Throughout the course of its text, the book Red Earth follows the life of Tran Tu Binh and how he was able to transform and organize the workers of a Colonial Rubber Plantation under French rule. In order to organize and gain the trust of the workers, Tran uses many methods of protest and resistance. In many ways he was very successful but not all of the tactics worked out as planned. On several occasions his plans would falter and in return would either pay the consequences or come up with a new one. From an early age, Tran was showing signs of resisting authority.
Before he went to work on the rubber plantation he was attending a Catholic based school. He was highly unsatisfied with how the school was ran. He often complained that the food was below par and that the whole thought of Christianity was a hoax. Tran was a very high strong and stubborn person, he claimed “Being inquisitive and stubborn by nature, I always had to hold something in my hand and see it with my own eyes before I would believe it” (2). His stubbornness often got him into trouble. He was not always able to dance out of every situation.
Eventually, Tran was expelled from his school because his would constantly test the patience of father Quy. Father Quy was a priest from Canada. Tran had a very low opinion of him, he often claimed that “father Quy’s actions were those of a spy posing as a monk” (3). He has absolutely no respect for the man so he did everything in his power to resist him. For instance, he was inviting the other children to practice martial art at night. Father Quy was against this but could do nothing to stop it because they were not hurting anything. At one point Tran was thrown into jail. Father Qyu would visit the prisoners to try and win them over.
Tran would be very disrespectful to him. He asked Qyu about Jesus Christ and of course he answered him. But in return Tran disagreed and told his interpretation of what happened to Jesus when he was thrown on the cross. Eventually Tran was kicked out of the school in 1962 along with some of his classmates. This was just the start of the protest and resistance Tran had against authority. Him getting kicked out of school was just the start. There would soon to be many more times when Tran went up against authority. Him defying the priest and getting kicked out of school was the negative side of the spectrum but did not encour urage Tran.
He will continue to go his talents and rise up against his superior he feels necessary. French imperialist started to take over in 1927. Through propaganda they set an image of what it would be like to work under their rubber plantation. According to Tran they used “words of honey and sugar” (12). They set a list of requirements they were supposed to give to the people that came to work under them. A few of those requirements were their transportation paid for, three square meal a day, two sets or work clothes per year, etc. This was set to appeal to the non-educated class because the French had no intentions of keeping up the promises.
Their hope was to glorify everything and once they get to the plantation to not go through with the plan. This was ideal because the people were uneducated they could not read their contract to they had now base for an argument. On the other hand they were not expecting to someone like Tran to come along. Tran was not like the others, he was educated and was able to read past all their ploy. He understood that the plantation was dangerous but he saw it was a chance to work on his revolutionary ideas. He claimed “Thus began a phase of my life… the leading class of revolution is this era” (13).
As expected, upon arrival to the plantation, the men were thrusted into very poor conditions. They were not fed properly. According to Tran at lunch they were given “only one bowl of rice with a piece of dried fish the size of three fingers (17). This anger the people into a hunger strike. They refused to eat and their growing anger scared all the Tao’s men. Phan Tat Tao was their adversary at the time. The strike momentarily stopped the the mistreatment for a little while. Tao saw that the men were not going to calm down until something was done so “that very noon meal he prepared extra rations”(17). This remarkably was quite amazing.
This showed an early side that the men could be organize and go up against the French if angered and motivated. This was a small step in a big direction. After the hunger strike the men started to get beaten, this angered them even further. Recognizing there growing animosity Tran tried to reach out to the people. He wanted to gain their trust. So to do so he sat back and waited until the right moment. The eventually confronted the men. He tried to rationalize with them. In an effort he claimed “We ‘gentlemen’ signed a contract to come down here and work… If they continue to beat us, we ‘men’ will take them to court” (20).
He continually tried to gain their trust and once he had it he used it against the French. There were times when Tran actions of resistance did not go well. A good majority of the time it ended in violence. One such time was when the men were getting beaten. Tran anger by the French not keeping word of their contract spoke out against the commanding officer. At first the officer just laughed at Tran. He thought nothing of him but that did not deter Tran. He spoke up again, “If you keep up the beatings, we’ll take you to court. You’re violating the law! ” (35). This did not go over well with the officer.
He struck Tran over the head with a club. The had the other officers start beating on him to. There are many more examples of resistance and protest throughout the book. These are just a few example to show that some of the tactics were a success and some ended very poorly. It was very evident throughout the book that the French were scared of the numbers. When Tran was able to unit the Vietnamese there was no force stopping them. The book demonstrates that there is strength in number and unity. When Tran took them on, on his own he got beaten. Unity and revolutionary idea are the key to success.