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“Crimes Against Humanity” by Ward Churchill Essay (Article Review)

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Updated: Jun 8th, 2022

In the article Crimes against Humanity, Ward Churchill describes the most terrible and impressive crimes that affected our civilization. Throughout the essay, he puts a lot of words and phrases in quotation marks to underline the unique and figurative meaning of these phrases. Most of the words and phrases put in quotation marks are used in figurative meaning: “warpaint”, “no big deal”, “good, clean fun”, “good cheer”, “inoffensiveness” (536, 537).

His initial response is to find refuge in objectivity, in a brief discourse on the historical origins followed by the most objective and scientific description that yet appears in the essay. Such language oversimplifies; it is too stipulative, too parched, too bare of the contradictory impulses that feed Churchill’s work. The images represent a deliberate and continuing attempt to signify the unsaponifiable. Out of this impulse both to reach beyond the literal and tap the subliminal power of a word, To some extent, words and phrases in quotation marks attract readers’ attention and appeal to emotions. Churchill has introduced into his work a particular kind of figurative meaning: he underlines the irony and humor, sarcasm and mockery.

Also, Churchill puts in quotation marks historical terms and personal names: “Jungle Bunnies”, “Chief Illiniwik”, “Slopes”, “Gooks”, “the Washington team’, ‘crime against humanity’. It would be difficult for a reader to understand the nature and meaning of these words without quotation marks which highlight a special meaning of the phrases. The narrator’s character thus becomes the chief means of persuasion.

The main effect of quotation marks is close attention to the phrases and words. The power of the fused image is that it locates itself ambiguously, between the literal and the figurative. It possesses no clear border, thus denying the reader any clear ground for a response. It can help develop in readers the kind of understanding and appreciation of style that they lack and sorely need. What these quotations toward greater simplicity and directness do is impart an air of authenticity to the author’s voice which leads one to identify with his point of view and thus share his experience and the sharp sense of personality.

But even these findings are useful since they demonstrate that stylistic effects typically result from a combination of devices, and not necessarily the ones that would first come to mind. Also, these phrases make the narration more vivid and impassive, colorful, and personal. For instance, Churchill writes: “Understand that the treatment of Indians in American popular culture is not “cute” or “amusing”, or a “good clean fun” (543). Success or failure in that effort is proportionate to our ability to share those feelings. The author’s voice has not seemed especially visible to other readers. Churchill has called attention to the consequences of questioning the speaking subject.

Churchill talks about the special status of people in history. The ordinary becomes metaphorical; the unquestioned observer becomes figurative, a figure of bias and difference. Churchill gives readers what appears to be the natural, real-world of experience and breaks it open, to expose its figurativeness. Churchill admits the painful sacrifice of self-involved in the pursuit of knowledge. All in all, these statements and pieces engage a wide range of issues and problems concerning the purpose of the essay, the subject matter of the essay, the form of the essay and the style.

Works Cited

Churchill, W. Crimes Against Humanity. pp. 536-543.

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