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The Bridge at Andau: The Juxtaposition of Dictatorship and Anarchy

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Government is the basis of all modern civilization. If living under oppressive governmental rule was our only given option, would we be better off living in daily fear and distress, or would it be more beneficial to have no government at all? In James A. Michener’s historical novel The Bridge at Andau, it becomes apparent that an oppressive government is not better than having no government at all, because of the inhumane acts committed by the AVO, the overwhelming number of Hungarians revolting against the government, and the fact that the citizens ended up uniting and working together to survive even once they were out of the hands of communism.

In the beginning of the novel, terrible acts of violence committed by the AVO, or the oppressive government in Hungary, are described. Michener writes, “The tank’s machine gun ripped out a volley, and several young workers fell in the street” (Michener 9), or in other words, an AVO tank killed harmless, unarmed workers in the streets of Hungary who could only defend themselves with stones and their own hands. This cruel act helps prove that an oppressive government is not better than no government because obviously in this case, an oppressive government caused many innocent lives to be destroyed. Additionally, Michener describes an act of violence carried out by the AVO later in the novel, explaining that the AVO would pry information out of captured Hungarians attempting to escape by means of “beatings, nail pullings, smashing rifle butts onto insteps and other tortures” (Michener 109), which further proves the idea that having no government is more desirable than an oppressive, violent one because no one would wish these tortures on their worst enemy, and to think that it is their own government, the peoples’ “protectors” committing these cruel acts is unthinkable. It would be better to have no government at all than to have an oppressive government and be vulnerable to meaningless acts of violence such as those committed by the AVO.

Moreover, the overwhelming number of Hungarians that were eager to rebel against the government further proves that having no government is preferred to living under an oppressive one. Michener states that “nearly two hundred thousand refugees reached Austria” (Michener 232) which is an outstanding number of people considering the humble population of Hungary at the time. The fact that so many people felt that they had no other choice than to flee their own country furthers the idea that an oppressive government is less desirable than having no government. Another example of the large population of Hungarians that were against the government is explained by Michener, who stated, “most Hungarians abhorred communism,” and later gave more specifics, stating that “ninety-five percent of Hungarians hated their brand of communism” (Michener 268), or in other words, even though not everyone ended up fleeing Hungary, a vast majority of the country loathed the government strongly. Because almost the entire population of Hungary despised their oppressive government, it can be argued that a country would be better off having no government in comparison to an oppressive one, as being constantly oppressed by a government could lead to a nationwide revolt, such as the one that occurred Hungary.

The fact that the Hungarians were still able to peacefully cooperate and unite amongst each other after they had escaped Hungary proves that having no government is better than an oppressive one, because the Hungarians would be able to function without a government. When the AVO destroyed the bridge at Andau, prohibiting Hungarians from escaping, three college students “repaired the dynamited bridge…and saved more than two thousand people that night alone” (Michener 229). This extraordinary act demonstrates that Hungary would be able to exist without the AVO because they had united together to help one another escape. Later, after hundreds of thousands of Hungarians had fled their country, “farm wives reported to soup kitchens at midnight and worked until dawn” (Michener 243), demonstrating that the Hungarians would be able to again unite to help one other, allowing them to function even without the guidance of a government.

In The Bridge at Andau, the majority of Hungarians preferred near-anarchy to being oppressed under the AVO, suggesting that being oppressed under a government is worse than having no government. The cruel acts of violence committed by the AVO, the vast majority in Hungary that despised communism, and the unity that Hungarians demonstrated after fleeing their country proves that the absence of government is preferable to government oppression.

Works Cited:

Michener, James A. The Bridge at Andau. New York: Random House, 1957.

Rose, Gideon. “Is an Oppressive Government Better than Anarchy?”Council on Foreign Relations. Council on Foreign Relations, 9 July 2013. Web. 7 Oct. 2015.

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