Analyze prison and war in Gods Go Begging, and compare and contrast them in relation to social death. Make sure to quote the text and closely analyze the metaphors, symbols, tone and/or feeling of...

Analyze prison and war in Gods Go Begging, and compare and contrast them in relation to social death. Make sure to quote the text and closely analyze the metaphors, symbols, tone and/or feeling of each scene, demonstrating their connection to your claims and arguments.

 

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jameadows eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When Jesse visits the 7th floor of the prison, where everyone is forced to lie down, he reflects that "all of the inhabitants lived in a position that was at total odds with the rest of the world, perpetually perpendicular to the working men and women on the floors and streets beneath them." The physical position of the prisoners is a symbol of their displacement and their separation from everyday life. Véa writes of the prisoners that when they get out of prison, "their souls and futures would be unchanged, while the world around them had evolved and gone on" (53). He compares the men in the prison ward to space travelers who travel in suspended animation and return to earth to find that everyone has changed around them. When they are released from jail, they will no longer be able to relate to others, so prison is a form of social death. 

Véa also implies that the war, like prison, causes people to be out of joint and makes them live a kind of social death. For example, Jesse is thinking about his time fighting in Vietnam and recalls seeing a photographer from the Army publication Stars and Stripes coming across a charred child. The photographer considers taking a close shot and then "finally gave into the reality of his constituency and backed away to take a long, sterile shot. His newspaper was not interested in photojournalism, only in raw numbers and morale-boasting photos" (75). The long shot that the photographer takes in this chilling passage is symbolic of the way in which the press doesn't capture the reality of what is going on in Vietnam. Only the soldiers on the ground, such as Jesse, know the reality of the war, and when they return to the United States, the nightmares about the war haunt them, causing them to live in social isolation from others.