Both, Borges and Plato turn to metaphysical questions in their works. Plato uses an allegory of cave in order to describe the difference between Ideal world and imperfect world we live. He states that we are born in the imperfect world and are never able to have even a glimpse of the true knowledge and there are no means or techniques which could help us to get an idea of the Real Ideal world. Plato rejected empiricism which, in effect, slightly contradicted his theory of forms. The myth about the cave gives us a very bright and picturesque description of our situation. Plato states that people are placed in the same situation as those who sit in an absolutely dark cave with the fire set in the middle of it. The cave is absolutely dark and people can not see anything but shadows cast by models or statues of animals and objects that are passed before a burning fire. We never see true objects ”“ only their shadows on the wall of the cave. But once the person leaves the cave he can see true nature of things illuminated by the sun. Outside the cave he sees the world of being and real objects, not shadows. The picture is very seducing, but Plato doesn’t propose any way out of the cave.
Borges also was interested in the fundamental questions of life. In his short story The Babylon Lottery he makes in attempt to study the influence of chance on human life. The story tells about one Company situated in Babylon, which organizes the lottery. In the beginning this lottery gives different rewards but in some time it becomes an instrument of punishment. Gradually this company expands its influence and gets an opportunity to control all spheres of life. The lottery and company, which runs this lottery, become metaphors for blind chance which rules our lives. The Company can also be compared to God who is all-mighty but does not take conscious decisions and punishes and rewards people by chance.
Candide by Voltaire is a novel that shows state of public opinion and situation in the country in the 18th century. It is evident that Voltaire would not agree with Leibniz’s idea that we live in “the best of all possible worlds.”¯ In the beginning of the book Candide looks for the happiness and believes in its existence. His philosophy teacher, Pangloss, all in all inculcates believe in the winning force of optimism in Candide. The teacher claims that everything that happens is for better and even private crucifixions indisputably lead to the mankind happiness. So, in the beginning of the narration Candide is full of optimism and hope for a good life. Candide has to leave the castle where he spent his innocent childhood. His childish optimistic hopes and believes are crashed when he meets cruel reality.
Candide, being disappointed, doesn’t fall in despair. At last Candide finds the sense of life in work: “”¦the work keeps us from three great evils, boredom, vice, and poverty.”¯(Voltaire, 1617) Serving the whole mankind and being productive is the highest aim according to Voltaire.Ā The last scene in the garden symbolizes a perfect life in heaven. Voltaire claims: “Be happy with gardening because this is as far as humanity is going to get.”¯(Voltaire, p.1592) Garden is a contrast to all limitations and weakness of the men.
Zora Neale Hurston is one of the most remarkable and bright writers of the 20th century. He famous novel Their Eyes has feministic ideas. Janie, the protagonist of the novel has to make her way in the patriarchal society where men decide everything.
Janie comes through a number of troubles and struggles in her life. Her life is a stream of events and interactions with other people. Nevertheless, the book focuses not on Janie’s relations with other people, but on her inner struggle and search for freedom and independence.
At the beginning of her life she was a shy and unsure girl who agrees to marry Logan Killicks despite his pragmatic attitude to life.Ā Her life consists only of restrictions and she can not bare it and finally secretly marries Jody Starks.
However, she is not also happy with him. For him she is just a beautiful toy; she feels like a bird in a cage. She lacks warmness and deepness in their relations. Tea Cake, her next beloved man is different from her previous husbands.
Tea Cake gives her that freedom and independence in relations she was searching for. She comes on a new level of development ”“ now she is able to control her speech. She is silent when she makes a choice. Now is not that weak girl but strong and confident woman. She loses her beloved Tea Cake. She is accused in murder but she stands everything with dignity.Ā Zora Hurston in her famous novel Their Eyes Were Watching God covers the themes of the inner search and self-realization. The life of woman in men-dominated society perfectly represents discrimination women experienced through the centuries. She changes her position prom shy and obedient wife to self-assured, strong and independent woman.
Herman Melville was greatly concerned with the question of communication and interaction between people.
Bartleby the Scrivener is a short story, which describes a communication that failed. The lawyer, his employer, makes an attempt to understand Bartleby. Despite he fails his attempts and empathy is very important. In this short story Melville one more time proves how difficult and almost impossible is for two people to understand each other.
Bartleby is passive and even his resistance to the order he can not fit into is passive. In response to the lawyer’s request to copy something he calmly answers: “I would prefer not to”¯ (Millville 161). Bartleby can not understand fully the reasons of his protest. He only feels that his work is vain and his coping is useless. The letters he copies are “dead”¯ and can not bring real use to people. The lawyer also feels this but his feelings are hidden and disguised even from himself. This is one of the reasons he is so amazed by Bartleby’s personality and feels sympathy and irritations to him at the same time.
The theme of loneliness and isolation occupied the minds of many writers. Voltaire in his Candide, Zora Hurston in her Their Eyes Were Watching God and Herman Melwille in his Bartleby the Scrivener explore the theme of loneliness and isolation. All three authors give their own interpretation of isolation and the meaning it has for their characters. Candide leaves his ideal world of childhood in order to meet cruel and hostile world. He works hard in order to find his place in this world. Suddenly, he finds himself surrounded by sufferings and evil and understands that his teacher’s theory doesn’t work: “Pangloss cruelly deceived [him] when he told [him] that all is for the best in this world.”¯(Voltaire, 43).Ā Ā Candide looses his illusions and innocence. Now he has to face cruel world. While he looks for this place he gradually understands that all people are lonely and isolated since birth. There is nobody who can help man in his search for the meaning of life. Despite Candide meets a lot of people who help him he never breaks his inner isolation from other people. At the same time he does not reject other people and finally finds the meaning of life in work and serving others. He grows his nice garden alone but he knows that other people will be able to use things he grows. Jenie, the protagonistĀ of Their Eyes Were Watching by Zora Hurston also feels lonely and isolated. This feeling accompanies her during her entire life despite she seldom stays lonely. Feeling of loneliness follows her in her relationship with men. Jenie has to make a hard work discovering her own identity and self-esteem, which makes her free and independent woman. Finally this makes her able not to feel lonely even being alone and even thinking about her beloved man who was murdered. The main character of the novel must make a long way and comes through a number of difficulties and troubles till she is able to find the harmony with the world and, what is even more important, with herself. The loneliness and isolation described by Herman Melville in his Bartleby the Scrivener is different. Bartleby is isolated from others. Bartleby is lonely and can not find his place in the society. He changes different works but can not find his place. Finally he dies being not able to adapt to the world and society around him. He makes no attempt to understand them or to approach other people. For him isolation becomes the sense of life and a part of his silent resistance. He does not find real meaning of his life and dies lonely.