Read The Elephant and the Kangaroo by T.H. White Free Online
Book Title: The Elephant and the Kangaroo|
The author of the book: T.H. White
Date of issue: June 6th 1989
ISBN 13: 9780451160157
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 32.79 MB
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Reader ratings: 6.6
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Almost the moment after The Elephant and the Kangaroo went to print, it was placed under a book ban. Though meaning to be generous by keeping the names of his friends and renters the O'Callaghans in the piece, White's semi-autobiographical story about the time he spent with them on their failing farm in Ireland did not laud their powers of understanding, their generosity, or their religious faith by any means. The book was meant as a dark comedy, and though it is dreadfully hilarious due to the sheer ridiculousness of the plot and the sagacious language, the underlying message it conveys about religion, illiteracy, and faith may not have come across to some as White had originally intended.
The Elephant and the Kangaroo tells the story of a Mr White, presumably the author himself, who is staying on a country farm owned and run by the O'Callaghans, the Mrs and Mickey. When I first began reading the book, I realized where the misunderstanding with regard to the text lay: White distinguishes himself as "a sensible Englishman" and an Atheist who thinks that praying is a sort of wish fulfillment, while he depicts the old Irish couple as slatternly, illiterate, and, though kindly, are slaves to religion and circumstance.People believed that White meant to make the distinction between British and Irish, implying that the British were educated and superior because of their faithlessness and wealth as a nation, and that the Irish as poverty-stricken wretches who do whatever the Bishop of the parish says in order to secure their places in heaven. What White meant to highlight is the notion of faith in one's own hard work versus faith in a God that would pander to those who prayed hard enough. White makes this comparison by showing how Mickey, though a farmer and an example of someone who is being pushed into faith out of guilt and pushed into work out of situation, is always doing everything to get out of religious obligation, is still doing last year's ploughing; how the Mrs spends all day praying and going to Church rather than cleaning and looking after the house, how she always tries to escape from learning something because she is terrified of doing something wrong and then getting blamed for it, how she spends hours praying to God to find her keys when she could spend the time looking for them herself; and how White, though somewhat of a recluse, completes all his projects without the hindrances of prayer or pretending to do farm work.
White, however, is subject to just as much ridicule as the O'Callaghans are: at the beginning of the second chapter: the Archangel Michael visits the farm, proving White's theory of a Godless world wrong. This forces him to make more allowances for his landlords, though White and Mrs O'Callaghan are forever having arguments about religion: he asserts that God is not a vengeful being, and she attests that he shall be punished for his blasphemy if the guilt she gives him for not saying his prayers and attending Church doesn't kill him first. Turns out their both slightly wrong, as Archangel Michael tells them: God means to bring another flood to the world instead of merely removing only its sinners, and the Mrs and White are to employed to build the ark.White is chosen for the task for being the most capable and rational man in the world, and Mrs O'Callaghan is chosen for being the most pious. They forget their differences for a time and set to work, making their lists and gathering the animals. The process preparing for the flood brings White and Mrs O'Callaghan closer together. White learns to believe that maybe there are greater forces in the world that look after us, and Mrs O'Callaghan learns that faith in one's own hard work will bring God's blessings upon her without copious amounts of praying or guilt-giving.
Not only was this book seen as blasphemous on various accounts, but it also implied that the Irish were shiftless, slatternly, and ignorant people. Many didn't understand that this was a satire and not meant to put forward White's own views on the world. He loved Ireland, lived there for many years, thought its people particularly charming, and felt that the oppression they endured under the throes of the British Empire had severely altered them. He was once in love with an Irish barmaid, gloried in the Irish countryside, and valued their natural gift at storytelling, as is stated in White's letters to Potts. One of T.H. White's most controversial books, it stands out as a testament to his dreadful wit, morbid sense of humour, and talent for turning religious debates into a poignant story.
If you can find this book, I highly recommended it, especially if you enjoy Joyce or Wilde. White was forced to buy back all the copies of the first printing of this book himself and therefore only a few have escaped the ban. I was fortunate to find one from a book collector in Ireland, of all places.
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Read information about the authorBorn in Bombay to English parents, Terence Hanbury White was educated at Cambridge and taught for some time at Stowe before deciding to write full-time. White moved to Ireland in 1939 as a conscientious objector to WWII, and lived out his years there. White is best known for his sequence of Arthurian novels, "The Once and Future King", first published together in 1958.
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