The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #140865   Message #3240029
Posted By: Little Hawk
16-Oct-11 - 11:53 PM
Thread Name: BS: Racial stereotypes in retellings?
Subject: RE: BS: Racial stereotypes in retellings?
Regarding Ikey Solomon and the character Fagin...I haven't read the book in question. It would have been a very different social climate with different attitudes when Dickens wrote his books. The mere fact that a Jewish character displays some bad character traits is not necessarily an attack on Jews per se. It is possible, after all, for people of bad character to belong to ANY ethnic or cultural group, isn't it? If so, it's possible to write about such a character without attacking everyone else in his ethnic or cultural or national group by association. Now, if one were to depict ALL Jews as having some sort of bad characteristics (as Hitler and Goebbels, for example, did), then it's definitely an attack on Jews in a general sense. If it's one character, it isn't necessarily an attack on Jews....but a depiction of a bad character, period.

If we get to the point where we are literally afraid to depict ANY single member of some particular group of people as having a bad character...whether they be Jews, Blacks, Whites, Germans, Americans, Italians, Native Americans, or whatever the heck they are.....then I'd say we've painted ourselves into a very uncomfortable and unrealistic corner, and one that cannot be justified or sustained in the light of the whole human experience.

A people do not become "perfect" or "above criticism" merely because they have suffered severe persecution at some point in their past history. That was, in fact, the kind of exclusive thinking that motivated the Nazis. They saw themselves as a very special people ("Aryans")...and a people who had been terribly persecuted by the Treaty of Versailles, the victorious Allies, and supposedly by Jews, Communists, etc. after WWI. Their exaggerated sense of their own historical martyrdom following WWI drove them to martyr other people in WWII to "even the score". It's not a wise precedent to follow, no matter who you are and no matter how badly your people suffered in the past. It usually leads to some other group of people being persecuted by the last victimized group, now that they've got the upper hand. The pain gets passed on, and a whole new set of historical martyrs is created. Presently their children go out and do it to someone else. (The sad history of Ireland is a prime example of that sort of thing.)

Somewhere along the line someone has to have the sense not to react in that fashion if the chain of violence is ever to be broken.