The Enemy

by

V. S. Naipaul

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Themes and Colors
Familial Love and Conflict Theme Icon
Fear Theme Icon
Shame and Dishonor Theme Icon
Colonialism, Power, and Revolt Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in The Enemy, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Fear Theme Icon

Fear is a powerful force in “The Enemy,” transforming the characters’ relationships with one another—sometimes driving them apart, sometimes drawing them together, sometimes even deciding matters of life and death. The first episode of fear occurs soon after the family moves from the barracks of the sugar plantation to a nearby house, when a man comes to the house and threatens them. After this, the family lives in constant terror, keeping weapons nearby. At night, they start hearing voices—most likely the voices of workers that the narrator’s father has wronged, trying to lure them out and kill them. However, because the narrator never explains this explicitly, there is an almost supernatural element to the voices, as if they’re the voices of ghosts coming to haunt the family. The threat of violence that the voices represent becomes terrifyingly clear when the family wakes up to find that their dog has been killed and cut to pieces on their steps. The constant fear of living in the house eventually drives the narrator’s mother to leave, and soon his father’s life is engulfed by this fear. One night, during a massive thunderstorm, his father becomes convinced that the voices have returned and will try to murder them that night. The narrator can’t hear the voices and tries to assure his father that they will be able to protect themselves with weapons, but his father is so terrified that he eventually dies of fright. Through these various episodes that the family experiences, the story suggests that fear can control people, drive them insane, and even quite literally kill them—even when the threat itself is entirely imagined.

But the final episode of “The Enemy” demonstrates that fear can have a different kind of power, as well. When the narrator wakes up after injuring himself, he learns that his mother has been worried about him, and he sees tears in her eyes. This is a transformative moment in an otherwise troubled relationship. The narrator’s mother perhaps needed to feel afraid for her son’s safety and life to understand how much she truly loves him, and it is her visible fear for her son’s life that leads him to realize that his mother cares. Whereas fear initially drove them apart, now it brings the mother and son together again quite unexpectedly, reminding them both of feelings they were not even fully aware they had.

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Fear ThemeTracker

The ThemeTracker below shows where, and to what degree, the theme of Fear appears in each chapter of The Enemy. Click or tap on any chapter to read its Summary & Analysis.
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Fear Quotes in The Enemy

Below you will find the important quotes in The Enemy related to the theme of Fear.
The Enemy Quotes

Everybody agreed on one thing. My mother and I had to leave the country. Port-of-Spain was the safest place. There was too a lot of laughter against my father, and it appeared that for the rest of my life I would have to bear the cross of a father who died from fright. But in a month or so I had forgotten my father, and I had begun to look upon myself as the boy who had no father. It seemed natural.

In fact, when we moved to Port-of-Spain and I saw what the normal relationship between father and son was—it was nothing more than the relationship between the beater and the beaten—when I saw this I was grateful.

Page Number: 210
Explanation and Analysis:

My mother came and I could see her eyes glassy and wet with tears.

Somebody, I cannot remember who, said, “Boy, you had your mother really worried.”

I looked at her tears, and I felt I was going to cry too. I had discovered that she could be worried and anxious for me.

I wished I were a Hindu god at that moment, with two hundred arms, so that all two hundred could be broken, just to enjoy that moment, and to see again my mother’s tears.

Page Number: 213
Explanation and Analysis: