All four stories that we read for today focused on a question posed last week: how does one respond to suffering? In “Sky People”, “Betel Nut is Bad Magic for Aeroplanes”, “Borders”, and Candide, all four authors respond to this question by advocating for some sort of protest for social change and each character succeeds to varying extents. In other words, all four recognize suffering in the form of a social problem and all four respond in somehow protesting or challenging the status quo. In “Sky People,” the native Maoris are protesting against the “holidayers” who built houses on traditional Maori land and it is implied that the Billy succeeded in getting the land (kicking out the holidayers just as the white people kicked out the Maoris). In relation to the other three stories, perhaps this story shows the danger of the oppressed becoming the oppressor and in that way, no social change occurs because the cycle of oppression just continues.
If “Sky People” has protest but no social change, “Betel Nut is Bad Magic for Aeroplanes” was semi-successful in achieving change. The main character aggressively protested the Betel Nut law and racism which resulted in some social change by the end of the story (in that they were released) but it is debatable whether he changed the minds of the white police officers or if he really challenged racism as a whole versus just winning his case with the gum chewing because the officers were still begrudgingly against the main character by the end. In “Borders,” Laetitia lead a successful peaceful protest in that it was sheer perseverance that led to social change, judging by how the border patrol agents reacted to her. She challenged the status quo in a peaceful and intentional way and it seemed like the border patrol agents understood her point by the end of the story, so she was completely successful in getting her point across and affecting some sort of social change.
Candide is the big case study with the topic of social change and enduring suffering. Now that we have finished the novel, it seems like Voltaire is suggesting the main way we respond to suffering is by experiencing it so we are living conscientiously, but after identifying suffering, we should somehow find peace and solace in just cultivating a garden and not overthinking things seems to be his antidote to suffering. Out of all four authors, Voltaire is the only author who uses humor to convey the larger point. We always say that humor is a coping mechanism for suffering, another response to suffering, which is definitely true for Candide.So, the next question is to what extent do we need humor to respond to suffering? Humor plays a crucial role in Candide in making these issues accessible, and humor is used as an appropriate response to suffering. As the audience, we are basically meant to laugh in place of crying because the suffering is so constant. But to what extent is humor necessary in these texts? Is there ever a time where humor is a necessity to effectively get the point of the story across or is it just a literary device used to add flair to the story? It is debatable which story displays the most effective form of social commentary as they all demonstrate challenging the status quo in different ways. But, perhaps humor does add another layer of complexity to Candide which “Borders” or another short story lacks. Maybe humor is a necessity in Candide because to discuss complex issues like suffering, Voltaire should use a complex writing style.