Friday, January 28th, 2022

Power and Submission in Leonid Andreyev’s The Man Who Found the Truth

Power and Submission in Leonid Andreyev’s The Man Who Found the Truth

How far can and should we be sure of our lives? You have a job, a good wife, and good prospects for the future? Are you sure you won’t lose them tomorrow? The story of the man, whose name we are never given, in Leonid Andreyev’s The Man Who Found The Truth is a story of power and submission. What is the power? Perhaps it is life. Perhaps it is God. This remains a mystery as suits the power. After his initial struggle with the power, the man, who was unjustly accused, found guilty and imprisoned, finds harmony and peace in submission to the power.

27 year old man is imprisoned;

He was a Doctor of mathematics with unusual success- a young man  greedy with good prospects

“seized in the middle of the night”– (in the middle of peace) Night represents peace, tranquility, similar to his own life, full of peace (a man of that age might basically be worried about his future but he had no such worries, his success is emphasized (unusual success) and hence his confidence and trust in life; therefore a peaceful existence broken into unexpectedly)

Sleeping man is unconscious to the dangers he might be exposed to, to unwelcome surprises life might present; grammatically speaking, these surprises are active, he is passive. He was seized. Moreover, the sentence is structured in passive, thus hiding from us the subject of this terrible action and making it appear stronger, more mysterious, darker, and more frightening. This invisible subject is also very strong: it not only seized him but also threw him into prison. Seizing and throwing imply power. He is not a piece of paper to be thus seized and thrown. He is a man. But that mysterious power is strong enough to hurl him like a pebble.

The sharp contrast between the man and the power is underlined. The man is powerless. That power which threw him in prison is omnipotent. The man is bright. He is bright in the sense that he seems to have had a good academic career with unusual success. He is also bright because there is nothing invisible about him. He is what you see he is. He is clear. He is also bright in the sense that he emanates light, that is, he is an academician and therefore he represents enlightenment. The power, however, is dark. You can’t know what it is going to do and when. It is so dark that you can’t see it. But you inevitably feel the effects of its actions. It is also dark in the sense that it is a source of evil. It is a dark force. It drowns the light. It took this bright man in the dark, in the middle of the night, and hurled him into darkness.

The power is unpredictable and capricious while the man is simple. It can appear out of nowhere and at anytime, and make its effects thoroughly felt. Therefore you can never feel truly safe. It took the man in the middle of the night. Its agents, probably policemen in this case, knock on the door, perhaps break the door, and wake up the man. The man was probably sleeping, possibly under the illusion of a bright future, in his own house, feeling quite safe, far from the dangers that life must impose upon homeless, unemployed, poor people with no prospects of a good future; perhaps he also had the feeling mixed with a secret pride that unlike his lazy comrades at school, he had worked hard and deserved this peace, and was now enjoying the fruits of his hard work. The power, however, forced him out of peace. It attacked him when such an attack was the least expected. And it came suddenly. Why? The reason is not important for the power. It doesn’t seek it. It doesn’t need an excuse. It only says “let there be dark”, and all is dark. All of a sudden and with no reason, it can turn a life (here suggestive of light in its pronunciation) into darkness, and a brilliant and respected man into a “human brute” as the newspapers called him then. Therefore, besides being all powerful, it is capricious. So, you can’t resist it; you can’t say “but”; you can’t ask why. You must submit to it even though you thoroughly feel the injustice. This is exactly what the man does. He says “I shall not narrate to you the details of the monstrous crime of which I was accused”, and the reason he presents for not narrating the details is that people “may not acquire a feeling of

aversion for themselves”. He is not being honest here because later in the story (not much later, just in the next paragraph) he does narrate the details. So, why does he choose to evade the question here? Because the real question that the reader has in mind here is not what, but it is why. So, he doesn’t want to talk about the reason because there is none! He submits; he is afraid of questioning and of leading the reader into questioning. He is expecting, and in a way, forcing the reader to submit likewise, and accept things as they are because this is, according to him, the natural reaction to the ways of the world. You shouldn’t ask why because this won’t change anything. Isn’t he right? Question he certainly did when he was arrested and put to prison. But now he remembers it as a foolish act. “…during the first days of my confinement, I behaved like all other fools who are thrown into prison.” He rebelled against the fate that the power imposed upon him. He “beat against the walls with my fists” but the “walls naturally remained mute” and the only outcome of this rebellion was that “I caused myself a sharp pain”. So, rebellion was meaningless and unnatural; he should have remained mute like the walls who seemed to know better the nature of things. He also refused to eat, which was a part of his rebellion, but in the end, “the persistent demands of my organism defeated my obstinacy.” Refusing to eat is unnatural, isn’t it? His conclusion therefore is that he should have submitted and silently accepted what befell on him, or rather what the power bestowed upon him. Don’t you think he is right?

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