A Culture of Evil’s Effect on Identity
The novel by Phillip K. Dick, The Man in the High Castle, was written and published in 1962. Amazon created a very popular TV adaptation of the novel. The first season came out in early 2015, but the plot line is different than that of the novel.
Both of these countries were vilified after the war for their actions, including Pearl Harbor and the Holocaust. By the time this novel was written, many people understood just how atrocious the Nazi crimes were and questions arose about what kinds of people could do these things. The culture of evil surrounding these countries was a strong influence on Dick’s writing.
In the novel, Phillip K. Dick creates an alternate reality in which Japan and Germany won WWII instead of the Allied Powers. They are now in power over the United States, where they have divided the land between east and west. Both Japan and Germany are portrayed as evil in the novel and television adaptation because they have taken over and in doing so, replaced the identity of the American people with their own culture and socially constructed norms.
The culture created in The Man in the High Castle is used to show the cost of colonization and how identity is essential for the peaceful survival of a group of people.
The Culture in the Japanese Pacific States
An astounding amount of reliance is place on the I Ching as the guiding force in life. The novel places a heavy emphasis on this piece of culture because almost every character seeks its direction in everything they do. It is an enormous part of the Japanese lifestyle, but interestingly enough its origin is Chinese. Dick is commenting on the idea that because the Axis Powers won the war, their ideologies trump every other country. Therefore, what was once a part of Chinese culture is now an integral part of the Japanese Pacific States.
Regarding greetings and social interactions, the Japanese greet each other with a bow.
Bowing is an important part of the Japanese culture, even today. Social gatherings in the Japanese territory remain peaceful and respectful because it is part of the Japanese culture to remain polite. This politeness can also be forced, especially under infuriating circumstances. For example, when Childan visits Paul, a young Japanese man after trying to seduce his wife, “he greeted Childan politely and offered him tea” (Dick 92).
We also get a glimpse of this peacefulness in the first episode of the TV series when Juliana is participating in Aikido, a form of Japanese martial arts. The instructor announces, “It is not about harming your opponent. It does not attack. It defends.” (“The Man in the High Castle”). This shows how their culture places importance on things besides just violence and bloodshed, as opposed to what we know about The Reich.
This peaceful nature likely stems from the influence of Buddhism on Japanese culture. We know that Mr. Tagomi in the novel is Buddhist, which is why he is so dejected after killing a man. It is assumed that this is the religion in the Japanese Pacific States, considering Mr. Tagomi is a high-ranking official who must do what his superiors deem appropriate.
The Culture in the Reich
The Reich in The Man in the High Castle is representative of Nazi Germany from the World War Two era. Nazism and Hitler’s ideology are the basis for the entire culture in Germany. This ideology placed an emphasis on the idea of race and how innately fixed it is in our genetics. Therefore, any races that he deemed unfit were annihilated in order to ensure that the German people were superior .
Rather than having a polite, respectful manner in social situations, the Germans are portrayed in the stereotypical way that they are in most WWII movies: brusque, rude, angry, and basically evil. There are not many interactions with the German side in the book, but the TV series completely captures the Reich as it is imagined Nazi Germany would be, where suspicion, torture, and brainwashing are a part of everyday life. The “Heil Hitler” salute was required in greeting my all citizens and military personnel as a tribute to their leader. Children completed the salute in school while singing the national anthem.
Hitler did not tolerate any other ideology except for the National Socialism. He states his ideology as one that “demands its own, exclusive, and unqualified recognition as well as the complete transformation of the whole public life according to its views” (Holborn). We see this in the book and TV series as well. The Nazi party has taken over every aspect of the lives of the people living in the Eastern United States.
Social Construction of Identity
Germany and Japan have colonized the United States, instilling their own military, police force, government, and officials. In doing so, they are slowly spreading their own cultures to the specific regions they control, Japan in the West and Germany in the East. Specific aspects of their culture pervade the lives of Americans, such as the I Ching that Frank, an American, uses to help him with his jewelry business. The social constructions that Japan and Germany have created that push down disregard American culture as insignificant can be seen in Childan’s interaction with Paul and his business proposition. Seeing how Paul reacts to the jewelry angers him and he begins to believe in the American culture as something to be treasured. The handcrafted jewelry by EdFrank that Paul thinks of as “trashy good-luck charms” are actually important art pieces representative of a time before the war (Dick 98). Although Childan regains his pride in his country by the end of the novel, this is just one example of how the Americans have lost a part of their identity because they are controlled by an “other”. The TV series assists in this portrayal because we see the culture firsthand, as well as how prevalent it is in the lives of the American people.
Culture of Evil
Both the Japanese and the Germans come across as overbearing rulers in The Man in the High Castle, but one more so than the other. Although the Japanese are in control of the west part of America, they come across as less strict and oppressive.
In the novel, Japan is not spoken of negatively by any of the characters like Germany is. Although most of the character points of view are American, they do not speak of Japan as evil. The Japanese perspective comes from Mr. Tagomi in the novel. He is viewed as a positive character with good morals because after he kills a man, he is completely distraught. He is Buddhist, “a culture in which no life is to be taken; all lives holy” (Dick 107). In the TV series, the Japanese are viewed in a similar light. All of their suspicious dealings seem to take place at night or at moments when no one will see what they are doing. This is because they want to maintain an image of peace in their society in order to avoid rebellion. Juliana is a character in the show who actually appreciates their culture. She participates in Aikido and creates conflict to defend them because her mother believes the Japanese are the reason her husband is dead.
The Reich is portrayed in a completely different light. In the novel, the majority of the setting is in the Japanese Pacific States so we do not often get the perspective of someone living on the East. Despite this fact, we learn what the Germans have done since the war, and it is unquestionably evil. Childan is a character in the book that ironically lists all of Germany’s accomplishments. “Two hundred years to dispose of the American aborigines, and Germany had almost done it in Africa in fifteen years” (Dick 16). In addition to the complete extermination of the African people, they have also traded slaves, decimated the Jewish, gypsies, and bible students, drained the Mediterranean using atomic weapons, and essentially conquered the solar system. They are considered evil in the novel because of what they do to other people who do not fit into their idea of a perfect society, but also because of Operation Dandelion, which is their plan to bomb the Japanese and rule the entire world.
In the TV series we see a lot of typical German stereotypes from other movies made about the war period such as torture, brainwashing and suspicion.
This clip is a perfect representation of the German culture. The man who helps Joe with his tire comes off as an extremely nice person at the start; he’s even American. Then Joe asks him about the ash falling in the sky and he replies “On Tuesdays they burn cripples, terminally ill, drag on the state”(“The Man in the High Castle”). He brushes off his statement as if it was no big deal, but it is evidence of the German culture’s belief in maintaining a perfect society. Even a man who was once American now believes that this is an acceptable way to handle the situation. He has lost his identity as an American as a result of the culture of evil that the Germans, and even the Japanese, have socially constructed.
Paranoia and Hatred
Paranoia and hatred are the result of a people being controlled by those who are “other”. The “others” in this case are the Germans and Japanese; people who do not understand the American culture or way of life. Rather, they force their own culture onto American people and we start to see evidence of this in how the characters resort to foreign objects in their own lives before doing what is typically American. They are forgetting their identity. “Just as a state cannot survive if it loses its sovereignty, so too, a society cannot survive if it loses its identity, because ‘we will no longer be able to live’” (Kachuyevski 306).
Conclusion: Implications for the Future
The American identity in this society is rapidly disappearing as a result of both German and Japanese culture. Both countries contribute to the helplessness in this dystopian world, but in different ways. Germany is portrayed as evil and controls with fear. Japan controls by implanting their own culture in every aspect of American lives. This insight from both Dick’s novel and the TV series is helpful to understand how this is happening around the world today and will continue to happen without some kind of action against it. A people’s identity is extremely important to maintaining the unique culture of a place, but around the world cultures are disappearing as a result of exposure to Western civilizations. In the past, this occurred because of colonization, but today, it is unfortunate consequence of modernization and new technology. Western countries believe that they can help underdeveloped societies in many ways, which is true. However, we need to take into consideration how this help will affect these people and if they will ever be the same again after being exposed to the modern world.
Dick, Phillip K. The Man in the High Castle. Putnam, 1962, http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwjRxZmRn4bYAhUpzoMKHSaSAekQFggpMAA&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.modernlanguageexperiment.org%2Fassets%2Fphilip_k_dick_-_the_man_in_the_high_castle.pdf&usg=AOvVaw2_vD5fxxtO-hvYkaBTFLqG.
Holborn, Hajo. “Origins and Political Character of Nazi Ideology.” Political Science Quarterly, vol. 79, no. 4, Dec. 1964, pp. 542–554., http://www.jstor.org/stable/2146698.
Kachuyevski, Angela, and Ronnie Olesker. “Divided Societies and Identity Boundaries: a Conlfict Analysis Framework.” International Journal of Conflict Management, vol. 25, no. 3, 2014, pp. 304–321.
Lomnitz, Claudio. “Nationalism’s Dirty Linen: ‘Contact Zones’ and the Topography of National Identity.” Deep Mexico, Silent Mexico: An Anthropology of Nationalism, 2001.
“The Man in the High Castle.” Created by Frank Spotnitz, season 1, episode 1, Amazon, 15 Jan. 2015.
“Victims of the Nazi Era: Nazi Racial Ideology.” Holocaust Encyclopedia, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum,