"Talking in Whispers", by author James Watson, conveys the message of the importance of democracy and the sickening liberties taken by the governments of a country under a dictatorship. The author uses realistic characters and creative styles of writing to illustrate the great need for political freedom and the brutality used by a fascist government to prevent any sort of freedom given to its subjects.
The plot of "Talking in Whispers" is based on the very disturbing events of 1973 when General Augusto Ugarte Pinochet seized total political control after deposing Salvadore Allende and curtailing all other political activity. In the book, as in real life, the government committed many atrocious acts in order to keep control and stamp out democracy. There were many thousands of 'Disappearances' and killings by the hand of the Junta. Some people were killed in the streets, some taken away never to be seen again. Innocent people suspected of conspiring against their anti-democratic government, were tortured by horrifyingly evil means, like electric shock and the Pendura. If they continued their refusal to confess to the crimes that they were being condemned of, they were killed and their bodies dumped.
The author uses plot effectively to show that democracy is very important. The book tells of a scene great joy and hope with people showing their optimism for the future as they chant "Tomorrow – tomorrow!" This display of great exultation was during the first Chilean democratic election, which then abruptly changes to the dark, violent and terrifying reality of the acts of the evil regime that is the Junta. The story centres round a young man by the name of Andres, whose father 'disappeared' after his car was run off the road by the "Security". In a bid to find his father, Andres teams up with the twins, Isa and Beto. They discover incriminating photographs of Miguel Alberti's (the first ever candidate for a democratic election in Chile) assassination. Andres is arrested and taken to the "House of Laughter", the secret head quarters of the CNI, where he is tortured. He is then released and meets with his friends. The story ends without saying whether Andres' father was found, which adds another piece of realism to this book, for in real life, people rarely ever heard of any of the 'Disappeared' again.
There are many incidents in the story that are used by the author to show the need for civil liberties by giving the reader an inside view of the workings and tools of the dictatorship. One of these is the torture scene. In my view this is a very well written section, with the descriptions of the experience, of the sounds, the smells, the pains. The author describes Andres' feelings, how he could hardly breath during the interrogation because he was "choking on his blood" and how "He could not staunch the bleeding". He describes the sheer agony of his "burning" armpits during the Pendura and the convulsions that shot through his body. The use of two interrogators, Snake the "calm yet poisonous" doctor and the impatient and hateful Hog, let Watson show that the greatest mercy that the fascist torturers would give is to let the "patient" breath and the greatest punishment of death would be carried out by any willing torturer or blood thirsty villain working for the Junta.
Another incident that informed me of the desperate situation in Chile was the shooting of a young man running from the "Black Berets", Chile's fanatical citizen-soldiers who committed atrocities under the name of the Security, in the middle of the street. Those who supported the Junta, or who at least wished their government to believe so, pushed the youngster on to the road to inhibit his escape. This particular incident I found especially disturbing, for the reason that the government felt safe enough to kill a man in front of thousands of witnesses.
James Watson created superb and realistic characters that fitted their roles perfectly. The main character, Andres Larreta, was especially well written. He was brave, intelligent and determined, yet he was a reluctant hero, having to force himself to fight for his cause and father, " 'Get up. Get off the ground and stand.' Andres commanded himself.", which added realism to his character. He showed courage, loyalty and optimism yet he also shows fear, a wish to give in and pessimism. If he didn't have all these qualities, then he would not be human. A great contrast to Andres is the Hog. He is hateful, callous towards his victims, ruthless and malicious. He is a machine, used by the government to carry out their dirty deeds, cold and ill tempered. Yet, they are similar in some ways; they are both determined and willing to go to the extremes for their causes.
Watson uses effective language creating both atmosphere and emotion. An example of this is when Andres thinks in to himself during his torture, "I am a side of beef." which describes him as meat, going to the abattoir, the torturers being the butchers. Also James Watson creates a strong emotional atmosphere when Andres witnesses the dumping of corpses in a river. Watson effectively reinforces the message of the book with his use of language to create emotions of fear, sadness and despair.
The author varies his writing style; he uses effective utilisation of short or single sentence paragraphs. These put emphasis on the subject, like the torture scene where Watson has written "His time hard come." This informs the reader of the importance of what is next to happen. It is especially effective because, being in one paragraph of its own, it tells the reader that it is a single focused thought, one of so great importance, that nothing else can be included.
In conclusion, this is a superb book not only because of the brilliant and captivating plot, but also for the way that it was written and how it informs the reader of political freedom and the situation in Chile. "Talking in Whispers" enthrals, entertains and educates the reader. It is excellently written to show the importance of its theme and to engross any reader.