Existential Consciousness and the Meaning of Characters in André Malraux’s Literary Works
Among 20th century Western ideologies (Western civilization), existentialism is a spirit of the times to restore humanity as rationality and advanced technology have driven mankind to impoverishment and death, experiencing the First and Second World War, Great Depression, Fascism and the Spanish Civil War. In his literature, André Malraux records his existential agony of how mankind lives and faces death by questioning the fateful life and death of characters. For Malraux’s characters, the absurdity of existence related to the human identity means self-examination. Malraux explores existential consciousness and actions of characters in the presence of a concept known as death relative to terror, revolution, and adventure. Malraux deftly addresses the concept of death in his literary works, and it has being emphasized as a central subject for philosophical speculation.
In Les Conquérants(1928), La Voie Royale(1930), La Condition Humaine (1933), L'Espoir(1937), Malraux suggested a philosophical thesis of the meaning of life through characters in tragic situations, and sought out the consciousness of being and the existential meaning through how the characters control their fate. Malraux, in such a tragic perspective of the world, portrays humanity, affirmation of life, and characters’ consciousness and actions in denying death. The agony of death triggers escapist behavior such as having unpredictable instinctual desires such as gambling or smoking opium, but these are desperate struggles to flee from frustration and related to the question of one’s existence.
What is always emphasized with respect to Malraux’s existentialism is the tragic metaphysics of the inevitable destiny of the human condition eventually leading to the question of how humans ultimately confront death. But as characters unite in times of war, revolution and adventure in the novel, such cooperative actions symbolizes a keen sense of solidarity reflecting a camaraderie that transcends individualism. Fellowship among people who voluntarily gather for the common cause of philanthropy and restoring humanity is possible because of the underlying human greatness to sacrifice for such a noble cause. Therefore, Malraux’s camaraderie includes the victory of existentialism in creating a world of humanism.