Laskar Pelangi, one of the best-selling novels in Indonesia, is one of the inspiring books that I read so far. This book is about ten school students who struggled in order to go to school. They were coming from poor families whose parents had no idea about the importance of sending their children to school. The majority of the parents were fishermen or the staff working for PN Timah (a tin company owned by the government). Due to their financial condition, they did not receive sufficient education and ended up as the lower-class citizen in their own homeland. The story informs the readers about the bits and pieces that all of the members of Laskar Pelangi (the rainbow warriors) had been throughout their school years. Their being poor never seemed to block their motivation and dedication to study and enrich their knowledge. The fact that the writer, Andrea, could eventually study in one of the best universities in Indonesia and received some prestigious scholarships to study overseas seems to be a great motivation for those who are financially unfortunate.
However, it may be fair to say that there are some flaws along the story. In spite of their limited access to the facilities, they easily formed a band and played sophisticated musical instruments. The fact that they were able to play several musical instruments, such as, sitar, drum, among others made me wonder how they could have afforded them. As an Indonesian, I am truly aware that it is very expensive to buy those instruments and to learn how to play them. It is difficult to self-train on how to play a musical instrument and certainly will need a trainer, which would be at high-cost. Moreover, the challenges that Lintang faced were too extreme and too elaborate because it seemed to be impossible for someone to make an extraordinarily long-distant trip to go to school. I am not against the idea; however, the narration seemed to be too good to be true. Interestingly, my advanced Indonesian class shared the same opinion with me. As we were discussing this in class, the students brought up this very good and critical point and I could not agree more. I understand that the writer was trying to convey how difficult life was and to describe how the warriors had to struggle with their tough life. However, there are a few points that required more critical thinking. It may be safe to say that this is a quite inspiring book, but it should be educating with more truthful information as well, for some students may have read this and should have learned a considerable amount of life lessons.
Another point that I need to argue is the fact that this is a non-fiction inspired by the writer’s childhood experience. This fact appears to give an appalling impression toward a few numbers of exaggerations.
To add the list, I would also like to argue about the language he used in this novel. Linguistically speaking, the writer tended to use a great number of irrelevant lexical items, phrases and sentences. As an Indonesian native speaker, I found several misuse of the lexicon; however, I could tolerate them. On one hand, I believe the diction is due to its fictional story that urged him to extravagantly play with the words. On the other hand, my students, as the non-native speakers, found this novel is linguistically hard and often perpetuated some confusion. The language used was often so irrelevant that encouraged me to always remind and expound to them that a number of expressions are not commonly used by the native speakers. It is then safe to say that it takes a great deal of effort in order to comprehend it.
Additionally, the juxtaposition of English and Indonesian can easily be located in this story. Almost each chapter consists of the two-language switches that may be beneficial for the students in terms of comprehension, and yet it may impede their language acquisition and exposure. Suffice it to say that I am not against code-switching but the amount of the switches should be limited so that the beauty of Indonesian, as the matrix language, can be totally expressed and uncovered.
Needless to say, I am immensely amazed by this literary work and the writer. This famous and talented person is named after Andrea Hirata, a graduate from University of Indonesia, majoring in Economy. This is one of the best universities in Indonesia. Upon completion, he was awarded with two scholarships that allowed him to pursue his master’s degrees in Sorbonne University in France and Sheffield Hallam University in the UK (The Jakarta post, Sunday, 05/04/2008). It may be safe to assume that he led a happy and colorful life while he was abroad. However, he claimed that he is fond of his childhood period. Despite being one of the toughest periods in his lifetime, he asserted that those were the most influential and favorite moments.
“(But) my childhood period lingers within me. My memories of that period of my life are the fondest. I learned then about sincerity, friendship and the many virtues that perhaps today’s children cannot learn from their environments the way I did.” (The Jakarta post, Sunday, 05/04/2008).
His novel was written in less than six months and he never expected it to be a bestseller. Upon finishing, he asked his friend’s opinion whom encouraged him to send the manuscript to the publisher. It was beyond his knowledge that most of the Indonesians were keen on his novel. On top of that, a well-known director, Riri Riza and a famous movie producer, Mira Lesmana, were interested in filming his novel. Andrea was not only proud but also thankful to learn that his novel can be inspiring.
To put it in a nutshell, it is fair to conclude that Laskar Pelangi has successfully conveyed their educational and social message. This story has implied that life is hard, yet it does not only belong to the brains and the haves, but it is also for those who fight, highly-motivated and study hard.
Andrea Hirata: Asking all the right questions, from the start to The End. (2008, April 5). The Jakarta Post, Jakarta.
Hirata, A. (2008). Laskar Pelangi. Yogyakarta: Bentang Publisher.