Study Guide

The Man in the High Castle Prejudice

By Philip K. Dick


"You understand that Mr. Baynes, who as you know is arriving shortly in person, holds to the Nordic ideology regarding so-called Oriental culture. I could make the effort to dazzle him into a better comprehension with authentic works of Chinese scroll art or ceramics of our Tokugawa Period... but it is not our job to convert." (2.22)

Tagomi sometimes is a realist (see "Power" for another example); here, he simply notes that Baynes will think of the Japanese in that prejudiced manner that north Europeans do and that they'll have to do their work around that. It isn't their job to convince him not to be prejudiced. The irony here is that Tagomi doesn't know Baynes yet, so his assumption that Baynes is prejudiced is a little prejudiced itself.

And anyhow, the flights to Mars had distracted world attention from the difficulty in Africa. So it all came back to what he had told his fellow store owners; what the Nazis have which we lack is—nobility. Admire them for their love of work or their efficiency... but it's the dream that stirs one. Space flights first to the moon, then to Mars; if that isn't the oldest yearning of mankind, our finest hope for glory. Now, the Japanese on the other hand. I know them pretty well; I do business with them, after all, day in and day out. They are—let's face it—Orientals. Yellow people. We whites have to bow to them because they hold the power. But we watch Germany; we see what can be done where whites have conquered, and it's quite different. (2.59)

But to show that Tagomi isn't wrong, here's Childan comparing the Nordic Germans (exciting! admirable! only accidentally genocidal!) with the Japanese, who are just Orientals (which is apparently not so cool). Let's take a moment to note that prejudice can be positive or negative, as Childan thinks good things about all Germans (and whites) and bad things about all Japanese. Childan likes his categories and stereotypes. For instance…

He had dealt with so many Japanese... but he still had difficulty telling them apart. There were the short squat ones, built like wrestlers. Then the druggist-like ones. The tree-shrubflower-gardener ones... he had his categories. And the young ones, who were to him not like Japanese at all. Mr. Tagomi's client would probably be portly, a businessman, smoking a Philippine cigar. (2.79)

We didn't ask "who is the most racist character here?" because we think it's Childan. (But, hey, write a paper to prove us wrong.) At least at the beginning of the book, Childan tends to think of groups rather than individuals. He even says that himself, noting that "he had his categories" to help organize different people. But note that even Childan thinks that the young, post-war Japanese somehow fall into a different category.

The younger truck driver said, "Sure. If you have the right color skin." He himself had a dark brooding face with curly black hair. His expression had become set and bitter. (3.37)

Most of the book takes place in the west, but we hear hints of how things are back east or in Europe. As Joe notes later (see "Themes: Society and Class"), a lot of laws back there depend on your racial group. Here's another little hint: back east, there's some prejudice against dark-skinned people. And here's a hint of how prejudice affects some people: Joe seems "bitter." Dick isn't too subtle about this—this book doesn't seem to like prejudice.

"I hope we will see one another later on in San Francisco," Lotze said as the rocket touched the ground. "I will be at loose ends without a countryman to talk to."

"I'm not a countryman of yours," Baynes said.
"Oh, yes; that's so. But racially, you're quite close. For all intents and purposes the same." (3.114-6)

German Baynes is pretending to be Swedish, but Lotze waves away that difference. For the Nazi ideology, nationality means less than racial group. This comes up again with Jews. All Jews belong to Germany, no matter where they are. In Lotze's mind, the racial similarity means that they can talk to each other, even though they don't share the same ideas or values (about, for instance, art).

Betty said in a low voice, "Personally, I do not believe any hysterical talk of 'world inundation' by any people, Slavic or Chinese or Japanese." She regarded Robert placidly. She was in complete control of herself, not carried away; but she intended to express her feeling. A spot of color, deep red, had appeared in each of her cheeks. (7.83)

Betty and Paul Kasoura may be the least racist characters in this book. (Maybe Frank Frink?) And Betty may be a shy person who doesn't want to start a fight (in other words, a good host), but she's clear: all that racist paranoia about "world inundation" of some ethnic group is, as the Japanese would say, poppycock.

Only the white races endowed with creativity, he reflected. And yet I, blood member of same, must bump head to floor for these two. Think how it would have been had we won! Would have crushed them out of existence. No Japan today, and the U.S.A. gleaming great sole power in entire wide world.

He thought: I must read that Grasshopper book. Patriotic duty, from the sound of it. (7.88-9)

There's a weird cross-over in this book between race and nationality. (Like, where are the Japanese-Americans from before the war?) So here, Childan slips very easily between his racial prejudice (white people, yay) and something of a nationalist prejudice (patriotic duty for the USA, rah rah). Note also the split between Childan's feelings and his actions. He may not like the Japanese, but he'll work for them.

And this is the straight dope, right here. These people are not exactly human. They don the dress but they're like monkeys dolled up in the circus. They're clever and can learn, but that is all. (7.105)

Too angry to form complete sentence. This is the highest, purest form of racist prejudice in this book, we think: "These people are not exactly human." Once you start talking about people as inhuman or subhuman, it's pretty easy to start killing them. Here's our question: does Childan always hold to this idea or does he get shaken out of it?

These "natives" discerned, and noted in their table conversations and newspapers, that in the U.S.A. the color problem had by 1950 been solved. Whites and N****es lived and worked and ate shoulder by shoulder, even in the Deep South; World War Two had ended discrimination. (10.92)

This is Grasshopper Lies Heavy, which explains that a triumphant U.S. would be racially cool after the war (as opposed to the British empire, which remains racially restrictive). And this is supposed to be by the 1950s! But if you were reading this book when it came out, you could look outside your window and see police using hoses and dogs against the Civil Rights Movement. How would that affect your reading?

"I'm an American," Frank Frink said. 

"You're a Jew," the cop said. (12.158-9)

The cop seems to be saying that, if you're a Jew, you can't really be an American. This is, well, crazy. But it's also totally at odds with the American ideal of the immigrant stew, where different groups bring their own customs. Seriously, some of your vocabulary is probably from Yiddish. Schlep that bagel for a nosh, oy vey. But not in this world—notice that Frank thinks with Yiddish, but never speaks it.

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