Before and after


The juxtaposition of before and after scenes is what renders the terror superb. For instance, we see the festive January vista of 1.8 million people crammed into the National Mall to witness a new president taking the oath of office. Turn the clock forward a few months and the scene is one of removing carcasses of botulism-stricken ducks from the fetid, smelly waters of the reflecting pools.

In Doctor Zhivago, the medical doctor returns to his beautiful house in the city after escaping the White Army only to find that it has been taken over by the Communists "for the common good." Every trace of its opulence has been stripped away, in a frenzied striptease of proletariat equalization, as when the ugly sisters stripped Cinderella's sash and beads. Now dilapidated and unkempt (Who would bother to fix it up? Who has a vested interest where there is no ownership?), every room of the house is boorishly occupied by squalid strangers, who leer at Zhivago as if he were the interloper.

In C.S. Lewis' The Last Battle, the glorious beginnings promised by Shift the Ape stand in mocking contrast to the news that starts to trickle in from different quarters---the holy trees are being felled in Lantern Waste; their noble logs are floated down to the Calormenes ("The Lion's orders, Sire. Aslan himself."); aliens are enslaving Narnians; the nuts that the squirrels had been saving up for winter they must surrender to the Ape.

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At first no one can believe that their Savior is ordering things like this:

"No, no, no," howled the Beasts. "It can't be true. Aslan would never sell us into slavery to the King of Calormen."

"None of that! Hold your noise!" said the Ape with a snarl. "Who said anything about slavery? You won't be slaves. You'll be paid---very good wages too. That is to say, your pay will be paid into Aslan's treasury and he will use it all for everybody's good." Then he glanced, and almost winked, at the chief Calormene. . . .

"It's all arranged. And all for your own good. We'll be able, with the money you earn, to make Narnia a country worth living in. There'll be oranges and bananas pouring in---and roads and big cities and schools and offices and whips and muzzles and saddles and cages and kennels and prisons---oh, everything."

"But we don't want all those things," said an old Bear. "We want to be free. . . ."

"Now don't you start arguing," said the Ape, "for it's a thing I won't stand. I'm a Man: you're only a fat, stupid old Bear. What do you know about freedom? You think freedom means doing what you like. Well, you're wrong. That isn't true freedom. True freedom means doing what I tell you."

"H-n-n-h," grunted the Bear and scratched its head; it found this sort of thing hard to understand.

Any resemblance between the above-mentioned story and events of our times is purely imaginative.

To hear commentaries by Andrée Seu, click here.

Andrée Seu
Andrée Seu

Andrée is the author of three books: Won't Let You Go Unless You Bless Me, Normal Kingdom Business, and We Shall Have Spring Again.


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