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Arch of Triumph and Sartre - Essay Example

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The "Arch of Triumph" by Erich Maria Remarque from Jean-Paul Sartre's Point of View: An Analysis The Arch of Triumph by Erich Maria Remarque focuses on Ravic, a German surgeon who sought refuge in Paris, France during the eve of World War II, 1939. He had been banned to perform surgery but he was employed by less capable doctors of whom he would perform for, for a fee…
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The "Arch of Triumph" by Erich Maria Remarque from Jean-Paul Sartre's Point of View: An Analysis The Arch of Triumph by Erich Maria Remarque focuseson Ravic, a German surgeon who sought refuge in Paris, France during the eve of World War II, 1939. He had been banned to perform surgery but he was employed by less capable doctors of whom he would perform for, for a fee. His clients were the city’s most elite. He was deported and an illegal alien but despite his situation, he strived to find the Nazi who tortured him in Germany. His was the life of a drifter, seen as a political victim during the German Nazi regime. Dr. Ravic described his situation as “an involuntary adventurer”, a refugee who was member of the crowd, of which story could actually bore, but an adventure just the same of a simple life (Remarque 48). Based on the existentialist view of Jean Paul Sartre, Dr. Ravic became an indifferent character who refused to acknowledge living, and even the most basic of human affection. However, Dr. Ravic’s fate was bound to change as he fell in love with Joan who made him suffer. Sartre’s existentialism would have been incompatible with the kind of consciousness described as experienced by Dr. Ravic. Sartre was an atheist, and Dr. Ravic, in finding love and affection as well as caring for Joan, has started to feel pain and suffering, and be human, again. The earlier point of view of Dr. Ravic may be comparable to the meaninglessness of life as expounded by the likes of Soren Kierkegaard and Friedrich Nietzsche as Ravic struggled through life quietly. Dr. Ravic, however, leant more on the Christian philosophy of Kierkegaard, and although he may have inkling towards existentialism, the limitation is presented on Ravic’s belief to a supernatural being or God. Sartre only recognized allegiance to himself (Sartre, 13) although he emphasized the need to be responsible to one’s actions. However, Sartre insisted on the individual as alone, without a creator and without essence. What may be applicable on Dr. Ravic’s case will be Sartre’s point about the continuing need for a person or even a culture to build a positive moral system, a process of invention and re-invention. From the onset, Sartre advocated a need to be able to adjust to what is good in every circumstance, as may be required. The notion condemned to be free as may be found in Sartre’s Existentialism and Humanism (27) is applicable on Dr. Ravic, of which nauseating events may lead to the discovery of the meaning for life. This is what happened to Dr. Ravic and Joan. Joan becomes the “other” which Sartre indicated to be a must in order to prove the existence of the self (Dr. Ravic). Although Dr.Ravic suffered for Joan, he was able to find a deeper meaning about his life as compared to being just a drifter. However, this has been seen as a “development – from his initial refusal to participate in ordinary human relationships to the point where, though Joan causes him to suffer, he thanks her for the suffering because it has given him back his humanity,” (Frank, 536) The “method is not appropriate for the problem which Remarque set himself – to trace the inward development of a character; and the contradiction between his means and its end soon makes the book wearisome,” wrote Frank (536). What happened on Remarque’s book was the piling up of repetitious scenes in trying to reproduce Sartre’s stream of consciousness. The process becomes tedious. But going back on Sartre, he had pointed out, without the “responsibility for my own existence, it would seem utterly absurd to go on existing” (Sartre, 14). This becomes applicable on Dr. Ravic. He soon felt the need to be responsible for his actions when previously, he did not. From being a drifter, he became a responsible being who had to be able to sacrifice for his love to another, and in the process, learned the importance and meaning of life, and the need to go on living. Another striking parallelism between Remarque and Sartre is the presentation on Dr. Ravic to have the freedom to choose for himself, that despite his freedom, he had chosen a suffering life for the “other” which was Joan. Sartre wrote “L’enter, c’est less autres” or hell is other people. This may be the same with Dr. Ravic but Ravic instead took it as a religious symbolism, Conclusion Existentialism in Remarque’s book is a theme that incorporated various concepts of existentialism reflecting that of Sartre’s freedom and choice. However, Remarque acknowledged the presence of God as opposed to Sartre’s atheist insistence giving the book a romantic touch. Reference: Frank, Joseph. Fiction Chronicle. The Sewanee Review 54, 3. Jul-Sept 1946. 543-539 Remarque, Erich Maria. The Arch of Triumph. Ballantine, 1998. Sartre, J.P. The Age of Reason, 1945. Read More
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