Men who Batter Women

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MEN WHO BATTER WOMEN
The Man Who Wanted to be Guilty – Henrik
Stangerup,1973, 1982
HENRIK STANGERUP
1937-1998
HENRIK STANGERUP, 1937-1998
Novelist, journalist, essayist, film director
 Danish writer and film director whose
internationally known works, influenced by the
writings of Søren Kierkegaard, revealed his
feelings of alienation and contempt for societal
attitudes. Social commentary. Non-conformity of
the intellect.
 Manden der ville være skyldig (1973; The Man
Who Wanted to Be Guilty, 1982)
 Internationally focused: accounts of Paris, Brazil,
India, Mexico, France
 Most popular work was a trilogy of historical
novels: The Road to Lagoa Santa, 1981, The
Seducer: It is Hard to Die in Dieppe, 1985, and
Brother Jacob (1991)
 1977 movie set in Brazil: The Earth is Flat
 1993 essays: Flight is the Order of the Day

THE NEED FOR GUILT
Focus on the concept of guilt
 Speculation about his father during WW II
 Consciousness of guilt as a part of the author’s
personality
 The individual in a social context – experiencing
resistance from the surroundings
 The psychological forces that enable the
individual to evade a fertile interaction with his
surroundings
 Affinity with the concept of guilt in Kierkegaard

SØREN KIERKEGAARD, 1813-1855
KIERKEGAARD AND EXISTENTIALISM
The father of Existentialism
 Pseudonyms
 Religion, Choice, Commitment
 Socratic dialogues
 Regine Olsen, 1840-41

Either-Or, 1843
 Fear and Trembling, 1843
 Stages on Life’s Way, 1845
 Aesthetic – Ethical - Religious
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EITHER- OR, 1843
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The Aesthetic: “Diary of the Seducer”
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The Ethical: “Assessor William”
FEAR AND TREMBLING, 1843
STAGES ON LIFE’S WAY, 1845

The Knight of Faith

The Religious

Leap of Faith
THE WELFARE STATE AND
EXISTENTIALISM
Danish welfare society:
 Healthcare
 Maternity Leave / Parental Leave
 Unemployment and benefits
 Vacation
 Education
 Retirement benefits

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Registration

Taxes
KIERKEGAARD’S INFLUENCE ON
STANGERUP
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The Man Who Wanted To Be Guilty - the dangers of conformity in
society
 The main character, Torben, fought to separate himself from the
tactics of those in charge who wanted him to forget who he was
and what he had done
 They gave him pills to silent his emotions, took all his memories
out of his apartment and attempted to brainwash him into
believing he was not at fault for his actions
Soren Kierkegaard – the existence of man as an individual – The
single person!
 Existentialists emphasize the importance of an individual’s
actions, emotions, thoughts and responsibilities
Stangerup very familiar with his works, cf. his trilogy with the
three main characters representing one of Kierkegaard’s stages
AROUND 1973
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Countries with a hand in the oil trade prosper (Denmark struggles,
is 99% dependent on foreign oil)
 Danes begin to produce their own alternative energy – wind
power
Wars
 Cold War, The Troubles (Irish/British Conflict), Vietnam and
Israeli / Palestinian Conflict
 Chinese cultural revolution, Vietnam War
King Frederik IX dies in 1973
Denmark has become a welfare state
Aksel Larsen (leader of Danish Communist Party) dies
Watergate Scandal
January 1, 1973: Ireland, Denmark and the UK join the European
Economic Community  the European Union
1972-U.S. airlines begins checking passengers and their luggage!
POLITICAL REFLECTIONS
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Communism
 In many eastern European nations
Party Shift of 1973
 Called the Landslide Election
 Public Support of “Old Four” parties fell from 90% to 58%
 Progress was needed
Vietnam War (1955-1975)
 Anti-Communist Conflict
 Swedish Prime Minister (1972) draws a parallel between American
bombing of North Vietnam and the Nazi’s mass killings
Cultural revolution in China
 Power reassertion of Mao, attempted to rid the Communist party of his
opposition
 Helped by youth group, the Red Guards; self-criticism of those who
imagined themselves superior
 schools considered elitist and were closed, economy suffered greatly
 Red Guards began to fight each other, social turmoil ensued
The Man Who Wanted To Be Guilty
 Lack of the voting public – benign dictatorship? (Demolition Man)
SUMMARY OF THE MAN WHO WANTED TO
BE GUILTY
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Book opens with Torben thinking about his AC (Aggression
Control) exercises
Torben loses faith in his wife, Edith’s resolve against the AC
meetings and becomes depressed, drinks a bottle of whisky,
gets drunk, kills his wife and is held in a hospital
Torben sees a psychiatrist; they debate philosophy
Happiness Park is introduced, and Torben returns home to a
house devoid of memories of wife and son Jasper
Torben visits his former publisher who wants social literature.
Torben refuses but is determined to write
Torben begins performing poorly at work and reveals violent
tendencies. Meets Bridgit, chain smoker
Bridgit wants to be impregnated by him - cannot obtain a
mum-and-dad-card, but he refuses
It is revealed that guilt has been eliminated from the society’s
vocabulary
Torben tries to locate his son, Jasper and get him back.
Is relocated to a one bedroom apartment
SUMMARY, CONTINUED

Torben has nightmares about his wife’s death; the Helpers say “The view
that you caused the death of your wife has been abandoned …an accident
occurred” (70)
Torben tries to convince the psychiatrist that he committed the murder, to
no avail
Torben runs into Jasper who cries and runs away from him

Torben thinks he may be “unbalanced”
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Torben lets himself be “helped” and joins community event for lonely
people
Torben throws himself into AC exercises with much anger
He sees a woman whose children are removed; he runs away shouting
“I’m a killer, I’m a killer”, goes to Bridgit’s house with the intent to kill
her, but meets her brother who is making a TV show called “The People
Complain”
Torben moves in with him, goes on the show to air his grievances, and is
followed by a panel of everyone who is against him: the psychiatrist,
Helpers, and Jasper who says it was an accident
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He gets drunk and walks around screaming “Judge me!”
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After he wakes up from a dream he is finally found guilty of Edith’s
TORBEN’S COPENHAGEN
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Uniform society: classless, superblocks, helpers, similarities
No competition: a contest is created between neighbors for best bonsai
tree
Mum-and-Dad-Cards control family lives
BLIMP and Propaganda
 Worked for the Bureau of Language Improvement where he changes
phrases and words to cause less emotion and distress
Two types of occupations: therapeutic helpers and everything else
Helpers: acts as police, therapists, community control
AC (Aggression Control) meetings – mandatory if you want to keep your
child(ren)
 Torben refused to fully engage in the exercises, when Edith did he
was furious - independent thoughts
THE BONSAI TREES
Death of all of the natural trees in Copenhagen ( due to
pollution from road salts)
 Chemicals in the air
 Citizens are encouraged to raise bonsai trees
 Trim, Clip, Control – Control Nature
 Connection between “harsh” government control and death
 Relating to both people and the trees
 Bridgit: resilient to government control of child birth and
the “natural” process
 Same as the tree that grows outside of Torben’s window
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THE NUMBER THREE
Actions repeated three times prior to Torben’s murder of
his wife:
 “Nevertheless he felt embarrassed and awful enough to
fill the glass with whiskey and immediately take three
great gulps to that she wouldn’t complain about his lack
of moderation” (9)
 “She felt for a cigarette, lit it and inhaled three times in
a row” (13)
 “She backed off three paces” (13)
 The significance of the number three:
 Back luck / deaths often come in threes
 As a literary device, often signifies an unnaturalness
 Torben’s life can be split into three stages--before the
superblocks, marriage to Edith, after Edith’s murder

THE ROLE OF WOMEN
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The stereotype:
 Interested in appearance
 “Didn’t she think of anything but nails?” (9)
 Emotional
 “Edith was grouchy, and it was her right to be that
way once in a while” (9)
 Submissive
 “Even the lump in his throat made its appearance
as he realized that [the Helpers] had gained
control of her” (10)
 “He didn’t understand why [Bridgit] kept on
behaving as though she had nobody but him to
think about” (55)
THE ROLE OF WOMEN, CONTINUED
Women given an active role in society:
 “In a few weeks the expressions ‘home-working
housewife’ and ‘housewife’ had just about disappeared
from the language. There were now only two kinds of
women in Denmark, passive-women and active-women,
and the aim was to make all women active-women” (47)
 In the 1970’s, women became more prominent in
society
 1972: first female FBI agents, Australia commands
equal pay for women, women admitted to Dartmouth
 1973 : free abortion
 Potential for a power
 Edith calls the Helpers when Torben is drunk – she can
get a child certificate as a single mother
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THE CHILD-RAISING DEBATE
Woman’s Right to Choose
 Roe v. Wade decided in 1973, women may abort their
fetuses for any reason until viability
 “Only [Bridgit’s] unlimited naiveté kept her from
realizing that the child would be forcibly aborted if the
Helpers discovered that she was pregnant within the
first three months. It would be put up for adoption
even if she was allowed to complete the pregnancy”
(57)
 Two pieces of legislation
 Ban on children’s books and comics
 Parents required to take tests relating to having
children in order to obtain a “child certificate,” later
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HAPPINESS PARK
 In
his first experience with Happiness
Park, Torben tries to see through the
cracks of the fence into the enclosure; he
asks the psychiatrist about it with little
information revealed
 Novel ends with Torben confined in
Happiness Park, assigned to write four
socially uplifting novels
 Clip from The Matrix:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MXQozTxQ
SiE&feature=related
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
Choice: the right to have children – ”earn your
children”?
 Innocence?
 Secrecy?
 Futuristic Society?
 Personal Identity – and Brainwashing
 The need of Guilt?
 The role of Happiness Park and manipulation of reality?
 What role does Jasper play in the novel?
 What role does Bridgit play in the novel?
 The function of AC meetings?
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