Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Fugard's Island


The Party seeks power entirely for its own sake. We are not interested in the good of others; we are interested solely in power. Not wealth or luxury or long life or happiness: only power, pure power. What pure power means you will understand presently. We are different from all the oligarchies of the past, in that we know what we are doing. All the others, even those who resembled ourselves, were cowards and hypocrites.

George Orwell, Nineteen Eighty-four

When you go to the quarry tomorrow, take a good look at old Harry. Look into his eyes, John. Look at his hands. They've changed him. They've turned him into stone.
Athol Fugard, John Kani, & Winston Ntshona, The Island

When I think about the play, The Island, and the character of Winston I can't help but remember he is named Winston. And ever since Orwell's novel, Nineteen Eighty-four, came out in 1948 Winston has stood for the twentieth century every man who stood against the state. The author's surname is a contemporary byword for personal privacy lost to the state, and the adjective 'Orwellian' connotes totalitarian thought and action in controlling and subjugating people.
Just as in Orwell, Fugard and his collaborators write of the power of the totalitarian state to subjugate its people one at a time. In The Island we see another Winston, another every man standing against power, just as Antigone did against Creon many centuries before the age of Winston. The power of free thought and the author will continue to triumph over those who would use power for power's sake.

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