This essay provides an analysis of representations of women in William Faulkner's A Fable (1954), which might sound strange to any reader who knows well about the book, because it, being considerably notorious as a failure,1 has rarely drawn Faulknerians' attention, and besides, it features only a few women, who appear to be far from important or conspicuous. The scarcity of female characters in the novel can no doubt be attributed to its main setting, which is a gigantic military institution. Set mainly in France during the First World War, the plot of A Fable centers around several male characters, varying in rank from an infantryman to a generalissimo at the top of the military hierarchy of the Allied Forces. Moreover, the key women characters, who are all connected in some way to the principal characters, the generalissimo and his illegitimate son, occupy only negligible space in the narrative.
However, the significance of the exploration of these women indubitably emerges from the very peculiarity of the novel mentioned above. Their close relations with the man holding an eminent military position throws into stark relief the underlying connection between them and the military institution itself, or more exactly, the device of nation which tends to be identified with the institution in the war situation. Community, war and male/ female binarism are actually a series of target notions in which Faulkner and Hegel share an interest through their works, A Fable and the chapter of Phenomenology of Spirit entitled "The Ethical Order."2 As I will elucidate later, Hegel's interpretation of Sophocles' Antigone displays his ideas about women's role in a polis-state as well as the conflict between women and men, on the assumption of male/ female binarism. Faulkner's novel also tackles these issues, but in a markedly different way.
This paper uses Hegel's interpretation of Antigone, that is, his view of the relationship between community and women, to anatomize A Fable, which will hopefully offer a fresh insight into a work that Faulkner himself called his "magnum opus."3 The main body of discussion will start with a sketch of the general problems that arise when we attempt to interpret A Fable. Next, I will examine the various binarisms that are interwoven into the text before launching into an analysis of the representations of women which entail the problem of binarism at their basis.
One of the leading Faulknerians, Cleanth Brooks, points out the striking defects of A Fable, which has served to brand it as a conclusive failure:
The characters and events are too obviously summoned forth at the behest of an idea, and the basic drama of the novel is to be found in an almost naked contest of ideas. (235)As the above quoted suggests, Brooks' dissatisfaction with the novel comes from his belief that it is made up of ideas and based on one idea; he reckons "the characters and events" as the author's mouthpieces or mere instruments for conveying his ideas. However, in reality, Brooks' words resonate beyond his apparent implications.
As we can readily infer from the presence of a Christ-figure character in the twentieth-century battlefield,4 the "idea" "at the behest of" which "the characters and events are summoned forth" is indisputably a legitimate subject of modern grave situation and redemption of the crisis. A point worth noting, however, is that Brooks refrains from mentioning what idea is ultimately presented through "the basic drama of the novel . . . in an almost naked contest of ideas," thus revealing that instruments for expressing clear ideas fail to serve as an orchestra playing one explicit, well-organized musical piece, in spite of the obvious motif on which the entire work is founded. Then, the earlier quotation as well as the following is, as it were, two sides of the same coin:
The principal difficulties in A Fable derive from its being fabulous--or, rather, from an unsuccessful mingling of fabulous and realistic elements. One way to put this is to say that the reader does not know how to take the story. (Brooks 230)Analogies between Christ's life story from the Gospel and "the characters and events" "summoned forth at the behest of an idea" make "the characters and events" seem fabulous or unrealistic; ideas the analogies appear to carry are literally "in an almost naked contest" and do not incorporate themselves into one clear meaning. Besides, the "fabulous" description of certain "ideas" and the vivid description of the war situation, which takes on realistic or serious aspects, are mingled confusingly enough to deprive the reader of clues to the specific meaning of the novel. To sum up, while a variety of ideas in the work are "naked," the meaning of the world it renders is hidden or nonexistent.
Although the analogies between the characters in the Bible and those in A Fable, in the worst case, could occasionally trick an inexperienced reader into the impression that it may be easy to "take the story," these analogies, thus, generally aggravate the confusion caused by dozens of ideas "in a contest," rather than contribute toward dispelling the "difficulties." We can find a typical example of this in the character Marthe, who is the chief subject of analysis in the following discussion. Even Nancy and Keen Butterworth, the writers of Annotations to William Faulkner's "A Fable", quite candidly confide their bewilderment at Marthe's brief self-introduction to the marshal:
'Not Marthe: Magda': The symbolic meaning here is obscure. Marthe evidently means that her name was originally Magda, which would seem to connect her with Mary Magdalene of the Bible (see John 19 and 20), who has traditionally been thought to have been a prostitute. She says in the next lines, however, that her name became Marthe after she had a brother (the Corporal) and had to travel to France to ask for his life, perhaps in analogy to Martha, sister of Lazarus, who had to seek out Jesus to save her brother's life . . . .Both analogies, however, seem tenuous. It is the Corporal's fiancee who is the Mary Magdalene figure of the novel, not Marthe. (Butterworth 188)After making an elaborate examination of Marthe's analogy with a character in the Bible, they do not succeed in grasping why Marthe declares herself Magda; it exemplifies how an effort to go deeper into the biblical analogies in the novel, against its purpose, multiplies the mystery of what even a part of the work imports.
Then, how can we treat her enigmatic statement about herself, "Not Marthe: Magda"? To unravel the mystery actually leads to our throwing into sharp relief in particular some of the ideas "in a contest" which are liable to be overlooked because of their lack of a link with biblical analogies; for, since representations of women in A Fable are closely connected with the idea which the Corporal embodies, analysis of the principal women characters such as Marthe are no less vital in approaching the subject of the work than that of the male characters, despite their relatively rare appearance.
Needless to say, as Brooks' perceptive remarks indicate, our research can never determine a single idea that the work is expected to convey in its entirety in accordance with the title, "a fable." However, provided that A Fable is not a simple fable, but an attempt to render modern serious situations as multivalently and realistically as possible, and at the same time to abstract an allegory from them, we can postulate that a story concerning the main women characters, the Corporal and the generalissimo reflects as well as condenses one aspect of extremely grave situations such as war which force people to kill others or to be killed by others. On that account, I will hereafter focus my discussion upon the representative scene in which the old general meets the three women including Marthe, who is the leading figure, and go further to consider the problems of politics and ethics surfacing in the analysis of representations of women in A Fable.
To begin with, an essential question confronts us as to whether, in terms of gender, the old general and Marthe are depicted as conforming to the so-called "male/ female" model binarism. This question, though it might be unexpected, is directly associated with the mystery of Marthe's words introduced before. Marthe gives an enigmatic and bizarre explanation of her identity to the marshal in the opening of her long speech, in response to his question when he recognizes her, "So, you are Magda":
'Yes,' she said. 'Not Marthe: Magda. I wasn't Marthe until after I had a brother and had to cross half of Europe to face thirty years later the French general who would hold the refusal of his life. Not gift: refusal; and even that's wrong: the taking back of it. (241)The complicatedness and extensiveness of her monologue- style speech subsequent to the quotation above overwhelm and perplex the reader. In the first place, her speech bursts out so abruptly that it strikes us as an interruption of the men's exclusive narrative. In the second place, what we encounter in it is her intricate, verbose, forcible, and sometimes even inflated speech style, with its unreasoningly lengthy sentences heavily punctuated with colons and semicolons, and whose contents are prone to be highly abstract, over and above the unimaginable extent of her talking itself. As Olga Vickery points out, Marthe's speech is all but indistinguishable from the marshal's used later to his son in style, length, and abstractness (209). Considering that she is a farm hand from deep in a mountainous district, Andrew Lytle also criticizes the characterization of Marthe as being unrealistic and improbable (126). Because gender norms and class norms are in varying degrees yet inescapably imprinted on our consciousness, it may be difficult for us to fully accept the appearance of such a woman as real and unsurprising. If that is the case, we need to review, in terms of the ideological problems, the unrealistic impression accompanying the scene in which a mountain woman speaks on and on almost unilaterally to the marshal.
First, however, a reexamination of the biblical analogies would be enormously instrumental in coming to a better understanding of the characterization of Marthe. The Biblical Martha, the prototype of Marthe, who collectedly argues against Jesus as well as expresses her own personal views (Luke 10:38-42; John 11:1-44), appears in the Gospel as an extraordinary woman with a strong personality. She is exceptional in that she is not depicted as simple and obedient. Follower though she is, like His male disciples, she betrays unbelief in what Jesus tells her. In contrast, Mary Magdalene, who evokes an association with the name Magda from A Fable, is a typical woman, utterly subservient to Jesus throughout the Gospel.5
Now, scrutinizing the context in which Marthe's words in question are uttered, we can perceive that Marthe tells her own name as Magda to the marshal who recalls her as Magda, and then, she conjectures several lines later that he should remember her from the days when she was a child. It naturally leads us to the conclusion that this woman who is consistently presented as Marthe throughout the novel has changed her name from Magda to Marthe at a certain point in her life. The preceding quotation from Marthe, then, implies that if she had no brother and if he were not destined to be executed, she would not have had to change her name to Marthe at all. Marthe expounds the change of her name as if she intended to impress her drastically changed character strongly on his mind by using the changed name itself; in other words, it is her declaration that she has not visited him as the obedient, meek girl he remembers, but as a self-assertive, or even courageous woman like Martha from Bethany, now that her brother's life is at stake. Furthermore, she contrasts the suppressing power that the marshal can exercise and the suppressed position from which she, despite her lack of power, dares to speak, in her response to his request for her confession:
'Tell me then,' the old general said.Therefore, we can observe that there is an analogy between the characterizations of Marthe and the woman from the Gospel, and this very analogy introduces ideological problems into the text.6 Just like Martha, who never restrains herself from expressing a candid opinion, Marthe does not hesitate to display her will and thoughts, both of which are hardly different from most of the male characters in their unrepressed speech.
In this scene, the normative definitions of the masculine/ feminine categories based on the model binarism of gender are virtually subverted, and preconceptions about them are almost utterly collapsed. Marthe, who is occasionally referred to as tall, in contrast to her shorter husband (240, 388, 334), is described as having a "high severe mountain face which would have been bold and handsome as a man's" (362). Looking down at the "slight gray" (11) marshal who all the time sits still on a chair making infrequent utterances, Marthe overwhelms him with the vigor and volume of her speech. Also, she speaks in the same manner in which the marshal continuously talks to his son later, with her thoughts and words manifested like a highly educated man. Having lived in France more than twenty years, she speaks with the marshal in sophisticated French, although with her elder sister Marya she still uses "the old Balkan tongue of her childhood" (361). At the end of the meeting, she admits herself to have been completely beaten by the marshal, whose stratagem to achieve his political aims is far subtler than she could imagine, and whose cruelty is more deliberate and heartless than she had expected, as she says to the marshal, "But I know better now and I apologize for imputing to your character a capacity so weak as to have earned the human warmth of hatred" (254); however, at the same time she minutely analyzes and unrelentingly criticizes him, thus establishing her own personal view of him based on her immovable confidence in intellect.
The juxtaposition of the marshal, who is described as "girlish-looking" (212) in his youth and Marthe, who is described as mannish or even manly, accordingly, destabilizes the gendered binarism of male/ female, and furthermore, puts the interior/ exterior binarism of the French Empire into a crisis of intelligibility, because they not only share similar ways of speaking and thinking peculiar to male French citizens, but also have an immensely complicated relationship to the Corporal, which is quite beyond simple opposition.
The story that Marthe recounts about the past traced back to her childhood is based on the assumption that her spirituality originally belonged to the exterior of the Empire7 in terms of the cultural context. For example, her birthplace is a mountainous region in Central Europe, and the village she and Marya and their half-brother stayed in for ten years in an orphanage is also in the countryside, where its residents "had barely heard of France either and did not care until [their] advent among them (247)." Moreover, she points out that they "corrupted" the village by bringing with them the word "France," which was the destination they were doomed to reach, saying "a curse and doom which in time was to corrupt the very kindly circumbience which harbored us" (247). Here, she uses the word "corrupt" to indicate that the innocent village originally immune from the French civilization is located in the exterior of the French Empire.8
However, while Marthe constantly reiterates her bitter reproach against the marshal, she reveals that there are ideas common to them both in addition to their long-standing cooperation. One example in particular can be seen in Noel Polk's indication:
She thus claims that the corporal rejected marriage and solvency just to spite the old general, his father. But his subsequent marriage to a girl of his own choice, a Marseilles whore who has neither money nor respectability, is so direct a contravention of her (Polk's emphasis) preferences that he seems clearly to have made the match to spite Marthe rather than his absent father. (211)The quotation above and the fact that she "picked" "the two" "who were not only solvent but virtuous" (252) for her half-brother's wife-to-be suggest that, given masculine power, she is not far from being paternalistic, even oppressive, considering her attempt to make all the decisions for a person for whom she feels responsible. At first disliking her brother, the Corporal's choice of a prostitute as his marriage partner after refusing her recommendation to marry "solvent" and "virtuous" girls, she even seems to share the same idea about this marriage with the marshal, now that she says that "it was the girl of course; his revenge and vengeance on you which you feared: a whore, a Marseilles whore to mother the grandchildren of your high and exalted blood" (253). Here, in her judgement on a woman, she almost assumes the class and gender norms that entail the pure/ impure hierarchy, which, she also speculates, are shared by the marshal.
More strange is her assertion that the marshal, the Corporal, Marya and Marthe, "all four of [them]" are "branded forever more into one irremediable kinship (250)," although the sisters and the marshal have no blood relationship, and on top of that, Marthe's husband is completely excluded. She provides an explication of how they are related to one another in this "kinship" and how it functions as follows:
'So I didn't even need to forgive you either: we were all four one now in that workable mutual, neither compassionate nor uncompassionate, armistice and none of us neither needed or had the time to waste forgiving or reproaching one another because we would all be busy enough in supporting, balancing that condition of your expiation and our--his--reparations whose instrument you had been.'(250)Under her definition, this "irremediable kinship" is such that the marshal is obligated to expiate his sins and Marthe and others are obligated to make reparation by paying back the debt of gratitude for his support, hence their mutual cooperation in which they have no "time to waste forgiving or reproaching one another."
Specifically, on the one hand, the marshal supports Marthe and others in expiation for what his affair with her mother caused; on the other hand, Marthe and others, intending to pay back the debt of support they have obtained from the marshal, especially "the purse" (246), forget his wrongs and become French citizens. Marthe's further illustration of her "kinship" throws stronger light upon their mutual cooperation in supporting the Corporal:
You and he also struck a balance, an armistice in liability and threat; he was a French citizen and a Frenchman now not only legally but morally too since the date of his birth proved his right to the one and he had just doffed the uniform in which he himself had proved his right and worthiness to the other. (251)Although she thinks that the execution of the Corporal absolves the marshal and the Corporal of the liability and threat respectively, as regards the Corporal's citizenship, virtually, Marthe has assisted the marshal in his expiation by raising his son as a respectable French citizen.
In short, Marthe and the marshal are on the same ground in raising his son, and as it turns out, their relationship even can be called a kind of collaboration. For Marthe, the "kinship" resembles a persistent lender-borrower relation, from which none of the members can withdraw, although Marthe and the others have never been acquainted with the marshal. To come to the point, in the narrative she unfolds, Marthe and the marshal not only ally themselves in the same "kinship" in which borrower and lender are reciprocally trying to strike a balance, but also submit to the Imperial system under which subjects are expected to raise boys into French soldiers.
In this way, their relationship is prescribed by the interior/ exterior binarism of the Empire, but at the same time they share a culture central to the interior of the Empire. The immediate deduction from the above mentioned is that their connection destabilizes and even subverts the male/ female binarism of gender as well as the interior/ exterior binarism of the Empire.
However, a reexamination of the discussion above from the beginning makes us realize that no matter how much various binary oppositions are subverted and made fragile, every binarism is maintained in the form of a dissymmetry in power, which is latent in some cases. As Marthe frequently mentions, the marshal holds tremendous power to acquire every piece of information and exploit everything fully at his command (249, 254), and she can never subvert it, in spite of her will to thwart his ruthless design. The Corporal is eventually executed and his corpse is obliterated, not by Germany's, but by the Allied Forces' bombing, of the farm where Marthe buries it.
Astutely guessing that "you [the marshal] and he [the Corporal] together to be one in the saving of France, he in his humble place and you in your high and matchless one" (253), she points out their unity in essence. It implies that, if that is the case, the dissymmetry in power that is embodied by the execution of the Corporal is at its zenith. Certainly, the marshal and the Corporal are in evident opposition because the Corporal is a rebel, who causes a mutiny against war itself by getting soldiers on the entire front line to abandon their arms. However, another reality is, in accordance with Marthe's indication, that the marshal obtains the German general's consent to the victory of France over Germany, on the condition that he should have the chief rebel executed. It is by the sacrifice of the Corporal's life that the marshal manages to save France; in other words, from the very exterior of the French Empire, he procures a scapegoat or a sacrificial lamb for relief of his nation.
Turning back to the subject of the interior/ exterior binarism of the Empire, we can comprehend the relationship between Marthe and the marshal in terms of the postcolonialist dissymmetry in power. For example, we can look at Marthe's mother as a colonized 'native' woman who is plundered and consumed as an object of desire by a suzerain man, while the marshal as a man in the suzerain state himself who plunders a colonized woman. Hence Marthe is a second-generation immigrant who immigrates into the suzerain state from the colonized world. Obviously, Marthe's homeland in Central Europe is not actually a French colony. However, her narrative metaphorically clarifies the drastic and dramatic change caused by the violently forcible intrusion of the Imperial power into an innocent land originally immune from that power.
After Marhte's mother is seduced and abandoned by the marshal, her husband also leaves her and she leaves her homeland with her young daughters. Subsequently, after she dies giving birth to a son by the marshal, quite a new form of kinship is reorganized. However, it is clear that, although Marthe proclaims that the fact of kinship is like a bond created to strike a balance in its financial relations, the harsh reality is that the relationship is far from keeping up a balance, and they are in a sense destined to perpetuate a set of exceedingly imbalanced relations. For, from another viewpoint, Marthe's explanation of these kinship relations is not necessarily based upon a reasonable calculation. According to her exposition, the marshal supports her and the others in expiation for his sins and she herself brings up her brother as a French citizen in return for his help. However, this view decisively ignores the fact that Marthe pays back more than the marshal does because, in her way of reckoning, his liability for the breakup and dispersal of her original family that, first of all, he brought about does not count at all. Her accounts of the "kinship" thus appear to balance, but actually are in clear-cut oversimplification compared to the reality.
To put it precisely, the Empire's forced intrusion into its exterior plunges both of them who were heretofore strangers to each other into a financial relationship, like a kinship which can never be dissolved. That is to say, immigrants into the suzerain state are consciously or unconsciously compelled to feel that they have an eternally irreducible debt to pay back. At the same time, they acquire the rights of a citizen by subjugating themselves to the Empire, that is, literally becoming a subject.
However, the dissymmetry in power demonstrated above does not automatically ensure that Marthe is simply described as an utterly powerless and helpless woman. Looking back more precisely upon the sharp confrontation between Marthe and the marshal, which is exactly the highlight of their meeting, Marthe manifests her earnest desire to hinder the execution of her brother, but the marshal has already made up his mind to carry it out, hence their bitter opposition neither weakens nor breaks down all through the meeting. However, their encounter cannot be fully explained on the theory of such a simple and surface opposition as Marthe's request for the withdrawal of the execution of her brother and the marshal's flat rejection of it.
Marthe declares that she carries a locket her mother left behind, in order "to use it as a weapon" (254) against him:
Of course you knew us. My folly was in even thinking I would need to bring you proof. So now I don't know just what to do with it, when to use it, like a knife capable of only one stroke or a pistol with just one bullet, which I cant afford to risk too soon and dare not wait too late. (243)The "small locket of chased worn gold" (254) contains "twin medallions, miniatures painted on ivory" (254), one of which is no doubt his mother's, and the other of which is possibly Marthe's mother's, judging from the context (254). We can guess, then, that the locket is eloquent "proof" demonstrating the truth of the marshal's relations with Marthe's mother, that is, namely of his blood relationship to the Corporal. There is, however, the question of why the locket is a weapon that she thinks will be hopefully useful or effective in time. Her principal purpose in visiting the marshal is to make him reverse the decision to execute her brother, which she knows is all but definite. The locket is, then, a weapon against the marshal's unshakable resolution, and in this sense it is solid physical evidence by which to appeal to human, or more exactly, parental feelings, even the little of which she assumes that he might have. In sum, because she presumes that the locket should be as effective at moving him as the words, "the man you are going to kill is your son," she tries to use it as a weapon.
As we have seen above, the most essential opposition between Marthe and the marshal rests in the fact that she strives to block him from liquidating and blotting out one life by appealing to the concept of the will to life, or even the desire for life, which she postulates that every human including the Corporal has by instinct, while the marshal deeply believes that he is required to thoroughly eliminate a person with actions and thoughts such as could disrupt "a community as a whole" or "the whole of a community," occupying a position of authority and power to preserve the political, economic, and military institutions in the established community. Therefore, if we posit that Marthe is the representative of the ethics of "the will to life," the marshal is, in contrast, the representative of the politics in which the preservation of the institutions of the established community unexceptionally outweighs the importance of individual human lives. The point is that the marshal's resolution to execute his son unveils and clarifies politics in general, that which, for that communal purpose, unavoidably refuses someone "the will to life" and actually eliminates life itself. It is because, through what constitute their radical confrontation, we can discover that if we posit that the ethics of recognizing the other's human dignity as much as one's own is fundamentally based on respect for the other's "will to life," then we see that politics, attaching more value to the struggle for hegemony and rule than the dignity of the individual, is a system that is outright incompatible with ethics.
However, if we investigate their confrontation from another angle in a more schematic way, we will notice that it closely resembles the confrontation that Hegel elucidates in his interpretation of Antigone in The Phenomenology of Spirit. Hegel's dichotomical approach to the play implies that Creon champions the law of the state while Antigone champions the law of the household gods:
The law of the family is a divine law, a law stemming from the underworld of the unconscious, and interpreted by the intuitive females in the family: the state law is on the contrary human, and is proclaimed and enforced by mature males. (Phenomenology xxi)9The action of the play is that Antigone disobeys Creon's edict and he orders her execution, because
Since it [ethical consciousness] sees right only on one side and wrong on the other, that consciousness which belongs to the divine law sees in the other side only the violence of human caprice, while that which holds to human law sees in the other only the self-will and disobedience of the individual who insists on being his own authority. (Phenomenology 280)By the same token, the marshal stands for the law of the Empire that assumes the natural elimination of rebels against it, while Marthe represents what we can call "the law of the family," which attaches more value to her brother than to the Imperial law. The Hegelian dichotomy goes further to categorize men as belonging to the political sphere and women to the state of gods, that is, the familial sphere. However, at this point we come across and recognize a striking difference between renderings of the political sphere and the familial sphere in Hegel's "The Ethical Order" in Phenomenology and Faulkner's A Fable: unlike in the case of Hegel's characterization of the conflict between Creon and Antigone, the politics and the ethics10 which the marshal and Marthe respectively embody cannot be simply reduced to the binarism of gender.
Now, let me look at the politics and ethics in question from the wider perspective of the entire novel. One instance is the moment when ethics trespasses on politics and the marshal incorporates ethics into his politics. The marshal's profound anguish, coming from the conflict between his ardent desire to save his son's life and his sense of obligation to execute him, proves that it originates exactly from the ethics that Marthe represents. On the night after meeting with Marthe, he even tries to persuade the Corporal to escape abroad, saying, "there is the earth. You will have half of it now" (291), and "I will take Polchek tomorrow, execute him with rote and fanfare" (292) as "the lamb which saved Isaac" (292), by the name of which he means his son.
Against the marshal's wishes, the Corporal chooses to be executed in order to show the adherents that he has not distorted his belief in his action. Therefore, even if prior to the talk with his son the marshal had bragged, "by destroying his life tomorrow morning, I will establish forever that he didn't even live in vain, let alone die so" (280), the marshal's failure to save his son's life means that he loses to him as much as Marthe loses to him in their confrontation concerning the Corporal's life. Besides that, Marthe's idea that the Corporal loses by death, which is predicated by her ethics, is eventually relativized by the Corporal's idea that he wins by death, while the marshal, who understands that death means victory for his son, cannot realize his wish to save his son's life. All these above suggest that, despite the ultimate political utilization of the Corporal's mutiny and its failure, Marthe, the marshal and the Corporal all lose and win at the same time, with the political/ ethical struggle over the execution suspended in undecidability.
Another notable point is that the Corporal's mutiny against warfare is in itself the practical manifestation of his stance against the marshal's politics in the form of a political action. When he was a young officer, the marshal succeeded in maintaining peaceful relations with a neighboring native tribe at an outpost in Africa by exchanging a murderer's life for peace (224-29). The marshal's sacrifice of his son's life for the victory and peace of the nation-Empire is precisely founded on the idea that to save the community at the cost of one's life is necessarily justified. Because it is not a simple escape from military service, the Corporal's mutinous action is virtually a protest against such a way of thinking, and is undeniably founded on the idea that not even one human should be sacrificed as an instrument of and for the benefit of the community.
Thus, the Corporal's temporary success in the complete suspension of warfare is the realization of Marthe's ethics in the form of politics; more exactly, it is the fulfillment of his design to obtaining the hegemony of ethics in a marshal-like forcible way. This is because, in actuality, the Corporal risks three thousand privates' lives to raise a mutiny for suspension of warfare, and this makes us acknowledge that in his mutinous action there does exist the element of the politics the marshal stands for. In other words, the Corporal's anti-war action rests in the chiasma of Marthe's ethics and the marshal's politics. That is to say, Marthe's ethics is certainly not represented as belonging to the women's exclusive sphere.
In A Fable, the Corporal's anti-war strike is depicted as fabulous, which implies that the ideal that the "will to life" should be unexceptionally recognized as every human's is quite unrealistic, just as the marshal names it "passion--for unfact" (294). The unreal the Corporal strives to realize is presented as something like a weapon to stand against and open a fissure in the ideology which makes reality look plain and coherent and even disguises itself as sheer faultless reality11. The realization of his unrealistic anti-war strike temporarily reveals the illusoriness and non-absoluteness of nationalism supported by and based on a binary opposition.12 In actuality, the original simple schema of the Allied nations versus Germany in the war, based on the premise of the ideology of nationalist opposition, is easily broken down by the collaboration between the German and the Allied nations' leaders to crush the mutiny.
Now, let us closely scrutinize the political sphere and the familial sphere all over again from a viewpoint that looks upon Marthe's ethics as the archetype of the unreal of the Corporal. Then, although it is apparently different from conclusion of the previous section, this time the scrutiny leads us into confirmation that these two spheres, rather than overlapping each other, are clearly dichotomized based on the binary opposition of gender. In A Fable, the political sphere and the familial sphere are described as being based on a hierarchized binary opposition in the world of which politics holds priority over ethics and the former always represses the latter; unlike the Corporal, Marthe does not organize a political activity, staying within the familial sphere to the end.13
However, such an enterprise of dichotomization is, as it has been going, readily reversed into the definite conclusion that there is certainly binarism but it is fragile just the same. The political sphere and the familial sphere are in fact described as being continuous as if they were reconciled through Marthe's action. To put it another way, the face-to-face confrontation between Marthe and the marshal is unquestionably an outward manifestation of her resolution to hinder him from domineering altogether freely, namely, from wielding unlimited hegemony. Hence, our acknowledgment of the element of politics that Marthe explicitly displays in this behavior.
Furthermore, certainly the reconciliation in this way, that is, the possibility that bringing the unreal of ethics into the field of politics will broaden human society's horizons, is presented through Marthe's protest against the marshal, but it does not simply mean that the familial sphere is merely a cultural construction and shares some areas in common with the political sphere. Rather than that, it precisely denotes that to intentionally and actively incorporate the ethics of the familial sphere or of the will to life into the political sphere is indeed a breakthrough in the impasse in the construction of a modern society with imperialistic traces that automatically ranks human lives across the world. Yet, there is still another reason why the binarism of the political sphere and the familial sphere is fragile in A Fable: Marthe is described as a figure that does not allow us to easily judge her and the marshal to be in simple opposition.
Continuing the comparison of Antigone and Marthe serves to throw Marthe's personality into high relief. Marthe's actions are obviously different from those of Antigone in that Marthe neither disobeys the sovereign's edict nor dares to die for her brother. In this sense, then, Marthe is neither a symbol of the revolt against the authority of the community or the male subjectivity as which Irigaray interprets Antigone (56-57), nor at all a symbol of the "unlivable" (75) life lived "between life and death" (77) in Butler's striking image.14 In A Fable, it is male characters such as the runner, the sentry, Levine and Gragnon who cause an unarmed revolt only to come to a tragic end on the one hand and on the other hand are forced to live "unlivable" lives because they continue to adhere to military norms. Tragedy and pathos are not Marthe's, but theirs. Virtually, the decided difference between Antigone and Marthe is that the former exercises her strong desire for death, while the latter shows a remarkable will to live.
For instance, Marthe explains that, before coming to France, she contrived a stratagem to frustrate the marshal's design, using the money she thinks he had left behind to bind his child to the land away from France, to pay "[their] passage to Beirut" and thus manage to reach France by way of Beirut in the end (246). Starting with this, she has by herself decided on and carried into effect all such plans as passage to Beirut, marriage there to go over to France, operation of a farm, raising her half-brother, and even personal consultation with the marshal. Marhte's independence eludes the categories of politics and ethics and also can be regarded as the key element in destabilizing their binary opposition or in bringing ethics into the political sphere. It goes without saying that, although, as I discussed above, evidently she is culturally constituted through paternalistic thinking, the French language, and the common sense of being a French citizen, Marthe also persistently exercises her own subjective judgment on each aspect of these affairs. However, the word "subjective" here does not imply an eternally unchangeable sovereign subject possessing a fixed, consistent identity, but rather a consciousness in transformation at each moment, which she thinks is simply her own. Then, we can conclude that, to speak exactly, she is represented as a non-subject in motion whose construction is never completed, or even as a hybrid immigrant woman with a vector signifying motion.
As a matter of fact, the direction that such a motion has taken is involved in Marthe's independence. Now, let us reexamine Marthe's reorganized, imaginary kinship which I already expatiated on in the fourth section. I have indicated the dissymmetry in power between Marthe and the marshal, but at the same time such a relation is none other than an effective method for taking hold of a person of power within her imaginary network of human relationships, and yet by the method beyond the person's imagination. In other words, it is also a support for her living on and starting all over again in a strange land as well as the very action of incorporating her antagonist or the person of greatest power and authority in France into a practical network of relationships in which a set of metaphorical financial relations are maintained to strike a balance.
Besides, Marthe ascribes the disaster that the marshal caused her family partly to her mother; so she interprets her mother not only as having the fragile existence of an object of plunder, but also as a "passion" that "altered forever the course or anything the pattern of [the marshal's own life]" (250). Because Marthe thus does not count the love affair between the marshal and her mother as the cause of her family's cruel fate, that is to say, as a debt that should be redeemed by the marshal, the accounts just balances in her calculation. She does not choose to live a life driven by bitter resentment at past events, but rather, to cancel out their accounts and establish a freshly equal relationship with the so-called assailant, which she enlists as a mental support for maintaining her survival. In such an attitude we can acknowledge an independence of mind that avoids relations whose meaning is forced by others, in favor of those which she tries to establish subjectively in her own judgment.
Indeed, here we reach another truth that Marthe can be reduced to one of Faulkner's typical female figures who "endure and prevail" (Gladstein 45)15, and that in A Fable there is also a binarism between such female figures and the male figures typically compelled to live an "unlivable" life. Nevertheless, I dare to reconfirm that, in the case of Marthe, the element that subverts and destabilizes the binarism is her remarkable independence. First of all, as my discussion above suggests, Marthe is neither represented simply as the female object of male desire nor as a member of a heterosexual couple based on the binarism conception; still, she is described as a woman who exists beyond the cultural horizons of faith in heterosexuality. However, because she has a husband, such a description cannot be simply attributed to spinsterhood, which tends to be associated with sexist stereotypes. Briefly, Marthe is not a character that can be easily defined as the simple object of or only in association with a man.
This indefinableness is true of her relations with the Empire. Even though she once made efforts to become a French citizen, she cannot be explicitly defined as someone belonging to the Empire in its strict sense. When she is questioned tenaciously by Angélique about her connection with the leading mutineer, she passes through the difficult situation quite coolly and level-headedly by avoiding giving clear answers as to which side she is taking, the nation's or the mutineers', as well as by only implying her blood relationship with the person in question. More significantly, she suffers the loss of her brother's corpse and the devastation of her farmland through the bombardment of her farm by the Allied Forces. Described in this way, Marthe cannot be defined in terms of the interior or the exterior of the Empire.
Moreover, she cannot be defined as a member of a kinship group in its general sense, either. The relationship that she terms "kinship," as you remember, does not signify familial relations in the general sense, but, even metaphorically, the financial ones eternally maintained to "strike a balance." Thus, it is clear that her position within "kinship" cannot be designated by the existing names that indicate certain blood and matrimonial relationships.
Because, as I have discussed above, binary oppositions are subverted in the various forms although there no doubt exists a dissymmetry in power, Marthe's inclination to independence does not allow itself to be easily labeled as a characteristic peculiar to women. Here our reexamination of Marthe's independent quality from the perspective of representations of women reveals that she represents women but at the same time possesses individuality. In other words, she is both in the interior and at the exterior of representations of women, even if this state appears to be improbable and contradictory.16 The figure of Marthe as a representation of women, which distinctly denotes the act of political representation, is certainly deprived of individuality as a person, but the individuality displayed through her independence is precisely the driving force behind her emergence into the political sphere as a representation of women, that is to say, as the representative of the ethics of the "will to life" or of the familial sphere.
Also, the ethics and the repression of the familial sphere that Marthe represents in the political sense spreads to individual male characters, from the old man who mourns his son (68) to Gragnon who is assassinated by the military he serves (321). In addition, the very individuality that Marthe paradoxically assumes in the political sphere that men generally represent in the novel, namely, the politics and the politicalness that obviously entail struggle for hegemony and rule, results in the individuality she personally has and the femininity she politically represents, simultaneously appearing and disappearing in the text like the two sides of a Möbius loop. It is, specifically, such a loop as the exteriority flows in as the interior and the interiority flows out as the exterior. Naturally, this phenomenon would be beyond possibility from the perspective of actuality in human society. Then, in terms of such unreality, A Fable is indeed a fable, which necessarily involves the connotation of a fabulous story, and thus strictly speaking, we should rather describe the association between Marthe's individuality and her femininity as a Klein bottle, which is impossible to actualize flawlessly in three-dimensional space.
With Marthe's speech in the marshal's style and her opportunity to confront him face to face, A Fable presents the complicated figure of a woman who conforms to the hierarchized binary opposition of gender, but at the same time manages to subvert and even disrupt it with unequivocal success.
The last two sections of this paper will further elucidate the world view unfolding in the novel as a whole. In this section, will I compare the ethics of Hegel's "The Ethical Order" and those of A Fable. In the last section, I will borrow Butler's interpretation of Hegelian conceptions to analyze the last chapter of the novel in detail. There is an obvious distinction between the ethics that Marthe represents in my definition and the ethics that Hegel expounds in "The Ethical Order."
In Hegelian ethics, maintenance of the community is of sovereign importance, whereas Marthe's ethics gives the highest priority on maintenance of an individual. In "The Ethical Order," Hegel regards an individual as an existence that presents a genuine possibility of endangering continuation of the community.
Describing this situation, Hegel presents the conceptions of "independence" and "community" as opposed to each other:
The community may, on the one hand, organize itself into systems of personal independence and property, of laws relating to persons and things; and, on the other hand, the various ways of working for Ends which are in the first instance particular Ends--those of gain and enjoyment--it may articulate into their own special and independent associations. The Spirit of universal assembly and association is the simple and negative essence of those systems which tend to isolate themselves. In order not to let them become rooted and set in this isolation, thereby breaking up the whole and letting the [communal] spirit evaporate, government has from time to time to shake them to their core by war. (272;my emphasis)The essence of the community is in its negation of the isolation or independence of its individual constituents.
The above-quoted passage is further elaborated upon in the following:
By this means the government upsets their established order, and violates their right to independence, while the individuals who, absorbed in their own way of life, break loose from the whole and strive after the inviolable independence and security of the person, are made to feel in the task laid on them their lord and master, death. (272-73; my emphasis)Furthermore, his reference to "Womankind" as "the everlasting irony of the community" (288) indirectly suggests that in "The Ethical Order" this "independence" is typical of "Womankind":
Womankind--the everlasting irony [in the life] of the community--changes by intrigue the universal end of the government into a private end, transforms its universal activity into a work of some particular individual, and perverts the universal property of the state into a possession and ornament for the Family. (288)By the same token, the independence by which Marthe's actions are characterized and the femininity she represents are continuous in terms of her relationship with the community. As I expatiated in the previous section, her independence leads to her representation of femininity, and is also a latent threat to the existing world order. She is precisely the symbol of independence from the existing community as well as that of the existence oppressed by the community.
Now, we can see that Marthe's independence overlaps with Hegel's idea of independence in terms of being a menace to the self-preservation of the community. However, they are in marked contrast to each other, when it comes to how Faulkner and Hegel look at the relationship between independence, community, and war.
As I quoted above, Hegel asserts that government has to cause wars to prevent nations from collapsing into fragments with independent desires. In other words, looking at the relationship between the community and independence and war from the perspective of the community, Hegel points out that war is indispensable for maintaining the identity of the community, and for this purpose, an individual's independence has to be oppressed.17 His insight denotes that communal purpose is neither peace nor enjoyment, but war.
In contrast, Faulkner provides many characters who look at the same subject from the perspective of an independent individual, or in short, the independent. As illustrated by Marthe, the independent has the will to concern itself with the community as well as the desire to deny war--forced death. As it is true of Hegelian view, the identity of the independent is inconsistent with the identity of the community. The will to life, which is opposed to the general will of the community demanding a willingness to die from its constituents, is indispensable for maintaining the identity of the independent. Thus, the ethics of the will to life is not founded on the identity of the community, but on the identity of the independent, or the will to independence.
Faulkner and Hegel share a perception of the tension originating from the antithesis of the community and the individual. However, while Hegel, who only says "the community . . . emerged . . . as conscious ethical essence" (267) in "The Ethical Order," does not mention the relationship between ethics and the will to life, Faulkner focuses the matter itself in the novel.
Introduction of Butler's interpretation of the section entitled "Absolute Freedom and Terror" in Phenomenology into my discussion here will help the reader understand more clearly how Marthe's ethics function in terms of the novel as a whole.
According to Butler in Contingency, Hegemony, Universality,
although universality at first denoted that which is self-identical to all human beings, it loses that self-identity as a consequence of its refusal to accommodate all humans within its purview. It becomes not only split between an official and a spectral universality, but it becomes dismembered into an estate system which reflects the divided character of the will and the discontinuities inherent in this version of universality. Those who are dispossessed or remain radically unrepresented by the general will or the universal do not rise to the level of the recognizably human within its terms. The "human" who is outside that general will is subject to annihilation by it, but this is not an annihilation from which meaning can be derived: its annihilation is nihilism. (23)The universality of the community is supposed to include all of its constituents under the definition of the "universal," but, in reality, it fails to subsume within itself all independent beings, each with its own particularity. Thus, it "takes the form . . . of a spectral doubling of universality" (24); alongside the "official universality," there exists "a spectral universality," the existence of which is annihilated and invisible from the perspective of the "official universality," but which cannot be denied.
Butler further argues that:
to the extent that universality fails to embrace all particularity and, on the contrary, is built upon a fundamental hostility to particularity, it continues to be and to animate the very hostility by which it is founded. The universal can be the universal only to the extent that it remains untainted by what is particular, concrete, and individual. Thus it requires the constant and meaningless vanishing of the individual, which is dramatically displayed by the Reign of Terror. (23)The particularity excluded by universality from the realm of official existence does not stop continuing to be, but, as a specter, unavoidably haunts and contaminates "universality" itself.
Now, going back to the novel, I will concentrate my major attention upon the last chapter, "Tomorrow." It consists of three sections; the opening section subverts the significance of the mutinous plot carried out by the Corporal and his twelve private men, and relativizes their action and view of war; the second section is marked by the reappearance of the two sisters, Marya and Marthe, whose action intends to make their brother [the Corporal]'s wish survive. The last section presents the sensational event in which the runner disturbs the solemn funeral procession held for the "dead hero" (366), the marshal.
The final chapter takes place "six months after the false armistice in May" (340), and the pivot in a chain of events is the unknown corpse contained in "the sacred and dedicated monument" (367) of the unknown soldiers.
Hereafter I will give a detailed depiction of the three sections. The opening sentence of the first section is "ONCE MORE THERE WERE TWELVE OF THEM, THOUGH THIS time they were led by a sergeant" (340). The order given to them is to "proceed to Verdun . . . and extricate therefrom [the catacombs] one complete cadaver of one French soldier unidentified and unidentifiable either by name regiment or rank, and return with it" (345). They are "already fairly drunk" (340), and one of them, Picklock, wanting more alcohol, sells the corpse they delivered from the catacombs, and he obtains another corpse in exchange for the gold watch the fellow man stole from the German officer after he killed him. The reader is made to know then that the corpse is that of the very missing Corporal, which was discovered near Marthe's farm.
In the second section, Marthe hands the Corporal's medal to the runner, who caused another mutiny after witnessing the armistice that the Corporal had brought about. Finally, in the ending section, the runner, "not a man but a mobile and upright scar, on crutches" (368), throws the French medal at the caisson, a component of the procession, shouting at the dead marshal, "you too helped carry the torch of man into that twilight where he shall be no more" (369). At the moment, the crowd springs at him and strikes him down, but at the end of the novel, he is nearly dead but still alive, saying, "I'm not going to die. Never."
The title of the chapter, "Tomorrow," is anomalous, considering that the other titles are all the days of the week. Obviously, "Tomorrow" is symbolic, signifying the future of the world, even though the time is designated as the particular occasion, a short time after the First World War. Depicting a symbolic situation in the future, Faulkner presents the competing and conflicting forces of universality and particularity.
The runner emerges in the last scene precisely as a particular person disturbing and contaminating the universal community represented by the unity of the people gathering at the ceremony mourning the marshal and expressing gratitude for his achievement in bringing "peace and victory" "to Western Europe" (340). The marshal has come to symbolize the peace of Western Europe, which is a belief of the community. The runner, however, whose appearance also seems to be outside "the recognizably human," questions that universal belief.
The crowd, immediately, reacts to his action, trying to "annihilate" his disturbance, and even his existence. A symbol of particularity, the runner, arouses the "hostility" of the crowd, the symbolic of the Western European community, exactly because his idea about peace, which is different from the others, can never be included in the universality of the community.
The universal peace that the marshal and the unknown soldiers brought back to Western Europe is the official universality, in which the death of the unknown soldiers is not a meaningless, nihilistic death, but elevated to the level of a death with universal significance. That is to say, unknown soldiers, whose particularity and existence are actually annihilated, are made universal, the symbolic unknown soldier, by the people who place them in the tomb of the unknown soldiers and exalt them explicitly. Furthermore, the people enjoying peace are also made universal by their incorporation into one unity, or one universal belief; their particularity is thus also annihilated. Even the marshal is made universal by the community itself by occupying the symbolic position of upholder of the peace.
In the runner's eye, such peace is a deceptive delusion; for him, the reality is that innumerable soldiers were carried into "that twilight where he shall be no more." However, the fact that, to obtain this peace, many particular persons were hurt, killed and even at present in tears is invisible and does not count from the perspective of universality, because it is none other than the spectral universality clinging to the official universality.
Thus, the reality in the runner's eye is precisely annihilated; this particular reality is destined to be subject to "the constant and meaningless vanishing." As Hegel puts it, "this particular individual counts only as a shadowy reality" ("The Ethical Order" 279); to maintain itself, universality oppresses the spectral reality and presents official delusion as sheer reality.
Then, the figure of the runner disturbing the solemn ceremony held by the community is certainly the momentary actualization of particularity, which feels unbearably troubling in the eye of universality. The corpse of the Corporal placed in the tomb of the unknown soldiers is incorporated into official universality. However, the runner takes over the Corporal's troubling function of signifying particularity and making it visible to the eye of universality.
Here we have to be careful in defining what the runner represents. The first section shows that he is not the representative of all the soldiers. It relativizes the runner's action founded on a firm belief. The soldiers led by Picklock, merely from a desire to keep to order, complete their mission, delivery of one corpse, in service to the universal will; but they do not consciously share the general will with the universal community. The runner cannot be seen to be the representative or representation of soldiers, even if he seems to declare that he is no more than that. He emerges as a particular individual, confronting universality.
The action that triggers the appearance of the runner in front of the dead marshal is Marthe's handing of the Corporal's medal over to the runner, as the second section reveals. Her action betrays a desire to hand the marshal back the medal that substantiates his membership in the order of universality; this action is a protest from particularity against universality. Through handing the marshal back the medal, the runner strives to make the significance of the Corporal's action incorporated into the universality. He requires universality to transform itself by incorporating into it the ethics of the will to life, thus going beyond the binarism of gender. The illustration of a possible new world in the future is prefigured and represented by his action, which disturbs and destabilizes universality.
However, universality and particularity, which are the everlasting antithesis in real society, are continuous in their essence, both of them requiring peace: communal peace and personal peace. Put in Hegelian terms, universality and particularity, respectively, demand communal security and individual security. Universality strives to annihilate particularity in order to preserve itself, while to maintain itself particularity asks universality to transform itself: both need peace for its self-maintenance. Thus, the ambivalent relationship between universality and particularity resembles a Möbius loop.
Looking at the present world, we notice many "Möbius loops" emerging across the globe, whose two sides consist of universality and particularity. Faulkner's insight into the limitations of democracy originates from his recognition of the tension between universality and particularity; especially when the system of universality annihilating particularity and the system of democracy are congruent with each other, particularity, which is not allowed to be other than as a specter, is literally subject to actual "annihilation." Democracy makes itself look as if it were balancing the antithesis between the peace of universality and that of particularity. Clearly, this barely-balanced antithesis is fragile. It is such fragile relationship between community and independence that A Fable presents.
1 For the early criticism of A Fable, see Emerson, pp.239-251 in particular. He summarizes early criticism of the novel by asserting that "most of the critics, however, pretty much agreed that AF was a failure." This novel's reputation as a failure was almost fixed by Brooks, with the result that most of major Faulknerians have not recently chosen it for their principal object of critique.|
2 Hegel's "Phenomenology of Spirit", trans. A. V. Miller (Oxford: Oxford UP, 1977) hereafter cited as Phenomenology; only all citations will be from the text.
3 Faulkner referred to the work in manuscript as "my magnum. O" in 1946. See Blotner 188, 233, and 237.
4 Faulkner launched on the manuscript originally for a film with the obvious design of using the "Christ-analogy" as its basis around 1943 (See Butterworth 2; Blotner 179, 234). In truth, the conspicuous "Christ-analogy" has tended to stimulate critics to inspect biblical analogies in reading A Fable, which resultantly throws them into disappointment with its didactic aspect or into bewilderment at analogies devoid of any clues to an integrated interpretation.
5 The Gospel provides very little clues about Mary Magdalene in detail, except that she talks to Jesus after his resurrection (See John 20:1-18).
6 As the confusion in Annotations by Butterworth reveals, it is difficult to perceive how biblical analogies are applied to the characters in the novel. Meticulous research never fails to carry us away into unrelievable confusion or total standstill. One attemptive example is that if we find an analogy between Martha and Marthe, then the Lazarus figure is expected to be the Corporal whose life Marthe tries to save, but if there is the analogy of the Corporal to Lazarus, the person whom she asks for his brother's life should be the Christ figure, that is, the Corporal himself. However, in reality, the person is not the Corporal, but the marshal. What is more, to believe simply that biblical analogies always carry certain ideas is even an obstacle to approach to the implications of the analogies. The analogy between Marthe and Martha in characterization is one of the rare examples in which we can find it reasoned and convincing.
7 The conception of the French Empire is implied on various occasions in the form of frequent mentionings of French colonies in Africa and Asia, where the marshal and the Quartermaster General respectively serve in the military in their youth (212, 217).
8 Marthe, her sister and brother did not travel in a westerly direction at first, though it is the shortest way to their destination, France. On the contrary, taking a roundabout way in the opposite direction, they reached France by way of Asia Minor and Beirut. This roundabout eastern journey serves to indicate Marthe's originally spiritual and cultural distance from the Western civilization. Marthe refers to the place name of Beirut seven times in all (246-249) and it suggests that the place involves some significant meaning for her. Only although in the text she says, "there was a French colony [in Beirut], a garrison, official--in effect France, the nearest France to where we were" (248), at the end of the 19th century when she passed through, Beirut was under the rule of the Ottoman Empire; after the First World War it fell under French mandatory rule; it has never been a French colony. Whether the author made this mistake intentionally or not is unknown and what this mistake means in the cultural context has yet to be explored.
Besides Beirut, most of the Balkan region, which is Marthe's native place, was also under the rule of the Ottoman Empire until the Balkan War (1912-13) ended; this means the Balkan region is a place where various cultures collide and intermingle with each other. What the author's choice of Marthe's native place as the Balkan region connotes in the ideological context has also yet to be investigated.
9 The quotation is from the "Foreword" by J.N.Findlay. See Phenomenology 267-289, for a detailed explanation by Hegel himself.
10 There is a singular distinction between the ethics that Marthe stands for in my definition and the "ethical" that Hegel frequently mentions in Phenomenology. According to Hegel
the universal ethical beings are, then, the substance qua universal, and the substance qua an individual consciousness. Their universal actuality is the nation and the family; while they have their natural self and operative individuality in man and woman. (276)In sum, for Hegel both the political sphere and the familial sphere belong to the ethical world. Moreover, in the familial sphere, the family connects even the ethical action towards the individual to the communal purpose as we see in an example of the burial of the dead: "the Family thereby makes him [the dead] a member of a community" (271).
Contrasted with this, the ethics represented by Marthe is exclusively based on the principle that the highest priority should be on individual purpose, especially in terms with life.
11 I use the word "ideology" in the sense that Zizek uses it in The Sublime Object of Ideology:
Ideology is not a dreamlike illusion that we build to escape insupportable reality; in its basic dimension it is a fantasy-construction which serves as a support for our 'reality' itself. (45)That is to say, the corporal's "unfact" should not be regarded as ideology that is a substitute for an illusion like a dream.
12 The "cenotaphs and tombs of Unknown Soldiers" (Anderson 9) in the closing scene of A Fable highlights the illusoriness and fabulousness of nationalism. The description of the funeral ceremony for the marshal which culminates in "that sacred and dedicated monument""the crowd surrounded and enclosed" (367) is minute and magnificent:
On the marble floor, exactly beneath the Arch's soaring center, the small perpetual flame burned above the eternal sleep of the nameless bones brought down five years ago from the Verdun battlefield. (367)Thus the obvious religious implications of the monument of the unknown soldiers in A Fable remind us of Anderson's prominent interpretation of the "cenotaphs and tombs of Unknown Soldiers," which asserts that "if the nationalist imagining is so concerned [with death and immortality], this suggests a strong affinity with religious imaginings" (10).
Let us consider what the fact that the corpse of the corporal is put in this monument, which is only made known to the reader, immediately implies. On the one hand, it appears to be the negation or the ridicule of the transcendence of the corporal, in terms of the biblical analogy. On the other hand, it also suggests that the monumental tomb symbolizing the religious implications of nationalist ideology contains the corpse of the mutinous ringleader. Then, whether the object of ridicule is the symbolic resurrection and survival of the Christ-figure corporal or those of the nation-state is undecidable.
The reason why the solemn and majestic funeral for the marshal whom the public recognizes as the savior of France and "the whole Western world" (366) necessitates the monumental tomb of anonymous soldiers is that those soldiers are transformed by this tomb from mere repressed victims to heroic contributors to the perpetuation of the nation-state and who symbolize the constituent parts of its solid foundation.
One point we should pay heed to is that the marshal is depicted as "the dead hero" who "had driven all adumbration from the face of Western Europe and indeed from the whole Western world" (366) at the funeral scene. In A Fable what the marshal politically represents ranges from the nation-state France through the French Empire to the whole Western world. The ideological implications of this change have yet to be explored, in terms of the work as a fable, namely a fantasy in the elementary sense of the word. See also Anderson 9-10.
13 A wealthy woman searching for her missing son organizes an association for people afflicted by the war in cooperation with an old black man, but this does not have enough power to move the political world and put battles to an end.
14 In Antigone's Claim, Butler interprets her life as "unlivable" by explaining:
She is propelled by the words that are upon her, words of her father's that condemn the children of Oedipus to a life that ought not to have been lived (my emphasis). Between life and death, she is already living in the tomb prior to any banishment there. (77)
15 See Davis (439-49) for further reference.
16 Beginning with "Can the Subaltern Talk?" in The Post-Colonial Critic Spivak also discusses the question of "the complicity between the two things" (109), namely the double senses that the English word "representation" (108) connotes: "representing politically" and "portraying" (108). What she sees as questionable is the fact that we automatically tend to politically represent the people or the constituency when we think we simply portray and describe them, because we posit the monolith sovereign subject by unavoidably giving a literal referent to them; also in her own words, "in the act of representing politically, you actually represent yourself and your constituency in the portrait sense, as well (108)."
This necessarily indicates that, strictly speaking, representing someone, whether it is in the political or the portrait sense, ignores and precludes the difference among the individuals. Therefore, following her thinking, my eighth section is on the assumption that representation is intrinsically and inescapably contradictory with the concept of individuality or the difference.
17See Hegel, 288.
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