Textverständnis und Analyse: Fiktionaler Text "A clash of values"
In the extract A Clash of Values from T.C. Boyle’s short story “Killing Babies”, published in After the Plague in 2001, Boyle’s narrator Rick describes the arrival on his first day of work as an unskilled worker at his brother’s abortion clinic in Detroit. The atmosphere is tense and slightly menacing as Philip and Rick make their way towards the clinic entrance in their car through a crowd of angry and aggressive anti-abortion protesters who insult them as “baby-killers”, “murderers” and even “Nazis” (l.7).
While Philip seems more stoic about the angry mob of Christian activists at his gate, Rick is shocked and slightly intimidated never having had such an experience before. Despite the fact that he had no illusions about the job he was about to take on, Rick finds it hard to cope with the almost personal animosity and hatred that is brought his way by people unknown to him (ll. 21-22; ll. 24-25). The impact of his strange experience brings on a feeling of anger and humiliation (l.18) which he feels he needs get out with. Yet, neither his brother nor any of the other clinic employees are inclined to talk to him through his emotional difficulties even though Philip also clearly suffers under the aggression (l. 24; l. 11-12). Fred, the technician, whom Rick tries to coax into talking about how he felt about the demonstrators, does not say much and appears not to mind them anymore (l.40; ll.57-59; ll.69-70; ll.38-39).
In the end Rick has to deal with his emotional strain on his own. He has to reconcile himself to the knowledge that he mostly left his girlfriends to deal with the responsibility of using contraceptives and tries to justify abortions and the work Philip, he and his new colleagues do. His reaction to the demonstrations therefore is anger at the protesters.
From the very start the demonstrators seem to be dehumanised in shape and form.
Even though Rick bluntly states “there were people there”(l.1) they appear to be made up of only “a whole shadowy mass of shoulders and hats and steaming faces”(ll.1-2). In his confusion and irritation Rick cannot put any human character to the shouting, angry crowd that has gathered at the clinic gate. The protesters more seem to resemble wild animals as their “faces were barking at [Philip and Rick], teeth bared, eyes sunk back into their heads, hot breath boiling from their throats.” (ll.5-6) The looming dread and fear of being attacked by a furious mob that seems to have shed all its human instincts and that glowers like a pack of wild dogs or wolfs ready to strike becomes intensified by the comparison of the surrounding to “a narrow lane in a dense forest” (l. 9) as Philip and Rick “inched [their] way across the sidewalk”(l.8). The reader by this point gets quite an intensive sense of the helplessness and defencelessness which have overcome Rick. He is relying on his most natural instincts to guide him through the situation into the safety of the hospital building.
When Rick remembers the terrorising nightly calls at his brother’s house and the many times Philip was forced to change his telephone number, Rick simply associates this with “war” (l.12) that rages around his brother. It reveals the heartless cruelty with which the anti-abortionist protesters pursue the doctor to make their anger known and while they are convinced to have God on their side, Rick disdainfully refers to the hymns they are singing as “self-righteous” and as a weapon strong enough that it “bludgeoned the traffic noise” (l. 14-16.)
Inside the clinic the bleak mood does not help to lift Rick’s spirit. The room in which he is trying to have a conversation about the demonstrators with Fred over lunch is full of “gleaming stainless-steal sinks, racks of test tubes […]” and other medical equipment which create an oppressive and uninviting atmosphere (l.41-45). Like in a horror movie, a comparison which comes to Rick early, the protagonist and the other clinic staff seem to be trapped inside the building surrounded by “the zombies with signs” (l.36-37).
The seeming superiority which emanates from the protesters creates in Rick what he perceives to be a “creeping sense of guilt and shame” (l.53) and as the morning progresses his confusion about the demonstrators turns into anger as he sarcastically begins to call them “Jesus-thumping jerks” (l.68) who do not appear to have anything better to do, like going to work, for instance (see ll.68-69).
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