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Everyone Brave is Forgiven


By Bryan Piche

In Chris Cleave's novel, Everyone Brave is Forgiven, the fight for liberty and equality is
met with one of the most horrible bombing campaigns in history from Nazi Germany although
not under the circumstances one would think. The British in this novel, as well as the Allies in
the Second World War, fought the Axis power, a coalition of countries that discriminated and
killed people such as Jews and the Chinese for the goal of a "better" society, to preserve the
notion that all men are created equal. However, not everyone was considered equal in this time
period as blacks and other minorities were seen as incompetent and dangerous people that should
have the least amount of contact with whites. In the novel, everyone except a caring
schoolteacher thinks that fraternizing with blacks is disgusting as should not be encouraged as
they believed themselves to be superior. This was seen in the US military as segregation of our
armed forces remained in effect throughout the war as well as isolating the Japanese in this very
country based on the fact that they were not white. Minorities from all allied countries, whether
they were soldiers fighting the enemy or in the home front supporting the war effort, were
fighting for double victory, victory abroad and at home, and Cleave's novel illustrates the
magnitude of the fight during mankind's darkest hour.

Cleave's novel introduces British society disgust at black people and their want of as little
contact with them, replicating American sentiment towards that group at the time to extremes
such as even in the military. Cleave narrates how Mary, a temporary schoolteacher during the
Battle of London and of affluent background, takes three black students who live in one of
hardest hit areas of the city to a high class restaurant to eat after going days without food where
they receive disapproving glances and even move to other tables. Cleave writes, "Mary and the
children were seated for lunch… to a more distant table. Mary gave them a wave" (Cleave 271) to
show that despite fighting a racist regime abroad that threatens their way of life, they can't show
compassion to fellow human beings at home. Thus, the presumption that equality for all was at
the moment that they had to fight for, something achieved with the help of people like Mary who
saw potential in them and judged them based on character and not by the pigment of their skin.
Separation of the two races was seen as natural as it was believed that they would never be able
to coexist as expressed by Mary's mother as she contrasts their world to the one of the blacks.
She states what many of the time saw as acceptable by telling Mary "Because it is not a
kindness… than there is between heaven and earth" (Cleave 321). By telling Mary there is no use
to converse with blacks, she only repeats the justification that the high command of the U.S.
military used to spilt whites from African-Americans through segregation as it was perceived
that blacks were not capable of understanding "complex" operations and fail cooperation with
whites. This was seen as they were "segregated to divisions or combat support roles…. The
military was as segregated as the Deep South," or in other words, African-Americans were
forced to do unpleasant tasks that did not allow for them to demonstrate their skills in battle and
resulted in having nothing to present for themselves to consolidate equality as it will be
perceived that they did nothing to defeat the enemy. The isolation of blacks on the home front
was of ignorance that the blacks had any skills, while isolation on the battle front was of fear
from superiors that they did have the same courage as anyone else and were afraid that their
world would tumble after victory in WWII.

Furthermore, blacks had to fight the idea that they were the enemy when in fact they are
fellow citizens. Cleave sheds a light on this through his use of vulgar language to show how deep
the hate was of whites towards blacks. Mary's tells her mother, "Must you call them 'ni**ers'?" to
which her mother replied, "Except to hook my daughter on morphine." (Cleave 317) when the
complete opposite was true as her black students were the only ones to help their teacher out
with her addiction. The assumption that minorities were people up to no good and all that they
were good for was to harm others was common place in Anglo-American society as some even
went to great lengths to depict them as demons. Minorities sought to rid this idea from the head
of whites during the war through stiff opposition. The students further disprove the notion that
they are dangerous animals as they help out Mary as she recently fainted due to her drug abuse
through sensory imagery of the scene. Cleave writes," She woke hours later, wrapped in… laying
a cloth on her forehead"(Cleave 308) to show compassion that these students had on their teacher
instead of not helping her at all as they are not monsters that society at the time would like to
have thought. This tells the audience that they were not terrible people and something as small as
helping someone else in need could change one's perception on people, like it did to Mary. This
did not happen in the U.S. as fear of possible enemy combatants at home did not leave room for
sympathy, instead for detention for the Japanese. The reason for this was that it involved
"national security, especially on the west coast… who had strong anti-Japanese sentiments." This
executive order forced everyone, including those of American citizenship, to relocate to
interment camps throughout the west coast as people did not want to see them as they've been
portrayed as animals and buck-tooth cartoons instead of humans who only desire to bring the US
to its knees when in reality they didn't want to do so. Minorities during the war fought to show
that they were not the beasts that society may have had thought, but the complete opposite, even
through some of the most humiliating circumstances ever conceived.

Ultimately, the idea that race determined if society perceived you to be useful or inept to
basic tasks was something that blacks and other minorities fought against. At a time when the
opposing force was murdering others because they deemed them "sub-human," the allies were
depriving groups in their country to life. This is seen in the novel as characters see a black kid
and automatically assume that he is stupid because of his skin without actually looking at his
work. This is reinforced when a girl asks the kid,"Are all the others ignorant as well?" (Cleave
98) referring to other black people. Although she has no idea of wants she is saying because of
her age, the exposure of the thought that they are all unintelligent demonstrates that the war to
end prejudice is to be fought both abroad and at home up until this very day. They had to prove
themselves on the battlefield as well as at home that they are not "sub-humans" as the Axis
countries labeled people on lands they conquered, but the complete opposite so that a society
opposite of that of the Third Reich and Empirical Japan never rises again to destroy their
progress and liberty.

World War II was fought because of ambitions of three powers to rule the world in their
image. This image was of oppression and persecution of people who did not fall under their
"desirable" list as well as stripping all civil liberties all individuals are naturally born with as one
will have to follow the state's orders and fear serious consequences if they did not. Minorities
had to fight two wars, one physical and the other socially, and anything other than double victory
was unacceptable. They did not have to wait long for a first win as in 1948 the U.S. military
desegregated, but the rest of society still hadn't caught up. The liberties and right of men they
fought for abroad did not immediately work out well for them when they came home as race still
played a huge part of American life. It took nearly 15 years for double victory to be achieved
with the passage of the Civil Rights Act and constant gains have been made ever since. Everyone
Brave is Forgiven sheds a light on white society's treatment of blacks throughout the war and
prove that their ideas were false as they are humans as well looking to maintain and improve
British life, rather than throwing it all away.


Works Cited

Gates, Henry Louis, Jr. "What Was Black America's Double War?" PBS. The Root, 1 Apr. 2017.
Web. 1 Apr. 2017.
"Japanese Relocation During World War II." National Archives. N.p., 1 Apr. 2017. Web. 1 Apr.
2017

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