What do you wonder about when you think of the idea that the weak cannot protect themselves from the powerful?What do you wonder about when you think of the idea that ‘the weak cannot protect...

What do you wonder about when you think of the idea that the weak cannot protect themselves from the powerful?

What do you wonder about when you think of the idea that ‘the weak cannot protect themselves from more powerful others, who dictate how we see the world and our place within it’?

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William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Your question reminds me of William Faulkner's short story "Wash," in which a poor, uneducated white kills the aristocratic Thomas Sutpen who has gotten his daughter pregnant and then treats her with total contempt, as if she were little better than an animal. A posse or armed men, all friends or cohorts of the murdered man, come to lynch the man called Wash. He decides it would be useless either to fight them or to try to flee.

That was whom they would expect him to run from. It seemed to him that he had no more to run from than he had to run to. If he ran, he would merely be fleeing one set of bragging and evil shadows for another just like them, since they were all of a kind throughout all the earth which he knew, and he was old, too old to flee far even if he were to flee. He could never escape them, no matter how much or how far he ran: a man going on sixty could not run that far. Not far enough to escape beyond the boundaries of earth where such men lived, set the order and the rule of living. It seemed to him that he now saw for the first time, after five years, how it was that Yankees or any other living armies had managed to whip them: the gallant, the proud, the brave; the acknowledged and chosen best among them all to carry courage and honor and pride. Maybe if he had gone to the war with them he would have discovered them sooner. But if he had discovered them sooner, what would he have done with his life since? How could he have borne to remember for five years what his life had been before?

Faulkner expressed a great deal of compassion for the little people of the South, although he did not attempt to glamorize them. Men like Wash Jones are to be found in other works by Faulkner, such as his story "Tomorrow" and his Snopes trilogy, consisting of "The Hamlet," "The Town," and "The Mansion." They have pride and dignity but are helpless and despised because of their ignorance and poverty. Cervantes said there were only two great races, the Haves and the Have Nots. The Romans had a saying that homo homini lupus: Man is a wolf to men.



ask996 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Wow. This seems to be a common theme in literature. I'm surprised that no one has yet mentioned Robert Browning's "My Last Duchess." The narrator's attitude is dead. Can you imagine how she must of felt with a husband who felt this way towards her. 

Somehow -- I know not how -- as if she ranked My gift of a nine-hundred-years-old name With anybody's gift. Who'd stoop to blame This sort of trifling? Even had you skill In speech -- (which I have not) -- to make your will Quite clear to such an one, and say, 'Just this Or that in you disgusts me; here you miss, Or there exceed the mark' -- and if she let Herself be lessoned so, nor plainly set Her wits to yours, forsooth, and made excuse, -- E'en then would be some stooping; and I choose Never to stoop.

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This question reminded me of "The Most Dangerous Game" in that the villain captures men and hunts them, and they cannot defend themselves.  It also made me think of "The Masque of the Red Death" which is Poe's story in which a prince locks himself up with his rich guests while a plague eats through his population.  Even the strong cannot always protect themselves.  There's always a bigger fish.

William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Shakespeare had much to say on this subject, e.g., in Hamlet, King Lear, and Timon of Athens. Here is a well-known quote from his Pericles:

Third Fisherman: . . . Master, I marvel how the fishes live in the sea.

First Fisherman: Why, as men do a-land; the great ones eat up the little ones.