Empire of the sun by J.G Ballard is a fiction novel depicting Ballard’s experiences during world war ll. The story is of a young boy named James Graham, which are Ballards two first names.
James is from a well-off family and lives a sheltered life in the rich suburbs of Shanghai. However, when the country is invaded by Japan he is separated from his parents in a stampede of Chinese people trying to escape the city. He is later captured and sent to a prisoner of war camp. James is enlightened by living in this camp as he is required to survive, instead of having everything handed to him. James is also a plane fanatic and after coming across a crashed zero at a dinner party; it is fitting that his prisoner of war camp is right next to an airbase.due to this James has many moments with the planes when he first arrives, when the pilots finish their training and when the Americans attack the airbase. After leaving the camp and witnessing a death his caregiver, James witnesses a flash of light which he believes to be her soul traveling to the heavens but it was just the Nagasaki nuclear bomb.
In the start of the novel, it seems that Jim sees himself as above the greater Chinese population but a good turning point in the novel is when he is humbled by being held captive in a prison camp. He realizes his life is no more important than that of the Japanese soldiers or the Chinese other fellow prisoners he realises that he will no longer be provided for by his parents and that he needs to independently take control of his situation and find a way to get out of it.
“The Japanese smiled to themselves, watching Jim devour the shreds of fatty rice. It was his first hot food since he had left the hospital”this quote shows that after the war struck the tables had turned upon Jim and now he was poor and starving trying to eat as much food as he could whereas the Japanese soldiers were empowered and controlling towards him.
“Jim knew that he was awake and asleep at the same time, dreaming of the war yet dreamed of by the war,” this I believe conveys a sense of ignorance as young children often glorify war and see it as exciting and prosperous as did the soldiers shipped off to world war l. “Yet dreamed of by the war,” Jim is seen by the enemy so being dreamed by the war refers to the Japanese idea of their foreign prisoners.
I relate to the empire of the sun as it is a story of a young boy becoming forced to be independent, a similar situation that I am in now. Jim deceives the Japanese commander he always retains his mutual respect with him, Jim’s attribute of respect is one that I personally like to convey throughout my life.
Overall J.G.Ballard’s interpretation of world war ll and his experiences combine to make a great story full of characters and action, heartbreak and victory .the story conveys the initial excitement of war but also the inevitable fatalities involved. I reckon it’s worthwhile for anyone interested in world war ll to read.