"Had you wished American traditional ethnic art objects as a gift?"
Childan says this to the Kasouras when they first arrive in his antiques shop; he seeks to curry favor with this charming couple after his difficulties with Mr. Tagomi.
Usually we do not consider American culture as traditional or ethnic; however, after the conquest by the Japanese, it is the Americans who are considered exotic by their occupiers, and their history that is put up for sale. This is a reversal of the actual situation as it has played out in history. Childan's painfully awkward Japanese phrasing indicates his desperate desire to please the couple, which could well determine the future direction of his livelihood.
Random, and yet rooted in the moment in which he lived, in which his life was bound up with all the other lives and particles in the universe. The necessary hexagram picturing in its pattern of broken and unbroken lines the situation. He, Juliana, the factory of Gough street, the Trade Missions that rules, the billion chemical heaps in Africa that were now not even corpses, the aspirations of the thousands around him in the shanty warrens of San Francisco.
In this scene, Frank is consulting the I Ching to figure out how to approach his former boss. As always, he also asks if he will ever see Juliana again, and gets a negative answer.
This experience of consulting the I Ching - something that he and millions of other people do every day - pulls Frank out of his individual life and makes him ponder the great political forces that structure his life. It also highlights the interconnectedness of things; the plot of the novel itself is made up of a number of interconnected story lines, so this is a major theme.
They want to be the agents, not the victims, of history. They identify with God's power and believe they are godlike. That is their basic madness. they are overcome by some archetype; their egos have expanded psychotically so that they cannot tell where they begin and the godhead leaves off. It is not hubris, it is not pride; it is the inflation of the ego to its ultimate - confusion between him who worships and that which is worshiped. Man has not eaten God; God has eaten man.
During his trip to the Pacific States (and his conversation with the unbearable Nazi sympathizer Lotze), Baynes ponders the roots of German violence. How is it possible that the Germans simultaneously have the skill to put men on Mars but also have the blood-thirst to commit a complete genocide of Africa? Baynes' meditation also serves as a commentary on real-world events such as World War II and the Holocaust.
Additionally, this quotation highlights the distinction between the German and the Japanese in the novel: the Japanese are portrayed as rigid but just and fair, whereas the Germans are repeatedly describes by multiple focal characters as psychotic.
"I knew they were fakes. I'm not talking about that. I'm talking about the lousy part. Look, I'm really not concerned whether some gun you send us really was used in the Civil War or not; all I care about is that it's a satisfactory Colt .44 item whatever-it-is-in your catalog. It has to meet standards."
Ray Calvin angrily calls Wyndam-Matson after his conversation with Childan, telling him that his products are lousy fakes. Wyndam-Matson replies that Calvin always knew they were fakes, and Calvin replies with the above quote.
Calvin, Wyndam-Matson, and the others involved in their business are unconcerned with the fact that they are churning out fakes - the goal is to create fakes that are quality, and believably authentic. In a way, their work is not unlike that of the writer or historian. This quote also reveals a great deal about the personality of Wyndam-Matson: he is a criminal and a shyster, it's true, but he prides himself on the quality of his contraband goods.
"One of those two Zippo lighters was in Franklin D. Roosevelt's pocket when he was assassinated. And one wasn't. One has historicity, a hell of a lot of it. As much as any object ever had. And one has nothing. Can you feel it?" He nudged her. "You can't. You can't tell which is which. There's no 'mystical plasmic presence,' no 'aura' around it."
Wyndam-Matson uses two lighters to explain his perspective on knockoffs to Rita after she questions him.
As with the two lighters, it is impossible to tell what is real or fake throughout the story. Baynes and Frank were both Jewish, but had surgery to alter their appearance; a book that describes the victory of the Allied forces is derided as folly.
There is evil! It's actual like cement.
I can't believe it. I can't stand it. Evil is not a view. He wandered about the lobby, hearing the traffic on Sutter Street, the Foreign Office spokesman addressing the meeting. All our religion is wrong. What'll I do? he asked himself. [...] It's an ingredient in us. In the world. Poured over us, filtering into our bodies, minds, hearts, into the pavement itself.
During an emergency meeting following the sudden death of Chancellor Bormann, the Japanese authorities in San Francisco discuss the candidates for the next supreme leader of the German Reich. Most of these contenders are violent psychopaths who perpetuated the holocausts in Europe and Africa.
Tagomi has a violent physical reaction to this long recitation of evil, and rushes out of the room. He realizes that evil is real, not just an opinion or a misunderstanding as he has always been taught. It is this realization that will push him towards courageous action.
Life is short, he thought. Art, or something not life, is long, stretching out endless, like a concrete worm. Flat, white, unsmoothed by any passage over or across it. Here I stand. But no longer. Taking the small box, he put the Edfrank Jewelry piece away in his coat pocket.
Throughout the novel, Robert Childan has been trapped between despising the Japanese because he must serve them, and envying them their power. When Paul accidentally insults him by suggesting that the Edfrank Jewelry could be mass-produced and sold as a good-luck charm, Childan is pushed beyond the breaking point. In sharp contrast to his usual policy of meekly submitting and saying what his listener wants him to say, he demands an apology from Paul for suggesting that American art is good for nothing but imitation. Paul smiles slightly and grants this apology. Childan has not only found a way to stand up for himself, but he also offers his loyalty to something greater than himself: art. He describes art as a concrete worm, a simile that might seem disgusting but instead for Robert conveys something that is "unsmoothed by any passage over or across it."
"Part of personal collection," Mr. Tagomi said. "Much fooled around in vainglorious swift-draw practicing and firing, in spare hours. Admit to compare favorably with other enthusiasts in contest-timing. But mature use heretofore delayed." Holding the gun in correct fashion he pointed it at the office door. And sat waiting.
As the German police force comes for Baynes, Tagomi calmly prepares to confront them in his office. Rather than surrendering Baynes, Tagomi takes out the antique pistol that he previously purchased from Childan and prepares to defend the spy. He shoots and kills two German agents, allowing Baynes to get away safely.
In this brave act, Tagomi encapsulates the rugged, courageous American demeanor more fully than most of the American characters.
And what will that leave, that Third World insanity? Will that put an end to all life, of every kind, everywhere? When our planet becomes a dead planet, by our own hands?
He could not believe that. Even if all life on our planet is destroyed, there must be other life somewhere which we know nothing of. It is impossible that ours is the only world; there must be world after world unseen by us, in some region or dimension that we simply do not perceive.
Even though I can't prove that, even though it isn't logical - I believe it, he said to himself.
On his journey back to Germany, Baynes ponders what will happen if the Germans successfully follow through with Operation Dandelion, and become the sole undisputed power on Earth. He believes that such a turn of events would be completely destructive, and there would be nothing at all to curb the psychotic German instinct for destruction.
Baynes finds himself wondering about other worlds that would survive such a horror. It is not clear whether these worlds might be off in space or in a parallel dimension, but it is this quote - like many others - that solidifies the novel as a work of science fiction.
He told us about our own world, she thought as she unlocked the door to her motel room. This, what's around us now. In the room, she again switched on the radio. He wants us to see it for what it is. And I do, and more so each moment.
After killing Joe (who is actually a spy sent to assassinate Abendsen, the author of The Grasshopper Lies Heavy), Juliana ponders the meaning of the true purpose of the novel. She realizes that the novel reveals a great deal about her own world, and eventually decides to meet Abendsen herself and warn him about the Nazi assassins who are pursuing him.
This also offers a clue to Dick's reasons for writing The Man in the High Castle. Through describing an alternate history, he makes us question all the events that have brought us to where we are now, and whether our universe might not be just as unreal as the one described in The Man in the High Castle.
The Man in the High Castle Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for The Man in the High Castle is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.