The Orgy of Self-Renunciation an Analysis of the Motif of War in Modern Literature

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The abundance of modern literature dealing with the topic of war makes it incumbent upon the writer of this article to limit the scope of his undertaking. The innumerable angles of discussion include the religious, political, sociological, scientific, psychological and literary aspects, to name but a few. Such encyclopedic ramification of the topic in question cannot possibly be envisaged within the confines of the present analysis. Our interest will be focused on the literary as well as the psychological implications of the problem that have affected he lives of millions of people from time immemorial. Having used the term "people", however, we find ourselves in an apparent dilemma from the very start, for it would be rather presumptuous to deal with the topic of war in terms of collective experience. While the trauma of war constitutes in actuality visitations on the body of the people as a collective, it is only through the mouth of the suffering individual that such experiences are transmitted and become vociferous.

Thus, the topic under discussion constitutes an attempt at circumscribing the motivational factors that contribute to the understanding of individual reaction within a setting of violence and upheaval such as war. The question whether the orgy of self-renunciation transcends the limited scope of the individuals discussed in this paper may be answered in the affirmative. The dark, or psychological side of each person is not only his shadow but that of the entire human race which assumes individual form in him. Erich Neumann states: "My shadow is part and exponent of the shadow of mankind in general...and as I accept it myself. I accept with it also that part of mankind that is in terms of my shadow my `next'." (1) It is therefore the aim of this paper to search the human psyche and elucidate its traumata in actual combat situation.

Three works have been singled out to depict the topic of self-renunciation or self--abandonment on the part of the individual facing his hour of destiny. In order to widen the scope of this analysis somewhat, and to allow for a more generous discussion, the three representatives in question have been chosen from English, French and German literatures respectively. The reason for this choice lies not only in the fact that each of the dramatis personae carries with him the syndrome of his very own psychic disposition, but as representatives of their different backgrounds and cultures they are simultaneously also members of the human family at large. Thus, the elements of separation prevalent in and characteristic of the setting of the setting of war are the selfsame elements that unite them as well. The works under discussion here are: Richard Aldington's Roads to Glory; Victor Hugo's Quatrevingt-treize, and Heinrich Boll's Wo warst Du Adam? In all three works our attention will be focused on the differences that separate the individual participants in their respective rationalization of self-renunciation, as well as on the factors they have in common beyond their ethnic separation. I do not purport to furnish an answer to the problem of war on the basis of the forthcoming analysis. I am dealing merely with the phenomelogical aspect as reflected in the individual psyche rather than with conjectures of a philosophical nature. The prospects for the immediate future do not give rise to optimism. The old Roman slogan: "si vis pacem, para bellum" (if you desire peace, prepare for war), is still as deceptively actual today as it has ever been. In his remarkable contribution The Betrayal of the Intellectuals, Julien Benda concludes that man's grandiose

control over matter must consequently lead to mankind's consciousness of its power. The implication is in no way cryptic, and Benda's statement: "history will smile to think that this is the species for which Socrates and Jesus Christ died," (2) does not allow for too complacent an outlook into the future.

PROFANE AND SACRED TIME

For the sake of understanding the extraordinary circumstances prevailing on the battle--field, it is apt to introduce two terms that have a bearing on the individual in peace as well as war. …

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