Cathedral in Dublin
The purpose of this assignment is to compare and contrast the highly individual views of two authors on their interpretation of cannibalism and how they use their writing to put across their views. Cannibalism is defined as the eating of any animal by another member of the same species. It can serve as a means of genetic control by irradiating the weaker member of the species or a mechanism for population control when food sources are short. It is very rare in the civilised human species but it has occurred in modern society usually as a result of extreme necessity in isolated surroundings.
A Modest Proposal was a satirical political pamphlet written by Jonathan Swift, the Protestant Dean of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin, in 1729. Swift wrote many political and religious works in addition to his great literary classic Gulliver’s Travels and on his death was revered by Protestants, Catholics and Presbyterians throughout Ireland. Although he was born an Englishman and initially hated Ireland describing it as “this vile country”, he grew to love it and its people. Much of his writing was directed against the social injustices inflicted on the Irish people by their English masters.
Alive is a contemporary novel written by English Catholic author Piers Paul Read. It is based on true incident, which happened in 1972, when a plane carrying a rugby team and supporters crashed in the Andes on the way to a tour match in Chile. The hunt for the missing plane was given up and the story revolves round how the survivors managed to exist for 71 days until their rescue. The victims used their Catholic faith to help them through this but an obvious conflict arose when their only chance of survival was to eat the flesh of their dead companions.
Read deals with this situation realistically and sensitively, sometimes lifting the situation with brief flashes of ironic humour. He was awarded the Thomas More Medal for distinguished contribution to Catholic literature for this novel. Both of the above works were written by highly intelligent authors in styles contemporary to their publication date. Swift showed great understanding of the state that his adopted land was in and his approach to solving the problem was outwardly very simple but in essence much more complex.
Piers Paul Read addressed his problem in an open logical manner with well-balanced arguments developed between the characters in his story. The way in which the two authors developed their ideas was wrapped in extremely well written prose, which stimulates the reader to consider the problems posed carefully. Both writers are very controversial in their opinions but have demonstrated this in their other works. ALIVE In Alive, Read establishes the characters and their dependence on their religion becomes apparent at a very early stage.
As the plane heads towards the mountain, most of the passengers are praying and on impact, two of the boys Gustavo and Carlitos are praying out loud. Canessa (a second year medical student) does not pray but calculates the speed and potential force of impact. His logical mind and strong personality come to the forefront as the plot develops. Read develops the theme that through the religious beliefs and prays of the survivors that there is hope of rescue but this is soon dashed when they hear on a radio that the search for them has been called off.
They still through their faith have hopes that they might be found. Read describes in great detail the efforts that are made to survive in the hostile environment of the Andes during the severe winter months. They show great ingenuity but with no supply of medicine and very little food, they lose the weaker members. The bodies of the dead are moved outside where the do not deteriorate because of the extreme cold. The next stage of the novel revolves round the necessity for food for them to survive. Water is plentiful – melted snow – but food that was available soon runs out.
If they are to survive it becomes inevitable that the only potential source of food is their dead companions. The first reference to the possibility of eating human flesh is made in jest by Nando who suggests that he should eat the pilots for getting them into the mess. Read crystallises the situation: It was a ghastly prospect. The corpses around the plane in the snow, preserved by the intense cold in the state in which they had died. While the thought of cutting flesh from those who had been friends was repugnant to them all, a lucid appreciation of their predicament led them to consider it.
Canessa was the first to broach the subject using a two-pronged argument. He stressed firstly the absolute need for food, pointing out how their bodies’ reserves were being depleted and soon they would not have the strength to butcher their dead friends. The second part of his argument was that the survivors had a moral right to stay alive by any means possible – even cannibalism. He stressed the fact that the corpses were now just a source of food: “It is meat” he said “That’s all it is.
The souls have left their bodies and are in heaven with God. All that is left here are carcasses, which are no more human beings than the dead flesh of cattle we eat at home. ” The argument progressed and Marcelo questions what they must have done for God to make eat the bodies of their dead friends. Zerbino then asks ” But what do you think they would have thought? ” to which Marcelo has no reply. Zerbino completes his argument: ” I know that if my dead body could help you stay alive, the I’d certainly want you to use it.
In fact, if I do die and you don’t eat me, then I’ll come back from wherever I am and give you a good kick in the arse. ” This statement leads to the boys making a mutual pact that in the event of death their bodies should be used to help others survive. This train of thought is continues in a letter that Gustavo writes to his girlfriend: One thing that will seem incredible to you – it seems unbelievable to me – is that today we started to cut up the dead in order to eat them. There is nothing else to do.
I prayed to God that this day would never come, but it has and we have to face it with courage and faith. He continues his letter expounding the theory that God gave them the dead bodies in order that they survive. The cannibalism taboo is further extended with the survivors’ unwillingness to eat organs such as the heart and liver but again logic prevails and they realise that the organs must be consumed to gain the nutrients to live. During the daily prayers, Fito maintains his silence claiming to be agnostic but he returns to his faith at the threat of a second avalanche.