The Man in the High Castle is an alternative-history and science-fiction novel written by Philip K. Dick and published in October of 1962. In 2015, the novel was picked up by Amazon for a TV show adaptation with Isa Dick Hackett, Dick’s daughter, brought on as an executive producer. There are a number of differences between the TV series and the novel, but the main premise of the story stays the same; the Axis powers, Nazi Germany and Japan specifically, have won the war and as a result, divided up the majority of the United States into territory for their empires. Japan rules over the west coast, the Greater Nazi Reich covers much of the eastern half of the United States, with the exception of the ‘neutral zone’ which spans through the Rocky Mountains. The Japanese Empire rules over the Japanese Pacific States with the laws of the Nazi Empire, however does not strictly enforce these laws, unless it benefits them to. These laws include the banning of western religions, such as Christianity and Judaism, and their sacred texts. The people within the Nazi Reich are presented as having no religion, but rather a worship of the state and Hitler that in some ways parallels organized religion. Other religions and practices are practiced in the Japanese Pacific States, such as Shinto and Buddhism, however not forced upon people as it is in The Greater Nazi Reich. The contrast shown in the Greater Nazi Reich and the Japanese Pacific States by the presentation of religious practices in both the TV series and the novel, highlights the evil nature of the Nazis while humanizing the Japanese Empire.
The Greater Nazi Reich highly emphasizes the cruciality of religion to the structure of the states beliefs. The Nazi community portrays Hitler as their God, and law as their worship. The Germans are constantly portrayed as having an inflamed sense of divinity with all of their actions, as described in this quote by Baynes, a german spy sent to aid the Japanese in preventing war between Japan andGermany, “They want to be the agents, not the victims, of history. They identify with God’s power and believe they are godlike. That is their basic madness. they are overcome by some archetype; their egos have expanded psychotically so that they cannot tell where they begin and the godhead leaves off” (Dick 41). The most foundational attribute that proves Hitler as the states God include extreme propaganda- on street advertisements, framed photos in homes, pictures in churches, and on television shows and news programs. A perfect example of this is the ‘church’ in which a funeral is held for one of the Nazi doctors, Dr. Adler. Shown below, you can see that the scene appears as a typical catholic church would, however when you look closely you can see that swastikas and pictures of Hitler have replaced all of the typical catholic decorations.
Basic greetings such as “sieg hail”, a victory salute, and “heil Hitler”, meaning “heil victory” used as a substitute to goodbye, are also notes proving the exaltation of Hitler in the eyes of a Nazi. This acknowledges the community living in a cult- like setting. There is an absence of individuality of thought in all community attributers, including children. The young people of the Greater Nazi Reich speak of Hitler in a god-like way, desiring to meet him or give him gifts.
As shown in the above image, the children are also forced to stand and recite a salute before class in respect to Hitler. This creates an initial perception of the Nazi system as evil due to the relatability of the pledge of allegiance in schools enacting “one nation, under God”. These cult- like behaviors link the Nazi region to psychotic behaviors such as killing the ill and disabled of their own kind to keep purality in the name of Hitler, and families dedicating all they can give to the state and law, no matter the extent. These psychotic behaviors tone the Greater Nazi Reich as strong and rigid with an emphasis on extreme structure of community and law. The Nazi empire worships the law, which is based on the standard beliefs of their God- Hitler. An example is the banning of all religions. This includes all religious books and physical practices of any kind, such as worshiping another God other than Hitler, emphasizing censorship over rights to individuals of the community. Furthermore, the law requires death to the unlawful, and the unfit. They hold a right, by law, to kill ones who break the law, or the ones who do not fit the typical profile of a strong healthy German. This will rid of the unfit, leaving more living space for the worthy Germans to expand as well as keeping the German language united in one country. The basic functions of the law in the German Empire are to withhold the ideas of Nazzism and define the communities strict policies that define their beliefs. Nazzism and the Greater Nazi Reigh’s law system have little to no separation to each other. This holds contrary to The Japanese Pacific State, along with countless other beliefs, laws, and views of life and community.
The Japanese are portrayed as having religious traditions associated with peacefulness and introspective behaviors like meditation and consulting the I Ching, which is an ancient Chinese text in which an Oracle is asked a question to which it responds with a specific hexagram for the user to read. Upon the Crown Prince of Japan’s arrival in the Japanese Pacific States, he is shown performing Shinto rituals at the altar of one of his ancestors. As you can see in the picture below, these religious practices are shown in a context in which is easy for the viewer to see as peaceful, especially when compared to the irrational and almost psychotic way Nazi lifestyle is portrayed.
In the book, Americans living in the Japanese Pacific States have even adopted the practice of consulting the I Ching, which can be seen in key characters like Frank and Juliana. These ancient traditions still being in use in Japanese society, contrasted with the strong emphasis on industry and technology in the Greater Nazi Reich, present the Japanese as being weaker than the Nazis. In the cases of both Japan and the Nazi Reich, the way their religions are presented translates directly to the power structure that exists within the respective empires. In the Greater Nazi Reich, religion is presented as being very strict and rigidly structured, which directly parallels with the strict order of power organized in a top-down (from Hitler to normal citizens) manner. However, as I mentioned earlier, the Japanese are presented as having a much more tolerant and peaceful perspective on religion which translates into a power structure that does not appear as rigid as the Nazis.
Throughout the entire novel and TV series the presentation of religion in both the Greater Nazi Reich and the Japanese Pacific States is used as a tool to emphasize the evil nature of the Nazi Empire. We see this through the peaceful and fluid presentation of Japanese religion and culture and how it is easily adopted by many Americans living under Japanese rule in the Japanese Pacific States, which is in direct contrast with the very rigid presentation of Nazi religion in which Hitler, the State, and the Law are worshiped. Ultimately, the contrast between the two empires and their religious practices portrays the Japanese as good natured humans who ended up on the wrong side of a war, and the Nazis as people who have been absorbed into a culture of evil.
DICK, PHILIP K. MAN IN THE HIGH CASTLE. GOLLANCZ, 2018.
Scott, Ridley. The Man in the High Castle, Amazon Video, Oct. 2015.