Literally, I find this story dealing with the egotistical behavior of humans which is paving too much pride in oneself. Pride is a behavior that can result from two opposite connotations. From a positive connotation, pride is the credit that one gives to oneself for their accomplishments that raises one’s self-esteem. Whereas, from a negative connotation, pride means being fixed towards a decision or action and an inflated sense of one’s status or achievements that often leads to arrogance. From the story, the first bull keeper, feels proud of himself in being the caretaker of the red bull.
His pride exceeds that of his master’s and this is highlighted by the narrator as IM being only the bull keeper. Apart from that, the bull keeper feels proud whenever he and the young bull grabs the crowd’s attention in the market as they walk pass by to the point that it is indicated the bull keeper has a wishful thinking to be the bull’s owner. While leading the red bull across the bridge, the first bull keeper was infuriated at the sight of another fighting bull being led by its keeper and felt insulted irrationally.
This ego thus provoked an argument between them that led to an unresolved conflict. An interesting part in the story would be before the ending. The narrator, described the unconscious thoughts that were running through the bull keepers’ minds by saying that the heavy roars and the hot breaths of both bulls were like the signals from the Hindu god of death, Yam. At a point, I believe, the thoughts of Yam resulted from the unconscious sense of fear and guilt. Yam is the god of death or god of Justice, sometimes referred to as Dharma which means to maintain a law.
In the Hindu scriptures, it is said, Yam decides the consequences or punishments of one’s deeds after death. This unconscious fear may be the result of lilt for not having chosen a virtuous solution by being humble towards each other in resolving their problem. This story highlights the difference in social class where the ruling elite whom are the red bull keeper’s master, the village headman, and the rubber carrier’s boss, impose rules and regulations on the working class characters whom are the two bull keepers and the rubber carrier.
The cultural hegemony can be seen from the first bull keeper’s fixed daily wage by his master which would not exceed more than thirty baht regardless of the amount of dedication and commitment that he put in roving care for the red bull. In addition to that, the highest reward that he would receive was enjoying a delicious feast at his master’s table only if the bull under his care won a fight. Inequality between social classes is also evident with the second bull keeper and the rubber carrier as well.
For the second bull keeper, an appointment had to be fixed with the village headman and the bull had to be brought by the bull keeper although it is the village headman who wishes to see it. In the case of the rubber carrier, he was annoyed that his boss would be furious with IM if the tubs filled with white rubber liquid were spilt and all the rubber in both tubs were lost, for the loss would be a whole days wage to the rubber carrier.
If the lower working class people do not carry out their duties well, they will suffer a bigger loss in their daily life and this made them desperate to get across the bridge despite the obstruction by the two bull keepers and their bulls. Another element that I noticed in the story is the unconscious oppression towards women. When the middle aged mother stepped on the foot of the bridge, the white bull keeper shouted rudely at her because her agitated manner was frightening the lulls. In some way, this portrayed that the bulls were given more importance than a woman in that situation.
Although the mother explained that she needed to get to the other side of the bridge to buy medicine for her dying child, the white bull keeper ignorantly continued to yell at her and rudely remarked her as being deaf. The mother did not receive any respect, kindness nor sympathy for her situation from the white bull keeper. Figuratively, I find this story to be a reflection of the social and political background of the author’s home country Thailand, and can be related to the political instability that has been occurring since the sass.
Every element and character in the story has a symbolic meaning and seems to be carrying a deeper message that the author wishes to convey. From my point of view, I can relate this story to the Bloody May incident, an infamous protest which took place in Bangkok, against the government of General Zucchinis Corporation in 1992 from the 17th to the 20th of May (Callahan w. A, 1998). The protest was about General Zucchinis Corporation being appointed as the Prime Minister after his military Junta overthrew the civilian elected government of Chitchat Coachman in 1991 .
This was immediately followed by massive public protests in which the Black May, another common name, took place on May 17 (Grossman 2010: 284). This story can be related to a specific occurrence that happened during the Black May. A group of protesters led by Changing Assuring and DRP. San Withdraw marched to the Government House to demand Zucchini’s resignation. Here I find, Changing Assuring as the red bull keeper and the protesters to be the red bull. Changing Assuring was the founder and leader of Paling Dharma Party (Peak Phalange Than), a Buddhist-inspired political party (Lifer 1995: 125).
The rage shown by the civilians can be symbolizes with the color red and showed some association with the red bull keeper. The Government House can be related to the white bull keeper. Since ancient times, many government buildings, temples and churches have been traditionally white which is associated with religious and civic virtue (Gage 1993: 29) As the procession of mad protesters reached the intersection of Archdeacon and Archdeacon Nook Avenues, they were stopped at the Pan FAA bridge which was barricaded with razor wire by the police.
The police seem to be the white bull, who re on the Government’s side and the Pan FAA Bridge represented the bridge in the story. The razor wire brings a similarity to the bridge where in the story, as the two bull keepers led their bull to the middle of the narrow bridge, they could not find a way out of the situation. This situation was depicted by the razor wire barricade where it showed that it is a risk to enter but if you should enter, then there is no way out.
Changing had urged the protesters to not attack the police using a loudspeaker however, his words were ignored and approximately 100 protesters and 21 policemen were injured in the clash. This situation is relatable to the clash between the two bulls where both bulls did not obey their keeper’s instructions and resulted in the bloody death of the two bull keepers. The death of the red bull keeper can be associated with the handcuffing and arresting of Changing by General Zucchinis on May 18 while the white bull keeper’s death can be related to Zucchini’s resignation.
The stubbornness of both parties did not result in any good and neither of them attained victory. The fateful protest only led to a bloody massacre of unarmed civilians. In the story, the character of the middle-aged mother, subtly hinted the gender inequality in Thailand against women. Many groups of women have been undergoing different forms of oppression in the Thai society ranging from double standard to sexual violence. When an economic crisis hits the country, Thai women are among the first groups to lose their Jobs. One reason would be the impact of political conflicts in Thailand on feminism.
The prolonged political conflict divided people into different political worldviews and overshadowed other feminism issues. In other words, the political turmoil’s made it difficult for these movements to raise the social tutus of women in Thai society as their issues are regarded as ‘soft’ and less significant compared with political matters. Similarly, in the story the plight of the middle-aged woman was ignored by both the bull keepers and inconsiderately, the white bull keeper responded with rudeness without considering the reason for her desperation.
Thailand is known to be one of the most socially unequal countries in Asia. A report by the Bank of Thailand claimed that the top 20 percent of the country population controls 69% of the nation’s wealth compared to the lowest 20 percent whom control only 1% of the wealth. Commonly, it was the small farmers, businessmen and vendors and the working class that would be hit hard whenever an economic crisis erupts. Just like in the story, it revolved around the lower working class people who desperately needed to carry out their work or else their daily wages would be affected.
In Thailand feudal system, the kings of Attitude have created many institutions to enforce their rule during the Middle European ages. The Autonomy King, Traditional, instituted the Asana or Shading which literally means “Field Power” and is often referred to as Thai Feudalism. It is considered one of the most influential royal commands. Thai society had always been divided into two classes which are the nobles and the masses. The Shading system defines the roles of these two classes within society.
In the 21st century, Shading is obvious in many things for instance, the amount of privilege a person is granted. It is common to see an expensive car being escorted by police where rudely the ordinary drivers would be told to get out of the way, the deference of a servant shown towards his master or students lowering their heads when a teacher passes by. One simple example would be that when a Tuck Tuck driver used his savings and earned a degree from a prestigious university in Thailand, he would never be accepted in a Job vacancy solely due to his low birth.