The Man in the High Castle: Criticisms of Reality and Dictatorship

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THE MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE: CRITICISMS OF REALITY AND DICTATORSHIP Stephanie Lane Sutton

“Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away.” -Philip K. Dick

Botwinick writes in A History of the Holocaust, “The principle that resistance to evil was a moral duty did not exist for the vast majority of Germans. Not until the end of the war did men like Martin Niemoeller and Elie Wiesel arouse the world’s conscience to the realization that the bystander cannot escape guilt or shame” (pg. 45). In The Man in the High Castle, Philip K. Dick writes of a world where Niemoeller and Wiesel’s voices never would have surfaced and in which Germany not only never would have repented for the Holocaust, but would have prided itself upon it. Dick writes of a world where this detached and guiltless attitude prevails globally, a world where America clung on to its isolationist policies, where the Axis powers obtained world domination and effectively wiped Jews from the surface, forcing all resistance and culture to the underground and allowing for those in the 1960’s Nazi world to live without questioning the hate they were born into.

The Man in the High Castle is an alternative history novel that takes place in a reality that diverts from our own when Franklin D. Roosevelt is assassinated in 1933. In this way, the United States never enters into World War II. The novel follows the stories of a few characters scattered through the now puppet-state America. Many character decisions in the book are made by the use of the I Ching oracle, a testament to the influence and control of the Axis powers on culture as well as the questioning of the control of one’s own fate, something that is not reflected in the totalitarian ideals of the Nazi dictatorship.

The characters that are most central to the influence of the Holocaust on this post-war world are Frank Fink and Mr. Baynes, two Jews whom have somehow escaped Nazi execution and continue to live by means of changing their names and surgically altering their appearance (supporting the Nazi idea of Jewishness being ethnic, not cultural nor religious). While both under-radar Jews, each works as a pillar of society, and each represents deception.

Fink works in the antiquities industry, creating replicas of pre-War American weapons that are passed off as authentic. His occupation is reflective of society and of his place in it – to appear authentic but continue to deceive. Since the Axis has gained control of the world, the Nazi’s control over media that was present when the Third Reich came to power has accumulated globally and in a stifling way. In sharp contrast to our own reality, television never becomes popular and radio continues to be the predominant information source; because of the stifling of the development of American culture, there has been an acute interest in pre-war American memorabilia. In this way, a large market for forgeries has emerged, and Fink works creating replicas in this large secret industry. His struggle as an undetected Jew of low class parallels his occupation in an industry of deception. “No one could possibly estimate the percentage of forgeries in circulation. And no one – especially the dealers – wanted to. … The fakes would undermine the value of the real. It was fine until questioned” (pg. 48). In this way, the fake antiquity industry is a reflection of the totalitarian values of the Third Reich – it is stable until the consumers or citizens begin to question the system and values.

Fink makes the decision to leave the forgery industry and enter into an independent business of jewelry making with the intent of creating a new market for “American contemporary art;” in order to do this, he goes undercover, posing as a military official and approaching Robert Childan, a prominent antiquities dealer who sells mostly to white-collar Japanese (whom are regarded a superior race), and reveals to him that a gun for...
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