A worker reads history – Bertolt Brecht
He was born in Germany. When World War I broke out, he was forced into military service. After the World War II he returned to Germany and formed a company in East Berlin where he directed number of roles. Brecht’s work was influenced by the difficult political, social economic conditions by the Germany in 1970. This is what we turned to Marxism. He conveys specific messages to the society. Through his plays and poems he keeps his Marxists ideology and put him against the establishment and the exploitation in the capitalistic society. He was always at the side of poor. He believed the poor could stand against the exploitation. He believed in Marxism because it believes we are influenced by social forces and not by our own nature. So Brecht believed if you can change the circumstances you can change the society.
A worker reads history
A worker reads history the title itself is quiet unusual because history is usually read by the people those who are educated or students. But here a worker/ a laborer reads history which makes us feel different. The poem presents the surprise and confused questioning that arises in the mind of a worker who has the first hand practical knowledge of the spade-work. It brings a tone of sarcasm as it presents the narrow views on history which are based on superficial level. Further the poet’s rhetorical questions bring his anger on the people those who ignore the real achievers of the history. By workers he means builders, masons, laborers who helped and worked hard to build huge constructions of the world. For example the poet is talking about the Great Wall of China, Babylon … these workers are the people who sweat and labor and contributed for these huge constructions. Not only that the poet mentions about the soldiers even, they too help the kings to conquer nations. For example it is soldiers who helped Caesar to conquer Gaul, Alexander to conquer India. So the worker who reads history finds these history books are incomplete and filled with distortions and omissions. As there is no indication about the workers on those history book the worker gets amazed. The name, reputation, credit and recognition are all for the kings. The poem is totally ironical as workers strive hard and get no recognition always the credit goes for the high people. The poem ends with a crucial final comment.
‘So many particulars
So many questions.’
Brecht emphasizes the need of having a true record on human advancement. Credit should be given for the people those who really deserve it.