Nonfiction > Upton Sinclair, ed. > The Cry for Justice
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Upton Sinclair, ed. (1878–1968).
The Cry for Justice: An Anthology of the Literature of Social Protest.  1915.
 
Penguin Island

By Anatole France

(French man of letters, born 1844. In this masterpiece of social satire the aged and half-blind Saint Maël has by mistake baptized a flock of penguins. After a consultation of the heavenly powers, the penguins are turned into human beings)
 
NOW one autumn morning, as the blessed Maël was walking in the valley of Clange in company with a monk of Yvern called Bulloch, he saw bands of fierce-looking men loaded with stones passing along the roads. At the same time he heard in all directions cries and complaints mounting up from the valley towards the tranquil sky.  1
  And he said to Bulloch:  2
  “I notice with sadness, my son, that since they became men the inhabitants of this island act with less wisdom than formerly. When they were birds they only quarelled during the season of their love affairs. But now they dispute all the time; they pick quarrels with each other in summer as well as in winter. How greatly have they fallen from that peaceful majesty which made the assembly of the penguins look like the senate of a wise republic!  3
  “Look towards Surelle, Bulloch, my son. In yonder pleasant valley a dozen men penguins are busy knocking each other down with the spades and picks that they might employ better in tilling the ground. The women, still more cruel than the men, are tearing their opponents’ faces with their nails. Alas! Bulloch, my son, why are they murdering each other in this way?”  4
  “From a spirit of fellowship, father, and through forethought for the future,” answered Bulloch. “For man is essentially provident and sociable. Such is his character, and it is impossible to imagine it apart from a certain appropriation of things. Those penguins whom you see are dividing the ground among themselves.”  5
  “Could they not divide it with less violence?” asked the aged man. “As they fight they exchange invectives and threats. I do not distinguish their words, but they are angry ones, judging from the tone.”  6
  “They are accusing one another of theft and encroachment,” answered Bulloch. “That is the general sense of their speech.”  7
  At that moment the holy Maël clasped his hands and sighed deeply.  8
  “Do you see, my son,” he exclaimed, “that madman who with his teeth is biting the nose of the adversary he has overthrown, and that other one who is pounding a woman’s head with a huge stone?”  9
  “I see them,” said Bulloch. “They are creating law; they are founding property; they are establishing the principles of civilization, the basis of society, and the foundations of the State.”  10
  “How is that?” asked old Maël.  11
  “By setting bounds to their fields. That is the origin of all government. Your penguins, O Master, are performing the most august of functions. Throughout the ages their work will be consecrated by lawyers, and magistrates will confirm it.”  12
 
 
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