in the Saar

Lloyd George got access to Germany’s overseas colonies (mandates under Britain’s supervision) and reduction in Germany’s naval strength by accepting Wilson’s second point in the Fourteen Point Programme – free access to the seas

Clemenceau got reparations and Alsace-Lorraine in return by agreeing to self-determination for the countries of eastern Europe.

The Treaty of Versailles (5 main terms)

1. War Guilt clause: Germany had to take complete responsibility and blame for causing the war. HUMILIATION
2. Reparation clause: 6,600,000,000 pounds
3. Demilitarization:
a) demilitarization of the Rhineland
b) only 6 battleships allowed
c) no armored vehicles, submarines or aircraft
d) conscription banned
e) army: 100,000
4. All overseas territories and colonies taken away and kept as ‘mandates’ under the supervision of Britain and France in the League of Nations
5. The League of Nations to be created as a body of world countries coming together to solve problems.

Blow to German economy: Germany lost

• 10 % of land
• All overseas colonies
• 12.5% of its population
• 16% coal
• 48% iron and steel industries

Opposition to the democratic government:

Right Wing Opposition

• Kaiser’s Supporters
• Preferred Dictatorship/ Autocracy
• Took Pride In Military Strength
• Favoured Territorial Expansion
• Proud Of German Industry

Left Wing Opposition

– Left Wingers – Communists
– Led By Luxemburg And Liebnecht
– Inspired By Bolsheviks (Extremists)
– Against Democracy
– Believed In Setting Up Workers Councils/Soviets

Impact on Germany

• REACTION: outrage- Germany sank six of their battleships

• Kapp Putsch:
Led By Wolfgang Kapp
5000 Freikorps Went To Berlin
Army Refused To Fire On Freikorps
Situation Saved By Berlin Workers Who Went On Strike
No Transport, Water Supply Or Power
Putsch Was Failure

• Hyper-inflation:
Lack Of Production Resulted In Drop In Currency Value
Ruhr= No Goods= No Trade= Devaluation Of Currency= Governments Prints Worthless Money
Government Pays Up To 2200 Million In Reparation
Industrialists Pay Off Their Debts
More Money But Less Goods = High Prices = Worthless Money
Less Supply, More Demand

The Ruhr
• Installment Of 50 Million Paid In 1921 But Not In 1922 (Reparations)
• France Had War Debts To Clear
• France And Belgium Troops Invaded The Industrial Area- They Claimed Goods And Raw Materials
• Ebert Orders Passive Resistance (Strike)
• French Expels 100,000 Workers And Kills 100+

The Big Three back home:

• Clemenceau was voted out of his position as the French believed he hadn’t been harsh enough to Germany
• Lloyd George was given a hero’s welcome, however he thought the treaty was ‘a great pity’ and predicted that another war would arise due to it
• Woodrow Wilson was unhappy with the treaty; he said that if he were a German he wouldn’t have signed it. The American Congress disapproved of it.

Treaty of St Germain – 1919
• Separated Austria from Hungary
• Austria’s territories were divided:
-Bohemia and Moravia to Czechoslovakia
-Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia to Yugoslavia
• Austria forbidden to work with Germany (Anschluss broken)
• Restriction of armed forces: only 30,000, demilitarization
• Loss of industrial zones to Czechoslovakia

Treaty of Neuilly – 1919
• Lost land to Greece, Romania and Yugoslavia
• Lost access to the Mediterranean
• Limit armed forces to 20,000
• Pay 100 million pounds in reparations
Many Bulgarians were governed by foreign powers by 1920

Treaty of Trianon – 1920
• Transferring of territories:
Transylvania went to Romania
Slovakia, Ruthenia went to Czechoslovakia
Slovenia, Croatia went to Yugoslavia
• Lost population to other states (3million) and raw materials too
• Due to pay reparations but the economy was so weak they never did pay

Treaty of Sevres – 1920
DEALT WITH TURKEY (strategic position +size of empire)
• Transferring of territories:
Smyrna went to Greece
Syria became a mandate under French control
• Lost control of straits running into the Black Sea
• Lost control over Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco (became either independent or were under British/French control)
UNSUCCESSFUL TREATY: Mustafa Kemal led nationalists and drove Greeks out of Smyrna. Resulted in the TREATY OF LAUSANNE (1923) that returned Smyrna to Turkey

Impact of treaties on Eastern/Central Europe
• Czechoslovakia:
Weakness: Carved out of old Austrian Empire with land from Germany= scope for revenge
Weakness: Included wide range of nationalities
Strength: Industrial areas from former empires
• Yugoslavia:
Weakness: carved out of Serbia and old Austria Hungary Empire
Weakness: Balkan state with Russian interest
• Poland:
Strength: had the support of allies, act as guard-dog/ BUFFER STATE
Strength: had support of allies to be a barrier against Russia
Strength: Independent country
Strength: Western frontiers settled with Germany
Weakness: Mixed ethnicities
Weakness: Poland given German land around Danzig= Germany would want it back
Weakness: Eastern frontier not properly/entirely agreed on

Notes on Germany (1919-1945) – Depth Study

Germany – 1900-1914
• Powerful Military
• Major Trade Partner
• Prosperity And Glory
• Kaiser’s Dictatorship/Achievements Successful

Germany – 1914-1918
• Dismembered Military
• Flu Epidemic
• Meager Rations
• Defeated Nation Was Forced To Accept The War Guilt

Armistice: The Laying Down Of Arms (1918)
Signing Of Terms And Official Documentation (1919)

Weimar Republic (Setting Up A Democracy) – What Were The Reactions
1. Kaiser Challenged The Change
2. Sailors Mutinied In Kiel
3. Socialists (Kaiser’s Enemies) Led Uprisings
4. Bavaria Was Declared A Socialist Republic
5. Kaiser Abdicated In 1918
6. Ebert (Socialist) Came To Power And Signed Armistice
7. Ebert Promised Freedom Of Speech/ Expression And Better Working Conditions
8. People Did Not Welcome Shift Of Power From Autocracy To Democracy

Ebert’s Challenges:

Ebert Comes To Power – 1919
Opposition From The Left Wing (Communists – Wanted A Revolution) And Right Wing (Kaiser’s Men- Opposed From The Judiciary, Army, Civilian Services, Industry)

Right Wing Opposition
• Kaiser’s Supporters
• Preferred Dictatorship/ Autocracy
• Took Pride In Military Strength
• Favoured Territorial Expansion
• Proud Of German Industry

Left Wing Opposition
– Left Wingers – Communists
– Led By Luxemburg And Liebnecht
– Inspired By Bolsheviks (Extremists)
– Against Democracy
– Believed In Setting Up Workers Councils/Soviets

– Paramilitary
– Opposed The Spartacists

What Was The Kapp Putsch?
• Led By Wolfgang Kapp
• 5000 Freikorps Went To Berlin
• Army Refused To Fire On Freikorps
• Situation Saved By Berlin Workers Who Went On Strike
• No Transport, Water Supply Or Power
• Putsch Was Failure

About The Second Communist Rebellion In Bavaria
• Eisner Headed A Socialist Government
• Eisner And Ebert Were Allies
• Eisner Was Murdered- There Was A Communists Rebellion To Set Up A Soviet Republic
• Ebert And Freikorps Crushed The Communist Rebellion

The Treaty Of Versailles (Recap)
What Did Germany Lose?
1. 10% Of Land
2. All Overseas Colonies
3. 12.5% Population
4. 16% Coal
5. 48% Iron Industry
6. Army Reduced To 100,000 And No Air Force
7. Germany Forced To Take Blame (War Guilt Clause)

Economic Disaster And The Ruhr
• Germany Had To Pay 6600 Million Pounds To Allies
• Announced In 1921
• It Was 2% Of Germany’s Total Output

The Ruhr
• Installment Of 50 Million Paid In 1921 But Not In 1922 (Reparations)
• France Had War Debts To Clear
• France And Belgium Troops Invaded The Industrial Area- They Claimed Goods And Raw Materials
• Ebert Orders Passive Resistance (Strike)
• French Expels 100,000 Workers And Kills 100+

• Lack Of Production Resulted In Drop In Currency Value
• Ruhr= No Goods= No Trade= Devaluation Of Currency= Governments Prints Worthless Money
• Government Pays Up To 2200 Million In Reparation
• Industrialists Pay Off Their Debts
• More Money But Less Goods = High Prices = Worthless Money
• Less Supply, More Demand

Gustav Stresemann – 1923-1929
• Called Off Resistance In Ruhr
• Replaced Redundant/ Useless Currency With Rentenmark
• Negotiated The Dawes Plan And The Young Plan
• Negotiated The Reparation Payments

Stresemann’s Achievements And Problems

• More Support (Right Winger)
• Dawes Plan (Us Loans And Negotiations On Reparations) = Industrialisation = Increased Production = Increased Trade = Increased Profits
• Encouraged Artists, Writers, Poets
• Revival Of Bauhaus Architecture
• Revival Of German Cinema
• Encouraged Night Life: Clubs, Dance Bands
• Political Stability
• Being A Right Winger, He Enjoyed Popular Support
• Won 1928 Election
• Enjoyed Popular Support
Foreign Policy
• Locarno Treaties (Germany’s Western Borders)
• German Membership In The League Of Nations (1926)
• Attempted To Negotiate Reparations And Eastern Frontiers
• Young Plan Reduced Reparation And Demilitarized Rhineland

• Dawes And Young Plan Increased Germany’s Debts
• Industrialists, Real Estate Investors, Workers And Big Industries (Unions) Profited
• Peasants And Pensioners Neglected…Why?
– During World War 1 There Was Overproduction
-After War – Surplus
– No Market/ Trade
– Losses Led To No Repayment Of Loans
– Indebtedness
• Small Businesses Threatened By Jew Owned Department Stores
• Moral Decline (American Immigrants And Jewish Artists)
• Wandervogel Movement (Return To Germany’s Traditional Values)

Contemporary Politics
• Nazis And Communists Built Their Party Organisations
• 1923-1929 There Were Four Chancellors
• 30% Votes Opposed The Republic
• 1926 Hindenburg (Military Veteran) Elected As President

Opposition To The Foreign Policy
• Nationalists Opposed The Signing Of The Locarno Treaties And The Joining Of The League Of Nations
• Locarno Treaties Led To The Nationalists’ Opposition Because They Were Against The Acceptance Of The Treaty Of Versailles
• Communists Began To Plot

Hitler And The Nazi Party
• 1919 Nazi Party Led By Anton Drexler
• Workers Party
• Adolf Hitler Joins And Is Put In Charge Of Propaganda Because Of His Oratory Skills
• Twenty Five Point Programme
-Abolition Of The Treaty Of Versailles
-Elimination Of Jews From Germany (Anti- Semitism)
-Large Industries And Businesses Were Nationalized (Communist Support)
• Provision For Pensioners (Focus On The Laymen)
• Hitler Replaces Drexler

The S.A And The S.S
• Storm Troopers
• Brown Shirts
• Main Job: Disrupt Party Meetings Of Opponents And Protect Nazi Party Meetings
• Increased Employment (Ex Army)
• Fanatics
• Personal Commitment To Hitler
• Led By Hendrich Himmler
• Overthrew Sa (Paramilitary Led By Rohm)
• Highly Trained
• 2 Responsibilities
-Destroy Opposition
-Promote And Secure Racial Policies
• 2 Bodies
-Death’s Head Units (Concentration Camps)
-Waffen SS- Fought Alongside The Army

Munich Putsch 1923
• Hitler Hijacked A Local Government Meeting And Announced Leadership Of Bavaria
• Joined By Ludendorff
• SA Took Over Government Buildings
• Weimar Forces Hit Back- 16 Nazis Were Killed
• Hitler Escaped, Ludendorff Imprisoned And Charged With Treason (Going Against Government)
• Hitler Also Charged With Treason And Publicized His Ideology
• 9 Months In Landsberg Castle
• Writes Mein Kampf

Hitler’s Plan Of Action – 1923
• Work With Democratic System To Break It Down
• Begin Recruitment Drives (Provide Employment)
• Start Youth Organizations (Involve The Youth)- Outcome
• Contested For The Reichstag Elections In 1924
• Result: Won 32 Seats

Nazis And Workers (Communists)

• Workers Supported The Communists
• Workers Supported The Socialist Party Spd
• Nazis Had More Support From Peasants, And Small Business Owners
• Nazis Promise The Peasants Prosperity On Coming To Power
• Contrasted Peasant Lifestyle With Decadence In The Cities, Blamed The Jews
• Focused On The Support From Conservatives

1929-1930 Great Depression

• American Stock Markets Crash
• Worldwide Trade Affected
• Germany Forced To Repay Loans
• Result:
-Economic Instability
-No Production/ Trade
-Lowered Standard Of Living

Nazi Campaigning
• Germany Under One Leader
• Back To Traditional Values
• No To Unpopular Or Unsupported Policies
• Blamed National Criminals (Jews, November Criminals, Communists)
• Opposed Democracy
• Propaganda, Rallies- Show Of Strength
• SA And SS Suggested Order In Contrast With Unruly Communists And Police Confrontations
• SA Enjoyed Support Of Police And Army When Disrupting Meetings Of Opponents
• Organized Soup Kitchens
• Hostel Facilities For The Unemployed
• Oratory Skills Of Hitler
• Nazi Party Represented As A Modern Party

Negative Cohesion
• Identification Of Common Enemies
• Join Power To Fight The Common Enemy

Emergency Powers

-Only In Case Of A National Emergency
-The President Possesses This Power
-Does Not Need To Go Through Parliament To Enact Laws

Nazis And Democracy
• Depression Of 1929-1930 Weakened The Weimar Government
• Political And Economic Instability
• 1930
-Bruning Was Chancellor
-Announced Policies: Cut Down Government Spending, Social Welfare Costs, Urged Germans To Make Sacrifices
-In Opposition The SPD Left The Reichstag

Historians Believe:
-Bruning Was Trying To Gain Support Of Allies To Reconsider Reparations
-Bruning Was Afraid Of The Recommence Of Hyperinflation
Result: Bruning Gave Emergency Powers To Hindenburg

What Happened In Germany?
-Elections Of 1931-1932
-Divided Reichstag
-People Disgusted With Politicians Fighting Over Positions In The Cabinet
-Bruning Depended On Hindenburg To Use Emergency Powers To Enact His Policies
-Germany Was In The Grip Of Depression (National Income Fell And Increased Unemployment)
-People Viewed The Democratic Government Critically

Negative Cohesion- Communist Threat
• Communist Threat
-People Feared A Communist Revolution
-Communists Party Members Broke Up Meetings Of Opposition
-Sa Countered The Communists In Street Outbursts
-Businessmen Feared Central Government Control Of Business If The Communists Came To Power
-Big Industrialists Feared The Emergency Of Trade Unions If The Communists Came To Power And Funded The Nazis
-Farmers/Peasants Feared Losing Their Land If The Communists Came To Power

1933- Hitler Becomes Chancellor
• 1932 Elections: The Nazis Were The Single Largest Party
• Hitler Took Advantage Of Political Instability And Popular Nazi Support And Demanded The Post Of Chancellor
• Hindenburg Refused And Made His Friend Von Papen The Chancellor
• Hindenburg Assumed Emergency Powers To Enact Policies To Handle The Economic Crisis
• Hindenburg Called For Another Election In November 1932

Assuming Power
• Nazis Won – Became The Largest Party
• Nazis Lost 2 Million Votes And 38 Seats
• Hitler Threatened With Suicide
• Hindenburg Refused To Give In To His Second Demand To Become Chancellor
• Hindenburg Appointed Schleicher Chancellor And Von Papen Remained Advisor
• Without Reichstag Support, Schleicher Was Forced To Resign
• Hindenburg Had Already The Initiated The Shift From Democracy To Autocracy (Emergency Powers)
• Hindenburg And Von Papen Met With Politicians And Industrialists And Hitler Was Chosen As Chancellor
• They Believed That They Could Control Hitler’s Extremist Political Attitude

Hitler’s Dictatorship

Reichstag Fire
• Hitler Called For An Election In March 1933 To Win A Nazi Majority
• Propaganda: Speeches Rallies And Processions
• Hitler Had Access To State Media And Street Control
• 27th Feb 1933- Reichstag Fire
• Hitler Blamed The Communists
• Hitler Demanded And Was Given Emergency Powers From Hindenburg To Handle The Situation
• Emergency Powers Were Used To Arrest Communists And Frighten Voters
• In The Subsequent Elections Nazis Emerged With More Seats In The Reichstag
• Hitler Used The SA And SS To Intimidate Citizens And Politicians
• Hitler Demanded That Hindenburg Empower Him With The Enabling Act
• Spd Vetoed Hitler’s Demand
• Catholic Party Supported Nazis

Nazis In Action:
• Hitler Adopted The Policy Of Force- Ban On Trade Unions, No New Parties. He Offered:
-Concessions, May Day (Workers), Employment Policy/Law
-Compromise – Concordat
• All Opposition Dealt With At Concentration Camps Manned By The Ss
The Night Of The Long Knives:
• Hitler Viewed Rohm As A Potential Opponent/ Rival
• 29-30 June 1933 – The SS Men Arrested Rohm And 400 Others
• Hitler Accused Rohm Of Treason
• Hitler Executed Schleicher And Rohm
• Hitler Appeased Hindenburg And The Army
• 2nd August 1934- Army Pledged Personal Loyalty

How Did The Nazis Control Germany
1. Created Totalitarian State
2. Crushed Opposition

• Secret Police
• Led By Heydrich
• Could Arrest Citizens On Suspicion
• Could Imprison Without Trial

Police And Courts
• Top Jobs Held By Nazis Reporting To Himmler
• Police Secretly Kept A Watch On Opposition
• They Were Allowed To Ignore Crimes Committed By Nazis
• Magistrates, Judges And Courts Were Under Strict Nazi Control

Concentration Camps
• Specifically Built In Rural Areas
• Run By SS’s Death Head Units
• Limited Food
• Hard Labour
• Random Executions
• Prison For Any Nazi Opponent (Jews, Communists, Socialists)

Nazi’s Opposition And Successes

Nazi’s And Opposition
• Opponents Imprisoned Or Killed
• Others Forced To Submit

Nazi Successes
• People Readily Exchanged Political And Social Freedom For Work And Foreign Policy Success
• Enjoyed Economic Recovery
• Supported Nazi Opposition To Decadence And Communists
• People Believed That Nazi Policies Were For The Good Of The People

Economic Fears That Resulted In Submission
• Feared Losing Jobs If They Opposed The Nazis
• Businessmen Who Did Not Fund The Nazi Party Lost Trade And Commerce
• Kept Their Heads Down
• Ss And Sd (Special Security Squad) Secretly Kept Track Of Opposition

July Bomb Plot
• 1944 – Many Army Officers Opposed Hitler’s Leadership
• They Blamed Him For Germany’s Defeat In Wwii
• Von Stauffenburg Hid A Bomb In Hitler’s Conference Room
• Plan To Take Over Germany
• Hitler Survived

Nazis And The Church
• 1933 Concordat: Church Retained Hold On Schools And Promised To Stay Out Of German Politics
• Hitler Attempted To Bring Together The Protestant Churches Under One Reich Church (State Approved)
• Traditionalists Opposed And Wanted To Return To The Original Church
• Hitler Encouraged The Pagan German Faith Movement Opposing The Church

Opposition – The Church
• Bishop Galen Opposed Nazi Atrocities Forcing Them To Temporarily Stop
• Protestants Led By Niemoller, Bonhoeffer, The Leading Protests Were Silenced
• Bonhoeffer Contacted The Allies/Police/Army Men Who Opposed Nazism

• Nothing Negative/Opposing Nazism Was Ever Made Public
• Only Positive Things Were Publicized
• Maintained Hitler’s Image As Dictator
• Goebbels Censored Publicity And Opinions Made Public

Nuremburg Rallies
• Took Place Every Summer
• Marches
• Bands
• Speeches
• Banners
• Presented Nazi Regime As A Great Movement
• Propagated Popular Nazi Support
• Order Out Of Chaos

1936 Olympics
• National And International Propaganda Opportunity
• Wanted To Showcase The Superiority Of The Aryan Race
• Countries Such As Usa Wanted To Boycott (Anti-Semitism)
• To Gain Support The Nazis Included One Jew In The Team
• Showcased – Stadium, Lighting, Television Cameras, Plots- Electronic Devices (Timing)
• Promoted Germany As A Successful, Modernized Nation
• Army And Ss Kept Guard

• Nazis Controlled Publicity
• Mein Kampf Was A Best Seller ()
• No Books Published Without Goebbels’s Consent
• Book Burning Campaign- Burned Books With Anti-Nazi Content
• Artists/Writers Were Allowed To Present Only Pro-Nazi Content
• Newspapers- No Printing Of Anti-Nazi Ideas
• Jewish Journalists And Publishers Out Of Work
• Cinema- All Films Had To Have A Pro-Nazi Message
• Foreign Films Were Censored
• Posters Were Used To Promote Ideals
• Jazz Music Was Banned
• Radios Were Made Available
• Goebbels Was Helped By Ss And Gestapo

• Nazis Developed Policies To Tackle Unemployment
• Nazi Policies Were Deployed With Commitment And A Lot Of Energy
• National Labour Service Employed People For Public Works
• Railway Network Throughout Germany Was Developed
• House Building And Re-Building Programmes Were Initiated
• Conscription Reduced Unemployment
• Re-Armament Programmes Generated New Employment Opportunities
• Luftwaffe Generated Employment For Engineers And Designers
• Industrial Workers Gained From
-Association With Hitler Through Propaganda
-Strength Through Joy (Kdf) – Cheap Cinema Tickets And Other Incentives
-Nazi Promise – All Workers Would Own A Beatle With Investment Of 5 Marks A Week
-Beauty Of Labour Movement – Better Workplaces And Facilities

Negatives Of Nazi Effort To Decrease Unemployment
• Spd Ceased To Operate. Workers Lost Support
• Workers Lost The Right To Strike Or Be Part Of Trade Unions
• All Workers Had To Join The General Labour Front (Daf) That Kept Control
• Workers In Some Areas Could Not Move On For Better Opportunities
• Even Though Prices Were Controlled By The Nazis, Wages Were Not Increased
• Workers Unhappy About The Standard Of Living

Farming Communities And The Reich Entailed Farm Law
• Hitler Introduced The Reich Food Estate: Bought All Agricultural Produce And Distributed The Same To Markets Across Germany
• This Guaranteed Markets And Prices
• Guaranteed The Farmers Ownership Of Their Lands
• Banks Could Not Seize Land If Farmers Did Not Pay Back Loans Or Mortgages
• Blood And Soil Propaganda
• German Farmers Being Superior In Race And Backbone Of Envisioned German Empire In The East

• Reich Food Estate Gave The Same Rewards To Enterprising Farmers As The Less Efficient Ones
• Reich Entailed Farm Law Discouraged Banks Lending Money To Farming Community
• Reich Entailed Farm Law Proposed That Only Eldest Child Inherited Farm Which Resulted In The Youth Leaving Rural Areas To Work In German Industries

How Did The Middle Class Businesses Benefit From Nazi Policies?
• Communist Threat To Middle Class Business Owners Was Reduced By Nazis
• Small Businesses Benefited From Rearmament Programme- Generated Work And Employment
• Big Department Stores That Robbed Smaller Enterprises Of Business Were Not Shut Down

How Did The Big Businesses Benefit From Nazi Policies?
• Benefitted From Ban On Strikes And Unions
• Big Chemical Industries Thrived On The Need For:
-Fertilizer For The Agricultural Needs Of The Country
• Companies Prospered Due To Nazi Policies And Incentives

• National Community
• Workers And Farmers Could Envision Themselves As Part Of The Larger German Community
• Everyone Pledged Loyalty To Hitler And Germany
• Encouraged A Pride In The ‘Claimed’ Racial And Cultural Superiority
• While Initially Germans Did Not Welcome The Loss Of Individuality, They Later Accepted The Ideology

Nazis And The Youth
• School Curriculum Controlled
• Students Had To Learn:
-The History Of Germany
– Why They Needed To Distrust The Jews
-How To Respect And Honor The Fuhrer
-That They Were Superior As Aryans
-That The Jews And Slavs Were Sub-Human
• Movements: Hitler Youth And League Of German Maidens
-Marched In Parades Accompanied By Loud Bands
-Physically Fit
-Leisure Time Devoted To The Nazis
-Trained In Use Of Arms (Boys)
-First Loyalty Is Pledged To Hitler And Not One’s Family

Youth Opposition
• Nazis Restricted And Finally Stopped All Youth Movements
• Joining A Nazi Movement Was Made Compulsory In 1939
• Movements Led By Very Rigid Youth Leaders
• Banned All Meetings Outside Of Movements

Swing Movement
• Made Up Of Middle Class Teenagers (Membership)
• Defied By Listening To English Sons At Parties
• Danced To Banned Jittterburg And Jazz Music
• Accepted Jews At Clubs
• Befriended Jews
• Liberated Thinking
• Long Hair/ Exaggerated English Clothes

Edelweiss Pirates
• Working Class Teenagers
• Operated Under Different Names
• Attended Camps
• Sang Hitler Youth Songs After Changing Lyrics – To Mock The Regime
• Attacked Hitler Youth Members
• Defied All Traditional Values
• Liberal In Thought
• Nazis Ignored Or Arrested Most Of The Rebels To Exploit Them As Army Servicemen
• Cologne- Pirates Defied Authorities And Sheltered Deserters And Escaped Prisoners
And So: 12 Were Publicly Hanged

Role Of Women
1. Hitler Popularized The Role Of Women As Wife And Mother
2. Patriarchal Society (Male Dominated)
3. 1930s Women Were Resented For Working (Believed To Keep Men Out Of Jobs)
4. Women Wearing Trousers Were Denounced Through Propaganda
5. To Increase Population, Hitler Offered Rewards To Couples To Bear 8 Children (Gold Cross, Special Seats At Nazi Meetings)
6. Propaganda Supported Nazi Ideals And View On The German Woman
7. German Maiden League Focused On Women Being Physically Fit With Good Housekeeping Skills
8. Children Conceived (Bearing Children) Outside Of Marriage Were Sheltered
9. Unwed Pregnant Women Were Housed In Hostels
10. Prominent Positions For Women Within Nazi Government, But Were Not Allowed To Be Part Of Important Decisions
11. Nazis Women’s Organization Enabled Many Women To Travel Extensively
12. However, Overall Women Were Discouraged From Being Working Women. Had To Give Up Jobs
13. Employment Opportunities Were Subjected To Gender Bias
14. However In The 1930s, Women Had To Work Since Most Men Were In The Army

Impact Of WW II
• Food And Clothes Rationed From 1939
• Till 1941 Germans Benefitted From The Flow Of Luxury Goods From Captured Territories
• During The Invasion Of Russia Germans Engaged In An Expensive War Which Cut Down Food Supplies, People Worked Longer Hours, Recycled Rubbish
• People Were Encouraged To Donate For The German War Effort In Russia
• 1942 The Final Solution Began- Killed Millions Of Jews
• Armament Expenditures Increased And Arms Were Over-Produced, Postal Services Shut, But Cinemas Kept Functional For Propaganda
• Women Were Drafted Into Labour Force
• SS Became A State Within The German State- Owned Industries And Arms
• People Began To Hide Food Resources, Did Not Give The Hitler Salute Or Attend Rallies
• Himmler Contacted Allies To Negotiate Peace Terms
• In 1942 Allies Began Bombing Major Cities
• 1942- Bombing Of Industrial Zones
• Germany Adopted The War Strategy ‘Blitz-Krieg’ – Attack (Air And Land) At Lightning Speed
• Dresden Bombed In 1945- Civilians Forced Into Submission, Industrial Output Crippled

State In Germany
• Lack Of Food Supplies
• Heavy Loss Of Human Life
• Heavy Loss Of Property
• Germans Fled The Country To Escape From Russian Invasion

Persecution Of Minorities
• Nazis Persecuted The Jews, Gypsies, Homosexuals, Handicapped
• Euthanasia Programme
• Gypsies Killed
• Families With Hereditary Illnesses Persecuted
• Men And Women Who Did Not Conform To Nazi Ideals Were Forcefully Sterilized

• Jews Forced To Live In Ghettos
• Treated Unjustly In Courts
• Blamed For Death Of Jesus Christ
• Jews Were Well Educated, Held Better Paid Jobs, More Successful
• Jews Were Blamed For Germany’s Defeat During Wwi
• Jews Banned From Certain Civil Services
• SS And SA Attacked Jewish Owned Establishments And Forced Them To Shut Down
• Jews Forced To Wear Star Of David For Identification

Nuremburg Laws
• Denied Citizenship To Jews
• Propaganda Spread Anti-Jewish Messages
• Jews Were Denied Jobs
• They Were Not Served Even If They Paid As Customers
• Jewish Children Subjected To Humiliation And Segregation

1938 Kristall Nacht,

• Jew Killed A German Diplomat In Paris
• SS Used Pickaxes And Hammers To Destroy Jewish Businesses
• 91 Jews Killed, 20,000 Taken To Concentration Camps, Synagogues Burned

• 1939 Germany Began Germanizing Western Poland
• Poles Replaced With Germans In Occupied Territories
• Jews Forced To Live In Ghettos (Unhygienic, Small Homes)
• Able Bodied Were Used For Labour And Others Were Killed

Mass Murders (1941)
• Germany Invaded Ussr
• Captured Over 3 Million Russian Jews
• SS Ordered To Shoot All Communist Party Members And Jews From Russia And Other Occupied Territories

Final Solution To The Jewish Question (1942)
• Himmler Led The SS And Gestapo
• Ordered To Kill All Jews
• Special Labour Camps Built
• Able-Bodied Used For Slave Labour And Worked To Death Or Gassed Or Shot
• Young, Old, Sick Were Killed

Was The Final Solution Planned? Who Is To Blame?
• Evidence – Speeches Made By Hitler Convincing And Discussing The Final Solution
• No Documented Evidence/Records/Orders
• Documents Hinting At The Protocol Of The Final Solution Were Relatively Fewer Than Others Discovered
• Civil Service Officers/Offices Maintained Record Of The Jews
• Police Force Involved In Mindless Arrests
• SS Carried Out Executions From And At The Collection Points
• Armed Forces Were Also Involved
• Industries Had Their Own Labour Camps And Produced Cyclone B Gas For The Gas Chambers
• German Citizens Were Aware Of The Holocaust

• Many Jews Escaped
• Many Managed To Live Undercover And Support Resistance
• Gad Beck Led Resistance In Berlin- Was Captured In 1945 But Rescued By Jewish Regiment Of The Red Army
• Groups Of Jewish Fighters Were Formed And Remained Operative Through The War Years
• Jews Also Led Resistance In Other German Occupied Territories
• Jews In The Warsaw Ghetto Held Out Against The Nazis For Four Weeks
• Armed Uprisings In 5 Concentration Camps
• Greek Jews Blew Up Gas Ovens
• Many Germans And Non-Jews Helped Them Hide/ Escape
• Oskar Schindler Created A Worker’s List To Get Jews Out Of Germany
• Raoul Wallenberg Got Us And Swedish Passports For The Jews Trapped In Hungary

Analysis of ‘The Reader’

The Reader – Bernard Schlink


‘The Reader’ by Bernhard Schlink was a novel published in Germany in 1995. The English version was released in the US in 1997. The story which has many autobiographical elements deals with the problems the second generation had with understanding the Holocaust and also in handling second hand guilt which was very real. Books like The Reader helps the next generation come to terms with the past and understand their parents’ generation better. As perpetrators and victims alike die and living memory becomes hazy, many questions do not find ready answers.

The Reader met with an enthusiastic response both in Germany and in other countries. It has been translated into several languages and it is now prescribed for study in colleges as Holocaust literature. The book was made into a film which won an Oscar award for the best female actress.


The story is set in post Germany somewhere between the late 1950s and the mid ‘90s. The story narrated by the protagonist Michael Berg is an account of a relationship he had with an older woman when he was a very young man and the long term emotional and psychological effects it had on him.

One October afternoon, fifteen year old Michael is sick on his way home. A strange woman comes to help him, cleans him up and helps him get home. Michael is sick for many months with hepatitis but when he recovers, he goes with some flowers to thank the woman who helped him. She did not expect him to visit, but lets him wait while she changes her clothes. From where Michael is, he can see her through an open door. When she notices him watching her undress she is annoyed but before she can react, he runs away. Next week he comes back; this time she seduces him and they become lovers. Her name is Hanna Schmidt and she worked as a conductor in a tram. Michael regularly comes to her after school and she makes him read out to her from various books that he brings. This is a routine for them until August when she suddenly disappears leaving no address behind. Michael is devastated.

After a few years, he sees her again when as law student, he attends a war trial where Hanna is one of the defendants. Michael is shocked to discover that as SS guards, she and the others accused had stood by when a large group of Jewish prisoners under their protection had burned to death in a locked church during an Allied bombing raid. The other guards, in an attempt to mitigate their own crime, pin the blame on Hanna saying that she was the leader of the guards and that it was she who wrote the report describing the incident and then signed it. Though she initially denies it when told to give a sample of her handwriting, she accepts the charge. Michael realizes that she is illiterate but does not want to admit that. Michael remembers that when he used to offer her books to read she would never accept them saying that she preferred being read to. Michael doesn’t know whether he should help her by telling the judge her secret or keep silent since she does not want the world to know that she is illiterate. Michael finds it difficult to reconcile that the woman he loved was complicit in the killing of hundreds of prisoners under her care. He restrains himself from interfering in the case and Hanna receives a maximum sentence of life in prison.

Some years down the line, Michael marries and has a daughter. But it is difficult for him to maintain a relationship with any woman as he was haunted by the desire and love he had for Hanna and his guilt regarding Hanna. He starts a project of recording his own reading of various books on cassettes for Hanna. Though he regularly mails these to her, he never writes or visits her. When Hanna has spent eighteen years in prison, the parole board decides she can be released. Michael undertakes the task to find some sort of accommodation and a job for her. He visits Hanna for the first time in prison on her last day there. The next morning when he goes there to collect her, they tell him she committed suicide. The warden gives him Hanna’s will in which she had left her life’s savings to the survivor of the burning church incident.

Michael travels to New York to honour Hanna’s last wishes. The daughter of the survivor who had written of the death march from Auschwitz can see the conflicting emotions in Michael when he speaks of Hanna. For the first time he speaks to someone of his relationship as a very young man with Hanna. Though the woman empathizes with him and understands how that one relationship has coloured all the others, she does not accept the money. Michael decides to donate the money in Hanna’s name to a Jewish organization that works to eradicate illiteracy. When he gets back to Germany, Michael visits Hanna’s grave.


Set between the 1950s and the mid 1990s, the main protagonist, Michael Berg narrates the story of a troubled relationship he had with a much older woman which made it impossible for him to connect with any other woman in his life.

Fifteen year old Michael Berg is on his way back home from school one October afternoon when he falls sick. An unknown woman helps him and sends him home. When he recovers after several months, he goes with some flowers to thank her. She did not expect to see him again but calls him inside. While she changes her clothes, Michael sees her though an open door. When the woman spots him watching her, he gets confused and embarrassed and runs away. He visits her again in the following week; the woman seduces him and they become lovers. She is Hanna Schmidt and she is much older than Michael. He visits her every day and seeing his school books with him, she makes him read out to her. When he offers to lend her his books, she declines, saying she prefers to listen to him read. This routine continues till August when Hanna suddenly disappears. Michael is devastated.

Michael sees Hanna again, under strange circumstances. Michael is now a law student and he is attending a war crime trial. A group of female SS guards are being tried for having wilfully caused the death of innocent prisoners who had been held in a church. The building catches fire during an Allied bombing raid. Though the women plead for the doors to be unlocked, the guards remain unmoved. Only a handful of the prisoners survive. Michael is horrified that Hanna was one of the guards charged with the crime. The other guards in the group claim that Hanna was their leader and it was she who wrote and signed the report on the incident. Though Hanna refutes the charges first, when told to give a sample of her handwriting for comparison, she accepts the responsibility for the carnage. Michael slowly realizes that Hanna is illiterate but rather than admitting it, she takes on the blame for the massacre. Michael is torn between the revulsion he feels for Hanna for being involved in the crime and the attraction he still has for her. For a brief moment he ponders whether he should tell the judge the truth about Hanna which would exonerate her from being the main accused. However, he decides to let law prevail and punish her for her crime.

In a few years, Michael get married and has a daughter. But his past relationship with Hanna makes it difficult for him to connect with women in a lasting way and he and his wife part. Michael takes to recording his own readings of various books on cassettes and sends them to Hanna in prison. He never writes to her nor does he visit her. After eighteen years in prison, the parole board decides that Hanna is eligible for bail. The warden contacts Michael asking him whether he can help Hanna find some accommodation and a job. He agrees to do that and on her last day in prison, he visits her. The next day when he comes to fetch her, he is told that she has committed suicide. She entrusted her life’s saving to Michael to be handed over to the daughter of the survivor of the carnage who testified against Hanna.

When he visits the US, he travels to New York to visit the daughter and hand over the money which had been stored in tea caddy by Hanna. She understands the conflict in Michael’s mind regarding Hanna and Michael speaks hesitantly of his relationship with Hanna. She refuses to accept the money but takes the tea caddy as it had belonged to her when she was in Auschwitz with her mother. Michael decides to donate the money in Hanna’s name to a Jewish organization that works to eradicate illiteracy. On his return to Germany, he visits Hanna’s grave for the last time.


Michael Berg

Michael Berg is a young man of fifteen when he has an affair with Hanna Schmidt who is much older. In this relationship, it is Hanna who plays the dominant role. Hanna has the power to hurt Michael physically, verbally and emotionally but he does not retaliate as he is too young. It is only when Hanna is in jail that the roles change. Michael’s relationships with all other women are coloured by his connection with Hanna. While he was deeply in love with her, for her it was just a physical relationship. As a student of law Michael comes to know of the role Hanna played in the death of the prisoners and her cold reaction to the tragedy, Michael is filled with revulsion for her. He chooses not to reveal the fact that she was illiterate for two reasons – her wish to keep it a secret and the other was the hatred he felt towards her due to her crime. While he makes amends by helping her to read and write though indirectly, he cannot and will not do anything to mitigate her punishment. The catharsis for Michael comes at the end when having donated the money to the Jewish organization, he visits her grave.

Hanna Schmidt

Hanna is the thirty six year old woman who has an affair with Michael Berg when he is a very young man. Throughout the relationship, she is cold and unemotional. She is also physically abusive, hitting Michael with a leather strap till she draws blood. She exploits Michael’s love for her; forcing him to read extensively from his books before making love. But this crime pales before the crime for which she is imprisoned for life. She along with other SS guards had held nearly 300 Jewish women in a church which was hit in the Allied bombing. As the church began to burn, the women pleaded with the guards to open the doors. But they remained unmoved and let the women die. But for Hanna this crime was less shameful than her illiteracy. If she had told the judge that she was illiterate and could not have written the report, she would have been treated like the other guards. But she chooses not to reveal her illiteracy. Once in prison, with the help of Michael’s cassettes she teaches herself to read and write. She wishes to hear from him, see him but he comes only on the last day of her imprisonment. But the final punishment for her is yet to be; she is her own judge and executioner.



Guilt in different forms is the predominant theme in The Reader. Right from the time when Michael forms a special friendship with Sophie and neglects Hanna to some extent, guilt is woven into Michael’s emotions. The sight of Hanna in the court where she is arraigned triggers off the guilt of having loved a criminal. He remembers the violence she is capable of and her cold and unemotional nature. Her love for Michael was exploitative. When Michael realizes Hanna is illiterate and could not have written and signed the report as made out by the other guards, he is in a position to help but he chooses not to interfere in the process of law adding to his burden of guilt. Michael’s way of atoning is sending Hanna the recordings of his readings. For Hanna this is an immense source of solace. When he confesses to the daughter of the Holocaust survivor, Michael is able to share and lessen his guilt. But catharsis for him has to wait till he visits Hanna’s grave.


Holocaust refers to the mass destruction of Jewish lives by the Nazis before and during WWII. All over parts of Europe under German rule, Jews were hunted down, their fabled wealth confiscated, their houses looted and the people were thrown into concentration camps where they were subjected to hard labour. Millions of Jews were gassed to death in an act of genocide which the world had not seen till then. Holocaust and German guilt regarding it especially among the second generation has formed a constant theme in German literature in the late 20th and 21st centuries. In the mid 1900s many war crime trials were conducted by Germans on the Germans who were part of the war time Nazi establishment. Children of Nazi supporters and also those who had assumed a passive role often accused their parents of being complicit in the genocide.

Analysis of ‘The Island’

The Island – Athol Fugard


Athol Fugard was born to an English father of mixed European descent and an Afrikaner mother. He grew up in Port Elizabeth which forms the setting for most plays. He went on to study anthropology and philosophy at the University of Cape Town but dropped out a few months before final examination. Along with a friend, he hitchhiked till Port Sudan in North Africa where he worked on a steam ship. Later, Fugard returned to South Africa and married Shiela Meiring, an actress, who ignited in him the love for theatre. His job as a court clerk made him keenly aware of the injustices of apartheid which is the theme for most of his plays. Later, he organized a multiracial theatre which caused a direct confrontation with the white government. His passport was revoked when his play Blood Knot was staged in England and his criticism of the practice of segregating theatre audiences in South Africa brought on more restrictions. Fugard’s plays kept the issue of the absence of individual freedom in South Africa at the forefront and drew the whole world’s attention to it. He won several awards and a lot of his plays have been converted into movies. He has also acted in movies like Attenborough’s Gandhi and The Killing Fields which is about the Pol Pot regime’s massacre of innocent Cambodians. Fugard now teaches theatre in the US.

The notorious island prison called Robben Island is the setting for this play. The most renowned inmate of this prison was Nelson Mandela who spent twenty seven years incarcerated here. During this period, South Africa was run by the white Afrikaner National Party. In order to perpetuate white rule in South Africa, they brought a catalogue of draconian laws aimed at apartheid which in Afrikaans meant separateness. Every aspect of the native African’s life was affected by these rules that aimed at segregating the blacks from the whites. Any opposition to apartheid from the blacks was put down ruthlessly. Extra judicial killings were common and the punishment dished out to the political prisoners aimed at breaking their spirit. Shifting sand from one heap to another all day long or pulling a road roller round and round were some of the cruel and meaningless punishments devised.

Nelson Mandela and his associates were arrested while at a meeting in Rivonia. On June 11, 1964, they were sentenced for life and imprisoned in Robben Island. The play ‘The Island’ draws on the real life experiences of some of the prisoners who were incarcerated on Robben Island. Antigone was staged there once with Mandela playing the role of King Creon. Athol Fugard chose the story of Antigone to highlight the conditions in South Africa where the majority community was kept down by ruthless rulers who like King Creon passed laws which went against God’s own rules. Antigone is just a young girl but she assumes the moral authority to challenge the king.


The play is set in an unnamed island but the inference is there for all to follow. The island could only stand for the Robben Island which was packed with political prisoners one of which was Nelson Mandela, serving a lengthy prison sentence. There are only two characters who appear in flesh and blood – two cellmates, John and Winston, who share a close friendship that helps them survive those brutal conditions. In a short while John’s appeal for commutation will come up but meanwhile, they have a play to perform for the other inmates of the prison. The days are spent in meaningless back-breaking physical labour out in the open while the nights are utilized for rehearsals.

The play that is chosen is Sophocles’ tragedy, Antigone. This play has echoes of the South African situation where the people are oppressed by ruthless rulers similar to Antigone being oppressed by King Creon. John plays the role of King Creon while Winston plays Antigone. Winston is reluctant to be a female character as he feels that his wig and fake tissue roll breasts will invite ridicule. John meanwhile gets the news that his appeal has been successful and his ten year sentence has been reduced to three years and in three months, he will be free while Winston will be detained for life. The friendship is tested here as Winston does not understand why he has been singled out. But in the end, the friendship endures and the two are back at hard labour.


John and Winston are prisoners on the island where they share a cell. Day after day they are subjected to intense labour or forced to run while they were shackled to each other. But their friendship is a constant source of solace for both of them. They take care of each other’s wounds, and remember the times when they were free while they rehearsed for the play they were to perform for the rest of the prisoners on the island. The play that has been chosen is Sophocles’ tragedy, Antigone which mirrors the conditions in South Africa where despotic rulers crush all opposition. In the abridged version of the play, John is King Creon while Winston plays Antigone.

When Winston sees his costume, he is reluctant to perform as he feels he will be mocked by the audience. Meanwhile John is summoned to the office of the governor. He returns elated with the news that his appeal for the commutation of his ten year prison sentence has been granted and in just three months he will complete his three year prison sentence. Winston shares John’s joy and both dream of what it will be like to be free. Soon Winston is racked by questions and he wonders why he opposed the regime in the first place and what the purpose of his very existence was. These doubts have a cathartic effect on him and he realizes that this is his lot in life.

The final scene of ‘The Island’ is the play, Antigone. Winston as Antigone has been sentenced to be walled up in a cave and left to die of hunger for having defied the orders of the king in giving her brother a ritual or proper burial. Here Winston steps out of his role as Antigone and makes a final stand against the white regime. He yells ‘ Gods of Our Fathers! My Land! My Home! Time waits no longer. I go now to my living death, because I honoured those things to which honour belongs.’ The last we see is the image of John and Winston once again shackled together, running as the siren sounds.


Racial Segregation

Apartheid was practiced, and racial segregation was imposed on the black majority by the Afrikaner National Party in 1948. It existed till 1994 when democratic elections were held in South Africa. An informal form of racial segregation had been practiced by the Dutch colonists when they took over South Africa but it was institutionalized in 1948. The population was divided into four groups namely, black, white, coloured and Indian. Several western nations had tacitly supported the racist white regime but gradually world opinion turned against them. Punitive measures like trade embargo and boycott of sporting ties were imposed on the country.

Conditions in the segregated black areas were deplorable. Civic infrastructure barely existed and conditions in schools and hospitals were bleak. Even audiences in theatres were segregated. Blacks could never hope to buy land in the white only areas even if they had the money. Every imaginable service in the country was separate for whites and blacks.

Obedience and civil disobedience

South Africa was ruled by the white minority using draconian laws that made life intolerable. Individual freedom was curtailed to such an extent that the most minor transgression could land one in prison for years. In the play, John has been jailed for belonging to a banned organization while Winston is in for life for burning his passbook in front of the police. This is a serious crime as the authorities enforced segregation and exerted control over the blacks using the passbook. Mahatma Gandhi used civil disobedience to exert pressure on the British when India was struggling against them in their fight for independence. One of the earliest depictions of civil disobedience is in Sophocles’ play Antigone. In this play, young Antigone fights against King Creon’s decree that nobody should bury Polyneices who was Antigone’s brother. Antigone argues that she would rather follow her conscience than a royal order.


In South Africa, all forms of freedom were compromised. The black people who formed the majority were kept under subjugation by the ruling white minority. They had no freedom of movement as they lived in reservations meant exclusively for the blacks. They had their own schools, hospitals and stores. The conditions in black townships were deplorable as there was no sanitation or other civic amenities. The blacks had been disenfranchised so they could not choose their rulers.

The condition of the blacks is mirrored in Antigone’s condition. She is not permitted to give her brother a ritual burial as King Creon has willed it so. But she decides to follow her conscience rather than the king’s orders though she knows the consequences will be severe.


Hodoshe is a character who does not appear on stage but is referred to by John and Winston. He is a symbol of the racist government and it is apt that he is represented by the shrill sound of the police whistle. The whistle controls all the movements of John and Winston.

Analysis of ‘I know Why the Caged Bird Sings’

I know Why the Caged Bird Sings – Maya Angelou


Maya Angelou was born in St. Louis, Missouri on 4 April, 1928. She was named Marguerite but her brother Bailey Johnson who could not pronounce it, began calling her Maya. Eventually, she accepted that as her name. Maya had a very disturbed childhood. When she was just three, her parents divorced and she and her brother were sent to live in the segregated town of Stamps, Arkansas with her paternal grandmother, Annie Henderson. Later, they went back to live with their mother, Vivian Baxter.

Maya Angelou’s career as a civil rights activist began when she was around fifteen. She battled racism to become the first African American streetcar conductor in San Francisco. Later she became a part of the civil rights movement launched by Martin Luther King. Her leadership qualities and vision were recognized by several Presidents and she became a part of various committees. She was requested to deliver a special poem at Bill Clinton’s Presidential inauguration. She was the second poet to receive this honour in America.

Maya Angelou has been active in theatre and has travelled extensively all over the world. Angelou’s intense and disturbed childhood has been the subject of many of her stories. Encouraged by friends and publishers, Maya Angelou wrote five autobiographies covering different periods of her life. Of these, ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’ received a lot of critical acclaim. No study of African American literature is complete without a reading of ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’. At one time it was removed from reading lists due to its frank depictions of the author’s sexuality and the experience of being raped as a child. ‘I know Why the Caged Bird Sings’ was published at a time when women’s importance as mainstream thinkers and activists had begun to be proclaimed and recognized. The book conveys not only racial discrimination faced by a black girl in the Deep South but gender discrimination too. Apart from these issues, the book deals with troubled relationships between parents and children, child abuse and the search for self identity.


Maya Angelo describes her life as an insecure and precocious black girl in the segregated southern part of America of the 1930s in her autobiography, ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’. Maya’s troubled childhood begins when she and her four year old brother Bailey are put into a train and sent to live with their paternal grandmother when their parents divorce. The grandmother whom they call Momma becomes the central moral figure in their lives for many years. Momma is a disciplinarian who runs the only store in the black part of the town.

Maya and Bailey are not old enough to understand why they have been rejected and abandoned by their parents. For Maya, her angst is compounded by the belief that she is ugly and not worth anything. She feels that she is inferior to the other black children. Whenever she is ridiculed for not finishing or completing a poem in church, it is Bailey, her confident and smart brother, who helps her out. Growing up in Stamps, Maya comes face to face with deep seated racial prejudices which erupts into violence. She does not go out as she terrified of the lynching white mobs that kill with no provocation. Even so, there is some regularity in her life which is snatched away when her father suddenly appears on the scene and takes both children away and dumps them on their mother. Maya who has no memory of her mother Vivian, finds her alluring but wild. Maya is sexually abused by her mother’s live-in boy friend, Mr. Freeman, who rapes her later on. Though she keeps it a secret initially, her family finds out and Mr. Freeman is sent to prison. When he is released, he is murdered, probably by some of Vivian’s associates. Maya feels personally responsible for his murder and stops speaking to everyone except her brother Bailey. For some time the rest of the family including her mother Vivian tolerate this but soon they run out of patience and send the children back to Momma in Stamps.

Maya is happy to be back there but Bailey prefers his mother’s world of danger and glamour. Momma introduces Maya to Mrs. Bertha Flowers, a gentle, cultured woman who gets Maya talking again. As she grows older, Maya begins to realize the strengths and weaknesses of her community. Maya endures racial discrimination almost every day of her life. At ten, Maya begins working for a white woman who keeps calling her Mary since it came more naturally to her. Denied her identity, Maya retaliates by smashing the woman’s fine china. At her eighth grade graduation, a white speaker trashes the hopes of the students and their parents by saying that blacks can only aspire to be athletes or servants. Then there is the dentist who says that he’d rather put his hands in a dog’s mouth than in a black person’s mouth. Things come to a head when Bailey is witness to a black man’s lynching. Momma says the South is not safe for the children and packs them off to their mother who by now lives in California.

By the time Maya is thirteen, she has moved house thrice within California. When Vivian marries the kind and fatherly Daddy Clidell, the whole family moves to San Francisco, a city which appeals to Maya. A summer spent with her biological father ends with Maya running away from home as she cannot get along with her father’s current girl friend. A month spent in the company of a group of homeless teenagers helps her to find her spirit and identity. When she comes back to San Francisco, she is a changed person. During the war, she challenges the racist hiring policies in San Francisco successfully and becomes the first black streetcar conductor at the age of fifteen. Sexuality is still a confusing issue for her and to prove a point she becomes pregnant but does not reveal her pregnancy for eight months till she graduates from high school. The book ends with Maya looking forward to the birth of her child, confident that she will be a good mother.


‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’ is an autobiography by Maya Angelou. It describes the coming of age of a black girl who lives in the southern parts of America. Three year old Maya and her four year old brother Bailey are sent to their paternal grandmother at Stamps, Arkansas as their parents get divorced. The children try to come to grips with the rejection and abandonment. In Momma, their grandmother, the children find the moral authority which lends stability to their world. Momma is an institution. She runs the only store in the segregated part of the town.

When Maya is eight, her father makes a rare appearance and takes the children away and deposits them with their mother, Vivian. Maya who has forgotten her mother finds her personality magnetic and beautiful. Bailey falls under her spell for life. Vivian has a string of men in her life with the current live-in boy friend being Mr. Freeman. When she is just eight, Maya is sexually abused and raped by Mr. Freeman. Though she keeps it a secret initially, the family finds out and Freeman is jailed. On his release Freeman is gruesomely murdered, by some of Vivian’s associates.

Maya feels that she is responsible for his death in some way and stops speaking to everyone but her brother. Initially the family is supportive of Maya but soon they lose patience and send her and Bailey back to Momma. Maya is happy to be back in Momma’s store but Bailey misses his mother’s glamorous world spiced with danger. Momma introduces Maya to Mrs. Bertha Flowers who gets her talking again. Mrs. Flowers is educated and gentle; just the kind of person Maya needs. Maya observes her community and understands its weaknesses and strengths. Virtually every day, she is exposed to racial taunts and discrimination and she rebels against it. When she is ten, she begins working for a white woman who calls her Mary since its more convenient for her. Denied her identity, Maya retaliates by breaking the woman’s fine china. At her eighth grade graduation ceremony, the white speaker tells the gathering of young and eager minds that they can only hope to be athletes or servants. When Momma takes her to the dentist with a painful tooth, the dentist sends them away saying that he would rather put his hands in the mouth of a dog than in a black person’s mouth.

Every day, there are reports of hate crimes like lynching and murder. Bailey once witnesses the killing of a black man and Momma decides that the South is no place for the children and sends them back to their mother who is now in California. When Vivian marries Daddy Clidell who is a positive father figure, they move to San Francisco, a city that Maya grows to love. A summer with her biological father in Los Angeles is disastrous as the father’s girl friend injures her during a fight. Maya runs away and spends a month living with a group of homeless teenagers. This helps her become independent and enables her to find some sort of identity. She fights racial employment policies and manages to become the first African American conductor in a streetcar in San Francisco at the age of fifteen. She becomes pregnant when she is only sixteen, managing to keep it a secret from her family for eight months. ‘I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings’ ends with a confident Maya looking forward to raise her child as a devoted mother.



In ‘I Know Why The caged Bird Sings’, Maya, the precocious young girl suffers not from the recognized traumas of being black and a female in America but also the trauma of rejection by her parents. At the age of three, she and her brother are sent to live with her paternal grandmother as their parents divorce each other. Though Maya is smart and intelligent she considers herself to be ugly and felts that people judged her unfairly due to her unattractive appearance. For some time she imagines that she is a blonde blue-eyed girl, trapped in a black body, which will soon be set free. The difficulties of growing up as a black girl in the segregated south are tough enough but Maya also has to deal with familial displacements and rape when she is just eight.

Maya craves for physical affection which she is denied. Her grandmother, Momma provides stability and a moral framework but there is no demonstrable love anywhere for Maya. She takes Mr. Freeman’s attentions to be a father’s love but it is not and he rapes her. Maya feels morally responsible for Mr. Freeman’s death when he gets out of prison. By the time she is ten, Maya has faced racial barbs and taunts aplenty. Mrs. Cullinan, her employer calls her Mary instead of Maya, denying her real identity, simply because the white woman finds it more convenient. The white dentist, to whom Momma takes Maya, refuses to examine her, saying that he would rather care for a dog than treat a black person.

As Maya grows up, she matures into a person who is ready to fight for recognition and justice. At fifteen she fights against an unfair racial recruitment policy which denied her employment. She becomes the first black person to be appointed as a streetcar conductor. For Maya, her Momma and her brother Bailey are sources of unwavering love and encouragement. Later Vivian and Daddy Clidell provide her with the encouragement to overcome all her difficulties in life and realize her full potential. She learns to face her failings with frankness and honor and learns to cope with the guilt of lying in court during Mr. Freeman’s trial. She also learns the importance of looking beyond her black identity. When the book ends, though Maya is more confident, she is still sensitive about her looks and her sexuality. But she learns to trust her instincts and her abilities and looks forward to caring for her new born son.

Bailey Johnson Jr.

Bailey is a year older than Maya, but she depends on him to help her get through her childhood. Rejected and displaced at a young age, they support each other and bring some semblance of stability and continuity to their lives. While Maya is ungainly and lacks self esteem, Bailey is charming, attractive and confident. He uses all these attributes to help Maya when she faces ridicule and criticism. Maya and Bailey share many intellectual pursuits like poetry and language. Maya and Bailey face racial taunts but the difference lies in the way they react to it. While Maya is inclined to confront it head on, Bailey ignores it and lets it wash over him harmlessly. But he is no less aware of racial discrimination. There is a difference in the way Maya and Bailey perceive their mother. Bailey is captivated by his mother’s class, her looks and style. Maya recognizes that she is beautiful but she is not under her spell unlike Bailey. It’s likely that Bailey’s adoration for his mother will hinder his future relationships with women in some way as he would tend to compare their persona to his mother’s.

Annie Henderson (Momma)

Momma is Maya and Bailey’s grandmother who raises them when they are young. She became an emotional anchor for both the children when they were rejected by their parents. Momma ran the only store in the black community for a number of years and her store eventually becomes a hub for the entire black community. The store began as a mobile lunch counter for the black cotton workers and gradually grew to its position at the heart of the black community.

Momma did not believe in showing love. Her advice to Maya is to do right and live by the laws of God. She believes in discipline and Christian values. Though she has a lot of affection for the children, she sends them away from her when she realizes that the South is no place for them, especially for Bailey. Momma chose her battles carefully. She was realistic when it came to racial matters believing discretion was the better part of valour.

Analysis of Cat’s Cradle

Cat’s Cradle – Kurt Vonnegut


Kurt Vonnegut was born in Indianapolis, Indiana on November 11, 1922, to Kurt Vonnegut Sr. who was a well known architect and Edith Sophia Vonnegut. The Depression hit the family hard reducing their income considerably forcing Kurt to attend public school unlike his siblings who went to a private school. Though he was encouraged to study science, Kurt displayed a keen interest in writing right from his high school days when he edited the school newspaper. While at Cornell too, he edited the Cornell Daily Sun. He left college to enlist in the US Army during the WWII. He was captured by the Germans and put to work in a factory in Dresden which till then had not seen any action, not being of strategic importance to either the Germans or the Allies. But on 13 February, 1945, Dresden was mercilessly bombed by the Allies, an attack that killed more than a hundred thousand unarmed civilians.

The senseless suffering caused by this attack coloured Vonnegut’s future attitude to war. He embraced pacifism as the guiding philosophy of his life. While the Dresden bombing was going on, Vonnegut and other POWs took shelter in the underground meat locker of a slaughterhouse. This incident is the basis for the novel, Slaughterhouse Five, though he had to let 20 years pass before he could write about that life altering moment. The pacifist philosophy that his novels propounded and the scientific discoveries that had the potential to destroy the world profoundly influenced the counter culture generation of the 60s. Vonnegut is famous for his science fiction which was full of satiric humour; Cat’s Cradle is a good example of that.


John is the narrator of the novel called Cat’s Cradle but he prefers to be called Jonah. He plans to write a book on the activities of important Americans the day Japan was hit by nuclear bombs. One of the figures he wants to interview is Newt Hoenikker, the son of Dr. Felix Hoenikker, one of the scientists who worked on the nuclear bomb. He also gets to meet Dr. Asa Breed who was Dr. Hoenikker’s boss. From him, he gets to know that Dr. Hoenikker had invented or was close to inventing a substance called ice-nine which was capable of instantly freezing all water in the world including the water in the human body.

The book does not make much head way and remains forgotten until John gets sent on an assignment to the island of San Lorenzo. By strange coincidence, there he meets several characters who were connected to Dr. Hoenikker in some way. All three Hoenikker children are present in San Lorenzo. Here he also learns about the Bokononism, a religion practiced in San Lorenzo. This country is ruled By Papa Monzano who is dying of cancer. He has anointed Frank Hoenikker, an army general, to be his successor. Frank does not feel up to it hence offers the job, surprisingly, to John who accepts it because along with the offer comes the chance of marrying the beautiful Mona Monzano.

Papa Monzano does not want to suffer anymore so he kills himself by consuming ice nine. John is now sure that Dr. Hoenikker had indeed discovered ice nine but he needs to know what has happened to it. The Hoenikker siblings admit that they had shared the substance among the three of them and used it to get what they wanted from life. John and the Hoenikker siblings try to remove traces of ice nine by burning it which is the only way to get rid of it. Papa Monzano’s body is cremated to neutralize ice nine. But a freak air accident sends the body floating into the sea and all the water in the world freezes and becomes solid. The world as we know it perishes. John and Mona live in Papa Monzano’s dungeon for a while but she commits suicide later. When John meets Bokonon, the founder of Bokononism, Bokonon tells him that someone should write a book on “the history of human stupidity”. And that is what Cat’s Cradle is!


John, the main character sets out to write a book chronicling the activities of important people the day Japan was hit by nuclear bombs. The first person he plans to interview is Newt Hoenikker, the son of Dr. Felix Hoenikker who was one of the scientists who worked on the nuclear bombs. Although Dr. Hoenikker dies, John gets to meet Dr. Asa Breed who was Dr. Hoenikker’s boss. He tells John that Felix had already discovered or was close to discovering a substance called ice nine which had the quality of freezing water the moment it came into contact with it. Even a drop falling into the ocean would freeze the water in all oceans, rivers and lakes and would eventually destroy the world.

John does not make any further progress with the book and it lies forgotten until an assignment takes him to San Lorenzo. Here he gets to meet all three Hoenikker siblings and the island’s dictator, Papa Monzano. San Lorenzo is a strange place where the inhabitants are dirt poor but they practice a religion called Bokononism that keeps them happy. Before dying of cancer Papa Monzano anoints Frank Hoenikker, an army general in San Lorenzo, as his successor. But Frank does not fancy the job and offers it to John. John accepts it as he gets to marry the ravishing Mona Monzano as part of the deal.

Sick of suffering Papa Monzano commits suicide by swallowing ice nine. This proves to John that Dr. Hoenikker had indeed discovered ice nine and some have access to the substance. On questioning, the Hoenikker siblings confess that when their father died, they shared the substance among themselves and used it to satisfy their materialistic desires. John and others try to remove all traces of ice nine from the room by exposing it to heat. The body of Monzano is burnt too, as a customary burial would cause all the water in the world to freeze over. But a freak air accident sends the building in which the body was kept tumbling into the sea. The water freezes over instantly. Only John and a few others survive for the time being. They take shelter in Monzano’s dungeon. Mona commits suicide. John comes across Bokonon who tells John that someone ought to write about the “history of human stupidity”.



John is the main character and narrator in the novel, Cat’s Cradle. Everything that is spoken during the course of the book is through John’s words. John sets out to write a book which alas isn’t completed. Later on he gets sucked into the affairs of the Hoenikker siblings and the people of San Lorenzo. He accepts the Presidency of San Lorenzo though he is more interested in marrying Mona Monzano, the daughter of the dictator. Later when Papa Monzano dies, John is involved in de-contaminating the room.

Felix Hoenikker

Felix is a brilliant scientist who worked on the atomic bomb that was eventually dropped on Hiroshima but he does not care about humanity nor does he accept any responsibilities. For him research and discoveries are like an amusing game. He does not take the responsibility for the outcome of research. After discovering ice nine, in spite of knowing its lethal nature, he leaves no records of it but lets his children misuse it. Felix does not bond with humans; that includes his children whom he does not care for.

The Hoenikker Siblings

The Hoenikker siblings are Angela, Frank and Newt. They share their father’s lack of concern for humanity. When their father commits suicide, they realize the potential of ice nine to further their interests in life. Though they lack the malicious intent that evil characters have, the Hoenikker children fulfill an evil function because they bring about the end of the world. All of them pursue happiness in their own ways; at first this seems an innocent enough pursuit which they share with the rest of humanity but they don’t comprehend the consequences of their pursuit.



Science is a dominant theme in Cat’s Cradle. Scientists are sincere in their pursuits but they do not bother to consider the destructive nature of their discoveries. We cannot condemn science though since it enabled us to create antibiotics, x-rays and effort saving or efficient gadgets. However due to a lack of discretion and concern, it enabled the creation of atomic bombs and polluting industries. Scientists often lose interest in their discoveries and they don’t take responsibility for it.


Ice nine

This is symbolic of the destructive force of technology. Vonnegut had been an ardent supporter of technology. Though he studied science in his university he wasn’t a keen student. While a POW in Dresden, Vonnegut felt the full brunt of destructive technology when the town had been bombed resulting in 1, 35,000 civilian deaths. Later at the end of the war, the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki unleashed untold suffering on people that lasted decades.

Analysis of ‘The Old Man and the Sea’

The Old Man and The Sea – Ernest Hemingway


Ernest Hemingway was born in Oak Park, Illinois where his father worked as a doctor and his mother was musician. Hemingway started working with a newspaper before he was eighteen. At eighteen, at the height of the First World War, he volunteered to be an ambulance driver in Italy. His experiences in the front, the injuries he suffered and the war itself made a profound impression on him colouring his attitude to life in general. These experiences have been fictionalized in his novel, A Farewell To Arms which many consider his finest book.

While recuperating in Italy, he met and fell in love with a nurse who was seven years older to him. Though they had informally decided to get married once the war was over, she broke up, an incident that coloured all his future relationships with women. Soon he moved to Paris and became a part of the writer’s scene over there. Most of his writing is marked by that spare, pared down style that he perfected. It became fashionable for all further writers to emulate it though few did it with equal success. For Hemingway, along with war, big time hunting, adventure and masculine adrenaline charged sports like bull fighting held lifelong fascination.

Towards the end of his career, Hemingway had trouble producing work that could match up to his own earlier standards. His Across the River into the Trees was published after a gap of ten years, a period marked by accidents and ill health that nearly took his life. Writing the book was laborious; an effort that critics thought produced a poor imitation of his earlier works. That was in 1950. In 1952, came the Old Man and the Sea, a novella that vindicated Hemingway’s standing as one of the finest writers of the 20th century. This work won for Hemingway the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and very likely, the Nobel Prize too.


Santiago is a champion fisherman who has fallen on bad times. He has gone for eighty-four days without a catch and the local fishermen have branded him ‘salao’, the person with the worst kind of bad luck that can ever befall anyone. Santiago’s story of bad luck has spread so far that Manolin, who is Santiago’s apprentice, has been banned from associating with Santiago by his parents. But Manolin continues to serve Santiago bringing him food and hauling in his nets. On the eighty fifth day, Santiago sails far into the Gulf Stream beyond the shallow coastal waters frequented by the local fishermen. Sometime around noon, he feels a tug on the lines that he knows must have been made by a large fish like a marlin. Santiago hooks the fish but he is not able to pull it in because the fish is too powerful for him. The fish pulls the skiff far out into the sea.

The old man does not want to tie the line as he fears that the line might snap when the fish pulls so. He ends up taking the strain of the pulling fish and keeping the skiff erect, on his body. His back, neck and hands are sore and his hands are bleeding. For two full days and nights, the marlin pulls the boat this way and that. Tired and hungry, the old man perseveres. He is filled with admiration for the fish and thinks of it as a brother. But all hunts end in a death. The old man kills the fish with a harpoon. The marlin is one of the largest he has seen and to keep it safe, he lashed it to the outside of his boat and turns home.

The blood from the marlin that flows into the sea attracts sharks and it is not long before they begin attacking the carcass. Santiago kills the first shark using his harpoon but in the process his harpoon breaks. He fashions a crude spear tying an ordinary knife to an oar. Though it is effective for the moment, Santiago soon finds that more and more sharks preying on the marlin. Santiago feels it is useless to protect his catch any more. He chastises himself for losing such a worthy opponent with whom he had felt a kinship. He feels that he should not have ventured out so far into the ocean. Soon there is nothing left of the marlin except the skeleton. Santiago is completely exhausted by the time he reaches home and falls asleep as soon as he falls down, arms outstretched, in his shack.

In the morning a knot of inquisitive tourists gather around the small boat that still bears the skeleton of the marlin. When it is measured, they find it to be 18ft, a truly outstanding specimen but they mistake it for a shark. Manolin who has been worried for Santiago’s safety arrives there and is moved to tears by the sight of the sleeping man. Manolin fetches him coffee and newspapers with baseball news and waits for him to wake up. When the old man wakes up briefly, they plan to go fishing again. Santiago falls asleep once again and he dreams again of the lions that play on the beach in Africa.


Santiago was once upon a time a champion fisherman but he has now fallen upon bad times and he is considered to be unlucky. “Salao” is what the other fishermen call him. Manolin, his boy apprentice has been told by his parents not to associate with the old man as they think some of his bad luck will rub off on him. Eight four days have already gone past without a catch and the old man decides to try his luck by going farther afield into the Gulf Stream leaving behind the shallow coastal waters. On the eight fifth day, the old man sets out early in the morning and drops a line a hundred fathoms deep and waits. Around noon, he feels the bait taken by a large fish, very likely, a marlin. He hooks the fish expertly but cannot bring it in. Unexpectedly, the fish starts pulling the boat out into the sea with unusual strength. The old man does not want to lose the fish so he gives it more and line. He is worried the taut line might snap if he pulls too hard.

The fish races and plunges and the old man takes the strain of the movement on his arms, his shoulders and his back. The line cuts into his hands and they bleed. All the while the old man dreams of the sensation the fish will make when he takes it ashore. The fish pulls for two full days without tiring though it is hooked. The old man begins to have a kind of fraternal love for the fish and admires its spirit that does not allow it to give up. On the third day, the fish tires and starts circling the boat. Though the old man’s heart swells with admiration for the fish, this is a hunt that has to end with the death of the hunted. The old man harpoons the marlin and kills it. Exhilarated by the successful expedition, the old man has a burst of energy and secures the fish to the side of the boat and begins his homeward journey.

The blood from the marlin leaves a trail in the sea that attracts sharks to it. The first shark to arrive is a great mako which the old man kills with a harpoon. But the harpoon breaks in the effort. More sharks arrive which the old man fights using a crude spear and his oars. But he is no match for their sustained attacks and soon most of the marlin is gone. The old man is saddened that he could not protect the marlin from the predators. The marlin had been such a worthy adversary. By the time he reaches the shore, the fish has been reduced to its skeleton and the old man is exhausted. He abandons his boat on the beach and falls to an exhausted sleep in his shack.

In the morning curious tourists spot the boat with its strange cargo. They think the skeleton belongs to a shark. When measured, it is found to be 18ft long. Manolin who has been worried sick over the old man’s long absence is moved to tears seeing the old man sleeping. He fetches coffee and the newspapers that carry baseball news for the old man and waits. When the old man wakes briefly, they talk about the possibility of once again going fishing as a team. Once again he falls asleep and the recurring dream of the lions playing on the beach comes to him.


Santiago, the old man who at one time was a champion fisherman is the hero of the novella, The Old Man and the Sea. But when the story opens, he is the butt of jokes that refer to him as “salao” meaning the man who has the worst kind of bad luck. This is because he has gone for eighty four days without a catch. Even his apprentice Manolin has been told by his parents to work with someone else who has better luck. The old man’s heroic status begins to develop when he leaves the safety of the shallow coastal waters and sails into the Gulf Stream where dangers lurk. The subsequent battle with the marlin which is the stronger of the two and takes the old man farther out to the sea firmly establishes the old man’s credentials as a hero in the classic mould. Even though the fight in the sea nearly destroys Santiago, it is really a reaffirmation of life. Classical heroes can be destroyed but they cannot be defeated.

Even while the epic struggle with the huge fish is going on, the old man recognizes the power and the strength of the fish. He feels a kinship with the fish, referring to it as his brother. When the old man and his apprentice make plans to fish together again, there is a promise of everlasting life; the old man’s skill will live long after he is gone. Like other classical heroes before him, Santiago also suffers hubris – punishment for overweening pride. When he catches the marlin, he does not think of the consequences but thinks only of the money the catch will bring in. Later when the sharks have destroyed the marlin, he realizes the consequences of his pride. It is his pride in his craft and his stoic determination that lets him hold fast for three days though he is drained of energy and at the edge of delirium. Very often the novelist describes his hero using Christ like imagery. The wounds he gets on his palms where the line bites into his flesh resemble the stigmata of Christ and later when he stumbles into his shack spent and almost lifeless, he falls with his arms outstretched in a position that recalls the crucifixion. The physical suffering that the old man undergoes leads to his spiritual salvation and the promise of eternal life.


Manolin, the fisherman’s boy apprentice is the only other character in the novella, The Old Man and the Sea. Though his role is minor, it is needed to bring in another human element into the story. In Manolin’s devotion to the old fisherman, we see him as a person. Though his parents don’t want him to associate with Santiago as he is “salao”, or unlucky, Manolin is still devoted to his the old fisherman. When he sees the old man after three days, when he was missing from his shack, Manolin is moved to tears to see he is alive.

Analysis of Antigone

Antigone – Sophocles


Not much is known about the life of Sophocles. Some sketchy details have survived and the rest has been gleaned from the 10th century Suda Lexicon, a Greek dictionary and the Sophocles: Life and Works, an anonymous work that was discovered in the 13th century. Sophocles was born around 496 B.C. to a wealthy weapons maker who lived in Colonus. By his birth he was destined to play an important role in the Athenian society.

Right from a young age, Sophocles had showed great skill in music and dancing. The education he received equipped him for a leader’s life in the army, foreign affairs and the arts. But his primary interest was drama and it is very likely that he was tutored by the great Aeschylus. In 468 B.C., his play Triptolemus won the first prize for tragedy relegating Aeschylus to the second place. Sophocles wrote 120 plays of which only seven complete tragedies have survived. Bits and pieces of several others remain.

Oedipus the King is widely regarded as his masterpiece. It is the first in the Oedipus trilogy. It depicts the myth of the man called Oedipus who was fated to kill his father and marry his mother. Though often referred to as a trilogy, Sophocles did not write them to be performed as a single organic play. All three have unique qualities with the characters being treated in strikingly different ways.

Theatre was a unifying force that helped people through hardships and war. Ancient Greek myths were known to everyone and the dramatization of tales from the common heritage helped to nurture and preserve a cultural identity. Plays were considered a celebration of the God Dionysus and to attend theatre was considered the duty of all citizens.


The attempt to lay siege to the city of Thebes by Polyneices, and his allies has failed but both Polyneices and his brother Eteocles are dead, killed by each other, as a result of their father Oedipus’s curse. Creon, the King of Thebes has decreed that as punishment, Polyneices should be denied the final rites of burial as his body should be left to rot as a lesson to other invaders. On the other hand, the body of Etiocles is to be buried with full honours though both men were Creon’s nephews. The two sisters of the young men wait outside the city gates. They wish to have their brother buried but Creon has decreed that anyone burying Polyneices will be stoned to death by the citizens for violating the king’s decree. Antigone has no fear and she has a plan to bury her brother in secret. Ismene does not have the courage to go against the king’s order. Antigone decides to carry out the burial alone.

Creon comes to know that someone has tried to give a ritual burial to Polyneices and has the guilty person brought before him. He is furious when he discovers that it is Antigone, his niece who has defied his orders. But Antigone defends her action making an impassioned argument against Creon’s decree, declaring it to be against the laws of the gods themselves. This enrages Creon further, and he orders Antigone and her sister Ismene to be put to death by stoning for disobeying his orders.

Haemon, Creon’s son who is betrothed to marry Antigone implores his father to reconsider his decision but father and son end up arguing with Creon accusing Haemon of being unmanly in siding with a woman. Haemon walks out of the court in anger, swearing he will never come back. Later Creon changes his pronouncement on Antigone and her sister: Ismene is to be unharmed and Antigone will be enclosed in a chamber and left to die of starvation instead of being stoned to death by the citizens. But he does not amend his original decree of leaving Polyneices body unburied.

Tiresias, the blind prophet, warns Creon that his action of leaving Polyneices unburied has angered the gods and they will punish him with the death of his own son. Creon rejects the prophecy angrily but decides to anyway bury Polyneices and free Antigone. But this change of heart is too late for Antigone. Creon finds that she has hanged herself and unable to bear her loss, Haemon too has committed suicide. The queen, Eurydice, curses Creon holding him responsible for her son’s death and later kills herself. Creon is now left alone to accept responsibility and regret his actions. He prays for a quick end to life. The play closes with the solemn warning that hubris will be punished by adverse fate.


After a failed attack on Thebes, Creon the king of Thebes decrees that the invader Polyneices who was his nephew should not be given a ritual burial but his body should left to rot. On the other hand, Eteocles, the brother of Polyneices who was Creon’s ally is to be given a ceremonial burial. Antigone, Polyneices’s sister plans to give her brother a secret ritual burial defying her uncle’s decree. She expects help from Ismene but Ismene is timid.

Creon comes to know that someone has attempted a ritual burial and he orders the guilty person to be brought before him. He is furious when he realizes that Antigone, his niece is the one who has defied his orders. But unafraid, Antigone passionately argues that not burying Polyneices is going against divine rules. This enrages Creon further and he orders that the sisters Antigone and Ismene should be stoned to death by the citizens.

Antigone is betrothed to Haemon, Creon’s son and he advises his father to desist from this harsh punishment. But Creon is in no mood to relent. Father and son fight with Creon calling his son’s support of Antigone, unmanly. Haemon stalks out of the court, swearing he will never return to the king’s court. Creon is reluctant to admit his son is right but he modifies his decree. Ismene is to be left unharmed but Antigone has to die for her crime. She is to be sealed inside a chamber where she will be starved to death.

The blind prophet, Tiresias, warns Creon that the gods are furious with him for his crime of leaving his nephew unburied. As punishment, they have willed that Haemon, Creon’s son will die. Creon angrily rejects the prophecy but he later decides to have Polyneices buried and Antigone set free. But it is too late. Creon, with his decree which went against the wishes of the gods, has set in motion a terrible tragedy. Antigone has hanged herself. Unable to face this loss, Haemon kills himself. When his mother hears of the death of her son, Eurydice, the queen kills herself blaming her husband, the king for the deaths. Creon is left alone to repent and he prays for an early death. As the conclusion, the Chorus issues a sombre warning that hubris or over weaning pride and arrogance will be punished by the gods.



The characters in the Oedipus trilogy are completely different in each of the plays strengthening the belief that they were not written as a trilogy but three separate plays. The Creon of Antigone is an autocrat, a monarch who believes in the divine right of kings. He believes that the power and the position as a head of state are vested in himself. In the city states, kingship was a duty that the chosen one had to carry out. But in violation of this tradition, Creon considers the throne as his unalienable right and rules by his own will rather than by the laws laid down by the gods. Creon’s lust for power brings him to the point where he listens to neither his son nor to Tiresias. By the end of the play, he has been punished by the gods and reduced to “Nothing”.


On the face of it Antigone seems to grapple with the unreasonable ways of her uncle, Creon who was the King of Thebes. But the larger picture suggests that it is fate that she is fighting. Her courage and decisiveness is in sharp contrast to Ismene’s timid passiveness. It is no surprise that this play has been named after Antigone as her courage and determination overshadows the attempt of Polyneices to capture Thebes. Antigone wants to give Polyneices a ritual burial not just because he is her brother but also because the laws of the gods demand it. In championing what is right and honourable, she takes the high moral ground compared to Creon who comes off as being autocratic and tyrannical. She has her moments of doubt as any young girl would. When she is being led to her death, Antigone is sad that her life will soon end due to her insistence on doing what is right, but that makes her strength stand out as even more striking.


Ismene has been depicted as the perfect Greek girl of her times. She thinks that decisions made by men cannot be challenged and authority cannot be questioned. She is timid and emotional and lacks Antigone’s spirit. In this she is a perfect foil to Antigone. She loves her sister but she is unable to support her in this dangerous venture. She is the only survivor of the House of Oedipus and one wonders how she would have coped when left alone.