Abuse refers to an action or behavior that intends to control or intimidate other persons. Acts of abuse are diverse as individuals can be controlled physically and emotionally. Even though many incidents of abuse are intentional, others are unintentional. For instance, parents can abuse their children by making crucial decisions without involving them.This is seen in Amanda Michalopoulou’s novel “Why I Killed My Best Friend” where Maria’s parents force her to relocate to Athens from Nigeria against her wishes. The novel also includes other incidents of abuse that occur due to the Greece government’s socialism policy such as Maria’s marriage to a homosexual husband and the waiter’s act of shooing away a gypsy boy who entered a restaurant.
To begin with, the novel’s narrator, Maria, experienced emotional abuse when her parents forced her to relocate to Athens, Greece from Nigeria. The relocation meant that she had to leave her childhood friends and things behind as she was moving to a new country. In the novel, she is depressed when forced to dispose of her stone pond that contained goldfish. She wonders where the fish go when people relocate. The relocation was an implicit abuse to Maria as she was not involved in the decision-making process that led to the decision that she would leave Nigeria for Athens. Maria experiences an emotional breakdown when she realizes that she will have to leave her friends who she used to play within the jungle. The relocation also implied that she had to leave her school and teachers who she was fond of while in Nigeria. Thus, Maria’s forceful relocations to Athens is a form of implicit emotional abuse as she does not leave Nigeria willingly.
Maria’s claims that she lives with a depressed homosexual man when she says, “I live in the same apartment in the blue building, not with my parents anymore, but with a depressed homosexual” (Michalopoulou 50). The man’s depression is the other form of implicit abuse present in Michalopoulou’s novel. Maria states that the gay man she lives with is stressed but does not reveal the reasons for her partner’s mental problems. The fact that Maria informs readers about the man’s sexual orientation provides clues about what might be causing the trouble. The narrative is set in post-Dictatorial Greece in the 1970s, which indicates that Maria’s society was conservative. As a result of conservatism, traditional values guided people’s lives, including people’s life partners. The man, therefore, was forced to avoid same-sex relations to conform to societal expectations. He feels depressed as he cannot engage in relationships that satisfy his sexual orientation. This is a form of abuse, as homosexuals were not permitted to enjoy or explore their sexualities. Instead, they were forced to marry partners who they did not have affection for; hence, spend the remainder of their lives depressed. Forcing people to enter into marital commitments they do not want to entail emotional abuse as it compromises their long-term wellbeing.
In Amanda Michalopoulou’s novel, Greece citizens are also abused by being forced to embrace socialist ideas against their wishes. Under socialism, the government controls the means of production, unlike in capitalism where private entities and citizens can own economic units. In the narrative, the Greece government abused the rights of its citizens by forcing on them an ideology they detested. The viewpoint is exhibited in the novel where Maria says, “The socialists are still in charge of the country, they built a subway and a few highways to placate the populace. But we didn’t give in: we made posters urging an occupation of the Attic Highway” (Michalopoulou 51). The statement indicates that the residents of Greece are tired of socialism; hence, they will continue protesting until political reforms occur. The protests suggest that socialism was an explicit abuse in Greece as it denied residents an opportunity to enjoy their civil and political rights. Consequently, they opted to use demonstrations to force the government to listen to their grievances and create political reforms. Michalopoulou’s text, therefore, indicates that repressive political ideologies abuse people’s rights.
The other abuse that occurs in Michalopoulou’s novel is when a waiter runs over to shoo away a gypsy child who enters the restaurant where Maria is having her meal with Anna and other friends. Maria believes that the waiter is discriminating against the gypsy child when she says, “Just look at how one outcast treats another. We cut off our nose to spite our face” (Michalopoulou 187). The waiter wanted to drive away the gypsy child because members of the gypsy community were treated as outcasts in Greece. Thus, the waiter treated the child differently due to ethnic prejudices, which is abusive. The child deserved to be treated like other members of the Greek society. As such, the waiter should not have shooed the boy away but instead treated him with respect and dignity even if he did not have any money. Maria showed the waiter and other people in the hotel how to treat everyone equally by calling the boy to her table and sharing her food with him. Thus, the waiter’s act of discriminating against the boy due to his ethnic background was a form of abuse.
The Greece government’s act of preventing its citizens from demonstrating is the other form of abuse that Michalopoulou explores in the novel. Maria says that she found Athens heavily guarded by police offices and ringed with tanks when she returned to Greece on college sponsored trip in 1989 with her husband and art history professor. The regimes aggression towards the public is an explicit abuse as it denies citizens the right to express themselves. Residents of a community should be allowed their concerns when they feel leaders are not competent or disrespecting their rights. As a result of this view, the Greek regime was still abusing citizens’ liberties despite introducing some form democracy through the election of Prime Minister Nicolas Papandreou.
In conclusion, it is evident that there are several incidents of abuse in Michalopoulou’s novel, which compromise the wellbeing of some characters. Some of the abuses are implicit while others occur in an explicit form. These incidents show that social and political structures abuse people by oppressing them. In the novel, Maria’s husband is depressed because he cannot express his sexuality freely. He is forced to commit himself to a heterosexual marriage despite being a homosexual. Political structures also abuse citizens’ rights as exhibited in the novel when Maria and other Greece citizens protest socialism. Moreover, people also abuse others due to ethnic variations. Cultural differences make some people perceive themselves as being superior to others; thus, they discriminate against those who they view to be inferior. The different ways in which abuse takes place in the novel shows that discrimination occurs directly and indirectly.
Michalopoulou, Amanda. Why I Killed My Best Friend. Open Letter, 2014.
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