Study Guide

How I Live Now Foreignness and "The Other"

By Meg Rosoff

Foreignness and "The Other"

The rules of The Occupation which never struck me as being entirely clear but as far as I could tell meant you could go ahead and do whatever you liked as long as no one told you not to. (1.17.17)

All that we know at this point is that some mysterious other country (or countries) is inexplicably occupying England. Why? Unclear. And since no one seems to know the new rules that come with this development, chaos seems to rein.

It was more or less a known fact that the whole situation was temporary and by the time the British Forces could get organized again it would all be over and the Occupiers would be History, i.e., dead (1.17.21)

Sound familiar? Although Daisy's constantly pointing out how this is totally not at all like World War II, the Western belief that obviously we're going to win because we're superior to everyone else still rings true.

We also found out that The Enemy was one reason there was no gas for anyone. (1.17.24)

Blame the Enemy—it's such a common pastime during wartime. Anything that's wrong at home? Wrong with our lives? It's the Enemy's fault, obviously, since they're evil. Sure, they probably are responsible in some way for the fuel shortage, but everyone's sure about it without having any idea how.

He ignored him and kept shouting stuff about Johnny Foreigner being an Effing Bastard and worse. (1.20.X—p.104)

Another wartime classic is people thinking that everyone and their mom wants to hear their opinion about the war and the Enemy and whatnot. Here, Joe's shouting is the equivalent of an elementary school recess screaming match—totally lacking in maturity, and failing to acknowledge any potential similarities between the two sides.

Now The Enemy was going house to house and killing anyone they didn't like the look of. (1.21.7)

More rumors about that evil Enemy—now they're apparently running through the neighborhoods killing people willy nilly. Color us skeptical, but we're highly doubtful of Daisy's third-hand account of what's going down. We're pretty sure this is the British people's attempt at garnering more hatred for the outsiders.

Most of The Enemy know they're never going home again and don't have a heck of a lot to live for. (1.22.12)

Aw, sad—poor Enemy. Though we have to wonder again about the accuracy of this statement. Is the Enemy legitimately well on their way to losing the war and their lives? Or is it another Western of course we're better sort of situation—you know, where the Enemy is probably over in their camp believing the exact same thing about themselves?

Half the time you couldn't tell the Good Guys from the Bad Guys and neither could they. (2.3.16)

Funny how the war commentary changes in the aftermath. Now Daisy acknowledges that the lines between good and evil, right and wrong, and winners and losers were never as cut and dry as the British made them seem during the Occupation.

You could ask a thousand people on seven continents what it was all about and you wouldn't get the same answer twice; nobody really knew for sure but you could bet one or more of the following words would crop up: oil, money, land, sanctions, democracy. (2.3.16)

What was this war even about? Why did the Enemy come occupy Britain and (supposedly) start massacring its people? Even once the war has ended, laypeople really have no idea

The tabloids waxed nostalgic for the good old days of WWII, when the enemy all spoke a foreign language and the army went somewhere else to fight. (2.3.16)

Ah, war nostalgia. Interestingly, though, vague though the Enemy remains, here we get an actual clue about who they are: English speakers, unlike in the good old days (read that last bit with all the sarcasm you can muster, please).

"Edmond was found a few miles away by soldiers, not our soldiers. He was half dead with starvation and you can imagine what else. They held him for over a month but didn't harm him." (2.5.27)

So remember that evil Enemy everyone hated? Turns out they grabbed Edmond and didn't kill him or hurt him or anything. So maybe they're not as evil as everyone seems to think they were…

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