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Empire of the Sun

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J. G Ballard, is a book that presents war in many different ways. Jim’s parents, the Japanese Soldiers and Jim itself can be considered as the individual expressed in the book however I will focus mainly on Jim. Thus the author shows the reader war through Jim’s eyes. The perspective of this depends in his state of mind and through the situations he finds himself in, the portrayal differs depending on Jim’s surroundings, which often diverse from each other.

As soon as war starts J. G Ballard portrays war as something that will change Jim’s life forever “Like everything else since the war, the sky was in state of change”1. Although the author does not give a definite way in how Jim’s life changes he does show the reader how his style of life changes. He goes through a transition face; where he changes from being just a wealthy kid to an independent adult “at the outbreak of war and until a few months earlier, he would have been a schoolboy, recruited straight from the classroom to the flight training academy”2 As a consequence of that, his perspectives and priorities changed along with it.

We can now see how after been a long time far away from his parents, he is now more preoccupied on surviving that on their expectations “he felt a strange lightness in his head, not because his parents had rejected him, but because he expected them do so, and no longer cared”3 In addition we can see how Jim starts to find places where he feels as comfortable as he did when he was in his bedroom “as a child safe in his bedroom at Amherst avenue, Jim had watched the sudden glares that exposed the rats caught in the centre of the tennis court”4.

The reader is able to perceive how Jim is able to survive without his house and how by himself he finds a way of pleasing himself. Yet we can also argue that at some point at the end of the book Ballard try’s to show the reader that war has brought Jim many bad customs. Jim is now used to live in camps, eat once a day and help injured people or with mortal diseases “on the top floor of the unreal house in Amherst Avenue, which had once been his home but now seemed as much an illusion as the sets of the Shanghai films studios”5 Jim does not feel comfortable anymore amongst his parents, who by the end of the war have changed too.

J. G Ballard exposes his parents as a figure that has been deeply affected by war “but his mother and father had been through their own war… they seemed older and far away”6 In addition an individual are not only considered as Jim and his parents but also as the Japanese soldiers, who are obliged to get use to live like the prisoners in the camp, with food and nothing more than fear engendered by the years. The only thing the soldiers have right to is the ammunition, and to feel satisfied with the rest.

So as a whole we can say that the author portrays war as something that has not only brought psychological problems to Jim but also to his parents that have being traumatized possibly by everything they saw, or the Japanese soldiers who have to get use to live in constant fear. So although war has brought Jim many traumas “The rain had washed the ink from the Japanese scrolls, and the scarlet stairways run down the oak panels, as If all the Americans and Europeans had been murdered against their front doors… erhaps murder was about to be committed in all the swimming pools of Shanghai and their walls were titled so that the blood could be washed away”7 where he related everything he saw to murderers and people suffering, J. G Ballard also shows us how war has taught Jim several things. War has force him to grow at a quicker pace and by the end of war Jim is a capable adult.

As a result of war Jim is to knows exactly what is the best for him and how to do things “He was tempted to run over and join them, but all the caution learned in the past years warned him not to expose himself”8. The things war taught him he would not have been able to learn it any other way. Additionally he does not stop studying as during the camp Dr. Ransome helps him with his Latin and push him to do his homework. Therefore Ballard also portrays war as something that has benefited Jim in many ways.

Moreover Ballard also shows us through Jim’s thoughts how not only Jim is the only benefited by wars but that there are also many people that get benefited by it, people such as the businessmen that deal with armaments or even Basie and Frank who gain money from selling things “it had never occurred to Jim that anyone might want war to continue, and he puzzled over the bizarre logic”9 Jim was unable to understand that as by that time he had not realized thing and the only thing he thought he had gained from it was pain and struggle.

Accordingly the feeling of being alone in the world is what produced these sufferings. Along the whole book J. G Ballard demonstrates the reader how Jim misses his parents ” If I’m lucky I might see my mother and father today”10 As the book goes through these sufferings get bigger, as he now misses also Dr. Ransome who dies on his arms “he began to hope that Dr. Ransome would be there”11 Although Jim had gained many things from war , these 4 years had limited Jim in a certain war.

Immediately Jim was forced to renounce to many thing that had been part of his life, and what I mean is not only materialistic things such as “the sight of so much food confused Jim, forcing on him a notion of choice that he had not known for years” 12 but what I also mean is a more sentimental thing. Jim was restricted of many feelings through out these 4 years “for the first time since the start of the war he felt a surge of hope”13 Jim was not at all content and satisfied with this feelings that he had to go throw alone.

On the other hand war gave Jim the opportunity to develop relationships with new and different people whom he would not have been able to do is war hadn’t start due to his social arrangements “Jim entire upbringing could have been designed to prevent him from meeting people like Basie, but the war had changed everything”14 But it wasn’t only with Basie with whom he developed important and necessary relationships. Although Basie appears in the book several times, on which we can argue that most of them is to save Jim from the trouble he is in.

Basie was a very different man, and he had taught Jim many different things “he had a bland, unmarked face from which all the copious experiences of his life had been cleverly erased”. Besides Basie, he also develops basic and important relationships during his whole journey alone. Dr. Ransome is in a way a figure for him, he teaches him things and is always near him wanting the best for him “He had formed his only close bond in Lunghua, with Dr.

Ransome”15 Although the relationship with the Americans was a rather short one compared to the other this was very benefiting for Jim as well “when they noticed him, most of them liked Jim, who in return and out of respect for America, ran endless errands for them”16. Yet one of the most necessary relationships for Jim’s growth during this time was the one he develops with Mrs. Vincent. In Jim’s eyes although sometimes she is a beautiful women “Jim was attracted to Mrs Vincent but her real appeal to Jim lay elsewhere”17 most of the times Mrs. Vincent serves a mother figure.

Jim was pushed away abruptly from her mother and the first thing he needs is to find someone that transmits to him the same idea, she sometimes helped him and other times set up the rules for him “Already Jim felt that the shoes gave him a special authority.. The whole of G Block had been waiting for you”18 Thus Ballard try’s to express to the reader how war made these relationships possible.

In conclusion we can discuss that the author portrays war in different ways depending on how it affects a certain individual, no matter if its Jim or his parents of the soldiers. The author shows war in all its aspects, no matter if they are good or not. So in conclusion through the use of words and created images Ballard portrays war in several different ways so that the reader can imagine what the certain individual goes through.

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