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Thread: Dehumanization in Literature?

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    Jules's Avatar
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    Question Dehumanization in Literature?

    So for my English final I have to write about dehumanization in the books we've read in class, which are Into The Wild, Unwind, The Crucible, and Julius Caesar. I don't really expect anyone to be able to give me examples of when it happened in those books (it would be nice if you could though ) but if you could just kinda explain what it is to me, I would appreciate it (:

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    Did you already:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dehumanization

    ? The first paragraph in that Wiki article gives you the gist of it.

    ---

    In my own words, we treat humans (ourselves) differently. We give special treatment to ourselves. We give more rights, freedoms, love, etc. than we do to animals - no matter how much we like animals.

    For instance, when it comes to putting a loved pet down, we're saddened by it, but are quick to sign the order.
    When it comes to people though, there's a lot more personal debate (and sometimes ethical complications), even when we know it's right. See what I mean by "humanization"?

    Another example of mine, is animal testing and research. We have ethics boards to minimize pain and distress for animal subjects, but in the end, they are still cultured to die for our purposes. We don't do that for humans though. We could, but there would be too much criticism that we're hurting "ourselves", and that we're "higher" than animals.

    See where I'm getting at? You can love an animal, then you can love a human. Think of those differences that make human love/compassion much more important.

    Then take that special treatment away. You've effectively turned humans to animals (or worse). You've dehumanized the situation.

    I guess another quick example is concentration camps in countries like North Korea. They treat their prisoners like absolute shit, far below the standard of human compassion. That's also dehumanizing.

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    'Unwind' is an absolutely perfect example--it focuses on how 'bad' teenagers' are slaughtered for their organs .
    But, Julius Caesar and The Crucible show nice examples as well; think about how the senate treats Caesar himself, what Antony says at his funeral oration, how Flavius treats the common men, and so on .
    As for The Crucible, think about what happened to Rebecca because of the Putnams, how easily John gets rid of Abigail after their affair is outed, and why Martha was accused of being a witch--why did bad things happen is a good way to look at that one for dehumanizing characters
    I'm afraid I couldn't help on any Krakauer, though

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    Just to add about Into the Wild (also just remembered I've read Unwind and it's a great book), this is slightly different as it's about one man's quest to dehumanize himself. Typically dehumanization is carried out by oppressors on some sort of minority group. Here we see Chris/Alex taking steps to remove himself from society and thereby dehumanize himself by enabling to become more at one with nature and live a solitary forager life.

    To expand on Reese's point a little, in Unwind the teenagers are dehumanized in that they are seen only for their physical self (ie. useful organs) and not for them as humans with minds and personalities of their own. In this way they are treated like animals.

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