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Empire Of The Sun By Jg Ballard

1503 words - 7 pages

"War violates every right of a child -- the right to life, the right to be with family and community, the right to health, the right to development of personality and the right to be nurtured and protected." - Graça Machel, Expert to the Secretary General of the United NationsEmpire of the Sun is a novel based on the events that JG Ballard witnessed during the Japanese occupation of Shanghai in WWII. The story depicts an eleven year old boy's psychological transformations during his imprisonment within the Lunghua internment camp. As an innocent, upper-middle class boy before the war, the harsh realities of war has changed Jim to a pragmatic, emotionally detached young man with the ...view middle of the document...

Jim's upbringing as a spoiled, disrespectful British ruling-class child can be observed by his attitude towards the servants on page sixteen in the novel, "The nine Chinese servants would be there, but in Jim's mind, and in those of the other British children, they remained as passive and unseeing as the furniture," and on page 18, "Amah, don't touch it! I'll kill you!" However, Jim's attitude, perspective on life and identity soon changed when the war erupted.When basic survival is threatened, one will readily sacrifice their beliefs and values for another day of life - stealing from the dead, working for others, and much more. At the beginning stages of the war, Jim was delighted as quoted on page 120, "For the first time in his life Jim felt free to do what he wanted." However, Jim soon learned that there is no true friendship in the context of war (i.e., when Basie abandoned him when they were leaving the cinema on page 123), and in order to survive, he had to work for others (i.e., running errands for Basie and Private Kimura, p.184). The realities of war also allowed Jim to learn not to be judgmental of people's class or race. As author JG Ballard said, himself, "I went in as a child and emerged as the beginnings of an adult. ... And living in close proximity to 2000 people of all social backgrounds was a unique education in a way. ... It teaches one not to be judgmental because we're all made of the same bruised flesh." In contrast to the innocent child he was before the war, he now understands the true meaning of war. Unlike the photos in the magazines he read during his imprisonment at Lunghua, which glamorized war, he had experienced the war himself - watching people die everyday, people fighting for food, soldiers inflicting cruel punishments towards other inmates, and so many more. Another positive aspect to Jim's development of identity was his newfound respect and care for others. Although Jim's respect for the kamikaze pilots - him saluting to the pilots in movie - may seem strange to others, we have to understand that Jim never learned what respect was. As mentioned previously, Jim was used to having people revolving around him and taking everything for granted. This quote on p. 264 in the novel describes Jim's transformation during the three years in the camps, "[Jim] had learned that having someone to care for was the same as being cared for by someone else." Despite witnessing a tremendous amount of horror and evil of human nature, Jim's experience with the war had thoroughly metamorphosed him from an arrogant, selfish child to a realistic, and caring young man.Although the topic of death is repeated many times throughout the novel, the movie and the novel allow the reader to observe how the human spirit can overcome adversity - Jim's struggle for survival despite facing death each and every moment during his time at camps. It is undeniable that Jim had become desensitized towards death and violence, and a pessimist of human...

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