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The Human Condition: Meaning?

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Introduction

"The Human Condition is a mystery. How do the composers of your texts attempt to demystify the human condition?" The human condition is born out of a struggle to cope with the erratic circumstances which arise in one's life with the consequent reward for our effort being self -realization. T.S Eliot attempts to narrate this through The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock which utilises a dramatic monologue to demonstrate the traits of insecurity, and isolation, Tennesee William's The Glass Menagerie which showcases the human tendency to escape in order to cope with our environment and Michael Gow's play Away which proves that through the inevitability of death and loss we find resilience. As humans, encouragement and support is essential for normal functioning thus the question arises as to what transpires when one is devoid of this. T. S Eliot explores this notion through the poem, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, where the protagonist, is able to realise the joys of the human condition yet is unable to revel in them due to his awareness of his own limitations. The superficial bourgeois social values upheld by upper middle class America during the early 20th century undermine Prufrock's capability and make him insecure. Prufrock's spiritual suffocation by this pretentious society is emphasized through his evaluation, "I have measured out my life with coffee spoons". ...read more.

Middle

Eliot therefore claims that the human condition's want for companionship surpasses that of inner-peace The pain which characterizes the human condition is subsidized by our tendency to escape into fantasies. In Tennessee William's The Glass Menagerie the economic frustration of the Wingfield family after the Great Depression is highlighted through the simile of the "hive-like conglomerations...that flower as warty growths". This is juxtaposed with the ideal of the American Dream, represented through the metaphor of "implacable fires of human desperation" which emphasize the impossibility of the American Dream, a notion that hard work and courage inevitably leads to prosperity. It is this dream that Amanda Wingfield escapes to, "Try and you will succeed!" and ironically the object from which her son, Tom, the narrator of the play escapes from. Tom's argument that, "Man is by instinct a lover, a hunter, a fighter, and none of those instincts are given much play at the warehouse!" is juxtaposed through his escape into "the movies night after night" The hypocritical nature of Tom illustrates man's tendency to delve further into illusion as the amount of problems increase. The allusion to the "revolution in...Guernica" is juxtaposed to the uneasy peace in America and parallels Tom's want to escape from his volatile surroundings. This is symbolized through the fire escape, a visually prominent part of the set which conveys possibility of a way out and Tom fascination with the image of the magician that "got out of the coffin without removing one nail". ...read more.

Conclusion

Coral's lines read "in her own voice" of "I'm walking... I'm walking" reflects her acceptance of death through Tom's acceptance of his. Therefore Coral develops resilience through her losses. Gwen's materialistic outlook on life, "We've got a new caravan. Everything in it you could want", is a result of her struggle during her youth against The Great Depression and is symbolized through her reliance on "bex powder". The destruction of her all material possessions in the storm forces Gwen to confront her materialism and become a stronger person in the process, ,"what do you think of me? I'm sorry... and not just to you...to everybody". The storm is also a metaphor for the healing power of nature, paralleled by Gow's use of light and the outdoors. After the storm "there is darkness" then the "light becomes warm and intense.", signifying the positive outcomes the human condition experiences that result from loss. Furthermore Gwen's inability to swallow the bex powder, "I can't do it" is symbolic of her change. Michael Gow thus proves that a superficial life can be led but to truly understand oneself obstacles and hardships must be overcome but ultimately they lead to a greater understanding of self. Through the texts The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, Away and The Glass Menagerie, the human condition is shown to be pervaded by suffering and loss. However to attain the discovery of the inner self one must journey through the negative aspects of the Human Condition and it is this journey which strengthens and defines the human condition. ...read more.

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