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Analysis of Fanon's "The Wretched of the Earth"

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"The Wretched of the Earth"

"The Wretched of the Earth"

Frantz Fanon

Let's take a look at the fascinating writing of Frantz Fanon. Wretched of the Earth is a difficult text, but thankfully, I'm here to explain it to you. Read on for my full (but brief) analysis and summary of this book.

"Wretched of the Earth"

Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth discusses in its first two sections the nature of colonization and its effect on both the colonizers and the colonized. Through this examination, Fanon focuses in on the violence that inevitably comes with decolonization and the drawbacks of spontaneous rebellions and actions. Fanon argues for the innate qualities of the relationship between the oppressors and the oppressed and how this tension plays out in the struggle for freedom and order. His points are interesting in that they apply not only to specific instances of history but to international and local relationships in general. By identifying and isolating qualities of a major-minor situation, Fanon allows his audience to understand the dynamics that he argues are present throughout history on both small and large scales.

Fanon talks most extensively about the dynamics of violence within the colonized worlds. He refers to violence in the context of decolonization, which he defines as the “substitution of one ‘species’ of mankind by another” (1). He argues that because of the aggressive nature of decolonization, “you do not disorganize a society...if you are not determined from the very start to smash every obstacle encountered” (3). The fundamental dichotomy of a colony is present through the radical difference in race: the white vs. black, the natives vs. the civilized Westerners. The colonizers almost always treat the colonized as subordinate and animalistic, and “the very moment that they [the colonized] discover their humanity, they begin to sharpen their weapons to secure its victory” (8). This is where Fanon argues that the conflict arises, and this is where the “negotiation” or the action begins to take shape as the colonized fight for freedom from their oppressors. This fight begins with individual needs and turns into a group effort, as the colonized realize that “everyone will be...massacred or else everyone will be saved” (12). Fanon continues to explain the varying tensions in the relationship between the two and discusses in detail the course of action that is typically followed. He believes that the repression of anger and violence on the part of the colonized leads to an increasingly tensed subordinate group that first lashes out at one another and then at the colonizers as they are increasingly depicted as the evil force. This struggle is repeatedly argued to be inherently violent because the colonized do not just “demand...the status of the colonist, but his place” (23). Fanon points out that as history moves forward, economic status and ownership become paramount and the “crackdown against a rebel sultan is a thing of the past” (27). While initially, this might relieve some of the outright violence that could potentially arise from the native masses, it eventually becomes irrelevant as the proletariat start to become involved. The release of repressed anger and violence can be best pinpointed as the moment in which the colonized feel the weight of their oppression and their lack of fair treatment as humans and not animals. This inspires an organized nationalist movement, which usually includes a leader and an aggressive act against the colonizers. The situation becomes perhaps more strategic but certainly no less angry when it turns to the importance of economic colonization of third-world countries and their resources. These countries are “condemned to regression...through the selfishness and immortality of the West” (60). Where the West has given up on development, they have poured their financial growth and potential.

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The responses to this subordination both physically and economically must be well thought out. Fanon argues that there is a “grandeur and weakness of spontaneity” (63) that inherently makes political struggles unsuccessful. On the side of the colonizers, a lack of empathy or interest in the natives causes a sense of superiority that, for the masses of the colonized, is both insulting and provoking. When “peasants create a widespread sense of insecurity”, “colonialism takes fright, settles into a state of war, or else negotiates” (70). An inevitable mistrust of the proletariat leads to a rushed solution that allows the colonized to “maintain their criminal position of distrust with regard to the interior” (71). Reactions by the common people then become centralized, unionized, and even politicized as they fight for equal status.

In a circular nature, the world once again becomes a dichotomous regime of the poor and the rich, the proletariat and the educated political figures. Fanon argues that no matter the nature of the tension, the outcome is more or less the same. Repressed anger and feelings of subordination inevitably lead to outbreaks of revolution that are inherently violent in the physical and literal sense, or violent in a more political sense. Arrogance and nationalism do not make a peaceful mix, and Fanon delves deep into the particulars of this relationship to better understand both international and local relationships as they grow and evolve and change powers.


Hilal Habib on March 28, 2016:

I am enormously in debited to the author for such an easy and impeccable analysis of the essay " Wretched of The Earth". Initially I was quite confused how to gather examplary knowledge to give an undenied analysis of the article.However I went through all related literary experiments and essays to summarize and give the essay an applicable understanding. But when I have had a full access to the paraphrases and critical analysis posted here it simply comforted my understanding of the article and its actual message. I really enjoyed reading it and have added to my knowledge its fruitful content and energised ideas related to postcolonailism.

shea duane from new jersey on March 21, 2012:

Another great hub. You have a gift and I hope you continue to use it after you graduate.

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