Social Concerns / Themes

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

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Whirlwind tries to make sense of one of the most apparently senseless phenomena of recent times, the Iranian retreat from rationalism, prosperity, and modernity caused by the overthrow of the Shah. With the accession to power of the Ayatollah Khomeini, the country returned to stultifying religious fundamentalism, systematic denial of individual rights, and hopeless poverty. Why would a country return to the dark ages? Even more incredibly, why would those people with the most to lose — women, students, and businessmen — support such atavism?

Clavell methodically demonstrates why the clergy supported the Ayatollah Khomeini — to institute Islamic orthodoxy and to increase the power of their leaders. He also explains that businessmen supported Islam, primarily because they were totally corrupt and believed that social change would not harm them. Even the secularly oriented urban middle-class professionals, military officers, students, and women were blinded by hatred of the Shah and a deep suspicion of foreigners. In their naivete, they believed they could control the Islamic fundamentalists and expected democracy to triumph once the Shah was overthrown. Of course, they underestimated the power of the mullahs to dominate the unenlightened masses. Clavell, always an excellent teacher, clarifies a muddled situation as he explains the triumph of Ayatollah Khomeini.

As in all his novels, Clavell also attempts to explain the philosophic and moral differences between East and West. In his view, the English, Americans, and Canadians are honorable but naive; Moslems are religious, but care nothing for human life, and the Japanese are highly competent, but care only for victory — in business now, rather than warfare as in the past. He also condemns the ineptitude of the Carter administration, as well as the Western governments that supported the Ayatollah and enabled his success.