Dehumanization: Backs against the Wall

In “Utopia” by Ahmed Khaled Towfik, the motif of removing all human qualities from a person is very powerful. It strips all things that make us human; and converts us to simple creatures that only care about survival. The transition from human being to animal is a slow and arduous process. The most common scenario is refugees in war-type scenarios. The ability to empathize and collaborate with humans is not a priority in a situation where food and safety is scarce.  It’s very gradual often starting with the characters barely holding on to their morals, but due to the desperation of the situation have to throw it out in order to survive.

The poor of the city in “Utopia” are pushed to the edge however it’s more prevalent than people think. It’s a powerful motif and is often a fixture of other works of fiction.

“Night” by Elie Wiesel is a WWII novel which follows a young Jew as he survives the Nazi Occupation. The novel starts with the destruction of the temple he frequents and ends with his liberation by the US Army.

“One day when we had stopped, a worker took a piece of bread out of his bag and threw it into a wagon. There was a stampede. Dozens of starving men fought desperately over a few crumbs. The worker watched the spectacle with great interest. […] In the wagon where the bread had landed, a battle had ensued. Men were hurling themselves against each other, trampling, tearing at and mauling each other. Beasts of prey unleashed, animal hate in their eyes.” (100)

The desperation drove them to an animistic state and it shows. They are unable to care about their fellow man any more. The are reduced to animals in every sense. At one point these men were the same men that had hopes and dreams, had children, had friends, had the ability to empathize with others. All of that was stripped from them.


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