Historical Contexts and Literature Term Paper

Pages: 8 (3896 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: 16  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Drama - World

¶ … human condition transcends the esoteric and becomes real is through the human ability to conceptualize events outside of the horrific reality of the event and turn these events into something nobler, something more timeless, and even something more meaningful to future generations. One way we humans tend to look at these grand processes is to extrapolate behaviors into their smallest component. When looking at human nature, for instance, we find that biological determinism has become part of the way we explain the human condition. . It claims, for example, that the behavior of human beings is determined by the genes possessed by individuals and leads to the conclusion that all human society is governed by the sum of the behavior of all the individuals in that society. This genetic control is equivalent to the older ideas expressed by the term "human nature." Again scientists may argue that this is not what they mean, but the ideas of determinism and of genes as "fixed unalterable entities" abound in their statements and are taken up with glee by right wing politicians. For them, social inequalities are unfortunate, but they are innate and unalterable; they are therefore impossible to remedy by social means, as to do so would "go against nature" (Carruthers, 2006).

Another way we look at human nature is through literature and the way humans translate mass events into fiction. This type of literature is certainly nothing new: the Greeks wrote accounts of battles and historical events, typically as the winners and to glorify their own account of the event (e.g. Herodotus, Thucydides, etc.), and for many has been one of the only ways of understanding humanity and warfare -- for who was literature enough to write down accounts other than educated and literary persons? In the same way, war is not clean, it is not pretty, and all the things that are part of being human are part of the historical drama. People fall in love during war, they form bonds that are extraordinary, what makes humans the best and the worst is often accentuated during times of trial. And, most certainly, war changes everyone involved.

One seminal examples of this was the generation who idealistically went into World War I, the so-called Great War. From all sides came stories of extreme physical and mental trials during the war -- All Quiet on the Western Front, for instance showed that inhumanity had no sense of democracy, nor did the human needs and questioning of the senselessness of battle. An entire generation of writers, including Ernest Hemingway, could never find their place in the world after their wartime experiences. The same happens again and again -- we now call it post-traumatic stress syndrome, and the commonality is that most go to war idealistic, "as a boy with a great illusion of immortality. Other people get killed, not you…. But you lose that illusion and realize it can happen to you" (Putnam, 2006). This is echoed in Doctor Zhivago, Das Boot, The Bridges at Toko-Ri, Slaughterhouse Five, Schindler's Ark, Night, Cold Mountain, and even I, Claudius. All emerge with a theme of overwhelming sadness and a realization that while in the midst of war one might give into the animalistic nature of humanity, but afterwards the futility of it all is all encompassing. Perhaps this, then is the value of war literature -- moving from cold, hard facts of battle to the human side that moves beyond the cerebral and into the emotion (Craig, 1979).

3.2 - Two major arguments arise that focus on the origins of World War I: the war was a planned event based on militarism, colonialism, and a lust for power; and, the war was a miscalculation -- an accident out of control, and, had clearer heads prevailed, completely unnecessary politically or socially. It was, however, certain that the war was unlike any before -- global in its extent, a total war involving civilians (e.g. especially the total submarine war unleashed in the Atlantic), yet more of a civil conflict between European powers, a war of ideas -- a conflict between two different and irreconcilable conceptions of government, society and progress. There are, of course, a number of theories on reasons for the outcome of the war. What is most likely is one of resources and economics: Germany was trying to fight a two front war, Russia and France, and underestimated the economic power of the United States in providing needed food and supplies to the Allied forces. Germany was set up to win a quick war, but as it drug out in the trenches and new technologies (the tank, the airplane, etc.) changed the character of the war, Germany was not economically able to keep needed supply chains open. Once there was no food and heat at home, the human drive for war was also lost.

The humiliating defeat of Germany resulted in two primary issues arising from the rubble: economics and self-preservation. The German people were humiliated by the Treaty of Versailles -- their military and economic system had been stripped away, their debt unbearable, and their economy was being controlled by other countries. The ideas of National Socialism were attractive to many: unification of the German Volk, reestablishing the German lands as a country dedicated to certain ideals, focusing on ethnic and linguistic similarities, the overthrow of Versailles, the idea of German self-determination, lebensraum (room for Germans to live, grow and prosper), and an improvement over the crippling inflation and economic woes of the Weimar Government, seen by many as simply a tool for the English and French. Many middle-class Germans were also worried about the communist revolution in Russia and the idea of exporting that revolution to Germany, which was frankly popular at the time. As the economy continued to spiral downward in the 1920s, more and more support was given to the National Socialists who, it seemed at the time, had a cogent plan for reorganizing Germany. Indeed, despite the anti-Semitic rhetoric, once Hitler's Party came to power, from roughly 1930-39 the economy boomed, the middle and upper middle classes flourished, and Germany once again became a world power.

Out of Versallies came a document that would form a template that would forever change Germany, and the face of Europe; Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf. Mein Kampf (My Struggle), was written by Adolf Hitler, partially as an autobiography, partially as a philosophical tenet to his own political philosophy of National Socialism. It was published in 1925 and 1926 and was composed during Hitler's incarceration after a failed revolutionary attempt in 1923. Among other things, Mein Kampf ordered society into a hierarchical rubric -- the destruction of the weak and sick is more humane than their care; there are natural levels of human society, "No more than Nature desires the mating of weaker with stronger individuals, even less does she desire the blending of a higher with a lower race, since, if she did, her whole work of higher breeding, over perhaps hundreds of thousands of years, night be ruined with one blow" (Hitler, 2010, 18).

4.1 The consequences of the World War I were far from any anticipated: revolution, civil disobedience, worker revolts, new nations created, old nations dismantled, and the shift in the balance of power forever changed. Some even present a cogent argument that there really were not two World Wars, rather one starting in 1914, resting in 1918, and then restarting again in the late 1930s.

From 1914 until roughly November 1918, with the signing of the Armistice and the June 1919 Treaty of Versailles; war ravaged in Europe with ancillary conflicts globally. After the dual events of the sinking of the Lusitania (a cruise ship) and the interception of the "Zimmerman Telegram" (Germany pressing Mexico to invade the United States), America entered the war, forever changing the balance of power. Of course, there were numerous effects of World War I, but in general one can analyze five major consequences: Revolution and drastic political change; shift in the balance of power and colonialism; the Treaty of Versailles and lasting effects; Social and biological consequences, and technological development.

Before the war ended, revolutionary fervor was burning in Russia -- troops were underpaid, underfed, cold, and did not believe in the war effort. The Bolshevik Party, led by V.I. Lenin, amassed enough support to finally cause revolution in Russia, overthrow the Tsar, and declare itself out of the War. The German and Austro-Hungarian empires were no more, and new countries arose to fill in the void. Declarations of independence were signed even before the war's end and, viewing the success in Russia, the great wave of socialism began to flow throughout Europe. Gone were the old vestiges of the Holy Roman Empire, vast territories ruled not by common theme or culture, but by royal families out of touch with nationalistic interests and the needs of the common person. This socialist revolutionary trend would forever reshape Europe, and because of the colonial… [END OF PREVIEW]

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