Farewell To The King Essay, Research Paper
An Analysis Of
Farewell To The King
When I first watched Farewell to the King, I simply thought that it was just the story of how an American GI, through a series of unusual circumstances, became the king of Borneo and then was forced to lead his tribe into a war that he no longer wanted any part of. Upon further analysis, it became evident that this was really the story of Nigel Fairborn who comes into the story with a strong sense of British superiority, loyalty to the King of England and the desire to be a successful military leader. As the story unfolds, Nigel becomes less aware of his superiority, is torn between his loyalty to England and his new found loyalty to King Learoyd, and the reality that he is no longer able to lead.
It is evident that Nigel s character represents an attitude of British superiority. It is not by accident that the only soldier that accompanies him to Borneo is his radio operator named Tinker, a black man from Africa. In two scenes the viewer s attention is directed to the racial difference. The first time is when the two of them are brought before King Learoyd. When Nigel discovers that the tribe s king is white, he makes the comment that he is as white as we are. As he says it, he turns to Tinker. Tinker s face displays an expression as if to say, what do you mean by that? Nigel s expression changes from that of amazement to that which says, well you know what I mean. This shows that when Nigel made the comment, Tinker was not part of we as he perceived it. Or more specifically, Tinker was something less because he was not white. Next is a scene where Nigel and Tinker are standing in the river rinsing their clothes. They are discussing the situation and Nigel tells tinker that he should not let the seemingly utopian life lure him in, Nigel says, remember you are British. Tinker responds by saying that he is not British, but African. Finally there is one more scene that focuses the viewer s attention to the attitude of British superiority. In this scene, Nigel is briefing a group of soldiers that have just arrived to train the tribesmen. Even though this group was a combination of American and English soldiers, Nigel tells them to remember that we are here representing England. As the story unfolds, this element becomes less important and simply fades into the background. There is one scene towards the end of the story that puts the subject to rest. It is where Learoyd and the last surviving soldiers and some tribesmen arrive by canoe to bargain for salt. Learoyd and all the remaining white soldiers offered themselves to British forces in exchange for the salt. Once again our attention is delicately drawn to Tinker. Why is he the only soldier that does not turn himself in? This scene is designed to represent the end of slavery or possibly, the end of British superiority. Tinker was only a British soldier because of the British conquest of Africa. Now Tinker is free and no longer subject to the British. It is interesting that so much attention was placed on the idea of superiority in the beginning, but it was necessary to establish Nigel s attitude, so that we would see the change that takes place. Nigel s change in attitude is demonstrated later in the film where his commanding officer tells him that he must stay British. My analysis makes the conclusion that the influence of Learoyd, the tribe, and his experience while in Borneo humbled Nigel s belief in his British superiority to the point that the people that knew him best, were able to see the change.
So far in the story, there is no question as to Nigel s loyalty to England. Just by accepting his mission, he demonstrated his willingness to sacrifice his life for king and country. After all, he had no way of knowing how the tribes would react. Then something happened that caused Nigel s loyalty change. In the scene about a dispute between two villages over a baby, Learoyd s actions changed Nigel s perception. Learoyd s wisdom, compassion, and fairness inspired his admiration. He no longer saw Learoyd as this American playing king. Nigel now saw him as, not only as a true king, but also, as his king. This is where the main struggle begins for Nigel. Now he is faced with a dilemma. This dilemma can represent one that we all often face. We are often faced with having to make choices between our family and our careers. We, like Nigel, have to learn to juggle the two and hope that we can meet the expectations of both. Then again in another scene where Nigel has returned to Allied Headquarters and is asked by his fianc , is he your king? Nigel does not answer. His lack of an answer really demonstrates his struggle.
Furthermore, Nigel s desire to organize and lead the tribes against the Japanese soon shifted. Nigel, although he received the credit for the success of the mission, explains in the very beginning of the story that he was sent to lead, but it was really King Learoyd that truly led. If it were not for Learoyd s presence, Nigel s mission would have certainly failed. It was even alluded to in the scene where Learoyd and Nigel were arguing about why the tribes should get involved in the war. Learoyd commented that Nigel should feel lucky, for they could sell his head to the Japanese and be done with it. This is exactly what the tribe wanted to do when Learoyd was first discovered. This showed Nigel that regardless of his desire to lead, his mission s success if any, would have to be in Learoyd s hands. Once he got to know Learoyd and his power over his people, not to mention Nigel s lack of combat experienced, the transformation from leader to follower was a natural regression. It is also a natural assumption that once Nigel s loyalty shifted to Learoyd, he was also bound by his decisions. Ultimately, as predicted by Nigel s Commanding Officer, Nigel was forced in the end to betray King Learoyd. When this betrayal is looked at more closely, it is clear that it was done out of Nigel s desire to protect King Learoyd, his people s way of life, and their freedom. After all, the British were planning to chase Learoyd down to either make sure he was dead or captured and returned to the United States. My analysis shows that even though Nigel had a strong sense of British superiority, loyalty to the King of England and the desire to be a successful military leader, King Learoyd s strength, compassion, and leadership changed his perceptions. King Learoyd taught Nigel that life was more important than man and that all men were free. This new found view of the man is totally contradictory to his previous attitude of British superiority and would effect his perceptions of the world for the rest of his life.