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World Literature Essay

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World Literature Essay

A young boy who tries to survive the Holocaust, a king who sleeps with his mother and kills his father, and a brave man who is unable to reveal his love for a women, these are the stories that three different books tell, written by authors coming from all over Europe. These works of literature namely are "Night", "Oedipus the King" and "Cyrano de Bergerac". All three of these stories appear to be rather dissimilar since they are written and take place during time periods which lie thousands of years apart. "Oedipus the King" is a legendary story which takes place hundreds before the birth of Christ and contrasting to this play are "Cyrano de Bergerac" and "Night" which in comparison to Oedipus are new, since they have only been published in roughly the last 100 years. Not only are the time periods and the topics of these pieces of literature varied but also the types of the works are different with Oedipus and Cyrano being plays and "Night" being written as a memoir. Nonetheless, these pieces have more similarities than one at first might imagine, due to the fact they deal with identical themes that have moved, inspired and provoked people to think over many millennia. "Oedipus the King", "Cyrano de Bergerac" and "Night" all discuss the themes of fear, love and the limits of the free will, however, the themes are incorporated in a variety of different ways in each of these pieces, creating powerful emotions and a strong feeling of empathy in the reader.

Fear is one of the most commonly used themes in literature because the audience can easily identify with the characters since everyone at sometime has experienced this intense emotion and this is also one of the reasons for which all of these pieces of World Literature have used and included the theme of fear through out their stories. "Night" is the book in which fear plays the most important role of all the three pieces, since it is told by a Holocaust survivor, who tells his horrible story about what unimaginably cruel events he and his family had to go through. There are three major fears that are discussed; fear of pain and death, fear of loss and fear of the unknown. The first actual signs of terror in Eliezer first appeared when his father is being told about the deportation of the Jews of Sighet and when Elie states that "night fell". This night is a strong symbol and motif which constantly reappears throughout the course of the book. It symbolizes the terror and fear, and therefore night is also mentioned when Eliezer arrives at Auschwitz and when the Death March from Buna begins. Elie first suffers from not knowing of what is going to take place next: "Where are we being taken?" "What is going to happen?" These are the questions that are filling the minds of the people in Sighet. This passage of the book is filled with doubts and the search for answers, since the greatest terrors arose from people not being certain of what would happen next. When he arrives at the concentration camp, one can clearly notice how the fear of losing his father is what Eliezer is scared of since he repeatedly says, "At all costs we (Eliezer and his father) must keep together".

Like Night, Oedipus also has fear incorporated into its story, however, "Oedipus the King" uses a different kind of fear because Oedipus is not, like the Jewish threatened by deaths but by the truth about his life. Oedipus fears that he is the one who killed King Laius, who later on turns out to be his father, therefore Jocasta, who is Oedipus' wife, is also his mother. Oedipus tries to overlook all the clues, signs and evidence that are given to him throughout the play and which are pointing towards the truth. Even when the blind seer Tiresas tells him about how Oedipus is the one that has brought the plague to Thebes, since he is the murderer of the previous ruler, Oedipus does not want to believe this. The fear that he develops results in blaming the prophet and Creon for trying to overthrow him. "Oedipus: 'Is this a plot of Creon, or thine own?'" His terror makes him lose his so often praised intelligence and ability to solve riddles. "Thou (Teiresias) in ear, wit, eye, in everything art blind". However, with this he is actually describing himself as Tiresias notices. Then, when there is no other possibility because the evidence is so damning, Oedipus finally admits to himself truth. Nonetheless, the theme of fear continues since Oedipus remains in terror of what other things might be discovered by his sight and because of this he pokes his eyes out since "sight brought no delight".

Edmond Rostand, the author of "Cyrano de Bergerac", has used fear like the two authors of the two other works of literature "Night" and "Oedipus the King" have; nonetheless, he uses the fears of not being loved and of being dejected in his work instead of the fears of deaths and the truth for example. There are two major characters who suffer from fear in Rostand's work and these are Christian and Cyrano. They both fear that Roxane will not love them because they each have a significant handicap, which in Cyrano's case is his ugly appearance with his large nose and Christian knows that he is unable to put his thoughts and feelings into the fitting words, for Roxane "an intellectual" to understand and fancy him. "Christian: `I'm one of those men- So tongue -tied in love I sometimes wish I could die...To a woman like Roxane I'm bound to be a terrible let-down.'" Cyrano does not feel much different about his nose, "What hope can I ever have...I watch young couples pass arm in arm; and dream of walking soon with one beside me... and then my damned eyes fall on my profile's shadow against the garden wall." However, then when the two meet they find a solution for their problem, which is that they form one "romantic hero" together, who has Christian's appearance and Cyrano's eloquence. Now both are able to express their love towards Roxane, nonetheless, Christian is the one who profits the most from this relationship at first since he is the one who gets to be together with Roxane because she thinks that Christian is the only part of the "romantic hero". However, when Roxane tells Christian: "First loving your beauty...then your body and soul were, I love your inner self above all else", Christian sees that she now actually loves Cyrano and therefore his fears of not being loved return.

Love is the second theme that is present through out all three books, therefore also in "Night". In this memoir the relationship



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