DeNiro’s Game is a novel based around war and the effects it has both mentally and physically. The novel is set in the war torn country of Lebanon. The main characters, Bassam and George, are greatly affected by the war. Families are destroyed, there is major corruption, and they are forced to make the choice to either stay and fight or to leave the country. This essay will look at the sacrifices and choices made by both characters. Bassam and George have both had their families destroyed as a result of the war. Bassam lost his father when he was younger to a bomb attack in Beirut, thus leaving Bassam with only his mother to care for him.
So, when he loses his mother to a bomb hitting their apartment he is absolutely devastated, “The smell of powder and burned bread pushed me through the smoke and up the stairs where, breathless, I cried: Mother” (Hage 81). Bassam is devastated by his mother’s death and he doesn’t leave his apartment for days. At this point, Bassam has no reason to stay in Beirut as all of his family is dead. On the other hand, George’s family is a bit different. When George was young his father left and moved to France. His mother was also killed, leaving him in the care of his aunt Nabila. When Bassam flees Beirut for France, he seeks George’s family.
When he gets to Paris where George’s family lives, he learns that George’s father is dead, “Like I told you, George’s father is dead, but my daughter who is George’s half-sister, is coming here, and she is dying to meet you” (Hage 197). Although George never finds out that his father is dead, this still means that both of George’s parents are dead, similar to Bassam. George never liked his father leaving him and his mother when he was so young, but this is still devastating news. Lastly, when George kills himself playing Russian roulette, the game that gave him his nickname DeNiro, this really is the moment when Bassam loses everything.
Bassam and George are best friends, they grew up together, went to school together and are as close to brothers as possible. Shortly before Bassam leaves for France, George is instructed to bring Bassam back to his torturer. Instead, George gives him an opportunity to get out as a brother would do. Before Bassam leaves, they play one last game of Russian roulette together, which would be George’s last. “I took the gun from his hand, and without blinking, without giving myself the time to think about the sea, the ship, the new place that i wanted so much to go to, 1 held the gun against my head and pulled the trigger.
It clicked, and it did not go off. I laid the gun next to me on the car seat. You brother smiled. He picked up the gun slowly. He was not scared; no, he was composed, and as fearless as ever. He held the gun in his hand. Then he turned his face toward me, gave me a smile, and a shot went off” (Hage 270). This moment is when Bassam truly loses everyone important to him. He has lost his father, mother and now his best friend. The fact that George would go against a man so powerful like Abou-Nahra, the leader of the militia, really shows how close the boys are.
All three of these quotations are perfect examples of how the war in Lebanon has affected the families of Bassam and George. The Lebanese civil war caused much corruption throughout the country, more specifically in the city of Beirut. War almost always causes corruption as people look for positions of power. In the case of this novel, the corruption comes from the Christian militia led by Abou-Nahra. The first example is when Bassam is arrested and tortured for a crime he did not commit, “I did not steal them, I whispered through my broken teeth” (Hage 155).
This quotation is taken from the part of the novel where Bassam is being tortured by a man named Rambo for a crime that Bassam did not commit. Bassam was arrested for allegedly stealing something from the militia. Bassam is beaten and tortured for weeks for this and when he is eventually let go, he is thrown in the trunk of a car, driven away and dumped on the street. Bassam is affronted that he was tortured for all this time, so once he is healthy he decides to take matters into his own hands by killing Rambo. He asks George to find out where Rambo lives so he can kill him.
My hands stretched forward, both of my index fingers squeezed the trigger, and I shot at him” (Hage 171). This is when Bassam waits at Rambo’s house for him to come home, and when Rambo steps out of his car, Bassam shoots him. This is one of the best examples of how corrupt Beirut is. This is also shortly before Bassam leaves for France. The last example of corruption in DeNiro’s Game is when Bassam starts illegally trafficking whisky for the militia. This quotation is when George asks Bassam to do this, “There is money in whiskey. Work with me for a few months, forget about the poker place. make your money and leave” (Hage 103).
This shows two examples of corruption. The first is George asking Bassam to illegally smuggle whiskey into the city. Bassam ends up taking the offer and he does this until he makes enough money to get on the boat to France. The second example of corruption is when George mentions the poker place. At the beginning of the novel Bassam and George stole money from the poker place that George was in charge of in order to make money. They used the money they made from the poker place to pay for their drugs and alcohol. These three quotations are some of the best examples of corruption in the novel.
Fight or flight. This is one of the big ideas in the novel. The choice to either stay and fight in the war or to leave the country and most likely never return. George and Bassam both choose very different paths in the novel. Bassam chooses to leave Beirut and go to France and stay with George’s family. He stows away on a ship that is headed for a city in the south of France. “I arrived at the port and went to find the ship. I looked for the Egyptian captain” (Hage 183), this is when Bassam goes to the port to board the ship that will take him to safety away from all that he has left in Beirut.
Bassam makes a bold choice in leaving Beirut, although he has no family left, he leaves who is as close to family as he has, George. Bassam gives nearly all the money he has to the ship captain in order to leave Beirut. Bassam meets with the captain a few days before he leaves to negotiate a price, “I can give you seven hundred, I said, and I would be left with two hundred for when I get there, to face my destiny” (Hage 166). This is an example of how desperate Bassam is to leave Beirut. He gives the captain nearly all his money to get out.
Bassam could have waited a little longer until he earned more money to be more financially secure in France, but he was so desperate to get out that he left as soon as he could possibly afford it. Bassam chose to leave everything in Beirut, this became an easier decision after the death of his mother as he had no one left to stay for. George on the other hand chose a different path. George chose to stay in Beirut and fight for the militia. Abou-Nahra asked George to fight on the front lines and he took the offer, “Abou-Nahra asked me to join his militia, George said to me” (Hage 47).
George chooses to accept the leader’s request and risk his life. He chose a very different path than Bassam did, and in the end that may not have been a good choice. George gets addicted to drugs (such as cocaine) and becomes a very heavy drinker as a result of his time in the militia. He goes on many missions to refugee camps in which he kills many people. This turns George into a very different person than he was at the start of the novel. He becomes more violent and he realies more heavily on drugs and alcohol. After the point in the novel that he joins the militia, he is