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Prohibition by G.K .Chesterton From What I Saw in America, Dodd, Mead and Company, Inc. 1922. Course Title: Writing Prose Instructor: Liu Hongyong 2008-2009, 1 st term. Warming Up. What is Prohibition?

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Prohibition by g k chesterton from what i saw in america dodd mead and company inc 1922
Prohibitionby G.K .ChestertonFrom What I Saw in America, Dodd, Mead and Company, Inc. 1922

Course Title: Writing Prose

Instructor: Liu Hongyong

2008-2009, 1st term

Warming up
Warming Up

What is Prohibition?

  • Prohibition — in general, it refers to the use of criminal law to criminalize conduct that a large number of us seem to want to engage in.

  • A specific law, also called Dry Law which prohibits the manufacture, transportation, import, export and sale of alcoholic beverages.

  • The specific historical period in some countries during which the Dry Law was enforced.

Prohibition why how and what
Prohibition: Why, How and What

Why Prohibition?

  • Health concern: addiction, intoxication. (heart, liver, stomach, throat, facial features, aging quicker, weaker offspring, corrupting mind and thinking, etc.)

  • Cultural context: religious and cultural tradition

  • Family problem: family violence/domestic violence (wife beating and child abuse).

  • Social problem: accidents and crimes (traffic accident, robbery, murder, rape, fights and enmity, etc.)

  • Economic problem: waste of grain, waste of money.

Prohibition why how and what1
Prohibition: Why, How and What

How to Prohibit?

  • Legislations: Dry Law, local or nation-wide.

  • Taxation

  • Restricted license policy: manufacture and/or sales.

  • Education

Prohibition why how and what2
Prohibition: Why, How and What

What Consequences?

  • Positive: reducing disease/domestic violence/social problem, keeping tradition pure, etc.

  • Negative: loss of tax income, unemployment, illegal dealings (black market), etc.

Prohibition in the west
Prohibition in the West

1900 – 1948: Prince Edward Island, and for shorter periods in other locations in Canada.

Prohibition in the west1
Prohibition in the West

1910 – 1928: Australia's capital city, Canberra. Alcohol is prohibited in many remote indigenous communities across Australia. Penalties for transporting alcohol into these "dry" communities are severe and can result in confiscation of any vehicles involved.

Prohibition in the west2
Prohibition in the West

1914 – 1925: Russia and the Soviet Union.

Prohibition in the west3
Prohibition in the West

1917 – 1955: Sweden

"Payday evening - vote yes!";

A poster of a drunk husband

in front of his crying wife and

children; encouraging voters

to vote for prohibition.

Prohibition in the west4
Prohibition in the West

1919 – 1932: Finland

Prohibition in the West

1920 – 1933: The USA.

Prohibition in the west5
Prohibition in the West

1920 – 1933: The United States.


  • Domestic: Women reformers were concerned about alcohol's link to wife beating and child abuse;

  • Economic: Industrialists were concerned about the impact of drinking on labor productivity.

  • Social: Advocates of Prohibition argued that outlawing drinking would eliminate corruption.

  • Cultural: It was to make life more puritanical by eliminating alcohol abuse as American values were heavily influenced by Puritanism which stressed temperance and accumulation of wealth.

  • Military: Prohibition was defended as a war measure. It was asserted that grain should be made into bread for fighting men and not for liquor.

Prohibition in the West

1920 – 1933: The United States.


  • Temperance Movements: In 1657, the General Court of Massachusetts made illegal the sale of strong liquor; In 1789, a temperance association in Connecticut was formed; In 1869, Prohibition Party was founded; In 1873, the Woman's Christian Temperance Union was founded; In 1881, Kansas became the first state to outlaw alcoholic beverages in its Constitution; In the Progressive Era (1890-1920), the Anti-Saloon League became the most influential advocate of prohibition.

  • In 1920, The Prohibition Amendment or The 18th Amendment was enacted. Prohibition became a national law. (

  • In 1933, The 21st Amendment was enacted. Prohibition came to an end.

Prohibition in the West

1920 – 1933: The United States.

At the end of Prohibition some supporters openly admitted its failure. A quote from a letter, written in 1932 by wealthy industrialist John D. Rockefeller, Jr., states:

When Prohibition was introduced, I hoped that it would be widely supported by public opinion and the day would soon come when the evil effects of alcohol would be recognized. I have slowly and reluctantly come to believe that this has not been the result. Instead, drinking has generally increased; the speakeasy has replaced the saloon; a vast army of lawbreakers has appeared; many of our best citizens have openly ignored Prohibition; respect for the law has been greatly lessened; and crime has soared to a level never seen before.

Prohibition documentary
Prohibition Documentary

Prohibition documentary

American Dry Spell

Read the essay in the handout!

Prohibition in middle east1
Prohibition in Middle East

Alcohol is prohibited in most Muslim countries

  • Saudi Arabia and Kuwait: completely ban the production, transportation and consumption of alcohol and impose strict penalties on those violating the ban.

  • Libya: bans the import, sale and consumption of alcohol, with heavy penalties for offenders.

  • Qatar: bans the import of alcohol and it is a punishable offense to drink alcohol or be drunk in public. Alcohol is, however, available at licensed hotel restaurants and bars.

Prohibition in middle east2
Prohibition in Middle East

  • The United Arab Emirates: does not restrict the purchase of alcohol from a liquor store to non-Muslim foreigners who have residence permits and who have an Interior Ministry liquor license.

  • Egypt and Turkey: do not have any ban on alcohol, and production as well as consumption are legal, under the provision that minors below the age of 18 cannot legally purchase alcoholic beverages.

Prohibition in south asia1
Prohibition in South Asia

  • India: some states are dry, e g. Gujarat and Mizoram. Certain national holidays such as Independence Day and Gandhi Jayanti (birthday of Mahatma Gandhi) are meant to be dry nationally.

  • Pakistan: allowed the free sale and consumption of alcohol for three decades from 1947, but restrictions were introduced in 1977. Since then, only members of non-Muslim minorities such as Hindus and Christians are allowed to apply for permits for alcohol.

  • Bangladesh: has imposed prohibition, though some hotels and restaurants are licensed to sell alcohol to foreigners.

Prohibition in southeast asia1
Prohibition in Southeast Asia

  • Thailand: bans the selling of alcohol in the afternoon (to prevent schoolchildren from buying alcohol), during elections, on Buddhist religious holidays.

Prohibition in china
Prohibition in China

  • 1999,《中华人民共和国预防未成年人犯罪法》(Law of the People's Republic of China on Prevention of Juvenile Delinquency)规定,“任何经营场所不得向未成年人出售烟酒”(No business places may sell cigarettes or alcoholic drinks to juveniles);

  • 2005,《酒类流通管理办法》规定,酒类经营者不得向未成年人销售酒类商品,并应当在经营场所显著位置予以明示。“对违反规定的,由商务主管部门或会同有关部门予以警告,责令改正;情节严重的,处2000元以下罚款。”

Christianity and Alcohol

General Attitude:

Alcohol is a gift from God (as a medicine and a stimulant), but drunkenness a sin.

Islam and alcohol
Islam and Alcohol

  • How Much Do You Know About Islam?

  • What is the symbol of Islam?


  • What is the holy book of Islam?


  • What is the worshipping place of Islam?


  • Who is the founder of Islam?


  • What does Islam mean?

    Submission to the god of Islam -- Allah

  • What does Muslim mean?

    Those who submit to the god of Islam

Islam and alcohol4
Islam and Alcohol


Once a pious man met a woman, who invited him towards committing a sin (adultery). The man flatly refused. After her constant insisting, she still failed. Thereafter, she gave him a choice of options, 1. Committing adultery with her or 2. To murder her newly born child, whom she had begot from her previous husband. Or 3. To consume some alcohol which she possessed. If he were not willing to comply, then she would scream and falsely inform the inhabitants of that place that he had raped her. The man upon pondering decided to consume the alcohol, taking it to be least harmful of the three sins. Upon the consumption of alcohol, he became intoxicated, and then consequently, he killed the child and also committed adultery with the woman. 

Islam and alcohol5
Islam and Alcohol

Alcohol is a disease

Alcohol is Satan’s handiwork

Buddhism and alcohol
Buddhism and Alcohol

How Much Do You Know About Buddhism?

  • Who is the founder of Buddhism (一佛)?

    Siddhartha Gautama Buddha; Shakyamuni ("sage of the Shakyas clan")

  • What does Buddha mean?

    "Awakened one" or "Enlightened One" (Sanskrit, Pali)

  • What are the two main branches of Buddhism (二派)?

    Theravada (小乘); Mahayana (大乘)

  • What are The Three Jewels (三宝)?

    the Buddha (the Awakened One, 佛), the Dharma (the Teaching of the Buddha,法) and the Sangha (the Community of Buddhists,僧).

Buddhism and alcohol1
Buddhism and Alcohol

  • What are The Four Noble Truths (四谛)?

    suffering(苦); the causes of suffering(集,desires); the end of suffering(灭); the way leading to the end of suffering(道).

  • What are The Five Precepts (五戒)?

    No killing; No stealing; No sexual misconduct; No lying; No alcohol.

  • What are The Noble Eightfold Path (八道)?

    Right understanding(正见); Right thinking(正思); Right speech(正语); Right action(正业); Right livelihood(正命); Right effort(正精进); Right mindfulness(正念); Right concentration(正定).

Buddhism and alcohol2
Buddhism and Alcohol

General Attitude

  • Buddhism warns against alcohol and other intoxicating substances.

  • Buddhism emphasizes wisdom. Taking intoxicant will descend and lose the seed of wisdom.

  • It seems that taking intoxicant is not hurting others. However, if we are drunk and lose our consciousness, we may easily commit evil deeds and hurt others. Therefore, one who breaks this precept will tend to break all other precepts along with it.

G k chesterton 1874 1936 http en wikipedia org wiki g k chesterton
G. K. Chesterton(1874 – 1936)

  • Gilbert Keith Chesterton

  • Born: May 29, 1874, London, England.

  • Died: June 14, 1936 (aged 62), Beaconsfield, England.

  • Occupation: Journalist, Novelist.

  • Genres: Journalism, Poetry, Biography, Fantasy, Detective Fiction, Christian apologetics.

  • Religious Affiliation: Roman Catholic.

  • Writings: Around 80 books, several hundred poems, some 200 short stories, 4000 essays, and several plays.

G k chesterton 1874 1936 http en wikipedia org wiki g k chesterton1
G. K. Chesterton(1874 – 1936)

  • Chestertonis regarded as the greatest writer and the greatest thinker of the 20th century. Gorge Bernard Shaw called Chesterton a “colossal genius” (a pun: Chesterton was a large man, standing 6 feet 4 inches (1.93 m) and weighing around 21 stone (134 kg).

  • America in Chesterton’s Eyes:What I Saw in America begins as a travelogue but eventually becomes an extended reflection on what makes a nation a nation.America is "the only nation in the world that is founded on a creed“. It is necessarily a religious nation and has "the soul of a church".

Text Study

Now Prohibition, whether as a proposal in England or a pretence in America, simply means that the man who has drunk less shall have no drink, and the man who has drunk more shall have all the drink.

  • 当今英国实行禁酒只是个议案,而美国实行禁酒是一种欺骗。无论是前者还是后者,禁酒只不过意味着很少喝酒的人无酒喝,酒喝得多的人则应有尽有。

Text Study

What makes the author label the Prohibition in USA a pretence?

  • The author regards ‘Prohibition’ as an instance of state hypocrisy. In order to divert public attention, the government seeks to attribute moral degradation and other social ills to immoderate drinking. As a matter of fact, the government knows quite well where to locate the source of trouble. This is what makes the author labels the Prohibition as a pretence in the USA.

Text Study

Why is that “the man who has drunk less shall have no drink and the man who has drunk more shall have all the drink”?

  • Once prohibited, alcoholic beverages can be attained by illegal means only and by exorbitant prices. Therefore, only the rich can afford such luxury, and only the rich can defy Prohibition with impunity, and only the rich can turn Prohibition into an occasion for making immediate profits as they work with the police.

Text Study

What does it imply by “the old gentleman shall be carried home in a cab drunker than ever; but that, in order to make it quite safe for him to drink to excess, the man who drives him shall be forbidden to drink even in moderation”? Take into account the significance of the contrast.

  • It implies that Prohibition, like other decrees and regulations in a class society, applies to the lower classes mainly. With the poor kept in control, the rich and powerful are even more at liberty to drink.

Text Study

What makes the statement “that is what it means; that is all it means; that is all it ever will mean” extremely impressive and effective?

  • It reveals a never-failing universal truth: As long as the basic rights of the poor are trampled under foot, laws and regulations can only benefit the rich by imposing morerestrictions over the poor.

Text Study

By pairing the adjectives Luxurious and advanced (8) and poor and fanatical (9) what may Chesterton be implying about the relationship between these qualities?

  • The rich and the poor; the rulers and the ruled; the educated and the less educated; those who break the tradition and those who obey.

Text Study

Translate the following sentence into Chinese and paraphrase the underlined part: This is what it means and all it means; and men are divided about it according to whether they believe in a certain transcendental concept called “justice,” expressed in a more mystical paradox as the equality of men.

  • 这就是禁酒的含义,而且是它的全部含义。对于禁酒,人们的看法截然不同,其分界是看他们是否相信某个称之为“公正”的抽象概念,如果用一个更加神秘的悖论之语来表达该概念,即为“人人平等”。

  • a vague concept called “justice”, which is difficult to understand.

Text Study

Why does the writer use transcendental to modify the concept of justice and why is “justice” in quotation marks?

  • The concept of justice is something that cannot be materially measured. It is a matter of conscience, based on subjective experience. It is therefore regarded as transcendental.

  • transcendental: beyond the limits of human knowledge, experience or reason.

  • Because it is not true.

Text Study

Why does the writer regard the expression of “the equality of men” as an even more mystical paradox?

  • “Equality of men” is a controversial concept and slogan many have regarded as unfeasible and even deceptive, but paradoxically enough, it lives in the heart of the honest people.

Text Study


A statement or concept that contains conflicting ideas. The word paradox is often used interchangeably with contradiction.It is often used to describe situations that are ironic to achieve the effect of irony.

Chesterton has been called the "prince of paradox”.

  • “Thieves respect property. They merely wish the property to become their property that they may more perfectly respect it.”

  • "You can only find truth with logic if you have already found truth without it."

  • "Too much capitalism does not mean too many capitalists, but too few capitalists."

  • "The reformer is always right about what is wrong. He is generally wrong about what is right."

  • "The aim of good prose words is to mean what they say. The aim of good poetical words is to mean what they do not say."

  • "Love means loving the unlovable - or it is no virtue at all.“

  • "Journalism largely consists of saying 'Lord Jones is Dead' to people who never knew that Lord Jones was alive."

  • The only people permitted to ask questions were those who never did.

  • The Chaplain was sincerely a very helpful person who was never able to help anyone.

  • The one who hated war the most was the one who’d really fought.

  • All of the true things I am about to tell you are shameless lies.

  • Good judgment comes from experience; experience comes from bad judgment.

  • More haste, less speed.

Text Study never did.

Translate the following sentence into Chinese and paraphrase the underlined part: So long as you do not believe in justice, and so long as you are rich and really confident of remaining so, you can have Prohibition and be as drunk as you choose.

  • 只要你不相信正义,只要你富有,而且永远富有,你就可以左右禁酒令而且想要喝得多醉就喝得多醉。

  • Agree; Support

Reader and Purpose never did.

1.Who is this writing meant for?

This writing is meant for a sympathetic public in need of guiding, education and orientation, in particular, for those who are less educated and those who still maintain faith in the transcendental concept called “justice”.

2.What is Chesterton’s main purpose of writing about Prohibition?

(1) to disclose the hypocritical nature of Prohibition and illustrate the paradox contained in Prohibition.

(2) to disclose the hypocritical nature of all laws or decrees in the polarized society and emphasize the fact that no law or decree can be brought into effect on a universal basis.

(3) to open the eyes of the public, especially those poor and fanatical and less educated, and to call his readers’ attention to human inequality and the resultant evils.

Writing Techniques never did.


  • A writing technique in which the writer repeats key ideas in different words so as to avoid monotony. To say something again without using the actual words spoken.

  • Restatement led by the signal words: or, that is to say, I mean, that is, namely, in other words, etc.

  • Restatement led by punctuation marks: comma, dash, semicolon, etc.

Examples of restatement
Examples of Restatement never did.


Spontaneously, that is, without planning, the students lifted the teacher onto their shoulders.

Mrs. Miller loved the tranquility, the peace and quietness, after everybody had gone to work.

All students showed apathy- a lack of interest- in doing assignments on such a hot day.

Writing Techniques never did.


  • A figure of speech in which a series of thought or statements are arranged in the order of increasing importance.

    That is what it means; that is all it means; that is all it ever will mean.

Writing Techniques never did.

Balanced Construction (or Sentence)

  • A sentence containing two distinctive halves, each of almost the same length and importance.

  • Similar constructions appear in the same place in each half and balance one another.

  • A symmetrical arrangement of contrastive ideas in almost the same constructions.

Writing Techniques never did.

Examples of Balanced Construction (or Sentence)

  • the man who has drunk less shall have no drink, and the man who has drunk more shall have all the drink.

  • the old gentleman shall be carried home in a cab drunker than ever; but the man who drives him shall be forbidden to drink even in moderation.

  • where the luxurious and advanced drink champagne, the poor and fanatical drink water.

Writing Techniques never did.

Parallel Construction (Parallelism)

  • Constructions are parallel when two or more words, phrases, or clauses of the same grammatical rank are related in the same way to the same word (s).

  • The deliberate arrangement of two or more phrases or clauses which are similar in structure to create vigorous rhythm and deeper impression.

Writing Techniques never did.

Examples of Parallelism

  • where the wealthy are all at this moment sipping their cocktails, and discussing how much harder laborers can be made to work if only they can be kept from festivity.

  • A nation of the people, for the people, and by the people shall not perish from the earth.

  • He tried to make the law clear, precise and equitable.

Writing Techniques never did.

Punctuation: Semicolon

  • Functions

  • It binds two sentences more closely than they would be if separated by a full stop/period.

  • It is used as a stronger division than a comma, or a "super comma," to make meaning clear in a sentence.

  • Examples

  • I went to the pool; I was informed that it was closed. (but)

  • I am alone; my wife left me. (because)

  • I like to eat cows; however, they don't like to be eaten by me. (a ‘run-on’ in meaning).

  • Find out examples in the text!

Punctuation semicolon
Punctuation: Semicolon never did.

In line 7 and again in line 12 we find semicolons between independent clauses. Are the semicolons equally necessary in these two sentences? In lines 8 and 9 there are semicolons before subordinate clauses, where a contemporary writer would employ commas. Can you justify Chesterton’s usage in these cases?

Diction never did.

  • Why is each of the following alternates less effective than the word Chesterton employed: man for gentleman (4),drinking for sipping (10),drinks for cocktails(10)?

  • Look up: Prohibition (1), fanatical (9), transcendental (13), mystical (14), and paradox (14).

  • How many times in this paragraph does Chesterton make use of the verb mean?

Smoking is never did. prohibited in most theaters.

Modesty prohibits me from saying what happened.

I will tell you how his mother's fanatical feminist views tore us apart.

Transcendental meditation can help ward off stroke.

In Thailand I had a mystical experience in a big temple.

It is a paradox that in such a rich country there are so many poor people.

Assignment never did.

  • Write a composition of about 400 words on one of the following topics:

    Drug Prohibition

    Gun Prohibition

    Smoking Prohibition

    Prohibition of Abortion

    Gambling Prohibition

  • In the first part of your writing you should present your thesis statement. In the second part you should support the thesis statement with appropriate details. In the last part you should bring what you have written to a natural conclusion with a summary.

  • Submit your e-version to: [email protected]

  • Due time: in two weeks.

A Review of Prohibition never did.

  • Chesterton expressed his contempt for those who got control of Prohibition, showing sympathy for the poor.

  • The writer’s intention is not to interpret the Prohibition Act, nor is it his sole aim to express his outrage of the way Prohibition was being carried out in the US, What he does in this selection is to illuminate the paradox contained in the Prohibition. It is human inequality and the resultant evils to which he calls his readers’ attention. In the society that has been polarized into two classes, laws and regulations can have very little binding force on the rich and privileged. Like Prohibition, justice can be only a false show designed to impose greater restrictions on the poor and deprived. This central idea is stated over and over again, each time with the author presenting some new aspects of the same issue. He eventually succeeds in conveying the reader of the hypocritical nature of law and injustice in general.

  • This writing is meant for a sympathetic public in need of guiding, education and orientation, in particular, for those who still maintain faith in the transcendental concept called “justice”.