Manipulation through Language in The Memorandum
How one utilizes language to perpetuate certain images or perspectives can greatly influence the way people think. One can use language to manipulate the minds of others and bring them under some form of subjugation. In Vaclav Havel's The Memorandum certain characters use this tactic of manipulation through different means that involve language, and in the process, they gain the authority or recognition they are seeking. Ballas promotes the new creation of the synthetic language, Ptydepe, which reduces humans by mechanizing them for the purpose of a more scientific and efficient system of communication. The language is created so that people will show no emotions or flaws when speaking. This system is analogous to the bureaucracy, which also implements its linguistic power to establish and maintain order in every aspect of The Memorandum's society. Havel illustrates how language is intrinsically omnipotent by exemplifying the drastic effects it can have on people's rationality. The characters in the play who use language to their advantage gain power, and those who allow language to control them become victims of the cyclic struggle to systematize humanity.
Ballas is one person who uses language to manipulate and abate people, thereby exercising his power. Although subordinate to Gross by title in the beginning of the play, Ballas manages to finesse Gross into signing the supplementary order for the official introduction of Ptydepe, even though Gross is in opposition to the idea of an artificial language. He uses public opinion over the rubber stamp affair to manipulate Gross into submitting to his demands. Ballas strategically attempts to tell Gross what he believes Gross wants to hear and later admits he does this as a "matter of tactics" (1.1). An example of his stratagem is after he convinces Gross to sign the supplementary order: "We look forward to our further work in this organization under your expert and enlightened leadership" (1.4). He purposefully plays sycophant to Gross to make Gross feel as if he is still in control of the situation. He then convinces Gross that he would be more valuable as Deputy Director while he fills Gross' position as Managing Director. He abruptly informs Gross, "I'll go and get my things, while you, Mr. Gross, will kindly move out of my desk" (1.5), to which Gross responds with no resistance, "As you wish, Mr. Ballas" (1.5). Ballas has adroitly utilized the skill of duplicity to attain his power over people. He contrives his dialogue in a manner that influences the thoughts and actions of Gross. With this ingenuity of speech, Ballas is able to gain formal approval of introducing Ptydepe and conquers Gross' title as managing Director.
Helena is another character who uses language to her advantage in order to achieve state. She does not use deception, as Ballas does; rather, she addresses others in a manner that connotes their...