Children and War in "Gabor"

Barry J. Fishman '89

Gabor is a child war-refugee from Budapest, brought home by Roger Everett's father in his attempt to "save" somebody who was suffering from the same ravages he had survived as a soldier World War II. The conflict in the story arises when Mr. Everett and Roger clash over control of Gabor. Mr. Everett wants to comfort the boy and help him to forget his suffering. Roger would rather play English vs. German war-games with Gabor. Much to the dismay of Roger's father Gabor would rather play war games.

The character who suffers great emotional losses during World War II is common to all of Swift's major novels, and surfaces in many of the short stories as well. The insight that Roger has into his father's psyche can speak for many of Swift's characters: "These [war time] experiences had given him the sense that suffering was the reality of life and that he had, in its presence, a peculiarly privileged understanding and power to reassure." (p.45) The mere fact that Gabor is a child adds to his importance in Swift's world. Children are an important part of Swift's vision of the future, and are also frequently the victims of a real or imagined war.

Gabor's relationship with Roger seems healthy until an unusual incident. The two are playing in a vacant lot when they witness a young couple having sex. The predominant image is that of the woman's breasts, and the sight makes the normally stable Gabor burst into tears. The connection to motherhood must be too strong for the recently orphaned boy, and the message is clear: all of the pain of war, the destruction of civilizations works, are nothing compared to the loss of family and loved ones.

Postcolonial Web United Kingdom OV Swift OV Learning to Swim