Conflict / Antagonism
A conflict is a disagreement between two or more individuals or groups. The text addresses several conflicts such as: the conflict between the two land owning groups; the rich and the poor; the Governor and the Princes; Grusha and Natella; and Grusha and Jussup.
Firstly, the play begins with a conflict between the Goat Herders’ Collective Farm and the Fruit Growing Commune. These two groups quarrel over the ownership of the valley that has been left by the Soviet army after the end of the war. The Fruit growers want to develop the land for farming while the goat herders want it because it originally belonged to them. A Delegate from the State Reconstruction Commission is sent from Tiflis – the capital, to hear their case. A decision is made to award the fruit growers because of their good plans for the valley.
Secondly, the poor and the rich are in conflict over resources. The Governor, George Abashwili, is extremely rich yet he ignores the plight of those under him. His courtyard is filled with beggars and petitioners who want his assistance but he gives them the deaf ear. He ignores the pleas from the beggars and parents holding emaciated children in their hands. Instead, the Ironshirts whip and push back the poor to give way for the Governor and his family. In contrast, the Governor spends a lot of money on his son’s clothes, carriage and even intends to build him a palace. He also has plans to demolish slums belonging to the poor to give room for his garden. The poor welcome the death of the Governor and support the coup that also overthrows the Grand Duke from power.
Thirdly, the Princes have a conflict with the Governor and the Grand Duke. The country is at war which is being fought by the Princes. The Princes, however, feel that they are not receiving enough support from the Grand Duke and the Governor. They devise a plot to overthrow the two leaders by killing them. While the Grand Duke manages to escape, the Governor is caught and beheaded in his palace. Eventually, the Grand Duke secures support from other countries and he manages to take back his seat and kills the Fat Prince and the other conspirators.
Fourthly, there is the main conflict which is between Natella and Grusha over who should keep the baby Michael. Their case is taken before judge Azdak who orders that a chalk circle be drawn on the floor of the court and the two women ordered to pull Michael from the centre. After Natella wins twice, the judge rules that the child be given to Grusha since she shows motherly love by not pulling too hard.
Finally, there is a conflict between Grusha and Jussup. This happens after she gets married to him while thinking that he is about to die. After it is announced that the war is over, Jussup wakes up and starts to mistreat Grusha by ordering her to treat him like a husband. “…Get the brush! To hell with you! Are you the wife here? Or are you a visitor?…you’re my wife and you’re not my wife….God has given you sex – and what d’you do? I don’t have ten piasters to buy myself a woman in the city.” (p.56-57) Grusha, finally, manages to divorce him.
POINTS TO THINK ABOUT
Is there conflict between:
- Grusha and the Corporal?
- The Monk and Jussup’s mother?