Themes and Meanings

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

The theme that dominates A Meditation is the search for the self. Yet this search is doomed from the beginning, because it is expressed through words, and words are inadequate tools of communication: “two people who talk and understand each other by making use of the same words often see two different spectacles inside themselves, neither of which emerges into the other’s view and only occasionally giving origin to an emotion that is analogous and shared.” Furthermore, the I who remembers is not the same person who experienced the incident, for the individual is ever changing; he feels “as if between my I and my memory of the I there always existed a distance that was...unbridgeable.” The narrator is alienated not only from society but also from himself. He looks at himself, especially the self that was, as though he were looking at another.

What time does to the narrator, illness does to Mary: “[S]he walks feeling her way behind herself, concerned only with herself and rather alien to all that is going on around her; instead of sitting down to contemplate the countryside or the street she sinks into a hammock, in order, through a pair of dark glasses, to consider her impotent and painful I; and so she remains, converted into a dog of her own I.” Mary is so immersed in her own pain that she sniffs around it like a dog, observing it and examining it until “it” becomes a separate entity and “the solution of continuity between beast and fear disappears.” Once the primal fear is gone, Mary “is no longer a person of this world,” for existential terror is at the center of human existence.

If self-analysis offers no solutions, neither does science. Cayetano Corral observes that “psychology with the pretext of a better precision and differentiation of the elements it is analyzing, does nothing but introduce a radical confusion and seek what belongs to the syntactical in the analogous realm.” The knowledge that the individual desires so desperately—the knowledge of the self—constantly eludes him. In fact, there is no real knowledge, because “all knowledge is nothing but the substitute of an experience.” Thus, there is no such thing as intellectual certainty, for life is...

(The entire section is 915 words.)