Mahatma Gandhi Writing Styles in Non-violent Resistance

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Perspective

Satyagraha has an editor, Jivanji Dahyabhai Desai, who compiles Gandhi's writings and writes a brief preface. However, his main goal is to faithfully reproduce Gandhi's writings and thoughts and get out of the way, as he makes clear in his introduction. Thus, the primary perspective is that of Gandhi (1869 - 1948). Gandhi was the pre-eminent leader of the Indian people, playing a decisive role in the spiritual development of his people and freeing India from British rule.

Gandhi's primary philosophy is the same as the title of the book: Satyagraha. Satyagraha is the social and spiritual philosophy of "holding firmly to truth." It requires a complete abdication of all violent methods of social change and instead employs civil disobedience. Gandhi argues that the soul must be pure and unselfish in order for a person to become a true Satyagrahi and so Gandhi prescribes spiritual disciplines and ascetic practices in order to achieve a state of total love and truth aimed at the conversion of one's opponent. Gandhi is also a proponent of ahimsa, or total nonviolence. Ahimsa is the method of implementing Satyagraha and in Gandhi's view is entailed by a devotion to Satyagraha.

Gandhi is widely known for his intense and extreme ascetic practices, his willingness to be imprisoned, his radical pacifism (he even encouraged Jews under Hitler to avoid violence entirely) and his fight for social justice. He was a cosmopolitan, seeing all persons as equal and a devoted follower of God, which may or may not be similar to the God of Judeo-Christian theism. Gandhi's perspective is reflected ubiquitously throughout the book.

Tone

Gandhi's tone combines the best elements of a spiritual leader and shrewd social activist. First, in the early chapters where Gandhi elaborates his understanding of Satyagraha and ahimsa, his tone is that of a spiritual leader. He gives arguments for Satyagraha and waxes mystical about its importance and centrality to a good and pure human life. He also makes the sort of extreme and other-worldly claims about the human good typical of mystics from many different religions. He expresses a radical commitment to loving the other and pushes it to an outpouring of exhortations to love all people.

Gandhi has something of an argumentative streak when defending his philosophy of life. He is more than willing to entertain objections and attempts to provide striking answers to his interlocutors. Some spiritual leaders might avoid theological and philosophical argumentation, but Gandhi does no such thing, giving the Satyagraha not only a spiritual feel but an ideological, embattled tone as well.

Gandhi is also a shrewd political activist. He discusses the choice of place for Satyagrahas and reasons strategically in very clear ways throughout these sections of the book. Despite his spiritual commitments, he accepts a compromise during the Salt Satyagraha with the Viceroy to end civil disobedience in exchange for a reduction in burdens on the poor. He also must think about how to organize and marshal his forces in the most effective ways. Thus, he often outlines strategies in a clever fashion, defends his political choices and positions and discusses important organizational tactics. The tone of these passages is passionate but practical.

Structure

Satyagraha has a brief preface written by the editor, but it is almost entirely composed of the writings of Mahatma Gandhi and transcripts of speeches and interviews he gave. The book is structured into eleven "sections" which mostly correspond to chapters. The sections are then composed of a long string of documents relevant to the subject matter of the section. Some sections are purely philosophical and contain excerpts and short essays expanding on Gandhi's philosophy. However, other sections are structured chronologically so as to outline a narrative during a particular struggle or Satyagrahas. This comes out most clearly in the various Satyagraha related chapters.

While the book contains many sub-sections, it has eleven broad sections which cover the following subjects. The first chapter, Section First: What Satyagraha is, is the most theological and philosophical of the chapters and contains Gandhi's most detailed and abstract discussions of the ideology and spirituality of Satyagraha. Section Second: Discipline for Satyagraha outlines Gandhi's incredibly stringent principles for putting Satyagraha into practice and the rationale for associating Satyagraha with these disciplines. Section Third: Non-Cooperation and Civil Disobedience explains the actual social practice of Satyagraha and how it manifests in social action.

Section Fourth: Vykom Satyagraha covers the details and events of the Vykom Satyagraha. Section Fifth: Kheda and Bardoli Satyagrahas covers the details and events of the Kheda and Bardoli Satyagrahas. Section Sixth: Salt Satyagraha contains sub-sections which deal with the events and reasons for the Salt Satyagraha. Section Seventh: Indian States Satyagraha covers other Satyagrahas like the Rajkot Satyagraha. Finally, Section Eighth: Individual Satyagraha against War covers anti-war Satyagrahas. Thus, Sections Fourth through Eighth are all "action" chapters which are more pragmatic in nature.

Section Ninth: Miscellaneous reviews Gandhi's views on fasting, women Satyagrahis, and the role of Satyagraha in social reform. Section Tenth: Questions and Answers is a compilation of interviews with Gandhi, along with Q & A periods after his lectures. Finally, Section Eleventh: Conclusion contains some of Gandhi's final reflections on his movement.

This section contains 860 words
(approx. 3 pages at 400 words per page)
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