(Masterpieces of American Literature)

“More Light! More Light!”—the title alluding to Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s dying words—conveys the pervasiveness of the manipulation of dignity. As well as employing the device of light as symbol, the piece is a profoundly evocative juxtaposition and subsequent reconciliation of similar images and acts, which depart when the execution of the martyr of the Middle Ages becomes, in the twentieth century, a Nazi command of a Polish man to execute others by burying them alive and then to execute himself by climbing in with them. In order to show the absurdity and evil in the issue of the command, Hecht uses a passive voice, allusion, and a signature metonymy, upon which the poem pivots. Power, force, brutality, torture—all that is the Holocaust—are represented, depicted, and defined by the Luger in the gloved hand, which is “settled back deeply in its glove” and “hover(s) lightly in its glove.” In the end, it is the foreshadowing objective correlative, the symbol of Nazi megalomania, and the reminder of a historical threat to dignity (a dignity that is denied to the martyr) that causes the death of the Polish man.