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Den of Lions – Terry Anderson Assignment

This extract presents us with two very different types of writing that Terry Anderson uses in writing his biography. One part is written in prose, the other in poetry. Both types are present throughout the book, and both have certain characteristics and functions that the author had, while writing them. I will now attempt to analyse them. First, I would like to comment on the prose in this extract. Evoking sympathy seems to be one of the author’s main objectives. By setting the scene of very uncomfortable and uh-human conditions of the ‘prison’ and presenting their oppressors as vicious and evil people, he demands sympathy from the reader.

Their manners are bad, and each small rudeness is another wound”. By presenting the hostages as helpless and left to the power of these fanatics. The theme is the most visible and, for me, most important in this extract, as well as being very important throughout the entire book. Sympathy is therefore evoked, by showing how badly these people are treated, making us pity them. The description of the guards also goes in pair with the theme of suffering. These people, shown as “vicious”, or simply “evil”, are powerful and very cruel, treating the hostages like animals.

The guards are furthermore described as incompetent and foolish, allowing Terry to bring out further accusations. The guards’ incompetence is very well shown by the fact that they often forget to lock the hostages in chains in the evening. The contrast is very obvious here: evil and abusive guards on one hand and innocent and helpless hostages on the other. This is presented in a very black and white manner, making the readers decision as to sympathising with the hostages furthermore obvious and easy.

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And although some more human characteristics of the guards are presented as not wanting to “make things more difficult”, there is a big gap between the hostages and their perpetrators. This is technique is very often used by Terry Anderson, as this is the way he saw things. Making very clear distinctions between good and bad is what people often do. And although this affects the reliability of the text, making it far more personal and opinionated, we cannot assume that Terry is doing this purposefully. This might not be intentional, as these are his memoirs and although personal, can be looked at in two ways: as reliable, or unreliable.

Terry also paints a very strong picture of himself here, which might be a lot less reliable than what I was writing about previously. Through his description of his thoughts, feelings and actions, we see, again, a contrast. On one side, we see see the hostages, broken in spirit, close to despair and maltreated. However, this seems to be contrasted by Terry’s description of himself as standing up to the guards, seizing some sort of superiority over them. Terry says that they teach the new guards that “I (Terry) will not eat food thrown on the floor, like a dog (… ) I will be treated (… with a decent minimum of respect”.

The superiority of the hostages seems to praise them for their, supposed, bravery and strength of character. Individually, the author shows himself as strong, determined and admirable. He seems to be very strong emotionally and physically, emphasising his humanity. His arguments with the guards, the dictating of his terms and the moral pressure he and the hostages inflict on the hostages leads the reader into feeling, apart from sympathy, admiration for this person. The language and tone of the prose are very important as well.

The sentences are often short, broken up by the use of commas. “I am a hostage, not a criminal, not an enemy”. This device makes it sound very reassuring, almost establishing some sort of rules that have to be kept. This makes the hostages seem furthermore superior – showing that they are the ones in charge, although in captivity. The language used here is quite simple. This, I believe, is meant to make the situation comprehendible to the widest audience, in order to get the message Terry Anderson is expressing across, and to sell as many copies of his book as he can.

Also, by avoiding very sophisticated and complex language, the narrator allows the audience to identify with him and the situation. The colloquial language is therefore an attempt to, again, evoke some sort of relationship between the reader and the narrator, be it on the basis of sympathy and pathos, or due to admiration. The poetry is also very important when analysing this extract. Many of the biography’s essential themes are presented in Terry’s poems. Themes such as violence, pain, evil, or danger are mentioned in this poem. Constant references to “darkness”, “devil”, or “evil illustrate this.

The main purpose in the author including all these themes is to, yet again, show the hostages situation as miserable and evoke sympathy for them. This dark imagery names the feelings and situations the hostages are enduring. This is very important to shaping the readers response and feelings towards the hostages and the guards. Additionally, in the poem, Terry tries to show himself as reliable and objective. He does this through admitting to his own weaknesses, “I know too well the darker urges in myself”, evoking trust and sympathy from the reader.

He attempts to show himself not as a saint, but as human being, giving the reader a point of reference and something to share with the narrator – that no one is perfect. Admitting to ones mistakes often makes us feel sympathetic, based on the fact that one knows his own weaknesses and faults. Such knowledge often results in work on changing these and being a better person. This is very important in the Den of Lions, where Terry Anderson undergoes a radical change in beliefs, character and knowledge based on his love for his family, religion, being in company with the other hostages and being a hostage for nearly seven years.

Finally, the poem emphasises the ‘evil’ portrayal of the guards that was very clear in the prose. The numerous biblical references make the ‘evil’ far more visible. “Satan”, dark angel” and “Christ” are very good examples of this. Therefore, I find this extract very important, in terms of themes, character and the situation as a whole. We learn more about the conditions the hostages were forced to live in, we learn of their thoughts and feelings (particularly those of Terry Anderson) and we are given some room for thought on how we feel towards the narrator and the book as a whole.

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