Iffah Juhida

SMP Negeri 3 Way Pangubuhan Lampung Tengah

Tri Widiarto

Universitas Kristen Satya Wacana Salatiga


The Alan Cumyn’s novel “Waiting for Li Ming” describes to us the setting in The People’s Republic of China in 1989, before and during the bloody incident in Tianament. Then, in a discussion forum in the Christian University of Satya Wacana Salatiga in March 2004, Alan Cumyn gave a similar politics analog between Indonesia and The People’s Republic of China.

The politics analog meant is the similarity of every succession in Indonesia and The People’s Republic of China throughout the history. In each turn of kings or dynasty, both Indonesia and The People’s Republic of China were always colored by the bloody incident.

The Novel “Arok Dedes” is the first coup in our history. This unique coup d’ ėtat a la Javanese is full of tricks, cunning, throwing stone hide the hand, the one who had got evil plan became the honored, one who was not involved became a victim that was crushed out (Pramudya Ananta Toer 1994: the back cover).

Following the story of the succession with the very sophisticated shrewdness, the readers’ mind will skip ahead of events in the 13th century into the 20th century in 1965s.

How could occur the transition of power from Soekarno to Soeharto in 1965? How could the person who performed the coup charge it to the other one so the one who falsely accused being a victim and suffered prolonged? How could the one who gave information about the coup plan be arrested and jailed for more than 30 years? There are many similarities between Arok’s coup in 1220s and the New Order Era coup in 1965.


A history work should have an approach or methodology that according to Kuntowijoyo (2008:1) is called a historical explanation. Generally, the steps of history research method (Gottschalk, Louis 1985) are as follows:

1. Heuristic, the attempt of the historian to look for and find a source of history. A source of history is usually sought and found in the government and private archives, libraries, museums, epigraphs, ancient books, and interviews. The history source of Arok Dedes can be found in the ancient book of Pararaton and the epigraph in the era of Singosari Kingdom.

2. Compilation, the attempt of historian to sort the source of history found. Since the historian will find various kinds of history sources, the compilation may relate to the periods, the fields of study, the primary sources or the secondary sources.

3. Criticisms of source, the attempt of historian to criticize the sources of history found. The criticism of source deals with the two things. They are external criticism and internal criticism. The external criticism is to test if physically the source of history is real. The internal criticism is to test if the substance of the source is trustable. If it is trustable, then how many percents of its credibility, as an example, the source of Pararaton book discusses that Arok Dedes has a nature of Puja Sastra, so it exaggerates Arok’s supernatural power. In this case, the historian needs to be careful in using the source of Pararaton book.

4. Interpretation, the attempt of the historian to interpret the history source that has passed through the criticism test. By this step of interpretation, the history source is given a life to make it lively and easy to understand for the readers.

5. Historiography, the attempt of the historian to pour the work in the form of writing. In this step, the writer’s imagination is made possible to appear although in the certain limit in accordance with his views.

Arok-Dedes novel shows that the elements of history methodology cannot be found. Thus, the novel is not a history work. Arok Dedes novel is more appropriate called a literary work (fiction prose) by using mimetic approach. Mimetic approach was introduced by Abram in “The Mirror and the Lamp” (Herman J Waluyo 2006). The mimetic approach refers to a reality; according to Plato (Teew 2003) mimesis tied by the idea of approach will not produce the real duplicate.

In association with the mimesis study, Arok-Dedes novel by Pramudya Ananta Toer shows that it uses a mimesis approach which copies the historical reality in the history of the early Singosari kingdom that really happened in the Indonesian history.


Literature is a term containing a broad definition. Some authors try to define the term “literature” by dividing it into two kinds, that are Literature of Knowledge (informative literature) and Literature of Imagination (creative, imaginative literature). The informative literature presents and interprets the facts and ideas. The facts and the ideas are presented and analyzed scientifically by giving a logical argumentation and a philosophical speculation. Included in informative and literature e.g. autobiography, biography, history, a personal experience in the form of non-fiction, scientific works that requires understanding through instinct of mind and intelligentsia. All the facts, events, setting and characters really exist and happen in the human history without fictional elements e.g. Multatuli, Max Haveelar even though it is fictive.

On the other hand, creative literature presents and interprets the life experience through fictional channel, all the events and the characters never exist or happen, but it may happen (lifelike image). The setting can be fictive, or can be real but the history facts really happened in Indonesia in the early twentieth century, especially in Java Island while the novel “Waiting for Li Ming” is a work of history literature which the events really happens (non-fiction). It can be concluded that most of the literary works, both fiction and non-fiction are the imagination and creation of the authors but it includes the universal truth in the human’s life (universal experience of mankind). The aim of this study is to present the universal truth of the human’s essence in the concrete form that is a fictive event of lifelike including novels, short stories, pictorial stories, plays, poems, and films.

Novel is often described as an iceberg that visible on the surface only partially smaller than most of which are under the sea. And this largest part of the iceberg that has to be understood by the readers through appreciation and interpretation to know and understand a whole meaning of the novel and its messages that including in it. Thus, it is understandable when it is argued that after understanding a story, a reader will know the gritty details better than the author (Prof. Dr. Sudiro Sutoto: in an Advance Literature lecture S3 PBI 2007 UNS).

The author is responsible only to the small part of the ‘iceberg’ floating on the sea surface while the readers have to dive down to the sea to get more understandings.

Sometimes, the novel’s or short story’s writer uses ironies, connotations, or symbols. The readers must make an attempt to understand them before they are able to appreciate the general meaning of the stories. The very interesting is the symbols can be found in nearly all of the creative literary works. But sometimes the symbols are hard to understand and troublesome because they are full of the author’s culture which is unfamiliar with the readers. The events, experiences, or things may have different understandings between one culture and the other cultures. So it is very important to understand the background and the living history of the authors.

Relating to Arok Dedes novel the readers should understand that Pramudya Ananto Toer was in jail in Buru Island for 30 years without the decision of the court by the ruler of the era of New Order. The emotions, worries, frustration, and loneliness of the writers are very coloring this novel.

Another example is Mochtar Lubis’ short story that has translated into English entitled “The Short Happy Life of Conat”. The story behind the struggle to reclaim Irian Barat tells about an office boy in a government office in Jakarta named Conat. Every evening after work, he had to work as a pedicab driver to be able to cover his family finances. Along with the people at that time, Conat described as a patriot who always attended the campaign of anti colonialism and dreamed to go to the land ‘Irian Barat’ to retake it from the colonialist so he was awarded a service medal and his rank was raised so he didn’t become the pedicab driver anymore. Unfortunately, it was just a dream (the deepest desire that depicts the inner rebels against poverty). One night, when driving pedicab, he was hit by a car, wounded seriously and taken to the hospital. He needed the aid of blood and after painfully looking for it there was someone who was willing donates his blood. Unfortunately, the next day he died. The aid of blood for him was given to a minister because in doctor’s opinion the minister’s life was more important than the office boy’s and the pedicab driver’s life.

Mochtar Lubis ended the story by saying that if only Conat knew that the blood for him had been given to a minister. Then he would be proud of because he had given his life to save a minister who was more important than him to continue Indonesian’s revolution.

For those who know Mohtar Lubis’ way of thinking and his living history that goes and outs of the prison because of his sharp and critical writing, they will know exactly that the short story is a satire towards the attitude of society and the ruler that considers that the minister’s life is more important than the pedicab driver’s life. The powerless becomes the victim for the safety of the powerful. The story gives us a lesson about the arbitrary of the ruler toward the common people and more than that the position of the human beings should be equal regardless their social status.

We can appreciate the story since we have knowledge about the writer’s background and the living history as well as the setting of Jakarta (Indonesia) at that time. In this case the history hides in the literary work (Nico Likumahua 2001).

From the description of history and literature above, it can be concluded that history is a part of literary work containing the truth of fact (non-fiction) although the author’s creativity has a place to give significance on the history fact.


The socio-culture approach in the attempt of appreciating literary work (feedback appreciation) becomes very important because both literary context and social context are a foundation which the writer’s messages look alive and real. The messages are real that means lifelike, that is it can really happen although it is not an actual life (fictitious). Without the both context, a literary work felt flat or tasteless and cannot be enjoyed because of the lack of communication, especially between the author and the readers. Herman J. Waluyo 2001 stated that the communication is not only a message delivery but also a way to make the readers get the messages. In this case literature helps the humans understand the communication. The following is about the relationship of a mutual influence between the literary context (the writer’s creation) and the real social context. Either the literary context or the social context is a means of communication among humans that happens all the time that is marked by the conformity or the conflict. But the conflict between them can bring a tragedy for the characters. It can be seen in the Arok-Dedes novel.

Furthermore Herman J. Waluyo, in the study of literary fiction (2001: 53-54), quoted Robert Scholes’ opinion that the relationship between the reality world and the imaginary world used by the authors with the following aims: (1) expressing the unspecific reality; (2) representing which is appropriate to answer the specific reality; and (3) representing the kinds of actuality generalization.

The description about the background of socio-culture and the reality is closely related to the local color. An imaginary story will always perform the local color to make the story strong and convincing. The local color can be the condition of nature, streets, housing, arts exposure, traditional ceremonies, and dialog that is colored by dialect (mixed language). On the contrary, the author uses Indonesian well in the narration and will use the dialect to illustrate or strengthen the local color.

The local color enables the real situation that really happens so an imaginary story looks like a non-fiction. The local color is more directional than the background of socio-culture and the reality as explained above.

The history novel shows the background of the socio-culture of the society. Thus, the experts of literature sociology have opinion that the document of socio-culture is only the literature.

The background of social-culture consists of the way of life, customs, habits, attitudes, religious and traditional ceremonies, local conventions, manners, kinships in the society, ways of thinking, life perspectives, and so on.

In the Arok-Dedes novel, the writer tries to present the background of Javanese culture in the 13th century (1220S). It can be seen from the following terms: mangir, binggal, bathari, mangapurancang, etc. It also expresses clearly about the roles of Javanese historical figures in 1220s such as Ken Umang, Ken Arok, Ken Dedes, Tunggul Ametung, Tahjaya, and so on.

The following quote describes the situation of Javanese social culture in 1220s.

Mentari sudah hampir tenggelam waktu ia sampai di kebun buah Dang Hyang Lohgawe. Dihindarinya mahagurunya dan berjalan menepis mencari tempat air. Adalah tidak patut ditemukan dalam keadaan begini kotor. Setelah membersih-kan diri ia berganti pakaian dan masuk ke pemondokan teman-temannya seperguruan.

Tujuan orang otu sedang sibuk menghadapi rontal mengha-fal paramasastra Sansakerta, ketahuan dari dengung ucapan mereka yang pelahan.

“Tiada Bapa menanyakan aku?” ia bertanya

Semua mengangkat kepala. Dan Hyang Lohgawe tidak menanyakan. Mereka menyingkirkan rontalnya dan dengan pandang bertanya menatap.

“Dari mana saja kau?” Mukamu sudah hitam biru begitu.

Sudah lama kau tak belajar.”

“Kau bisa diusir”, seseorang memperingatkan, “biarpun ingatanmu mendapatkan pancaran dari Hyang Ganesya.”

Arok tak pernah belajar paramasastra Sansakerta. Untuknya setiap mata pelajaran terlalu mudah untuk disimpannya dalam ingatannya.

Dan malam itu bukan paramasastra yang keluar.

Dan Hyang Lohgawe agak lama duduk termenung diatas tikar pandan berwarna-warni. Para pelajar menunduk menanti. Dan waktu ia angkat pandangnya, matanya tertuju padanya:

“Sudah lama aku timbang-timbang. Kau seorang muda yang cerdas, giat, gesit, ingatanmu sangat baik, berani, tabah menghadapi segalanya. Aku tidak tahu apakah yang kau perbuat selama ini tumbuh dari hatimu yang suci dan pertimbanganmu yang masak,” ia buka sebuah bungkusan dan mengeluarkan dari dalamnya seikatan tebal rontal. “Kau kenal tulisan ini?”

“Kenal, ya, Bapa mahaguru.”

“Bukankah ini tulisan gurumu yang lama ?”

“Benar, ya, Bapa mahaguru, Bapa Tantripala.”

“Tahu kau apa yang ditulisnya di sini?”

“Tahu, ya, mahaguru, catatan pribadi sahaya.”

“Benar. Adakah waktu kau serahkan padaku pada hari pertama kau datang ke sini telah kau baca lebih dahulu?”

“Ampun, ya Bapa, adalah bukan menjadi hak sahaya untuk membacanya, maka tak pernah sahaya melakukan.”

Dang Hyang Lohgawe menghembuskan nafas. Sinar lampu damar itu menyoroti lehernya yang dihiasi dengan keriputan usia.

(Pramudya Ananta Toer 2001: 46-47)

The approach of socio-culture in the literature study is a way to produces a product of satisfied appreciation. Without a follow-up appreciation, a literary work becomes useless and considered as a reading text that is only to fill the leisure. Appreciation is a criticism or an analysis to enrich the readers’ knowledge as well as the feedback for the author or the work itself.


In the novel “Arok-Dedes”, there is an attempt to dispute both literary and socio-culture context. Either Ken Dedes or Ken Arok tried to show that their love relationship regardless their background whereas at that time the socio-culture context viewed that it is unlikely for the common people to be a king (although Arok was the descendant of Tunggul Ametung, her mother was a common people), and it really happened. Arok was murdered because of this socio-culture; it means that the literary context is not always in line with the social context (Tri Widiarto: 2007: 13).

The concurrence between the both contexts may happen because the literary context is always fictive (created by the author and it is temporary) while the social context is always non-fictive (real, and it is not author’s creation). The love relationship between Arok and Dedes is fictive but the situation of political social and culture in Java at that time (1220s) is non-fictive and it became the conflict of interest, the dramatic conflict which ended with the death of Arok. The inappropriateness or the conflict between the both context is dramatic (dramatic conflict) that created by the author to make the story interesting to read, moreover it ended with the tragedy, for instance the goal and the hope are not fulfilled because the social context is stronger and more influential than literary context. It is precisely through the conflict, the literary work becomes more interesting and tense (suspense). The romance relationship between Arok and Dedes was very strong but it did not have the support from their surroundings especially from the palace.

Such a dramatic conflict in the world of literature is known as an element conflict- the conflict between the characters of literary context and the social context because the hope and the desire are not in line, even sometimes they are contrary to the idealism of the society. The society’s idealism is formed by “narrative” which basically is the broader surrounding product that greatly influences the attitude to life and the attitude and idealism of human in the society. Thus the human beings society is not free of value because they are born from the particular narrative. (Nico Likumahua: 2005).


Arok-Dedes novel is not a history work, it is only a literary work of fiction prose using a mimesis approach that is imitating the reality of history in the early Singosari kingdom, however there are still some lessons we can get, that are:

Pramudya Ananto Toer thinks that the social context is generally stronger than the literary context and both of them is not always in line even it is more many conflicting to create the dramatic conflict. One of the causes is the literary context is always changing and make difference while the social context is generally static (established) and has greatly influence to the literary context in its function as setting in life and narrative. It often causes contention and collision and the literary context is always being the victim of tragedy of the collision. However, the tragedy is the dramatic aspect that is not separated from a serious literary work. The tragedy is the message or the theme that is obtained as the lesson for the readers that the humans are always in tension between so-called establishment in one side and the anti establishment in the other side. But because the social context is generally strong and has great influence (sometimes it is very indoctrinated), then the anti establishment is considered to be left and the enemy so that it becomes a victim (compare with the New Order Era). All of these only can be found in the literary work that enriches our knowledge about the humanity.


Alan Cumyn.1993. Waiting for Li Ming. Goose Lane Edition.Canada

George Orwell. 1977. Animal Farm. Oxford University Press Ny, USA

Gottschallk, Louis. 1985. Mengerti Sejarah ( terj ), UI Press, Jakarta

Pramudya Ananta Toer. 1994. Arok-Dedes. Hasta Mitra. Jogjakarta

Herman J. Waluyo. 2001. Pengkajian Sastra Rekaan. Widya Sari Press. Salatiga

——————– .2006. Teori Pengkajian Sastra ( Modul ). Program Pascasarjana UNS, Surakarta

Multatuli. 1985. Max Havelaar. Penerbit Djambatan, Jakarta

Nico Likumahua. 2001. Sastra Suatu Sarana Pendidikan Informal, Widya Sari Press, Salatiga

Teeuw,A. 2003. Sastra dan Ilmu Sastra. Pustaka Jaya. Jakarta