Themes

The main, overall theme of “Bujak and the Strong Force” by Martin Amis is nuclear anxiety, something which was very common in the context of the nuclear arms race during the Cold War. A second important theme is that of violence, explored through the social setting, …

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Nuclear anxiety

By nuclear anxiety we refer to the feelings of worry, nervousness, and uneasiness about the imminent danger of a nuclear war. These feelings were dominant during the Cold War, when the world was divided into two main power bases, the Soviet Union and the US, each arming itself against the other’s nuclear threat. In the 1960s-1980s, many people felt a constant fear that nuclear war might be about to break out, due to intense political tension between the two major world powers.

In the story, nuclear anxiety is explored through the narrator and Bujak and through the social setting. Sam, the narrator, is a deeply fearful and anxious person for whom the possibility of a nuclear war seems imminent and unavoidable: “How could man (that dangerous creature – I mean, look at his record), how could man resist the intoxication of the Perfect Crime, one that destroys all evidence, all redress, all pasts, all futures?” (p. 9, ll. 10-12)

Following the nuclear bombs of World War II, the Nazi genocide against the Jews, and being exposed to constant violence and …

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Violence

The theme of violence is explored using the motifs of strength versus fear and weakness, through the social setting and Bujak’s character.

The narrator describes the society he lives in as dangerous and violent. Unlike Bujak who is strong, the narrator is weak and fearful and rejects violence. Bujak can rely on his strength and uses violence to take revenge or act as a vigilante in the neighbourhood. In other words, he tries to channel violence to what he believes is getting justice done. The various examples describing Bujak beating others (thieves, Pat and his friends), emphasise the idea that the characters cannot avoid violence; the only thing they can do is to decide to use it for a better purpose (defending others).

Bujak’s charac…

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