20Th Century A Strange Time Essay

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20Th Century A Strange Time Essay, Research Paper The twentieth century afforded the opportunity to augment the “spiritual” Walt Whitman eloquently described, in his nineteenth century work “I Hear America Singing,” with the voices of the human collective the world over (from the downtown city dweller to the indigenous natives roaming the wilds). The mechanics, wives, and many different human identities could have sang, “What belongs to him or her and to none else.” In this century, Humanity s collective accomplishments made it possible for man to destroy the world. Whitman s grand illusion of stability was not realized, and the twentieth century instead imparted upon humanity a reality composed of conflicts and paradoxes. With the ability to shape the world and a

facade of control over the collective destiny of the species we bitterly learned what the ancients summed up as fate, things work out as they do because the circumstances of life are as they are, and the people affected and affecting them are as they are. A sort of double-edged sword that both imparts collective and individual responsibility over man and yet admits to what is essentially his inability to mold the world as he like has imposed upon humanity, a permanent state of cognitive dissonance and complete confusion over mans place in the world. Collectively we suffered two world wars, and the great depression. Together mankind became a species of exiled aliens, in regards to language culture and countrymen, with a general awareness that we are not in control of our

destinies, and that life may just be the universes cruel little mistake. Revelations such as the one noted above moved human beings to search for order and meaning in their lives through avenues such as communities, tradition, and habit. In a world such as ours, man has no choice but to create meaning through his own means. Through a terse narrative, the omniscient Dr. Rieux covers the outbreak of bubonic plague in a large French port on the Algerian coast known as the town of Oran. The story imparts its audience with what the existentialist Jean Paul Sartre said confidently, “You are what your behavior demonstrates you to be.” The account chronicles how a community composed of outsiders from far away lands, native folk, those longing loves left behind, and those who would

profit monetarily through the suffering of others, is broken down and renewed in the town overcoming by the plague. Before the plague struck Oran, the town was not a perfect place but the people felt secure in the predictability of their lives. Oran was not paradise; in fact, Dr. Riuex describes the pre-plague town as a quite banal place, a place where “You can get through the days without trouble, once you have formed habits. (Camus, 5).” When something as unforeseen and unpredictable as the plague strikes, man has only his rituals and habits to give meaning to life. Once the plague fully raged, the populace shared the collective destiny of the plague, and felt consumed by an internal emotional “sense of exile (Camus, 167),” and people were comforted only by doing their

jobs, which they took comfort in calling simply human decency. The volunteerism and sense of community the plague imparted upon its victims were what people needed to be able to cope with a tragedy of the plagues magnitude. Spaniard, whom happened to be Riuex s patient, reaffirmed mans banal place in the world while summarizing the towns former sense of distress in a conversation with the Dr., “All those folks are saying: It was plague. We ve had the plague here. You d almost they expected to be given medals for it. But what does that mean- plague ? Just life, no more than that (Camus, 306).” The Visit, a tragi-comedy written by Friedrich Durrenmatt that had its first dramatic production in Switzerland in 1956, is a caustic denunciation of the treachery of justice that we