Significant Texts In Any Period Arise From Particular Ways Of Thinking And Possess An Enduring Relevance

2269 words - 10 pages

Significant texts in any period arise from particular ways of thinking and possess an enduring relevance.

The ‘After the Bomb’ period is one that encompassed significant shifts in the philosophical, religious, economic and scientific domains, and these pivotal changes in humanity are reflected in Cold War texts. Texts that are significant within the era are those that transcend the conceptual parameters of the society they were produced in, and in turn, questioned and redefined the values of their time. Cold War texts that have made deep impressions on human culture and have ultimately endured the test of time, all explore Postmodern ways of thinking that have the power to break down ...view middle of the document...

Heller and Beckett’s texts are examples of postmodern literature in their intense exploration of language as a futile attempt to communicate meaning. The texts hold a Nihilistic perspective on their post-atomic world shown in the sense of hopelessness that arises out of the realization, meaning communicated through language is distorted by the receiver’s interpretation, and hence the notion that individuals can share an understanding on the same matter is a false perception. The philosopher, Jacques Derrida explores this notion in his post-structuralist theories, stating, “language bears within itself the necessity of its own critique…any text inevitably undermines its own claims to have a determinate meaning, and licenses the reader to produce his own meanings”. Derrida explores the idea that meaning is not a product of language, but of the context it is embedded in. Heller demonstrates these Post-structuralist concerns through the use of repetition and absurdity when Yossarian attempts to find out why Orr “walked around with crab apples in [his] cheeks”. When Orr continually misinterprets Yossarian’s question, answering, “because they’ve got a better shape than horse chestnuts”, Heller creates a cyclical conversation where language only causes Yossarian to feel further estranged from his society. The lack of efficacy of language is identified by Yossarian himself: “[he] decided not to utter another word. It would be futile.” Beckett explores the same notion in his play, integrating the concept further into the text than Heller by constructing a play in which the two central characters hold an extended, fragmented conversation where they frequently misinterpret or are indifferent to one another’s comments. Beckett establishes language as not a means of communicating meaning, but as a mechanism to fill the chasm of emptiness that pervades a post-apocalyptic world. When Beckett states:

Estragon: Like leaves.
Vladimir: Like sand.
Estragon: Like leaves.
[silence]

-sense of the unknown, characters are haunted by voices—thread throughout the play

the use of stichomythia creates the effect that each character is responding to the other instinctively, without hesitation and without thought. The scene becomes a verbal outpour in a stream-of-consciousness style, with the repetition of words such as “leaves” only contributing to the sense that their conversation is trapped within a pointless cycle of random thought. Beckett creates a stilted, fragmented effect through the use of silences, reminding the reader that the dialogue is constructed on emptiness. Beckett illustrates the futility of language in the repetitive form of the text, which creates an eerie sense that society conceals their inability to accept the silence and hopelessness after the dropping of the bomb, with language.

Beckett’s play and Yates’ Revolutionary Road both construct texts that endure the test of time in their challenging of conventional literary structures....

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