Documents for Cold War

Churchill: The Iron Curtain (1946)

From his speech given at Westminster College, Fulton, Missouri.

            . . .Our American military colleagues, after having proclaimed their "over-all strategic concept" and computed available resources, always proceed to the next step - namely, the method. Here again  there is widespread agreement. A world organisation has already been erected for the prime purpose of preventing war, UNO [the United Nations], the successor of the League of Nations, with the decisive addition of the United States and all that that means, is already at work. We must make sure that its work is fruitful, that it is a reality and not a sham, that it is a force for action, and not merely a frothing of words, that it is a true temple of peace in which the shields of many nations can some day be hung up, and not merely a cockpit in a Tower of Babel.. . . .

         A shadow has fallen upon the scenes so lately lighted by the Allied victory. Nobody knows what  Soviet Russia and its Communist international organisation intends to do in the immediate future, or what are the limits, if any, to their expansive and proselytising tendencies. I have a strong admiration and regard for the valiant Russian people and for my wartime comrade, Marshal Stalin. There is deep sympathy and goodwill in Britain -- and I doubt not here also -- towards the peoples of all the Russias and a resolve to persevere through many differences and rebuffs in establishing lasting friendships. We understand the Russian need to be secure on her western frontiers by the removal of all possibility of German aggression. We welcome Russia to her rightful place among the leading nations of the world. We welcome her flag upon the seas. Above all, we welcome constant, frequent and growing contacts between the Russian people and our own people on both sides of the Atlantic. It is my duty however, for I am sure you would wish me to state the facts as I see them to you, to place before you certain facts about the present position in Europe.

         From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent. Behind that line lie all the capitals of the ancient states of Central and Eastern Europe. Warsaw, Berlin, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, Belgrade, Bucharest and Sofia, all these famous cities and the populations around them lie in what I must call the Soviet sphere, and all are subject in one form or another, not only to Soviet influence but to a very high and, in many cases, increasing measure of control from Moscow. Athens alone - Greece with its immortal glories - is free to decide its future at an election under British, American and French observation. The Russian-dominated Polish Government has been encouraged to make enormous and wrongful inroads upon Germany, and mass expulsions of millions of Germans on a scale grievous and undreamed-of are now taking place. The Communist parties, which were very small in all these Eastern States of Europe, have been raised to pre-eminence and power far beyond their numbers and are seeking everywhere to obtain totalitarian control. . . .

Question: What would be a theme for this document, a trend that can be proven with examples from previous eras?

Eugène Ionesco: The Chairs (1952)

Ionesco, a Romanian-born French playwright, was one of the leading proponents of experimental theatre. 

OLD WOMAN [indicating the chair she has just brought in to, the Colonel]: Do take this chair . . .

OLD MAN [tothe Old Woman]: No, no, can't you see that the Colonel wishes to sit beside the Lady! . . . [The Colonel seats himself invisibly on the third chair from the left; the invisible Lady is supposedly sitting on the second chair; seated next to each other they engage in an inaudible conversation; the Old Woman and Old Man continue to stand behind their chairs, on both sides of their invisible guests; the Old Man to the left of the Lady, the Old Woman to the right of the Colonel.]

OLD WOMAN [listening to the conversation of the two guests]: Oh! Oh! That's going too far.

OLD MAN [same business]: Perhaps. [The Old Man and the Old Woman make signs to each other over the heads of their guests, while they follow the inaudible conversation which takes a turn that seems to displease them. Abruptly:] Yes, Colonel, they are not here yet, but they'll be here. And the Orator will speak in my behalf, he will explain the meaning of my message . . . Take care, Colonel, this Lady's husband may arrive at any moment.

OLD WOMAN [to the Old Man]: Who is this gentleman?

OLD MAN [to the Old Woman]: I've told you, it's the Colonel. [Some embarrassing things take place, invisibly.]

OLD WOMAN [to the Old Man]: I knew it. I knew it.

OLD MAN: Then why are you asking?

OLD WOMAN: For my information. Colonel, no cigarette butts on the floor!

OLD MAN [to Colonel]: Colonel, Colonel, it's slipped my mind—in the last war did you win or lose?

OLD WOMAN [to the invisible Lady]: But my dear, don't let it happen!

OLD MAN: Look at me, look at me, do I look like a bad soldier? One time, Colonel, under fire . . .

OLD WOMAN: He's going too far! It's embarrassing! [She seizes the invisible sleeve of the Colonel.] Listen to him! My darling, why don't you stop him!

OLD MAN [continuing quickly]: And all on my own, I killed 209 of them; we called them that because they jumped so high to escape, however there weren't so many of them as there were flies; of course it is less amusing, Colonel, but thanks to my strength of character, I have . . . Oh! no, I must, please.

OLD WOMAN [to Colonel]: My husband never lies; it may be true that we are old, nevertheless we're respectable.

OLD MAN [violently, to the Colonel]: A hero must be a gentleman too, if he hopes to be a complete hero!

OLD WOMAN [to the Colonel]: I've known you for many years, but I'd never have believed you were capable of this. [To the Lady, while we hear the sound of boats:] I'd never have believed him capable of this. We have our dignity, our self-respect.

OLD MAN [in a quavering voice]: I'm still capable of bearing arms. [Doorbell rings.] Excuse me, I must go to the door. [He stumbles and knocks over the chair of the invisible Lady.] Oh! pardon.

OLD WOMAN [rushing forward]: You didn't hurt yourself? [The Old Man and Old Woman help the invisible Lady onto her feet.] You've got all dirty, there's some dust. [She helps brush the Lady. The doorbell rings again.]

OLD MAN: Forgive me, forgive me. [To the Old Woman:] Go bring a chair.

OLD WOMAN [to the two invisible guests]: Excuse me for a moment. [While the Old Man goes to open door No. 3, the Old Woman exits through door No. 5 to look for a chair, and she reenters by door No. 8.]

 OLD MAN [moving towards the door]: He was trying to get my goat. I'm almost angry. [He opens the door.] Oh! madam, you're here! I can scarcely believe my eyes,and yet, nevertheless . . . I didn't really dare to hope . . . really it's . . . Oh! madam, madam . . . I have thought about you, all my life, all my life, madam, they always called you La Belle . . . it's your husband . . . someone told me, certainly . . . you haven't changed a bit . . .Oh! yes, yes, your nose has grown longer, maybe it's a little swollen . . . I didn't notice it when I first saw you, but I see it now . . . a lot longer . . . ah! how unfortunate! You certainly didn't do it on purpose . . . how did it happen? . . . little by little . . . excuse me, sir and dear friend, you'll permit me to call you "dear friend," 1 knew your wife long before you . . . she was the same, but with a completely different nose . . . I congratulate you, sir, you seem to love each other very much. [The Old Woman re-enters through door No. 8 with a chair.] Semiramis, two guests have arrived, we need one more chair . . . [The Old Woman puts the chair behind the four others, then exits by door No. 8 and reenters by door No. 5, after a few moments, with another chair that she places beside the one she has just brought in. By this time, the Old Man and the two guests have moved near the Old Woman.] Come this way, please, more guests have arrived.

Questions:  How do Ionesco's characters communicate to each other?  What is he trying to say about modern life?

Vladimir Nabakov:  Lolita (1955)

Nabakov's book was banned, burned and censored for showing in detail the sexual relationship between a middle-aged man and a girl of twelve.

Oh, I had to keep a very sharp eye on Lo, little limp Lo! Owing perhaps to constant amorous exercise, she radiated, despite her very childish appearance, some special languorous glow which threw garage fellows, hotel pages, vacationists, goons in luxurious cars, maroon morons near blued pools, into fits of concupiscence which might have tickled my pride, had it not incensed my jealousy. For little Lo was aware of that glow of hers, and I would often catch her coulant un regard in the direction of some amiable male, some grease monkey. with a sinewy golden-brown forearm and watch-braceleted wrist, and hardly had I turned my back to go and buy this very Lo a lollipop, than I would hear her and the fair mechanic burst into a perfect love song of wisecracks. When during our longer stops, I would relax after a particularly violent morning in bed, and out of the goodness of my lulled heart allow her—indulgent Hum!—to visit the rose garden or children's library across the street with a motor court neighbor's plain little Mary and Mary's eight-year old brother, Lo would come back an hour late, with barefoot Mary trailing farbehind, and the little boy metamorphosed into two gangling, golden-haired high school uglies, all muscles and gonorrhea. The reader may well imagine what I answered my pet when—rather uncertainly, I admit—she would ask me if she could go with Carl and Al here to the roller-skating rink. I remember the first time, a dusty windy afternoon, I did let her go to one such rink. Cruelly she said it would be no fun if I accompanied her, since that time of day was reserved for teenagers. We wrangled out a compromise: I remained in the car, among other (empty) cars with their noses to the canvastopped open-air rink, where some fifty young people, mainly in pairs, were endlessly rolling round and round to mechanical music, and the wind silvaed the trees. Dolly wore blue jeans and white high shoes, as most of the other girls did. I kept counting the revolutions of the rolling crowd—and suddenly she was missing. When she rolled past again, she was together with three hoodlums whom I had heard analyze a moment before the girl...from the outside—and jeer at a lovely leggy young thing who had arrived clad in red shorts instead of those jeans orslacks.

         At inspection stations on highways entering Arizona or California, a policeman's cousin would peer with such intensity at us that my poor heart wobbled. "Any honey?" he would inquire, and every time my sweet fool giggled. I still have, vibrating all along my optic nerve, visions of Lo on horseback, a link in the chain of a guided trip along a bridle trail: Lo bobbing at a walking pace, with an old woman rider in front and a lecherous red-necked dude-rancher behind; and I behind him, hating his fat flowery-shirted back even more fervently than a motorist does a slow truck on a mountain road. Or else, at a ski lodge, I would see her floating away from me, celestial and solitary, in an ethereal chairlift, up and up, to a glittering summit where laughing athletes stripped to the waist were waiting for her, for her.

         In whatever town we stopped I would inquire, in my polite European way, about the whereabouts of natatoriums, museums, local schools, the number of children in the nearest school and so forth- and at school bus time, smiling and twitching a little (I discovered this tic nerveux because cruel Lo was the first to mimic it), I would park at a strategic point, with my vagrant schoolgirl beside me in the car, to watch the children leave school—always a pretty sight. This sort of thing soon began to bore my so easily bored Lolita, and, having a childish lack of sympathy for other people's whims, she would insult me and my desire to have her caress me while blue-eyed little brunettes in blue shorts, copperheads in green boleros, and blurred boyish blondes in faded slacks passed by in the sun.

Question:  Why would such a subject have been especially shocking to the west of the 1950s?  What image was this society trying to portray?

Anthony Burgess: A Clockwork Orange (1962)

Well, we went off now round the corner to Attlee Avenue, and there was this sweets and cancers shop still open. We'd left them alone near three months now and the whole district had been very quiet on the whole, so the armed millicents or rozz patrols weren't round there much, being more north of the river these days. We put our maskies on—new jobs these were, real horrorshow, wonderfully done really; they were like faces of historical personalities (they gave you the names when you bought) and I had Disraeli, Pete had Elvis Presley, Georgie had Henry VIII and poor old Dim had a poet veck called Peebee Shelley; they were a real like disguise, hair and all, and they were some very special plastic veshch so you could roll it up when you'd done with it and hide it in your boot—then three of us went in, Pete keeping chasso without, not that there was anything to worry about out there. As soon as we launched on the shop we went for Slouse who ran it, a big portwine jelly of a veck who viddied at once what was coming and made straight for the inside where the telephone was and perhaps his well-oiled pooshka, complete with six dirty rounds. Dim was round that counter skorry as a bird, sending packets of snoutie flying and cracking over a big cut-out showing a sharp with all her zoobies going flash at the customers and her groodies near hanging out to advertise some new brand of cancers. What you could viddy then was a sort of a big ball rolling into the inside of the shop behind the curtain, this being old Dim and Slouse sort of locked in a death struggle. Then you could slooshy panting and snoring and kicking behind the curtain and veshches falling over and swearing and then glass going smash smash smash. Mother Slouse, the wife, was sort of froze behind the counter. We could tell she would creech murder given one chance, so I was round that counter very skorry and had a hold of her, and a horrorshow big lump she was too, all nuking of scent and with flipflop big bobbing groodies on her. I'd got my rooker round her rot to stop her belting out death and destruction to the four winds of heaven, but this lady doggie gave me a large foul big bite on it and it was me that did the creeching, and then she opened up beautiful with a flip yell for the millicents. Well, then she had to be tolchocked proper with one of the weights for the scales, and then a fair tap with a crowbar they had for opening cases, and that brought the red out like an old friend. So we had her down on the floor and a rip of her platties for fun and a gentle bit of the boot to stop her moaning. And, viddying her lying there with her groodies on show, I wondered should I or not, but that was for later on in the evening. Then we cleaned the till, and there was flip horrorshow takings that nochy, and we had a few packs of the very best top cancers apiece, then off we went, my brothers.


Question:  What can you deduce were society's greatest fears at this time?  How does the use of language exacerbate that fear?

Sylvia Plath : Ariel (1962)

Plath's horse, Ariel, was named after the spirit in Shakespeare's The Tempest.  Plath was a poet of the "confessional" style.

Stasis in darkness.

Then the substanceless blue

Pour of tor and distances.

God's lioness,

How one we grow,

Pivot of heels and knees!—The furrow

Splits and passes, sister to

The brown arc

Of the neck I cannot catch,


Berries cast dark


Black sweet blood mouthfuls,


Something else

Hauls me through air—

Thighs, hair;

Flakes from my heels.


Godiva, I unpeel——

Dead hands, dead stringencies.

And now I

Foam to wheat, a glitter of seas.

The child's cry

Melts in the wall.

And I

Am the arrow,

The dew that flies

Suicidal, at one with the drive

Into the red

Eye, the cauldron of morning.

Question:  What moods are being communicated in this poem?