Cockroach Book Report
Cockroach, written by Rawi Hage, published in 2008 by House of Anansi Press Inc., tells the story of a new immigrant who comes to Montreal, Canada to escape his war torn country back home in Iran. We see Canada through the eyes of the unnamed protagonist throughout the novel who struggles financially, and emotionally, battling the cold Canadian winter, and ending up in special care after a failed suicide attempt upon arriving to Canada. Through his extremely small group of friends; Reza, Farhoud, and his lover, Shohreh, he manages to scrape together somewhat of a life for himself in Montreal’s small immigrant community. The protagonist imagines himself as a cockroach, invading the homes of the upper and middle class, and stealing not only items he needs to survive, but also bringing souvenirs back from his break-ins to his small run down apartment. This novel shines a light on the way Canadian immigrants are treated, how society honestly views the lower class, and how the upper classes are portrayed negatively by these immigrants.
The period in history the novel takes place in is modern day. Problems that arise in the book are problems that are actually happening in today’s society somewhere, not only in Canada but also around the world. One of these problems is mental health, the stigma around it, as well as the modern way we tend to deal with these issues, all of which we see in Cockroach. In more of the developed nations at least, we are far more aware of all the different forms mental illness takes. These forms can be Attention Deficit Disorders, depression, Schizophrenia, suicide, and Bipolar disorder, just to name a few. To treat these illnesses and disorders, modern innovations have come up with medicine to help people stay in a better state of mind, and there are also educated people who treat, and take care of people with mental health issues for a living such as therapists, doctors, or rehabilitation centres. Genevieve was the therapist assigned to the main character in the novel, who doesn’t have a name, after his suicide attempt. This was a way the government saw to help him, but most things about his old life the doctor was shocked and taken aback by. Topics that would often come up were guns and the ability to have guns in his old country versus in Canada. The people who are privileged, and who are treating these immigrants, do not understand where they come from or what their past lives were like. Therefore, it’s difficult to assess their needs when they have no comprehension of what they have been though? It seems as if they want to sweep their problems under the rug, make them forget, and hopefully just make them be “normal”.
Canadian immigration is also common in this period in time, and like reflected in the novel, there are problems that arise with immigration in Canada. These days it is becoming extremely hard to immigrate to Canada because the cost to become a citizen has become more expensive. By making it more expensive to become a Canadian citizen, the government hopes to strengthen the value of becoming a Canadian citizen. Even if immigrants can manage to afford to come to Canada, it is almost assured that they will be among the low class because most of their money was spent in becoming a citizen. Another law regarding immigration is called the “Canada’s Citizenship Act” which requires the new immigrant to have a permanent place of residence for the first three years of being a new citizen of Canada. This could become extremely complicated for an immigrant without much money. Often in Cockroach, Canada’s culture is portrayed as snooty, pretentious, and oblivious to the lower class. We see many examples of this in the book when the protagonist is in front of the restaurant staring at the couple eating, and leaning against the fancy sports car of some stuck-up customer in the restaurant. When customers complained, they called the police, and...
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