Question #3—“Literature is the question minus the answer”
The journey of mankind has been a long and arduous path, without the accomplishment of actually discovering the
meaning of life. In the novel Candide, the young noble travels around the world in order to answer a single question, “Is this
the best of all possible worlds?” Even as the world seems to be against him, Candide is unable to comprehend why this
world should not be the best of all possible worlds. Why would God create a world that is not the best possible? Candide
continues to travel around the world intent upon finding the answer to the age-old question.
Upon being kicked out of his castle due to his love, Candide begins his painful journey to answer the begging
question, why? At firs he cannot see the reason for being kicked out of his castle, and upon being drafted into a war he could
not see the reason for such carnage and death. Throughout all of these adventures he is constantly parted and reunited with
old friends and acquaintances. Perhaps the time he was happiest was when he found himself in the mythical land of El
Dorado, where mud is gold, and rocks are precious gems. This is perhaps the place where Candide had found the model
society, a place where greed and lust did not exist. But ultimately he was not satisfied, and the greed he had brought with
him from the outside forced him to leave El Dorado and continue his hopeless search. He figured that perhaps once he had
found his beloved Lady Conagal, happiness would be achieved and the best of all possible worlds would be realized. But
upon their final reunion Candide was disgusted to find what age and years of labor had done to the beautiful Lady Conagal.
Ultimately, Candide, Lady Conagal, and all of their companions settled down to live peacefully, their long search over and
Candide’s answer to the question of whether or not this is the best of all possible words is cryptic, neither answering
nor dismissing. When asked this question, Candide simply smiles and remarks, “We must tend our garden.” After searching
the world, one would think that Candide had found something else! However, perhaps he did find something during his life-
long quest. At the start of his journey Candid seemed intent on discovering a Utopia, an entire planet that was already at
peace with itself and could not possibly become any better. It took Candide his entire life to discover that this is the best of
all possible worlds, but those who inhabit this world must work to maintain it. By simply saying “we must tend our garden”,
Candide tells the world what they must do, simply strive to make each individual life the best possible. Some may argue that
Candide was only referring to himself, and had only come to the conclusion that perfection is reached through selfish means.
However what he means by “tending our garden”, is taking small, individual steps toward creating a better world. The
message is amazingly Christ-like, not calling for massive action, but simple love and hospitality to be sown amongst human
beings. Ultimately it is a very simple message, but through his life’s journey Candide was able to fully appreciate it.
The novel Candide does not offer the quick-and-easy answer to the meaning of life or offer the path to paradise.
Rather it reemphasizes the age-old lesson that for the best of all possible worlds to fully exist, all people must accept and love
one another. With that accomplished the best of all possible worlds will exist. It is not an easy task to love, for as Kahill
Gibrar states in his poem The Prophet, loving also entails pain. Despite being opposite, the two are linked and absolutely
vital to one another. Because of this tragic bond, massive change is impossible, doomed for failure from the beginning. But
Candide’s method of each person “tending” his or her own garden, is the true gateway to the best of all possible worlds.
In the play, Oedipus Rex, Oedipus had married his mother and pregnated her and she bore 4 children. He had not
known that his wife was his mother. When news got out, his mother committed suicide and he blinded himself and went into
exile. Oedipus’s daughter, Antigone was a strong-hearted, devoted and prestigious person. After the death of her two
brothers, she became very furious with her uncle, who was king, because he was going to bury one and leave the other one
out so that vultures could fend on him. Her uncle killed everyone who objected him for his ruling. He also objected of
Antigone and his son getting married. To sum up, they both died together in a pit. This play is a type of play you merely
wouldn’t understand but it is very indulging. The author’s treatment of this play really helped me to understand it more and
to understand how much you really care for your family. It also tells of how far you would got to help and keep your family
out of trouble. The rises in this play is when Antigone gets persecuted and buries her brother. I think that this play really
answered questions that I had before. This work as a whole is very good and very understandable.
Most of the twentieth century’s most-heavily-discussed questions are brought up in Beckett’s “Waiting For Godot.”
Among them are: why are we here? What is the meaning of life? How should we be living our lives? Is there a God? Does
life even have meaning?
Through the seemingly mindless exchanges between Gogo and Didi (also known as Vladimir and Estragon) during
their wait for Godot, the first question that directly arises is: will he ever come? Because Godot essentially has the role of
God in the play (as the person who fulfill their “vague supplications” and prayers), one is then forced to ask, Will God ever
come? When, at the end of the second act and the play, Godot still has not made an appearance, the ultimate question comes
up: Does Godot, or God, exist? If not, what is the meaning and purpose of our existence?
Beckett never answers whether God exists or not. And as many have said before, it is not a question to which there is
an objective answer, a proof. So one must shift the focus to the other part of the question (or perhaps it is the question that
envelopes the existence of God question): What is the meaning and purpose of our existence?
For most of the play, Becket seems to offer only a grim view of life. Gogo and Didi do not do anything; they merely
lie in wait, wasting time. A slave called Lucky gives an almost nonsensical speech, the gist of which is as follows: we do not
know anything and only time will tell so we wait, and maybe play tennis or baseball or pass time. The slaveowner, Pozzo,
appears in splendor one day and comes back blind, having lost everything, on the next; worldly riches do not amount to
much. Vladimir contends that we are all “born astride a grave”—we are born, and our fall into the hole in the ground (death)
is what our lives are: short and meaningless.
Yet, when Pozzo falls to the ground, Vladimir (aka Didi) musters up enough fervor to give an ardent speech, on how
mankind needs him and Gogo, and they will help! And to begin, they will help Pozzo get up, off the ground! This offers a
momentary glimpse of hope; but it is soon lost, as when Didi and Gogo try to help Pozzo get up, they too fall to the ground
and cannot get up.
Or perhaps they only think they cannot stand up again, for minutes later they do. And when they do, they merely
brush themselves off as if nothing had happened; they have already forgotten, as they will forget tomorrow morning that they
were at that same spot the day before, waiting for Godot.
Beckett poses a thousand questions and supplies no answers. Perhaps the meaning of life is in companionship, for
Gogo and Didi stick together no matter what; but they are also miserable, they try to assist each other’s suicide, and they may
as well only be companions out of loneliness and convenience. Maybe there is no meaning to life, and we are all
inconsequential, meaningless dots drifting through eternity. Maybe all we can do is wait and entertain ourselves with idle
discourse and tennis, wasting time, but perhaps not; Gogo and Didi did get up in the end, and they could choose to leave their
waiting place if they chose. But where would they go? Would they not just be wasting time somewhere else? Can they
allow themselves to leave? Even if they were elsewhere, would they not always be on the watch for the possibility of
Godot’s appearance? Can they not wait? Through all these questions, Becket does not once come through and give a clear-
cut, satisfactory answer. What he does do, though, is paint a very real portrait of life and reality as he sees them. Everything
is so simple, yet incredibly complicated. There are no answers, but there still are. We are free and not; everything is up to us
and do nothing is up to us; life has meaning one moment and is absurd the next. In the end, Becket does give us an answer,
just not in the way or manner that we might want or expect.
In lieu of the Socratic method, Roland Barthes observation rings true in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, as the characters
ponder the meaning of existence and interaction amongst living beings.
As the title character, Victor Frankenstein brings his question of life into fruition by creating a living being out of the
dead. Thus, the creator and created are set to experience life through separate yet equal perspectives. However, Shelley
alters this assumed ideal by presenting Victor and the monster as neither protagonist or antagonist, but as part of a vicious
circle of life.
To begin with, Victor flees his creation, horrified by the sight of it. The creature is therefore driven by this desertion
to experience life on its own. Shelley pictures the monster as a pariah due to its physical appearance, thus throwing a wrench
into the works by creating mental obstacles and blockades in the creature’s interaction with the outside world. The only fair
encounter occurs when the creature begins a conversation with a blind man. When his children witness this conversation and
drive the monster away, the monster’s question of living becomes more of a desire to end the world of his creator.
Meanwhile, Victor cannot resume a normal life and is himself inundated with his won terms of mortality. He
ascertains whether to continue to live life and seek happiness or to destroy his life, a thought he considers when floating on
the lake. The contrast leads to Victor assuming the same stance as the monster, and after braving the deaths of his loved
ones, Victor is also consumed by the desire to end the life of that which he created.
Shelley’s twists and turns in plot serve as springboards for the question of mortality and social interaction. However,
the reader also becomes drawn to the fact that life is a matter to be lived by one’s own creed.
The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain raises the central question “What does it mean to be free?”
Twain explores this question throughout the novel by exploring the limits that slavery and civilization place upon the novel’s
At the beginning of the novel, neither Huck nor Jim are free. Though only Jim is legally enslaved, Huck is in effect
enslaved by his father who shows him no affection; only rough treatment and exploitation. Jim and Huck run away from
their physical masters, Pap in Huck’s case and Jim’s owner in Jim’s case, and escape on a raft.
Their adventure on and off the raft explore the chains that bind them and limit their freedom that are less obivious and
stronger than the legal chains of black slavery and parental custody. It is only on the raft that Jim and Huck can build and
share a friendship. When in town or with other people such as the “King” and “Duke”, Jim and Huck must hide their feelings
for each other because of society’s conventions about race.
By the novel’s end, both Jim and Huck have been freed from the dominion of their respective “masters” by the death
of these “masters”, but they return to society. Jim is still restricted by society’s discriminations against blacks and Huck is
restricted by the conventions of modern society, clothes and manners, against which he chafes. The two are free in one sense,
but they are still emprisonned by society. Huck even considers leaving again to go out west, showing evidence that he
understands that he is not free.
By questioning the nature of freedom throughout the novel, Twain raises the question of the success of Huck and Jim’s
journey, the novel’s entire plot. If they are not free at the end of the novel, and the point of their journey was freedom, then
have they succeeded? Twain’s treatment of the question of the nature of freedom makes his novel truly a novel of the U.S., a
country where we place so much emphasis on freedom, but still often find ourselves limited by society.
As children are raised, they learn the concept of right and wrong. They learn the difference between what is
acceptable and what is not. Morality is also a factor in this concept that children learn. IN fact, some people would argue
that religion is simply a guideline of how to live while being good and avoiding the idea of sin which represents evil. In
Crime and Punishment, love and repentence are revealed as the answer to the question how does someone receive redemption
As both Raskolnikov and Sonya commit sins, they struggle with their actions and eventually seek redemption. As
Raskolnikov emotionally suffers after murdering the pawnbroker, he tries to justify his actions. He rationalizes that he is a
superman who is superior to other men. He feels that he is allowed to destroy and eventually create things in society because
he is intilectually superior. Raskolnikov believes that super men transcend society’s laws and are free from their constraints.
The fact that Raskolnikov emotionally struggles to ‘justify his actions proves that he is indeed not a super man though.
Raskolnikov has numerous nightmares and nearly confesses his crimes to Porfry. Since his actions are subject to the laws of
man and Raskolnikov is normal, he deals with his internal turmoil of guilt. Sonya also suffers and seeks redemption for her
prostitution. She is emotionally distraught that she must sell her body to support her family. Sonya regrets her prostitution
and she struggles to accept what she has had to endure. Both characters are tortured mentally as they attempt to cope with
crossing the line between right and wrong. Their experiences and actions have forced them to search for redemption so they
can emotionally be at ease.
The suffering endured by Raskolnikov and Sonya combined with their love and compassion for each other is revealed
as their solution. Neither Raskolnikov or Sonya are depicted as a religious people early on in the book. After Raskolnikov
has confessed his crimes though, he insists that Sonya reads the story of Lazerous to him. He takes comfort in the idea of
being resurected as a new man. The story of Lazerous lets Raskolnikov know that he has hope and through struggle he will
be redeemed by Jesus. After hearing the story, he confesses to his crimes and serves a sentence in Siberia. Sonya also moves
there to be near him. The relationship that developed between Sonya and Raskolnikov is the key to salvation for both of
them. Having already endured tremendous emotional suffering, both people are able to find love for each other and their
fellow human beings. Since both obligations of suffering and love were experienced by Sonia and Raskolnikov, they are new
people redeemed of their sins. Raskolnikov no longer has a guilty concience or a deep burden to bear. He himself has
followed Lazerous and has been resurected.
Do we control our own fate? This is a commonly asked question that happens to be a major theme of Oedipus Rex.
Did Oedipus’s father control his own destiny?
When Tieresias told Oedipus’s father that he would be killed by his son, Oedipus was sent to be killed. However, the
servant who had been ordered to kill him juts left him to die. Oedipus was found and raised by a family in another town.
Upon hearing the prophecy of his fate, Oedipus ran away, not wanting to harm his adoptive father. He did not know that he
On the road, Oedipus met up with a man with whom he battled. He killed the man and later discovered that it was his
The question is presented: Is our fate in our hands? If Oedipus’s father hadn’t sent him away to be killed, perhaps he
would have killed him in some other way. If Oedipus hadn’t run away from his fate, he never would have fulfilled it.
Perhaps the answer presented is that we should not strive to know what will happen to us, but instead just live life as it
comes. If that had been the case all of the problems caused by Oedipus being sent away would not have happened. All of the
problems caused by Oedipus discovering his fate would not have happened either.
The author’s treatment of this question focuses the reader on the importance of wyrd, or fate in literature at this time.
The entire story revolves around the role of fate, as does the story of Antigone and Oedipus et Antigone. Fate is almost like
another character in the story, influencing the characters and the plot in unforseen ways.
It is difficult to say if we control our own fates, or if Oedipus chose his own fate. Because if the fate was not fulfilled
in one way, perhaps it would be fulfilled a different way. We must all live our lives as we will and let life happen.
In the novel Things Fall Apart, the author, Chineau Achebe, introduces a society of traditional & contemporary beliefs
that reflect their culture. The village of the story during the time period has it’s difference & consist of contrasting views,
opinions, & characteristics about life. Achebe establishes the village’s traditional prospects & makes them well known.
Especially through the main character, Okonkwo. Okonkwo’s stubborn attitude to prevent the village from diverging from
its original standards & qualities is relatively evident. His main goal in the novel is to “prevent things from falling apart”.
This principle develops the question, does anything ever stay the same?
As time progresses throughout the novel, there are certain events that influence the resolution of the plot. In the
beginning, the village knew their identity, but as time progressed, another society began to have influence on theirs. The
cultural persuasions made Okonkwo upset & he fought for maintaining his ancesterals traditions. The demeanor Okonkwo
had to prevent change was very high & he was determined to succeed. He never believed that his village & his people would
change. But as time gradually passed by, changes began to form. Whether they were small or major changes, they always
happen. Achebe’s use of cultural changes & development makes the work apprehendable to realize that things do change &
never stay the same.
In the ancient Greek play Oedipus Rex, one of the great questions raised is can we control our own destiny?
Oedipus Rex is a story about people attempting to defy fate and change their own destiny. In this story however,
despite every attempt made to alter what would happen in the future, the horrible prediction of killing his father and bearing
children by his own mother came true. As revolting as all this sounds, the underlying question still remains; are we free to
choose our own destiny? In the case of Oedipus, the answer is no. Even though his parent tired to kill him off, he survived
and his life played out just as it had been predicted. Oedipus learned the hard way that one cannot defy the gods and fate.
This is one of the few cases in literature where a significant question was posed and the reader is given a definitive answer.
In the story of Oedipus Rex, this question and answer are graphically detailed.