The Imperialism Depicted in Basab Ghosh’s Short Story “A Bug’s Life”

People need to work hard for themselves. They need to fulfill their needs like foods and water to live in this world. However, some people need to work hard to fulfill other’s needs. They work hard but they do not get any advantages for their work. In the short story entitled “A Bug’s Life” written by Basab Ghosh, the ant colony have to serve the grasshopper gang, which is have power to control the ant colony. The ant colony work by force, oprresed by the grasshopper gang to collect foods for them, but they also need to collect foods for their colony to face the winter. This issue lead to a post-colonial term, Imperialism. Imperialism is the domination over other territory. Although the story is a children story which means to be delivered to the children as an education. Imperialism is diifferent with colonialism. “Imperialism is about practice, theory, and the attitudes of a dominating metropolitan centre ruling a distant territory” (Said, 1993). While colonialism is implanting of settlements on a distant territory. Some of the action in the story depicted the imperialism by the grasshopper gang over the ant colony. Thus, there are at least three action which depicted the imperialism in the story.

First, the fact that the ants had to serve the grasshopper gang and gather food for them leads to imperialism. At the begining of the story, it explained the relationship between the ants and the grasshopper. “Every year, the ants had to gather food for the grasshopper gang.” (1). It depicted that the ants were serving the grasshopper for many years. Even though it was not explicitly explained. The author characterize the grasshopper as the mean character. They force the ants to work for them. According to Lenin’s “five essential features”, which is “The concentration of production and capital developed to such a high stage that it created monopolies, which play a decisive role in economic life.”, the ants were monopolized because their production of food. The natural sense of ants is a working animal. They live by working with colony and gather food together. The grasshopper knows the natural sense of ant, and use it to fulfill their desires. According to J.A. Hobson’s book Imperialism (1902: 71), it is stated that “It is this economic condition of affairs that forms the taproot of imperialism”. The economic condition of ant colony must be good because they are the hardworker animal. They have much foods and resources. It became the reason of the grasshopper began to dominate them. However, the ant colony began to realise that they were dominated. As the main character, Flik, is the only ant who does not agree with the domination of the grasshopper, he pursue the other ant that they have more power to fight off the grasshopper so that they can collect the food for themselves.

Second, the ants were scared of the power that the grasshopper gang have. The ants did not know that they have more power to fight the grasshopper. They were unconsciously become slaves. It is similar to a term called “false consciousness”. As in the story, the ants served the grasshopper gang every year. They did not feel like being dominated by the exploiters. Yet, the dominant class did not see themselves as the exploiters or the oppressors. “The ants were very angry with Filk, as he had destroyed all their hard work. The scared and angry ants were standing together in a group.” (1). The colony were mad because their hard work has gone. However, they did not realise that they need to work hard because they were exploited by the dominant. If they realise, they do not need to serve the grasshopper gang every year.

Last, the ants hegemonic society. As the explanation above, the ants were doing the hard work of collecting food for every years. This action will lead the society to a hegemonic society. They will do the work by consent, without any force from the dominant. Although the story ended with a good ending, the author indirectly told that the ants were in a hegemonic situation which they serve the grasshopper every year. The fact that they serve the grasshopper every year leads to a cultural hegemony. Hegemony itself refer to “the dominance of one state within a confederation, and it is known as the domination by consent” (Ashcroft, Griffiths, & Tiffin, 1995). The ants were not care about the domination. All they know is they need to work. Moreover, they did not seem to have wish to work for themselves.

In conclusion, the domination over the other can be categorized as imperialism. Even though the story is for children, the author added some post-colonialism issue to shape the mindset of the children. The children’s literature should be educative to them. However, the purpose of children’s literature become the purpose of adults to give the fundamental understanding of how people works in the society, and shaping the children to become what the adults want in the future.

Link for the short story :

References :

Ashcroft, B., Griffiths, G., & Tiffin, H. (1995). The post-colonial studies reader. South Atlantic Review.

Cox, R. W. (1983). Gramsci, hegemony and international relations: an essay in method. Millennium, 12(2), 162–175.

Kohn, H., & Hobson, J. A. (2006). Imperialism, a Study. American Sociological Review.

Lenin, V. I. (2017). Imperialism, the highest stage of capitalism. In Conflict After the Cold War: Arguments on Causes of War and Peace, Fifth Edition.

Said, E. (1993). Culture and imperialism Vintage. New York.