Date of publication: 2017-08-31 16:27
To understand this is to shift the debate away from jobs taken, trains crowded, burkas worn, Western values subverted, the ugly, naked fear and taxes—and to do that we need, yes, stories.
All of the self-justifying ink Lewis spills cannot alter the fundamental immorality, the injustice, of this belief system. In the end, we are to believe, the damned will be lost forever, all because they did not understand the choice they were making, while the relative few who reach Heaven will immediately lose all concern for those left behind, and will pass eternity without even a thought for their loved ones who did not make it. This cannot be described as anything other than deeply selfish. (Why did the Ghost who was converted to a Spirit immediately ride away rather than stay behind to help his fellows? After all, he was one of them only seconds earlier does he no longer care what happens to them?) And we are told that this is a good outcome.
"Don’t ask me. I’ve done my best. I took her home. What a girl needs at a time like that is her mother and dad. Anyway she’s got me to thank she isn’t dead." (p. 798)
But Ida’s motivation is not justice, responsibility, and a feeling of owing something to Fred alone. Ida is also motivated by her own craving for fun. The manhunt is a game for her, exciting like the bet at the races, a task that makes her feel alive, and gives her otherwise rather purposeless life a temporary direction: "The hunt was what mattered. It was like life coming back after a sickness." (p. 656) She takes pleasure in her ability to find out things and to get, step by step, her suspicions and intuitions confirmed.
But if we properly read The Happiest Refugee , and not squeeze it for easy tears, not rummage through it for jokes, not shake it up and down for life-affirming lessons, if instead we read it straining to imagine and to understand, then perhaps the book’s success can become not yet another confirmation of our multicultural largesse but the start of something else, something real. It takes a monumental and ongoing work of moral imagination to understand why people are prepared to starve, become terribly ill, get lost at sea, watch their children suffer, die—all to be able to come to Australia. This work of imagining cannot be supplanted by slogans, not even well-meaning slogans, like:
Meindl, Dieter. Bewußtsein als Schicksal. Zur Struktur und Entwicklung von William Faulkners Generationenromanen. Amerikastudien/American Studies. Eine Schriftenreihe, Band 89. Stuttgart: . Metzlersche Verlagsbuchhandlung, 6979.
At the end of the novel, Spade must choose between Brigid and his integrity, although either choice results in his loss. As a detective, he has to stick to his code, which tells him:
Then we come to the more interesting part of the chapter: a Ghost who is tormented by lust, represented as a lizard that sits on his shoulder and whispers to him. He encounters an angel, and after some persuasion, gives it permission to kill the beast that afflicts him. The angel does this, and for the only time in the entire book, we see a Ghost become a Spirit the lizard is transformed into a massive, beautiful stallion, which the newly saved soul rides into the distance like a shooting star, accompanied by a rejoicing chorus sung by the land itself.
"It’s not natural." The more she thought about it the more she wished she had been there: it was like a pain in the heart, the thought that no one at the inquest was interested,.. (p. 88),