Themes and Meanings

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

One main theme of the novel concerns the nature of a revolution or popular uprising. As Malraux sees it, a revolution comes into being under the impetus of a lyric burst of feeling, the best of which is found in freedom and fraternity. At this stage, Anarchism sorts well with a revolution. For a revolution to be sustained, however, these feelings have to be disciplined and organized; hence the need for a political machinery such as that of the Communist Party (which will, ironically, destroy the lyric impulses of revolution).

On a political level, then, Man’s Hope dramatizes the self-defining process of a revolution. As it does so, Malraux also explores the meaning of being human. When humanist intellectuals such as Scali are confronted with the brutalities of war and carefree individuals such as Manuel evolve into effective military leaders, they have to come to terms with the meaning of humanity—their own as well as others’. By means of the symbolic epiphanies of Attignies’ death-birth passage through a tunnel, of Magnin’s decomposition-regeneration vision of the apple tree, and of Manuel’s loss-recovery of self through music, Malraux resolves the problematics of these themes in an assurance of hope in the endurance of fundamental humanity.