By Maddy Levin

Intro:



Swastika Night is a forgotten novel that was published in 1937. It is about the Nazis winning the next great war and the progression of a society ruled by hatred and masculinity. The author, Katharine Burdekin, under the pen name Murray Constantine, wrote this novel protest against her current society. The society of post World War I where men were in power and the middle class men had little to do and so were becoming lazy. She writes to show what would happen if this laziness and power were to continue unchallenged for seven hundred years.


Summary


n13214.jpgSwastika Night happens seven hundred years in the future. Hitler has taken over and Nazism controls the world. Hitler is seen as God because he founded this supreme world. The book mainly focuses on how women are oppressed. Women are not allowed into everyday society and are kept locked away and rape is encouraged so that the Nazi race can continue. Other groups such as Christian’s are subjugated and the Nazi’s are encouraged to harass them. Jews have been completely eliminated in t he past seven hundred years.
The men in Swastika Night are portrayed as being almost homosexual in
manner. Beauty in men is highly cherished and they are very affectionate towards each other. Young beautiful boy children who look like girls are the most cherished and are a key part of the church worship.
We are introduced to this world of men and hate by the main character Alfred. He is an Englishman and therefore is not as highly ranked as the Germans. (England is hated because they opposed the Nazi’s in the “Twenty Years War”) Alfred is on a pilgrimage to Germany. On his pilgrimage he gets the great privilege of visiting and then flying the Sacred Airplane. This Airplane (myth has it) is the plane that Hitler flew to Moscow to win the war.
After crashing the airplane and making a fool of himself Alfred is shown the biggest secret of all. Hitler is portrayed at a tall blond god who never liked women and who single handedly won the war. Alfred is shown a picture of Hitler with a woman who is very beautiful so he first thinks it is a girl. Hitler is as we know him now, short, ugly, and a lover of many women. This astounds Alfred because it is the opposite of what he and the rest of the world has been taught. Alfred has been entrusted with the truth about Hitler and the Nazi’s past.
The world continues to go on the way it has for the last seven hundred years. The women are slowly dying off because they are being treated so badly. Because of this the population keeps dropping and the government worries about how to repopulate their Aryan nation. Eventually the SS finds Alfred and learns the secret about Hitler. They know that the truth will undo the nation even faster than it is already dying. The SS decide to murder Alfred but Alfred managed to save the secret by telling his son. The novel ends with Alfred’s death and with a note of hope that his son will go out and tell everyone that they are living a lie and that women are good and should not be treated like slaves.




Views of the Time


Burdekin was an avid opponent to World War I. By the 1930's she was able to see how much power Fascism was starting to get and she predicted that there would be another major war. Swastika Night is all about what would happen is the Nazi's had won WWII but it was written many years before WWII even started. Many literary annalists attribute Burdekin's good prediction for the future to her astute observations and awareness of her times.
This book is also notable for its comments on the relation between power and gender. When men have all the power they are able to repress women to the point that they are not seen as people anymore. This also seems to connect to Herland, when the women have all the power so they do not see the men as equals. In Swastika Night women are systematically repressed over 700 hundred years so that they are seen as animals and hated intensely by men. This repression is done by a mixture of religious and political law. Men are taught that they are superior and that women should only be used for breeding. Rape is encouraged which turns sex from a form of showing your love to a form of showing your power over people.(Crossley)
Also, Burdekin has a grim view on men of the time. She views them as being sucked into the gender roles of the time of feeling like they have to be in charge of everything and that everyone should be submissive. Burdekin views this as men being week because they no longer have to work for respect. Expanding this view into the future she makes men into emotionally driven people who only care about beauty and prestige. She shows their extreme feelings by comparing one German man's feeling towards a young beautiful church boy. At first he feels great love for the boy because the boy is singing in the church and exemplifies the ideals of the society. Later when he sees the boy raping a christian girl (another thing encouraged by society) he hates the boy and beats the boy until he is nearly dead. By showing the extreme feelings of the men she shows how their are ruled by their desires.(Quinn)
This book is a warning for societies to not let gender rule a society. When an ideal of gender becomes power and is allowed to grow and mature it becomes a dystopia where gender roles have exponentially grown and taken over. By writing this book Burdekin wants to show how much gender roles control and define a person and a society.(Holden) She writes to urge people not to go with the ideals of her time and to fight against gender roles. (Rosenfeld) By making an extreme dystopia she is able to shock people into realizing how gender roles control their lives. When a house wife would read this novel she would realize how future generations could end up in an extreme version of her own situation. Trapped as a slave to men with no other point to life other than producing male children. In Swastika Night women are abhorred by men because women have no place in a male dominated society and because of this the population is quickly dwindling. This novel is supposed to show men how much their hatred and dismissal of women affects a society and hinders its future development.(McKay)
This book disappeared of the shelves quickly after it's publication in 1937. This happened for many reasons the first of which is that it is all about Nazi's and Hitler. In the 1940's the Nazi's were the greatest evil anyone could imagine so any book about them was quickly dismissed. Another reason why it disappeared was because it fought against the gender norms of the time. In a time where women had very little social or political power a book that protested against that was very controversial.(Patai)




Themes

Gender and Power- Because masculinity is valued so much it has turned into the only source of power in this society. The male dominated society has survived for seven hundred years but cannot survive much longer because all the women are dieing. Burdekin urges for an equal society where both genders have power so that the society can be balanced and just.(Kunka)

Women- Women are turned into slaves who are hated by all the men. They are kept in horrible conditions and are constantly raped so that they can become pregnant. This treatment of women is there to represent the current treatment of women and how if it continues there will be horrible consequences.(Patai)

Books and History- Knowledge is very limited in this society. Because of this the men do no have the tools to question the government and their way of life. When the true history is finally found out there could be a huge revolution. However the government comes in and kills the only person who knows. This shows that when a government controls all learning then they can control all part of a society. They can brain wash people to think outrageous things which leads to a dystopia.(Frost)

Religion- This is another way that the government brainwashes all the people in the society. The religious leaders preach the will of the government saying that men are all powerful and that women are sinful and terrible. The church even facilitates times to hate women so that they can be degraded even more. Burdekin encourages separation of church and state so that they do not combine to make a society that is completely at the mercy of the group in power.(Patai)

War- It is essential that this society is constantly at war because when you are trained to hate someone else you are less likely to question and hate your own government. This is just another warning against people putting their total trust in the government because in this situation the government is do all they can to control the society. (Kunka)


Homosexuality- Since women are abhorred by the men they turn to each other for love. Beauty is especially valued in men and their friendships become very close and intimate. However homosexuality is strongly frowned upon by the government. This shows how you cannot make a society only of men and expect there to be no love between men. Burdekin is showing both that you cannot discriminate against homosexually or women. Both are part of the natural order of humans and this society is a dystopia when both are banished. (Rosenfeld)


Books Based on Swastika Night


1984 is highly similar to Swastika Night. Orwell published 1984 twelve years after and became vastly more popular. Both novels deal with an overly controlling government and that forces strict rules and brain washing religion onto the citizens. There is also a struggle against the government in which the main character is forced to be secretive to avoid punishment. Even their beginnings are almost identical. Both start by the main character being forced to hate what the government dictates what they should hate (women or Goldstine). There is a specific time of day when people are supposed to remember how much they dislike the enemy of the nation. Both governments are brain washing the citizens to create a society with no problems.(Frost)
Another similarity ending of the novels when the rebels against the system are put down by the government so that the society can keep going on without any interruption. In 1984 the main characters are brain washed because they are part of the society where as in Swastika Night Alfred is killed because he is an outsider and he has extreme insider knowledge.(Rosenfeld)
One suggested reason for 1984 being more popular than Swastika Night is that it deals with the more simplistic topic of an over controlling government instead of the issue of power and gender. In a time when society viewed women as being less able and therefore less important to society a revolutionary tale about gender was not popular. Instead a book about the dangers of Fascism became immensely popular because it dealt with the fears of the time.(Quinn)


Katherine Burdekin


Katherine Burdekin was born Katharine Penelope Cade, on July 23, 1896 in Derbyshire, England. The was the youngest of four children. She was highly educated and had a great love to reading and writing. She wanted to study at Oxford but her parents would not permit it so instead she got married. (Pagetti) She had two daughters who she adored. After seven years of marriage she got divorced and soon moved in with a woman. She lived with her life partner and her two girls and wrote novels. Burdekin wrote thirteen novels during her career but only six were published while she was still alive. She mostly wrote about women and how they are put down by men and the system. Many modern feminists say that she was one of the first feminist writers and published all of her novels after her death. Burdekin published her novel under the pseudonym Murry Constantine.(Quinn) She did this for two reasons. One, her books were very controversial and she did not want the public to find her and her family. The second was that as writing as a man she was able to gain more respect in the literary world. If she had written controversial books as a woman she would have been ignored and would have been able to publish even less. She died in 1963 right when the feminist movement was revving up. Many of her books were put back into print after many years of being out of print. The feminist press now publishes most of her books as feminist literature. (Patai)


Personal Analysis

Burdekin comments on the necessity of accurate history so that we can grow from it for our future. When history is rewritten like it was in this dystopia with Hitler being seen as a blond heroic god it lets people do what ever they want. If you see the reality of the past it makes people look at their actions in an attempt to not be a horrific person, such as Hitler. I think that if Alfred had not been killed so that he could go out and spread the word about the lie of Hitler it would have destroyed the entire society. The one picture can destroy the whole base of everyone beliefs. A rebel group would have been able to build off of the picture and get followers who are not happy with their lives. When history has been rewritten and then it is uncovered that it is all a lie is causes people to question the way that society has told them to live and therefore can feel like they can change themselves and society. Burdekin does make this book realistic by killing Alfred. It shows how easy it is to keep a lie going if there is very little proof.




References


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2.Frost, Laura. “Sex Drives: Fantasies of Fascism in Literary Modernism.” Cornell University Press (2002): 644-647. 6 Mar. 2009 <http://docs.google.com/‌gview?a=v&attid=0.4&thid=11fdd0d3bc5df984&mt=application%2Fpdf>.

3.Holden, Kate. “Formations of Discipline and Manliness: Culture, Politics and 1930’s Women’s Writing.” Journal of Gender Studies (July 1999): 141-157. 5 Mar. 2009 <http://web.ebscohost.com/‌ehost/‌detail?vid=9&hid=7&sid=ce719f93-85f7-4be4-a950-74ee942736e6%40sessionmgr109&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#db=mzh&AN=1999070746>.

4.Kunka, Andrew J. “’Adversary Proceedings’: Recent Books on War and Modernism.” Modern Fiction Studies 33.4: 813-833 . 10 Mar. 2009 <http://muse.jhu.edu.proxy2.library.uiuc.edu/‌journals/‌modern_fiction_studies/‌v044/‌44.3er_booth.html>.

5.McKay, George. “Metapropaganda: Self-Reading Dystopian Fiction: Burdekin’s Swastika Night and Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four.” Science-Fiction Studies 21.3: 302-314. 26 Feb. 2009 <http://www.jstor.org/‌stable/‌pdfplus/‌4240368.pdf>.

6.Pagetti, Carlo. “In the Year of Our Lord Hitler 720: Katharine Burdekin’s Swastika Night.” Science-Fiction Studies 17.3: 360-369. 26 Feb. 2009 <http://www.jstor.org/‌stable/‌pdfplus/‌4240012.pdf>.

7.Patai, Daphne. The Orwell Mystique: A Study in Male Ideology. Boston: U of Massachusetts, 1984. 10 Mar. 2009 <http://books.google.com/‌books?id=g-gyr7ddFYUC>.

8.- - -. “Orwell’s Despair, Burdekin’s Hope: Gender and Power in Dystopia.” Women’s Studies International Forum 7.2: 85-95. 5 Mar. 2009 <http://www.sciencedirect.com/‌science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6VBD-46SG5RB-2&_user=571676&_rdoc=1&_fmt=&_orig=search&_sort=d&view=c&_acct=C000029040&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=571676&md5=f3841805c55620623579697715621d53>.

9.Quinn, Patrick J. Recharting the Thirties. New York: Susquehanna UP, 1996. 11 Mar. 2009 <http://books.google.com/‌books?id=9AtgeckHXYAC>.

10.Rosenfeld, Gavriel David. The World Hitler Never Made: Alternate History and the Memory of Nazism. New York: Cambridge UP, 2005. 10 Mar. 2009 [[http://books.google.com/‌books?id=ZKNdxlzG6okC]].