War, death, marriage, and societal segregation have been dominant themes used in literature over the centuries. A look into some of the most iconic novels in history reveals the importance of these themes in writing. This essay will focus on these themes using passages from Segu by Maryse Conde, One hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, and The family of Moskat by Isaac Bashevis Singer.
1“War is good because it makes our kings rich.Wives, slaves, cattle- it brings them all these.War is holy because it makes us Muslims.War is holy and good, so may it set our skies aflame.”(Conde 490)
The first passage we will look at is from Segu. In the last three pages, Muhammad dreams of being in War, and He pictures himself at the forefront of War with the Tukolors. He gets wounded and pictures himself lifeless on the ground. Someone shouts, “La ilaha ill-Allah.” These words are described as belonging to those who may be thought they were fighting in the name of God. Faraman Kouyate behind him began singing. In his song, he describes War as being good and holy as it made men kings and brought to those who won riches. Tragic things take place, but War is still being praised. Many lost their lives and families. The theme of War is rightly brought out. The pain and misery caused by War are vividly displayed, and the place and impact of War on society are made evident. This theme is also evident in One hundred years and the family of Moskat.
2“War had broken out three months before. Martial law was in effect in the whole country.
The only one who knew it immediately was Don Apolinar Moscote, but he did not give the news
even to his wife while the army platoon that was to occupy the town by surprise was on its way.
They entered noiselessly before dawn, with two pieces of light artillery drawn by mules, and they set
up their headquarters in the school. A 6 p.m. curfew was established. A more drastic search than the
previous one was undertaken, house by house, and this time they even took farm implements. They
dragged out Dr. Noguera, tied him to a tree in the square, and shot him without any due process of
law. Father Nicanor tried to impress the military authorities with the miracle of levitation and had
his head split open by the butt of a soldier’s rifle. The Liberal exaltation had been extinguished into a
silent terror. Aureliano, pale, mysterious, continued playing dominoes with his father-in-law. He
understood that in spite of his present title of civil and military leader of the town, Don ApolinarMoscote was once more a figurehead. The decisions were made by the army captain, who each
morning collected an extraordinary levy for the defense of public order. Four soldiers under his”(Marquez 54).
In this passage, Garcia Marquez describes how War broke out. He vividly explains how War broke out and events that led to the War. He uses a unique approach in bringing out real-world experiences such as War through such poetic language. This passage displays how War is planned. The secrecy behind War and how it is meant to obtain power over its people. The same is displayed in Segu, where the Tukolors are at War with the white man, the appearance of Jihadists in Segu, and the War’s purpose. The Tukolors were fighting the white man to obtain their freedom. War is also given another perspective in the Family of Moskat. The family-centered saga is set in the times before World War I up until the bombing of the ghetto of Warsaw in World War II. Reb Mushalam steals fortunes which are later lost through his children. The effects of War are rightly displayed. War is portrayed as an advantage to some and of significant loss to others.
3“Suddenly the past rode her up. Nothing good could come to her from Segu…. The world of the invisible had nothing against her, and she would be reunited with her father.”( Conde 174).
This passage brings out the theme of memory. The past’s hold on our present selves is depicted in the passage as Awa Nya reminisces her past. He hears voices and is filled with doubt and negative thoughts. Through the events of the past, she believes that Segu is of no benefit to her. She thinks of a useless and pointless life that will only result in death. This same theme is the basis of the novel, One hundred Years of Solitude.
The theme of the past is part of the present. The future is just like the past. One is a reflection of the other. Predicting the future is just as easy as predicting the future. Like Segu, where Awa Nya could see her dismall future and determine her fate in Segu is the same way Aureliano Jose continued to live in his past. Aureliano Jose develops an unhealthy passion for his Aunt Amarantha. The two get close but have no intercourse. She was appalled by the notion of intercourse, Amarantha breaks of the looming affair. She avoids Aureliano, and Aureliano joins the army only to come back in the hopes of reliving the affair with Amarantha. He continues to live in the past but gets disappointed. Amarantha keeps avoiding him, and his blind eye in the pursuit of his aunt only leads him to his death (Marquez 76).
The theme of death in the last two pages of The Family of Moskat. Gina is down with inflammation of the lungs. They sit and wait for the doctor as Gina suffers in pain. Hertz Yanovar then bursts into tears and says in Polish that “ The Messiah is coming soon. When asked what he meant by the messiah, he claims that the messiah is death, the absolute truth (Singer 608). The theme of death as an eventual happening and an existing aspect in human nature is also used in Segu and Hundred Years. In Segu Awa, Nya reminisces about the death of her father and mother, and towards the end, Muhammad remembers his mother, Mary.
The theme of marriage is also brought used in all three scripts. In the first three pages of The Family of Moskat, we are informed that Rob Meshulam married a third wife after the death of his second wife. The new wife is fifty years old and was a widow before getting married to Rob. Her former husband was a wealthy brewery from Broady who had gone bankrupt (Singer 1). How keen the concept of marriage was put into perspective in this script creates an image of setting a foundation within a family and how society views marriage and family as a huge ordeal. The same is seen throughout One hundred Years of Solitude, where Jose Arcadio Buendia marries his cousin Ursula, who elopes to form Macondo.
The theme of marriage has a different aspect attached to them throughout the three texts. As described in the novel, the word that Rob Meshulam had married a third wife spread like wildfire. Everyone in Warsaw was aware of the marriage. The label attached to her was that of “ an old goat.” Everyone believed that Koppel’s work was to steal the inheritance from the Moskat family. They claimed that he had married his worker to sabotage the Moskat family (Singer 3). The painted theme is that society plays a role in the family setup and marriage. This concept is set around One Hundred of Solitude.
“COLONEL AURELIANO BUENDIA organized thirty-two armed uprisings, and he lost them all. He had
seventeen male children by seventeen different women, and they were exterminated one after the
other on a single night before the oldest one had reached the age of thirty-five. He survived fourteen
attempts on his life, seventy-three ambushes, and a firing squad. He lived through a dose of
strychnine in his coffee that was enough to kill a horse. He refused the Order of Merit, which the
President of the Republic awarded him. He rose to be Commander in Chief of the revolutionary
forces, with jurisdiction and command from one border to the other. He was the man most feared by
the government, but he never let himself be photographed. He declined the lifetime pension offered
him after the War, and until old age, he made his living from the little goldfishes that he
manufactured in his workshop in Macondo. Although he always fought at the head of his men, the
only wound that he received was the one he gave himself after signing the Treaty of Neerlandia,
which put an end to almost twenty years of civil War. He shot himself in the chest with a pistol and
the bullet came out through his back without damaging any vital organ. The only thing left
was a street that bore his name in Macondo. And yet, as he declared a few years before he died of
old age, he had not expected any of that on the dawn he left with his twenty-one men to join the
forces of General Victorio Medina” ( Marquez 56).
The marriage of Jose Arcadio Buendia to Ursula was viewed as an illegal one, but it happened regardless. The society’s of the marriage being illegitimate as incest forced the two to flee and form a whole other town called Macondo. This illegal marriage sets the pace of the story. This taboo union gives rise to a whole new magical world of Macondo that remains out of touch with the rest of society. Marriage is indeed given a lot of prominence in this context, and the impacts of such an event could have unimaginable consequences.
Societal segregation. Tiekoro gets taken by an Arab teacher from his village in Segu, and he soon becomes one of the Muslims. He decides to follow Islam and abandons his native culture, and soon he loses favor with his people ( Conde 200). The small community of Segu does miss him initially, but they soon fall out with him as he chooses to follow the path of the foreigners. This form of societal segregation is also seen in “ Thousand Years” through the distancing of society from Macondo and the segregation of the Moskat family in the end.
Themes in literature are often diversely repeated in different literary works. These themes build the stories. This is seen as War, death, marriage, and societal segregation is used in building the three scripts. Themes are all the same in literature; the vast difference is in their application.
Singer, Isaac Bashevis. The Family of Moskat. New York, Fawcett Crest, 1978.
Marquez, Gabriel Garcia. One Hundred Years of Solitude. Argentina, Editorial Sudamericana, 1970.
Conde, Maryse. Segu. New York, Ballantine Books, 1988.