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Terrorism, Religion and Race: A Comparison Between John Updike's Terrorist and Bernard MacLaverty's Cal
Halmstad University, School of Education, Humanities and Social Science.
2015 (English)Independent thesis Basic level (degree of Bachelor), 10 credits / 15 HE creditsStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

”Terrorism” is a term widely used today. It and its effects are portrayed and discussed innewspapers, in movies, on TV. Seeing as it seems to be present in most media, it appears quite inevitable that terrorism has also found its way into literature. Two examples of novels dealing with terrorism are the American novel Terrorist, written by John Updike in 2006 and Bernard MacLaverty's Northern Irish novel Cal, written in 1983. The novels have their similarities. They share terrorism as a major theme, and both of them have a young man as a protagonist. However, they differ in both time and place. Updike's novel is set in a post-9/11 New Jersey, while Cal takes place in a Northern Ireland divided by The Troubles. Furthermore, Updike's main character is a dedicated Muslim, while the main character of Cal is a not as dedicated Catholic. Indeed, the novels might seem similar at first, but the differences are significant.The perspective to be used in this essay is ethnic. Various theories on terrorism, manipulation and race will be used with said perspective in mind. The aim is to, with the help of relevant theories, examine and analyse the terrorism and its connection to religion and ethnicity in the two novels, in order to compare them and find out whether they portray these things in a different way or not. The question I will be asking, and thus the purpose of this essay, is whether the terrorismand its reasons, organisation – including influence by others – and connection to religion and ethnicity in the two novels mentioned above are similar or not. It is my belief that a comparative analysis of the novels will show that the terrorism and its connection to religion and ethnicity will not be the same in Cal as in Terrorist. One of the reasons for this is that they are set in environments that differ from each other not only geographically and chronologically, but also politically. Thus it seems likely that the reasons for and organisation of the terrorism will differ as well. Another reason is that the characters in Terrorist are more diverse than the ones in Cal, both in terms of religion and ethnicity. General theories dealing with reasons for terrorism, such as Kristopher K. Robison, Edward M. Crenshaw, and Craig J. Jenkins's theory on Islamist terrorism, according to which terrorism performed by Islamists is a reaction to the secular West (p. 2012), and Jeff Victoroff's rational choice theory, which suggests that terrorists are rational (p. 14), will be used to examine whether the characters of the two novels have different reasons for their terrorism or not.The next set of theories that will be used deal with influence, manipulation and brainwashing. Austin T. Turk suggests that a terrorist organisation often isolates its members inorder to ensure that they only have the required knowledge (p. 276), and since this can be used as a tool of manipulation, his theory will be used to examine, and compare, the level of influence and manipulation on the two protagonists. For similar reasons, I. E. Farber, Harry F. Harlow, Louis Jolyon West and Joel Rudinow's theories on manipulation, with and without deception, will be used in the comparative analysis. Finally, racial theories, like the theory of signs, which suggests that people have a tendency to divide others into categories based on their racial differences, along with theories on imperative patriotism and the Arab American stereotype will be used. According to Steven Salaita's imperative patriotism, only those who act and look American can be truly American (p. 154), and Jack G. Shaheen suggests that Arab Americans are, by many, thought to be violent Muslims (p. 23). Furthermore, analysts Mita Banerjee and Pamela Mansutti both suggest that there is in fact a connection between religion and race in Updike's novel (p. 16, p. 108). These theories and ideas will be used to analyse the connection between terrorism, ethnicity and religion, and then to compare the two novels, whereupon a conclusion will be drawn. I believe that this conclusion will indeed confirm my thesis.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2015. , 35 p.
Keyword [en]
john updike, bernard maclaverty, terrorist, cal, terrorism, race, religion, comparative analysis
National Category
Humanities Specific Literatures
URN: urn:nbn:se:hh:diva-28236OAI: diva2:811060
Subject / course
Available from: 2015-07-07 Created: 2015-05-10 Last updated: 2015-07-07Bibliographically approved

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