Representation of the Holocaust
One of the prime concerns of Beatrice and Virgil is the way the Holocaust is represented in narrative. Henry is especially worried that the historical realism of the stories that usually take the Holocaust as their subject is leaving out a more imaginative, metaphorical truth. In his consideration, people have lost much by failing to consider the Holocaust from a more imaginative perspective.
Martel’s novel becomes the answer to the question it seems to pose. The taxidermist’s play, “A 20th Century Shirt,” discusses the “Horrors,” but Henry realizes that the taxidermist
was seeing the tragic fate of animals through the tragic fate of Jews. The Holocaust as allegory.
If the play itself were the sole subject of the novel, it would seem that the imaginative use of the Holocaust by a man that actually participated in it is heinous. The taxidermist is using the calculated, statewide murder of six million Jews to discuss the plight of animals. Furthermore, inherent in this allegory is the suggested comparison of Jews to animals.
Martel seems to be aware of the ethics of his allegory. Henry is, in many ways, a stand-in for Martel himself. Henry is a writer, like Martel, and his wild success was about zoos and animals, recalling Martel’s Life of Pi. To carry the parallels further, the taxidermist is also named “Henry.” By making the author of “A 20th Century Shirt” a Nazi collaborator, Martel signals that he is aware of the dangers of writing a fable about the Holocaust. Consequently, the fable is itself buried within the larger body of a different narrative, suggesting that Martel seems to have found a new story that discusses the Holocaust.
The Tragic Fate of Animals
The taxidermist’s play, “A 20th Century Shirt,” is ostensibly about the “tragic fate of animals.” A donkey named Beatrice and a howler monkey named Virgil represent the plight of animals. Both animals have been preserved through the...
(The entire section is 860 words.)