Literary Philosphy

So, I’m reading A Farewell to Arms in my English class.  Actually, I was reading it just now, and then decided I’d rather blog about it than read it.

Because, let’s be honest, even good books kinda suck if you’re forced to read them, and A Farewell to Arms is not a good book.

I’m not saying it’s not mildly entertaining, or that I don’t see why it’s a classic, and I’m not one of those people that say they hate every book assigned for school just so they have something to complain about.  In fact, I love to read, everything, all the time, as those of you who know me have probably gathered, and I loved A Separate Peace, the book we just finished in class.  But A Farewell to Arms bothers me, and not just because of the weird sentence structure. 

The characters are just so lost, and they know it, but they just don’t care.  They’re totally ok with it.  Frederick and Catherine sleep together with no intention of marrying, unacceptable in WWI time period, but decide that it’s ok because they consider themselves married.  Frederick shoots a sergeant in the back as the man tries to desert the Italian army, but then deserts the army himself in the very next chapter, and has no guilt because he has arbitrarily decided that his actions are morally acceptable.  They give no thought to their unborn child, except to consider how much easier life would be without it.  Catherine forgets her past fiancé so shortly after his death, mourning him only long enough to consider cutting off her hair, and then hooks up with Frederick; reasoning that he doesn’t matter anymore: her fiancé is dead, in a final sort of way, since she absolutely rejects the possibility of an afterlife.  She feels she must live an animated, pleasurable life, according to her own rules, before dying herself. 

This, I’m told, fits into the philosophy of existentialism.  Which I found interesting, once I Wikipedia-ed it.  Sort of its own brand of atheism, existentialists believe only in existence.  According to whatever random guy in his basement edited this particular section of Wikipedia, “Existentialism generally postulates that the absence of a transcendent force (such as God) means that the individual is entirely free, and, therefore, ultimately responsible. It is up to humans to create an ethos of personal responsibility outside any branded belief system. In existentialist views, personal articulation of being is the only way to rise above humanity’s absurd condition of much suffering and inevitable death.”  So basically, they’ve noticed that without God there is no basis for morals, and people are just sad, hopeless little specks in eternity, random atoms pulled together by chance and here for only a ridiculously short time—but they don’t care.

That totally blew my mind.  I had never really thought about the consequences a Godless universe until Diana read Case for a Creator with me, but then when I did I was like “wow, atheists really haven’t thought this through, have they?”  But this is a group of people that have thoroughly considered that without a higher power there is no basis for morality, that people could do whatever will make them feel good until they die, and then have that be the end.  And, I repeat, they’re ok with that.  It’s crazy.

Anyway, I don’t really remember where else I was going with this blog.  I feel like there’s more I was going to say, but I don’t remember what it was.  Plus, it’s late I still have to finish like four more chapter of this stupid book for tomorrow, so I’m just gonna call this good enough.        


7 thoughts on “Literary Philosphy

  1. That’s cool that you’re reading your books with a Christian mind-set. I find the same thing happening to me too. People will rave about a television show, book, or movie and I’ll watch it and just think these people are messed up and depraved. Most books are like that because, well, people are all depraved- It’s not a new phenomenon.

    BTW, I liked A Seperate Peace, it was pretty tragic though. Ahh, poor old Finny!

  2. Haha Becky, that was great barf! Welcome to the wonderful, insightful world of existentialism! When I was your age, I was captivated by it, and threw aside Christianity to embrace that random world of meaninglessness. You articulated it well.

    It’s so devoid of hope, and that’s the bottom line: life without hope.

  3. Very awesome blog Becky. Existentialism is a pretty crazy world view. It is a pretty sad existence, where significance only comes from what you would assign to it. In the end however, that person would have no real significance without God, so what he assigns significance to would be a meaningless effort.

  4. That was well said, Becky. Thanks for talking through your thoughts with us. Thinking through one’s belief system to its logical conclusion is the “logical” thing to do, and yet so many do not. Thanks for being one of those young, insightful women who DO think through these things.

  5. Well-written and thoughtful blog, Becky. I read that book when I was seventeen and felt about the same way as you described. It should be called “A Farewell to Morals” (not sure how to do italics in here). I think the classic example of existentialist literature is “The Stranger” by Albert Camus so if you really want a study in human depravity, check that out. Or maybe you’ve already read it. Anyway, thanks for your thoughts on this.

  6. I’ve never read that book Becky, but it sounds like those people live pretty sad and meaningless lives. You’ve got to believe that people like that really aren’t ok with believing life has no real purpose you know? Who can really live believing that whole-heartedly? Keep blogging, it’s really interesting! Now I’ve got to go and follow my own advice and write another blog too 🙂

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