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Understanding The Enemy: A Study Of The Enemy Archetype In Literature

1094 words - 4 pages

In The Fixer, Bernard Malamud uses the enemy archetype to show how we determine who our enemies are, and how it affects our behavior towards them. Yakov Bok is a simple handyman who grows from an insignificant victim of anti-Semitism, to a martyr for his people. After realizing that his life's misfortunes are the cause of human society, Bok gains the strength to fight for not only his own, but also his people's justice. The enemy archetype originates from all of our negative emotions. There are many characteristics and reasons for how we identify an enemy. Enemy images are generally created due to group dynamics. Since, humans have a psychological need for a social identity, they base their values and beliefs on those of the group identity. Group identities are usually defined by contrast to other groups. Hypocrisy is very common when we define our enemies. People often label the other side with their character flaws, ignoring the fact that they share the same faults. The enemy is de-humanized, and considered to be something below humanity. De-humanization is an important part of physical conflict, especially war. If the enemy is considered to be on the human level, killing him would be too psychologically difficult. Bringing the enemy to a sub-human level is what has made killing so easy for well-meaning people. Enemies can also be created when there is a problem without a clear cause or solution. A person, a group of people, or even an abstract concept such as God, or luck, usually end up being the supposed cause of the problem. The creation of a scapegoat provides a cause of a problem that is much easier to accept than the real cause (such as the group that created the scapegoat), or the fact that there is no cause. Governments and the media sometimes take advantage of the way we view enemies. During times of political unrest, or war, the government creates scapegoats through stereotypes and propaganda. By doing this, they create unity among the people during times of crisis.When a person doesn't have a clear perception of who the enemy is, and doesn't know what they are up against, they feel discouraged to confront their enemy. In The Fixer, Yakov Bok, the protagonist, starts out in the beginning of the novel as a bitter man who has had bad luck throughout his entire life. Having lost his parents at a very young age, and having had his wife leave him recently, Yakov feels that his life is reaching rock bottom. These experiences give Yakov a sense of helplessness. He has denied his people, his God, his culturally inherited set of values, left the shtetl, concealed his Jewish identity, only wanting to be allowed to work and live in peace. His life has so far been governed by events he had no control over, making him feel helpless and powerless to change anything. Yakov blames his misfortune on God, and other abstract concepts that no one can do anything about. Because of this, he lives his life in the fashion of a...

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