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Yarbrough 1 Justin Yarbrough Dr.

Alice Hines Masterpieces of World Literature April 20, 2009 The Literary Analysis of Existential Harmony By contemplating the origin of all conscious behavior and thought, the human subconscious, modern psychology has expressed the depth, confusion and mystery of the human soul. The conscious mind as Freud and others describe it, rests blindly on a vast and often conflicted complex of beliefs and ideals, a complex formed by a lifetime of experience. The deep intricacies of the human psyche, from which all psychology takes form, exist subconsciously in some unperceived neurology, the complexities of which the current generation can only feign at comprehension. By intuiting the sheer complexity of the mind, psychology has demonstrated the difficulty of introspection, the infeasibility of the classic aphorism, Know thyself. Only recently in history have humans sought to understand the mind by scientific means, but human faculties of understanding have often enticed philosophical curiosity about human nature. In The Birth of Tragedy from the Spirit of Music, Friedrich Nietzsche identifies and analyzes the philosophy of mind of ancient Greek tragedy, distinguishing between polar spheres of human experience: the first, declarative rationality characterized by the Greek god, Apollo, and the second, instinctual intuition characterized by Dionysus. The Apollonian is dependent on the rational powers of the conscious mind, however employed, and thrives on the will for synthetic order and control. In contrast, the Dionysian rejects logic, a uniquely human instrument, as well as the perplexity of being that can result from a reliance on rationality. The Dionysian

Yarbrough 2 represents an acceptance of the natural will of the subconscious, of the sensual, expressive and effortless side of life. Nietzsche interprets the philosophy of Greek dramatists like Sophocles and Euripides as one of balance, suggesting the harmonization of natural expression and human rationality. This conceptualization of man has embedded itself within a stream of Western literature including Voltaires Candide, Tolstoys The Kreutzer Sonata and Kafkas A Hunger Artist. In each of these texts, characters act and perceive based on the accord of their psychological construction, so Freudian and Nietzschean concepts owe themselves to the literatures analysis. Voltaires philosophers, both Pangloss and Martin, set prime examples of the harmonized soul, Pangloss optimistically approaching every aspect of life, Martin shrewdly and cynically conceptualizing the chaos and brutality of the world but both living naturally without great expectation or disappointment. Leo Tolstoy captures the torment of psychological conflict within the hardly fictional soul of Pozdnischeff, a character torn between sensuality and what he conceives as righteousness, the sum of which inspires guilt and self-disgust. Kafkas hunger artist, in contrast, lives in conceptual absurdity but with a firm Dionysian stance. The artist grounds himself in experience and isolates himself from the world to the point of death, what may be interpreted as his spiritual liberation from lifes confines. As a set, these works illustrate wisdom, or existential comfort, not as the result of any specific form of belief or experiential state but as a harmonization of these disparate elements of self. Voltaires famed satire, Candide, mocks a great deal of the modern world including airy, or abstract, philosophy. The author contrasts idealist and realist perspectives on reality by the juxtaposition of the unreserved optimist, Pangloss, and his foil, Martin.

Yarbrough 3 Pangloss represents the philosophical trend, or mistake as Voltaire would describe it, of professing solutions of real-world problems by abstract reasoning. Thus, Voltaire frames the character in an abstracted conception of objective reality. Pangloss reasons to his deist system of thought a priori and remains decidedly ignorant of the cruel evidence of daily experience until the close of the novella when Voltaires employment of endless misery finally breaks Pangloss spirit (Voltaire 85). Although his aloof philosophy deprives him of common sense, or the ability to function reasonably within common society, Pangloss exists peacefully, wisely. He lives out his conclusion that all is well for all is necessarily for the best end, which, with reference to Leibnizian philosophy, one might easily interpret as all is well for all is the result of Gods infinite orchestration of perfection (Voltaire 1). For the sake of satirical argument, Voltaire underplays the experiential effect of Pangloss internalization of this philosophy expressing it with sneering sarcasm. The author intentionally misrepresents the true heart of the character, who, if he is to be an accurate characterization of such a philosopher, would not argue for idealistic optimism from irrelevant particulars but would certainly support his claim, as Leibniz does, with universally centered argument. Pangloss comfortably passive and optimistic acceptance of this best of all possible worlds suggests not merely that his conscious mind often rationalizes this conclusion but that his subconscious has adopted the abstraction to such a degree that it has become natural in the Dionysian sense (Voltaire 1). What is presented within the work as Leibnizian philosophy, however, merely sets up for its misinterpretation by Candide, who experiences a string of disappointments and grief, the result of dogmatic expectation faced with merciless, honest experience.

Yarbrough 4 Like Pangloss, Martin evades such repetitive, childish disappointment but does so in the opposite fashion, by accepting the ultimate meaninglessness of reality. He draws this conclusion simply from experience but with reflective, Apollonian clarity. When confronted by Candide about his cynicism, Martin reduces his reasoning to its foundation, I have lived (Voltaire 69). Experience has made Martin a Manichean realist, one who maneuvers life with the skill of a Machiavellian. He meticulously examines his world and concludes that it serves no greater end than, perhaps, to plague us to death, as he remarks to young Candide off the coast of France (Voltaire 55). Voltaire sarcastically describes it as Candides advantage that he clings to hope, whereas Martin [has] nothing at all to hope, but it is this deep acceptance of the chaos of reality and cruelty of mankind that disentangles Martin from fruitless desires and, thus, from the pains of fear and grief, which assail Candide (Voltaire 52; 74). Martins cynicism empowers him prompting him to expect the undesirable, to live without fear. More importantly, Martin is existentially confident. He does not apply Apollonian rationality to his present moment but speaks with an open mind and lives what he feels. At the novellas conclusion, Martin is quick to second Candides realist prescription to work without disputing, to passively embrace the reality at hand, for he is Voltaires embodiment of sound, natural reasoning and living, a synthesis of the Apollonian and the Dionysian (Voltaire 87). The Pozdnisheff of Leo Tolstoys novella, The Kreutzer Sonata, is the end product of a lifetime of experience and reflection. He feels that he has seen all the sensuality that the world has to offer and has drawn his conclusions, but he cannot apply, in the Dionysian sense, his Apollonian reconstruction of reality to himself such that it naturally animates his soul. Therefore, Pozdnisheff neurotically lives out his existence in apprehension. As for the

Yarbrough 5 literary analysis of Pozdnisheffs telling of the story of his life, we can understand it only as his psyche reconstructs it or, in other words, as the character presently conceives it; Tolstoy employs this telling to portray the story of Pozdnisheffs soul, not merely his history. From what Pozdnisheff describes to the narrator, he lived a quite ordinary nineteenth-century lifestyle in an unhappy marriage: What an abomination! The love that united us was supposed to be of a spiritual character. But if our love and communings had been of a spiritual nature, all the words, phrases, and conversations that passed between us should have expressed this. As a matter of fact, nothing of the kind took place (Tolstoy 85). Pozdnisheff sees his marriage as fundamentally dysfunctional, detecting the plagues of modern society (e.g. individualism, materialism, sensuality) inside his home and tracing them out to society. Reflecting on this marriage, Pozdnisheff concludes that the woman acts upon the senses of the man, and through his senses so completely enslaves him that his right of choice dwindles away to mere formality (Tolstoy 84). Tolstoy speaks through Pozdnisheff attempting to reveal the moral root of mans corruption; the character claims that it grows from the passions, especially mans passion of sensuality, which impacts the heart of desire (Tolstoy 88). He declares that women, the anthropomorphized form of sensuality, strive to act upon the immoral part of our nature (Tolstoy 84). Here he refers to the actions of women directly, but, later in the novella, this view of sensuality is abstracted to include a great deal of modern society, all that emphasizes frivolity, cupidity and sensuality (Tolstoy 86). Pozdnisheff demoralizes the concept of sensuality to what most would call an extreme extent and, in doing so, demonizes the Dionysian side of life:

Yarbrough 6 Wine, women, and songso say the poets in verse. Read the poetry of all ages and countries, examine all the productions of painting and sculpture, commencing with erotic poems and Venuses and Phrynes, and you can not fail to perceive that in the highest society, as well as in the lowest, woman is merely an instrument of pleasure (Tolstoy 95). Notice that Tolstoy uses woman as if the concept were a force of nature, but this is how Pozdnisheff understands it; he views sensuality as the natural force of human corruption. In meditation, he realizes that his past violence, particularly the jealous rage that led to the murder of his wife, was the ultimate effect of sensuality, the woman acting through his passions. Reflection, however, prompts a spiritual transformation, in the sense that his Apollonian realization produces painful guilt of the deepest sort: I looked at the children and then at her bruised, blue face, and for the first time I forgot myself, my rights, my pride; for the first time I saw in her a human being, and so frivolous and mean did everything appear that had wounded me, even my jealousy, and so grave, so fateful the thing that I had done, that I was ready to fall at her feet, take her hand in mine, and exclaim, Forgive me! This experience and the rationalizations that follow deeply impact Pozdnisheff but not toward the end of existential liberation. His rationality enslaves him, for he follows it to a theological conclusion, which he does not spiritually understand, and, thus, his behavior becomes neurotic and repetitive. In his analysis of objective reality, Pozdnisheff distinguishes between two sorts of love: sensual, worldly love, and love of God. The first, he argues, is one of Machiavellian domination, where individuals utilize one another for their own sensual, sexual desires; this is immoral, he would say, especially in marriage

Yarbrough 7 where two souls have vowed to indefinitely respect and love one another (Tolstoy 81). The second sort of love, love of the Eternal, requires one to dispel the corruption of natural sensuality. It implies chastity and peaceful passivity, derived from a Christ-like equation of the individual self with the infinite Self: humanity, God and all of reality. Pozdnisheff is prideful of his morality, yet, in truth, he speaks hypocrisy. For example in A Blessing and Joy, he describes his late wifes psychological defect of being overly anxious about her life and their children: If she had been in all respects an animal, she would not have tortured herself as she did. If she had been in all respects a human being, she would have been animated by faith in God, and would have spoken, and thought like the peasant women, who exclaim: God gave and God has taken away; you can not escape from God (Tolstoy 102). Pozdnisheff speaks with potency, but one could apply the description he gives of his wife likely the product of subconscious self-examinationto himself verbatim and with clean accuracy. Despite the nuances of the analysis, the fact is that he cannot employ the faith in God, of which he speaks, to his life, to his Dionysian experience. Rather, he becomes the slave of his Apollonian rationality and the fear that it produces: In the middle of the ladys talk a noise was heard as of suppressed laughter or a smothered sob, and, turning around, we beheld my neighbor, the gray-haired, lonely man with the lustrous eyes [. . .] He was standing with his arms resting on the back of the seat, and he appeared very excited, his face being quite red, and the nervous twitching of the facial muscles being painfully visible (Tolstoy 69).

Yarbrough 8 Pozdnisheff clearly battles with his emotions, which manifest themselves in physical symptoms: his nervous movements, his wondering eyes, that peculiar sound he makes in the back of his throat, basically the uncomfortable manor in which he lives. Pozdnisheff remains existentially distraught beyond the pages of Tolstoys work, for his dogma is unyielding; he truly believes that the goodness of beauty is an illusion (78). By rejecting the inherent beauty and meaningfulness of experience, Pozdnisheff denies a place for the Dionysian side of life. Thus, he is forever the victim of discontent, for he knows not how to relax into the moment of experience. Franz Kafka has marked the world with his psychologically twisted and existentially confronting literature expressing the modern condition of man with unnerving surrealism. In Kafkas A Hunger Artist, the central character, for whom the short story is named, suffers from existential anxiety coupled with a forceful desire to make his presence known to the social reality at hand, to prove his existence, the meaning of it. Kafka does not illuminate the experiential seed of the characters social discomfort, but he does make an offhand reference to the artists nomadic past, suggesting a lifetime of such reclusiveness (138). His isolation stems from the misapplication of his Apollonian mind to the emotional, irrational side of life, which encourages the idea of being, somehow, outside the natural order of things. By juxtaposing the artist with a vibrant, youthful panther, Kafka provides insights into the artists soul, revealing the confusion of his nature in contrasting light: [The panthers] noble body, full to almost bursting with all he needed, also seemed to carry freedom with it; this freedom seemed to reside somewhere in his jaws, and

Yarbrough 9 the joy of life burned so fiercely in his throat that it was not easy for the onlookers to bear it (145). It is this effortless love of life that the artist cannot comprehend, the joys of it. Living alongside the circus animals, the stench of the stables, the restlessness of the animals at night, the conveyance of raw slabs of meat for the beasts of prey, and the roars at feeding time all continually [oppress] him. Life itself oppresses him (Kafka 144). Nourishment represents the sustentation of life; therefore, the characters distaste for food, the mere thought of which [nauseates] him, seems to be an experiential manifestation of this oppression, a manifestation of his subconscious apprehension toward life (Kafka 140). Despite his Apollonian confusion, Kafka portrays a deeply Dionysian character, one who allows his emotional subconscious to command his walk through social reality; he trusts himself to his irrational experiences with pitiful apathy: Sometimes he nodded politely, answering questions with a forced smile, occasionally proffering an arm through the bars for them to feel how skinny it was but then sinking down and retreating completely into himself, paying attention to nothing and no one, not even the all-important striking of the clock (137). The artists fasts are deeply emotional, spiritually powerful and psychologically withdrawn; entranced by his experience, he exists in a natural, even timeless state, free of the anxieties of reality. It is fasting that breaks the artists deepest Apollonian conflict, that allows him to perform his art of existential seclusion, to subconsciously embrace it and, thus, to escape his rationalized fear of it. The act of fasting represents the artists subconscious recognition and acceptance of his experiential reality, which endlessly reaffirms life as something strangely foreign. The hunger artist, however, consciously

Yarbrough 10 rationalizes his art as expressively meaningful, underplaying its experiential aspect. He corrupts his spiritual release by its exhibition, because he longs to impact his social reality, to rebel against his conceptualized isolation. Kafka, however, utterly disappoints: At first he could hardly wait for the intermissions; he had delighted in watching the crowds surge toward him until all too quickly it was firmly impressed upon him and even the most obstinate and half-deliberate self-deception could not obscure the factthat these people, judging from their actions at least, were again and again without exception on their way to visit the stables. And that first sight of them from a distance remained the most cherished (143). The artist desires nothing but artistic expression; it is his reason to sustain life, and, yet, his artistic career is mere spectacle. The audience has no love for their artist, no understanding of him, and this drives the character to his psychological transformation: [T]he hunger artist just fasted on as he had once dreamed of doing, and it was indeed no trouble for him, as he had always predicted, but no one counted the days, no one, not even the hunger artist himself, knew the extent of his achievement, and his spirits sank (Kafka 144). His descent into pure existential seclusion is marked by the resolution of his conscious Apollonian conflict: he realizes the meaningless of his art, the futility of his expressive efforts, and this drives him to a deeper state of melancholy. This realization purifies his Dionysian experience, and he is able to coolly rationalize his behavior. With his dying words, the hunger artist confesses what he perceives as the nature of his predicament speaking directly to the overseer, I could never find food I liked. Had I found it, believe me, I would never have created such a ruckus and would have stuffed myself like you and

Yarbrough 11 everyone else. The artist simply accepts the nature of his life, dismisses his place in any objective social reality and slips away into Dionysian experience. By analyzing the relations of distinct literature by Voltaire, Tolstoy and Kafka with emphasis on Nietzschean and Freudian thought, one uncovers some insight into existential harmony as presented within the philosophical literature of Western culture. Excepting Candide himself, Candide and The Kreutzer Sonata exemplify static characters, for whom the psychological balance of the Apollonian and the Dionysian undergoes no drastic transformation. On the other hand, Kafkas A Hunger Artist presents the potential dynamics of the Nietzschean dichotomy. By passive, mournful acceptance, the hunger artist embraces existential isolation, the result of his Apollonian confusion, and, thus, purifies his Dionysian experience and harmonizes his soul. Whether or not these individual characters are able to master their Nietzschean dichotomy, it propels their reality and certainly aids in their psychoanalysis.

Yarbrough 12 Works Cited Kafka, Franz, and Donna Freed. The Metamorphosis and Other Stories (Barnes & Noble Classics Series) (Barnes & Noble Classics). New York: Barnes & Noble Classics, 2004. Tolstoy, Leo. Kreutzer Sonata and Other Short Stories. New York: Dover Publications, 1993. Voltaire. Candide. New York: Dover Publications, 1991.