The House on the Border by Aziz Nesin
In The House on the Border by Aziz Nesin we have the theme of responsibility, powerlessness, fear, guilt, independence and acceptance. Narrated in the first person by an unnamed male narrator it becomes clear to the reader after reading the story that Nesin may be using the house that the narrator lives in as symbolism for a country or an individual. With each neighbouring house also acting as a country or individual. What is also interesting about the story is the fact that though the narrator seeks help from others he receives none. Again symbolically Nesin may be suggesting that when a country (or individual) is taken over by outside influences those nearby or in authority of a neighbouring jurisdiction may not necessarily help. Nobody in the story takes responsibility for the thief’s actions. It is as though the house is problematic. Something that becomes clearer to the reader when we realise that the house is outside everybody’s jurisdiction. Not only do the police refuse to help but so too are the State Gendarme unable to assist the narrator. It is as though the narrator lives in an unprotected area or at least a jurisdiction that is not recognized by others. It may also be important that the narrator overcomes his fear of the thief and even manages to become friendly with him going as far as feeding the thief. It is as though the narrator and his wife have accepted the thief and his actions. Just as many countries or individuals might accept the negative influences of outside sources.
In many ways the narrator’s actions towards the thief mirror how a smaller country (or individual) may feel when overpowered by a larger and stronger influence. At first there is an element of fear which in time manifests itself into friendship and acceptance. This friendship and acceptance is noticeable in the story when the narrator allows six thieves to live with him and his wife. Where previously he had been afraid and concerned about one thief he now lives with six of them. It is as though the narrator realises there is nothing else he can do but accept the situation he finds himself in. Rather than fighting the impossible the narrator just becomes friends with the thieves even using them as instruments to stop other thieves from robbing his house. It may also be important to remember that Nesin may also be using the six thieves and their stealing from the narrator’s home as symbolism for foreign owned companies coming into a country and stealing the country’s natural resources.
Another point worth noting about the story is the guilt that the narrator and his wife feel over tying up the thief. It is as though the thief has rights while the narrator because he is outside everybody’s jurisdiction has no rights. He is unprotected and vulnerable which is a situation that many countries might find themselves in. Though they are innocent they may not be protected by others with their neighbours turning a blind eye. Which happens in the story when the neighbours arrive to see the thief in the house. They do not lend the narrator a helping hand. Rather there is a sense that what is happening is normal and acceptable to them. They sit comfortably knowing that their own homes are safe and under protection by those in authority. If anything everybody is turning a blind eye towards the narrator. He has no rights nor does he have the ability to defend himself.
There is also a sense of powerlessness in the story. Something that is noticeable by the lack of support that the narrator receives. Right up to the end of the story everybody is in acceptance of what is happening. The police, the narrator’s neighbours, the State Gendarme. All accept what is happening. The only one fighting is the narrator and his wife. Though they too give up at the end of the story and accept everything that is happening. They are beaten by circumstances and are no longer able to fight. In essence they are powerless to do anything and must accept the conditions they find themselves in. Very much like a country that has too many outside influences or that might have been taken over during a conflict. The fact that the narrator relies on the six thieves to stop other thieves from robbing the house also suggests that the narrator has become reliant on the six thieves. No longer is the narrator able to live his life as he would like to. He has lost his independence and must live under the conditions he finds himself in for a full year. Until his rent is due to be paid again or till his home falls under a jurisdiction. So that he can lodge a complaint. Till then the narrator must accept the circumstances that he finds himself in and live with the six thieves. Just as some countries for a period of time must live with negative outside influences.