Bali IB DP English

The Editor’s Notes: Chapters 7-8

In Analysis of Plot, Analysis of Structure, Batavus Droogstoppel, Frits Droogstoppel, Max Havelaar, Narrative Perspectives, Scarfman, The Editor, Tina Havelaar on 19/04/2009 at 14:07

You know what really strikes me as interesting in regards to the narrative perspective of this story? The fact that Scarfman rarely ever mentions who he actually is. Never is his name mentioned, let alone his profession or his address, and though he seems to be quite omniscient about all the characters around him, there is no interaction between them. It is as if Scarfman, or whoever the narrator is supposed to be, is a ghost hovering above Max Havelaar’s story; watching events as they unfold, and at the same time providing clues and hints as to what may come in the future. He is at one moment spontaneous in his responses, and the next he has taken a step back from the story and acts as writer once again in addressing the reader and explaining terms or ideas which may be unfamiliar.

                He is also definitely a learned man; for his language is always rich and his digressions thoughtful and interesting. What’s also apparent is his tenderness towards Tina Havelaar! If I didn’t know any better I would have thought that Scarfman adored Tina a little more than is the norm, if you catch my drift. She is painted as a woman simple in taste and needs, poor in money but overflowing in generosity and understanding. But the most definitive feature of Tina’s personality is probably her unconditional love for Max, both ‘big’ and ‘little’. It still makes me smile each time Scarfman reminds us of their relationship by the nicknames: ‘her Max’ and ‘his Tina’. I’ve even started thinking about my wife as ‘my Marieke’ because of this!  

                Anyway, back to the story itself. In chapter 8 Scarfman had written a very long transcript of Havelaar’s first speech at his division’s council meeting. Through his words we truly saw for the first time glimpses of life in Lebak for the local population, and all the hardships and injustices that the authorities throw in the face of the poor Javanese. I would rather not talk about how disgruntled Droogstoppel was when I put my foot down and insisted the speech not be cut in any way. He said it was ‘excessive’ and ‘not relatable’ and that, basically, such overzealous drool would only drive readers away.

My theory is that he can’t stand the fact that the protagonist of this most important story was, as Scarfman mentions, very much a poet. And, he, a man of truth and honor, only a coffee broker, with no novel written about his life. In his jealousy he even pointed out with a laugh (several times) that Havelaar was poor, as if to say, ‘of course the man’s got no money, what can you expect from a poet!’

                Frits and I just ignore him, most of the time. I think we’ve both realized that no matter how poetic and emotional Havelaar’s speeches were, how much trouble he has gotten himself into financially, and how many people find him ‘peculiar’, the fact is, it is this uniqueness, this difference between him and other chiefs and governors, that make him a truly ‘good Assistant Resident’.  Maybe not quite a prophet, but a good man, definitely.

The Editor, 44 Prinzengracht, Amsterdam.

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