What role did the I Ching play in the novel’s composition and philosophical underpinning?
Alternative history refers to the science
fictional genre which dramatize one or more historical events (Alternate
history, n.d.). This genre is occurred by considering what if something
happened instead of historical fact. For example, Philip K. Dick’s 1962 novel, The Man in the High Castle was written
based on what if Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan won at the parallel universes
of World War II (Mountfort, 2018). Therefore, with regard to the composition of
The Man in the High Castle, the
author used lots of historical elements to entertain audiences as if they were exploring
the places in actual history through time-machine by written down historical
and folksy elements in the novel.
Among those historical elements, especially
I Ching is the vital part of The Man in
the High Castle plot – in other words, without I Ching, the story could not
be proceeded. I Ching, also known as the Book
of Changes includes Chinese divination text uses hexagrams which is similar
to the tarot card reading (Mountfort, 2016). According to Smith (2008), in the hexagrams, broken lines were referring the
numbers 6 (六) and 8 (八), and solid lines were referring values of 7 (七) and 9 (九). Besides,
I Ching, by Emperor Wu’s judgement, was placed among the Five Classics include “Confucianism,
Daoism, Legalism, yin-yang cosmology, and Wu Xing physical theory” (Smith, 2008,
p.32). This attractive divination text captivates Dick and
considered by him as the most significant and 5,000 years of representative oriental
oracle as well as a number of characters’ acts are controlled by I Ching in his
novel (Fitzgerald, 2016). In terms of the various aspects of narrative, characters,
settings, and time period, The Man in the
High Castle rely on “the texts of the hexagrams, randomly generated by the counting
of yarrow stalks or the casting of coins” (Fitzgerald, 2016). Moreover,
Mountfort (2016) argues that as an American author, it would be experimental for
Dick to set a plot with I Ching. However, he was the first author who centrally,
sophisticatedly, and self-reflectively applies oracle-text into novel
(Mountfort, 2016). Thus, it is obvious that I Ching played important and dominant
role in the novel’s composition.
I Ching has successfully played its role
not only in the composition matter but also has successfully become the basis
of philosophical background of this novel. For example, Mountfort (2016)
describes how hexagram and its philosophy such as Daoism applied in the text
“Tagomi’s result, hexagram
61 Chung Fu / Inner Truth, in turn also anticipates the I Ching’s answer to
Juliana’s question about the meaning of The Grasshopper Lies Heavy, the
novel-within-a-novel that is paired metafictionally with The Man in the High
Castle” (Mountfort, 2016).
As can be seen, the philosophy of I Ching becomes the clue to find the “meaning” of abstract and figurative novel. Moreover, since I Ching is the method of divination which is relevant to fatalism, and fatalism, in terms of alternative history genre, the supposition of US being ruled and suppressed by Nazi and Imperial Japan could be the real historical events if the fate favoured them, not US. Therefore, in fatalistic perspective, The Man in the High Castle could be more attractive and entertaining than those who are not because as I mentioned, this novel considers I Ching as the key philosophical method to handle the situations and overturn the fate.
Alternate history. (n.d.) American
Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. (2011). Retrieved
October 11 2019 from https://www.thefreedictionary.com/alternate+history
Fitzgerald, B. (2016, September 28).
Something missing from Amazon’s The Man in the High Castle: the Author, the
I-Ching. Retrieved October 12, 2019, from
Mountfort, P. (2016). The I Ching and
Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle. Science Fiction Studies, 43(2),
Mountfort, P. (2018). Science fiction
doubles: Technologization of the doppelganger and sinister science in serial
science fiction TV. Journal of Science
& Popular Culture, 1(1), pp.59-75.
Smith, R. J. (2008). Fathoming the cosmos and ordering the world: the Yijing (I Ching, or
Classic of Changes) and its evolution in China. Charlottesville: University
of Virginia Press. ISBN 0-8139-2705-6.