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This passage from Brian Keenan’s ‘An Evil Cradling’ describes in first person narrative the scene when Said beats Brian in a manner analogous to a rape. This event gives us an insight into the guard’s weaknesses and their dependency on the hostages, making them – in a paradoxical way- the actual prisoners. On the other hand, Brian’s and John’s defiance and mutual support suggest the rising determination which gives them control over the guards. Throughout this passage, the author demonstrates us that mental resistance is more powerful than any physical abuse, and Brian even states that the later feeds the first.
The narrator claims that ‘There was a part of me they could never bind nor abuse nor take from me’. This suggests that physical maltreatment will never be able to reach into people’s minds, because mental strength cannot be bent. Brian also discovers that his ‘resistance was a joyful thing’ and that the more he was beaten the stronger he became. However, the narrator makes it clear that ‘it was not strength of the arm, nor of body but a huge determination never to give in to these men’. This shows that physical exploitation and abuse humiliates their body, but at the same time it empowers intellectual strength and might.
The limitations of the beatings are further emphasised in the quotations ‘the blows and the bruises and the kicks hurt me but I felt no pain’ and ‘I did not fear him’. These suggest that the expected effects of the beatings like pain and fear, which could have been used as weapons against the prisoners, were no longer applicable for Brian and John. In this way, the hostages possess the ultimate power, the psychological one which gives them control over the guards making them their slaves.
In the course of this passage is suggested that Said is sexually repressed by his religion and so in an attempt to relieve this he beats prisoners in a sexually excited manner. The narrator describes him as a ‘violent lover and his abuse of my body a kind of rape’. A ‘lover’ implies a need for love and possibly sex. However, the guard’s strict religious views try to inhibit these natural feelings, and as the women in Lebanon are forbidden from having relationships with men before they are married, many men might find themselves in a controversial situation.
To shows their masculinity, they turn into “violent lovers” and try to prove their power by physically subduing others. Brian’s summary of Said as ‘a man so filled with fear’ and ‘fascinated by violence and obsessed with sex’ seems to confirm this point. The guards are fearful and confused because of their repressed emotions that cause them frustration and anger. This explains their sudden changes in behaviour that occur throughout the novel – from being caring and innocent into beating and humiliating the prisoners.
Said is illustrated by the narrator as a wild and repugnant, almost animal-like person. While beating the prisoners the guard is silent and never talks to them. This implies his savagery, almost as if he lost his ability to speak, which makes him similar to an animal. The fact that he comes by night, shows that he wants to remain hidden from the view – this further emphasising his feral inclinations during these moments. Brian gives a detailed account about Said’s smell which was a mixture of sweat, strong sweetness and garlic, all of these combining into a ‘violent aroma’, which filled the room.
These physical portrayals of his scent convey the feeling of disgust and loathing that Brian felt for the duration of this ‘mental rape’. The extract ‘I sniffed the air like an animal’ suggests that something savage and inhuman happened, that Said’s assault was beyond the boundaries of a humane deed. On the other hand, we have Brian and John who’s’ humane gestures are highlighted by Said’s savage behaviour. Initially Brian claims that he felt an ‘elemental rage’ and he imagines the pleasure that he would gain from castrating Said. However, after a short while they ‘both laughed’ together and ‘the moment of violence’ became ‘meaningless’.
This suggests that humour gives them sufficient strength to overcome their frustrations and – unlike the guards – they don’t have to turn into violence to relieve their disturbances. After the fierce scene, the two ‘whispered soft words of comfort and reassurance to each other’. This emphasises the power of love, friendship, mutual support and provides a more positive and emotional sight after the violent event of “the rape”. Throughout the novel the hostages and the guards try to overcome their own fears, doubts and frustrations. This passage from the chapter ‘Rape’ illustrates the ways in which they attempt to do so.
Brian and John conquer these negative feelings by supporting, loving and laughing with each other. However, the confined fanatical views of the guards don’t allow them to do so, so they seek control and relief by physically abusing others. In spite of this it seems that the psychological defiance of the hostages is a more powerful weapon than the beatings of the guards and so the ones that are somewhat in control in the prison are not the sentry, but the prisoners themselves. In this way, the author nicely concludes that humane and caring behaviour will triumph over brutality and violence.