If you are not the lead elephant, the scenery never changes. (Moonshee, Anna’s servant)
One of the main issues in “Anna and the King” is the differences between men and women. What is less obvious is that those differences are of two types: the existing inequality of the social status of men and women, and the ways in which men and women try to deal with (end or prolong) this inequality.
First of all, let us observe the structure of the Thai society. Men occupy the dominant position in all aspects of life from top to bottom of the Thai social structure. The King rules the society, and men enforce all the laws and government regulations (we see no women participating in the King’s council or in any government office). In addition to that, the ritual and custom behavior point to the humiliating position of women in Thai culture. According to Prince Chulalongkorn, men never apologize to women. The body language of the relationship between the two genders in the movie indicates that a woman always bows in the presence of a man and usually stays bowed until he dismisses her. All these customs, laws, and regulations separate Thai society into two unequal classes: men and women.
In the situation of inequality, there is always a group of people who are not satisfied with the life around them. We will call them the agents of change. Although, the women in Thai society are very submissive, we can observe the attempts to change their life and/or social status. For example, the slave woman acts directly. She pays money to her mistress to buy her freedom (i.e. to change her life). She is acting according to the law that “bond-servants have the right to buy their own freedom.” However, her a...
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...country to change: the King. He invites the “imperialistic” teacher to teach his eldest son. Why? In the letter confirming Anna’s employment, the King says that he wanted Siam “to take its place among the nations of the modern world.” As a man and as a king, he acts very carefully. He wants to ensure that in his country “no man is above the law.” He does not make any extraordinary changes, but he allows Anna to teach his children anything she wants (he knows Anna’s liberal position). His decision determines the future of Siam: his son abolishes slavery, institutes religious freedom and reforms the judicial system.
In conclusion, we should say that it does not matter how big the social separation between men and women is and how unequal their statuses are – there are always ways to make that gap smaller, but this requires efforts on the part of both men and women.
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