Literary Analysis of When the Elephants Dance
It is always said that people die for their flag, but like Howard Zinn says, “There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people - Literary Analysis of When the Elephants Dance introduction. ” During World War 2 the Philippines, one of the most innocent countries, was brutally murdered, raped, and tortured. As the battlefield between the United States and Japan the Philippines received the trauma of the war without any of the recognition. The Philippines were considered a “neutral” country during the war, yet they lost an estimated 6. 6 percent of their population.
(Howard) It was a tragedy to barely hear of such a massacre where innocent people were injured physically and mentally due to a war they were not even a part of in the first place. The book , When the Elephants Dance by Tess Uriza Holthe, follows innocent people through their horrific experiences that they had to go through during World War 2. The innocent characters have to live through anguish from being raped, having their children mistreated, and being dehumanized. Tess Uriza Holthe, in When The Elephants Dance, captures the dreadful reality that war harms the most innocent.
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When the Elephants Dance by Tess Uriza Holthe provides horrible stories of innocent women being mistreated by men. During World War 2 when the Philippines were invaded by Japan, thousands of women were raped. They had nothing to do with guerrillas and were not an enemy to the Japanese army. Nevertheless, any woman caught by the Japanese army would usually end up being raped or even killed. In Isabelle’s story, she describes her experience with sexual assault. Isabel is taken to a motel when the Japanese captures her.
She hears other girls getting raped and she knows that will also be her fate. Isabelle is still a virgin, which represents how pure and innocent she is. She is an innocent young lady whose only wrong was trying to find food for her family, yet she was captured and a big part of her life was taken away from her by force. “I become detached from my own skin. I am a virgin no more, I repeat to myself. People will know this when they see me. I look into their eyes, but there is nothing, no hope, no compassion, only hate and blackness. I see the face of war.
” When you are raped you are dehumanized. That is why she says she “become[s] detached from [her] own skin”, she feels filthy and ashamed that “people will know” when they see her. She was innocent to say the very least. She describes war through her being raped by saying “I look into their eyes, but there is nothing, no hope, no compassion, only hate and blackness. I see the face of war”. Isabelle is saying that just like her rape, war has “no hope, no compassion, only hate”. That is why she sees “the face of war”. Innocent people like her were raped and mistreated during World War 2.
Throughout the years, rape has been used as a tactic used by governments during war to infiltrate terror and destroy culture. While Isabel describes how rape is a consequence of war, her story also discusses the dismal and apathy women also faced. In Isabel’s story, Isabel helps and basically saves Domingo’s life. He finds him all wounded and helps him up. He does not thank her. Once they are at a base of his guerrilla camp he meets a women. It was his lover. Isabel was stunned to know that he is cheating on Ate Lorna, his wife. “I feel the irritation in me growing, pushing through the thickness of my exhaustion.
I helped him here just so he could betray Ate Lorna with this tramp. ” The fact that Domingo is seen as a hero in the book, illustrates how the mistreatment of women is seen as inevitable. Isabelle feels very angry because she “helped him here just so he could betray Ate Lorna”. Domingo has a wife and a son at home, which makes “the irritation in [Isabel] grow, pushing through the thickness of her exhaustion”. Isabelle risked getting caught by the Japanese and helped Domingo who she thought was a good person. Now she feels betrayed and has second thought on why he helped him.
War makes heroes and villains both of those usually end up mistreating women in a way or another. While misogyny against women was normalized in the novel, the author also explores the mistreatment of women through their children. In the novel japanese soldiers would take babies away and kill them in front of their mothers. At the end of the book, the soldiers held countless civilians captive. They wanted to take Ate Lorna’s baby. Everybody was too weak and tired to do much about it. Anybody who tried would get stabbed with a bayonet. Soldiers were just going from mother to mother taking babies away until they got to Lorna.
“Ate Lorna becomes a mad women. She lunges at the soldiers and claws and kicks at their faces. The soldiers appear stunned at first, but then they regain their composure and began to stab at her with bayonets. The blades are raised and brought down with such strength, a quick rhythm of silver and flesh that spins my head. I watch as Ate Lorna puts out her fingers. The bayonets slash through them” Ate Lorna was an innocent woman who has lost family due to the war. All she has left was her baby. That is why when they take her baby away she “becomes a mad women”.
But the minute Lorna attempts to fight back, to gain agency, “The blades are raised and brought down with such strength, a quick rhythm of silver and flesh that spins my head. I watch as Ate Lorna puts out her fingers. The bayonets slash through them”. She gets killed brutally in front of everyone else for watching just for her to get her baby back. It should be sinful to do such things to humans. She is innocent and war is to blame. Killing women and children during a war is a way of destroying and replacing culture. That is why the Japanese tried to destroy everything, including people, when they overtook the Philippines.
While Lorna is an Example of how the murder of innocent children dehumanizes a culture, the slaughter of children in-of-itself needs to be examined as a consequence of war. In When The Elephants Dance by Tess Uriza Holthe, children are amongst the most innocent, yet they are the ones who suffer the most due to war in their country. In the book, a lot of families had to send out their young boys to find food, which was very scarce during the war, and some of them returned scared from the Japanese soldiers who attacked or tortured them. In Alejandro’s story, he gets tortured by the Japanese soldiers.
Alejandro, who is not even a teenager yet, was held by the soldier as if he was another soldier or even an enemy. “’Stop that. ‘ Tanaka presses his sword to my neck. Tears leak from the corner of my eyes. I am confused. I do not remember the question. Or have I already answered it? Do they ask about Domingo the guerrilla, or Nesto the murderer? My face stings from the loud smacking of Tanaka’s open palm. ” (19) Alejandro was sent out to find for food since he and his brother are the quickest. Yet, he did not know that he would end up with a soldier who “presses his sword on [his] neck.
Alejandro is scared that if he says something his friend will die. Alejandro has “Tears leak[ing] from the corner of his eye”. He is a young innocent boy who was not done anything to deserve such a bad beating. This just comes to show how war induces pain and suffering to the innocent. War takes away the innocence of a child, watching so many things go wrong can transform a child into what he sees. Bartoy a young boy, was now the one killing the Japanese at the end of the book. He was in charge of killing Domingo as well. He totally changed from when Domingo found him.
War changes people, it can either make you or break you. In Bartoy’s case it broke him. A child who lost his parents is now a murderer. He was too young for this incident. Bartoy went through the trauma and came out just as the person he hated for killing his parents. “I look at Bartoy sharply. He enjoys the killing. It is plain in his eyes, the anticipation. He was never like this. When we found him, after his parents had been executed, he was still tender. The business with his parents, being forced to watch, it has done something to his soul. ” This is an example of how war can harm innocent people mentally.
Domingo says he “was tender” after “his parents had been executed”. Now “ he enjoys the killing”. Bartoy was “forced to watch” his parents getting executed. Domingo thinks that obviously that experience changed his soul. It changed him completely. War did that to him, war changed an innocent person and made him something that war lives off of. War has no compassion, only hate. That is the mentality that encompassed Bartoy’s childhood. War changed an innocent child into a killing machine. War causes people to change, the more unlucky ones are killed by war itself.
It kills people by the thousand, many of which are innocent children. Harmless children are seen as an enemy that should be destroyed by the opponent. Children are usual casualties in a war fought by cowards with guns. Killing children is a way to perpetuate genocide. How do you kill and colonize a people if their children remember? In fact, it is a way of destroying culture. In Isabel’s story, she was caught by the Japanese and witnessed something she wished she hadn’t. While they were being attacked, she was rushed into a hotel where the Japanese held a base.
“We run as explosions fly overhead. A woman drops to the ground and sobs hysterically. She recognizes her children. . . We are surrounded by the dead. Bodies are strewn in the streets, some without arms or legs. The are babies on the ground, their tiny frames riddled with bayonet points. What crime could they have committed? ” That is the question. In a world where war is the way to settle disputes, children are being killed. You can feel the grief of the woman when she “drops to the ground and sobs hysterically”. She just noticed her children dead on the floor.
A floor in which they “are surrounded by bodies”. Some of which are “without arms or legs” and some which are babies. Their bodies are “riddled with bayonet points”. Who would have such a cold heart to stab a baby to death. How could small children be a threat to soldiers with guns? There is no rational explanation on why children should be killed like animals. It is sickening how war comes down to this. Yet again, war affects everybody in a different way. War changes innocent people, tortures innocent people, and kills innocent people. Especially children who are defenseless against guns and men.
In World War two, the Japanese used war to dehumanize the Philippine Citizens. Many Filipinos were tortured, killed, raped and stripped apart from their rights as humans. They were dehumanized by the Japanese which lead to culture and dignity to be taken away. In the beginning of the novel, Alejandro and his brother are out trying to find food. As they walk they see bodies on the floor, which is the result of the war. Innocent people that they knew were dead on the floor. The Filipinos were dehumanized and had rights taken away such as getting a decent burial for their death.
“‘Why do they not bury her? ’ ‘Who? ’ I ask, looking at the scattered bodies. It is difficult to see whom faces once belonged too. ‘Mrs. Del Rosario. ’ ‘For what? She is gone’ ‘I hope someone buries me,’ Roderick Says. ” When it gets to the point that people are dying by the thousand and they are now “scattered bodies” on the floor, it is now dehumanizing a culture, a city, a country. The massacre is getting so out of hand that people cannot get a proper burial like most cultures suggest. That is depriving them from their human rights to live and end their life how they please.
When Roderick says “I hope someone buries me” you can really see that the war is affecting how innocent people think. Roderick is a little boy who hasn’t done anything wrong. Yet, being dehumanized through war has changed his aspirations for life. Instead of saying something else he says that he hopes someone buries him. Signifying that war already chose his future for him. Taking away one’s privileges by force are ways to demean humans. Dehumanizing the dead by disrespecting their culture is one thing, but using rape as tool to dehumanize is intolerable.
Rape is one of the strongest, most disgusting way to dehumanize a human and turn them into an object. The Japanese raped thousand of women during World War two. They used rape as a strategic tactic to mentally disable their enemy and to affect their moral and spirit. Rape was an attempt to show superiority and to dehumanize the Philippine culture. In Carlito’s story, for example, he talks about how like women, he was taken as a prisoner and treated as an object for lust and hatred. He had an injured leg which he hoped would spare his life since he could not be of any help to the Americans.
They were basically getting in line to die when he gets called aside by one of the soldiers. He could not had been a strong enemy for the Japanese. He was not the real threat, yet he would be appointed as just another casualty of the slaughter. Soldiers were slaughtering his people, despite the fact that they were civilians and ultimately innocent. “As I began to undo my trousers he walked behind me, and I noticed that he was unbuckling his own pants. That was when I realized what he intended to do. . .
They have raped our women, they have butchered our babies, and now this bastard wants to rape me? He selected me with this injured leg. He thought to take the weakest of the group. “ Carlos is an ill men. He has been sick and is no threat. He just set out to find food for his family and was taken in by the Japanese. At first Carlos thought he was going to be freed because he was “selected. . . with [an] injured leg”. Then he thought he was going to get shot when he was taken out back. He then realized “what he intended to do” when he was unbuckling his own pants” right behind him.
He realized he was going to be raped. Once again, the force of war has taken upon an innocent person. Rape is used as a tool to dehumanize, it is a way to show who is superior to those who are fragile and will not fight back. Dehumanizing is when people have their rights as humans taken away. Claiming property on a human is a way of doing so. We claim other things like animals when we use a branding iron to send a message to others that it belongs to one. At the end of the book, everybody from the attic in Alejandro’s house was now in a warehouse.
They were waiting to be slaughtered and tortured. Feliciano experienced something similar to an animal that degraded him. He was taken away the right of his own body. “Isabelle searches his body frantically for his wounds. ‘They have carved their flag on his body! ’ she screams. ‘Animals! ’ I crane my neck to see. There are deep cuts on his chest, his belly and his back. They have carved the Japanese rising sun on his body in three places. ” Feliciano was now like a cow with a “carved . . . flag on his body”. The cuts are “deep on his chest, his belly, and his back”.
The soldiers used the carving of the “Japanese rising sun” to send a message that the Philippines were now theirs and that others should know. That is a cruel way of dehumanizing a person. Feliciano will now have to live with these scars put on by the force of war. Howard Zinn expresses his feelings towards war and the horrifying outcomes of it. The Japanese created a war that massacred thousands of Filipinos during World War 2, this is a an example of it. Most of the Filipinos suffered to see their country destroyed along with their culture and pride.
Tess Uriza Holthe, in When The Elephants Dance, captures the dreadful reality that war harms the most innocent by showing women being raped, children suffering, and dehumanization being used as a tool during war. Through Isabelle’s story or having to live with her self after being raped, Alejandro’s story of how his family is fighting to survive, and Domingo’s encounters with people he notices that change because of the war. The novel explains how war uses several methods and tactics to win a war against a weaker opponent. Rape, torture, and dehumanization are used even until now, to portray injustice and superiority amongst governments.