War Themes

The main themes of War include the futility of war, the loss of innocence, and the hypocrisy of patriotism.

  • The futility of war: The characters in the story are all too aware of the pointlessness of the war in which they are fighting. They are not motivated by any sense of duty or patriotism, but merely by a desire to survive.
  • The loss of innocence: The war takes a heavy toll on the innocence of the characters. They are forced to confront the possible loss of their loved ones and compatriots.
  • The hypocrisy of patriotism: The characters in the story are all too aware of the emptiness of patriotic rhetoric. They see through the lies that their government is telling them, and they know that their country's aims are not really worth fighting for.

Themes and Meanings

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 495

This is a world of crumbling values, made all the more vapid because of the intense desire to rationalize attitudes and live in a mist of illusions. The characters are overwhelmed by events that they cannot control and little understand, but they pretend otherwise. The woman, who has just arrived, is somewhat of an outsider; she apparently has not had time, or is not yet willing, to submerge her natural emotions under a mask of acceptable public sentimentality.

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The passengers reflect the lack of enthusiasm of the Italian people for the Great War, in which their country became involved because of a greedy backroom deal to acquire a few more chunks of territory that only few thought worth spilling blood to get. The lands would most likely have been theirs as the price of staying out. Italy’s participation was conditioned by no great outpouring of national sentiment, nor because the national interest demanded it. However, a pretense has to be made. One character says, “Our children do not belong to us, they belong to the Country.” His words, however, lack conviction. These people, despite their boastful facade, are not preoccupied with the great forces of history. They want to make it through life causing as little damage to their dignity as possible. They want to preserve the only thing that gives their life meaning and ensures their link with immortality: the lives of their offspring. One character says, “Is there any one of us here who wouldn’t gladly take his son’s place at the front if he could?” Everyone nods approval, but in fact such a question is academic because the premise on which it is built is so farfetched. However, the concern is genuine.

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In a sense, the war is far removed from this provincial railway siding—there is no mention or description of any actual fighting—but the war’s presence is nevertheless overpowering, conveyed in the characters’ pathetic attempts to maintain appearances through worthless intellectualizations, hollow gestures, and futile attempts to sublimate anxiety. If none of the characters is swept away by a sense of participation in a great national crusade, none seems to turn to religion for comfort; indeed, the absence of any meaningful reference to religion is remarkable for people living in such an avowedly Roman Catholic country. Nothing is accepted as being in conformity with God’s plan, or with his grand design for the Italian nation. No sacrifices are sanctified by their relation to a higher purpose. One gets the impression from these people that none of the sons sacrificed in this war will have died on the field of any honor.

Homework Help

Latest answer posted February 2, 2010, 9:57 am (UTC)

2 educator answers

Luigi Pirandello’s characters are prisoners of their own subjectivity and their own lack of imagination. They are morally featureless. However, their stale words and feeble efforts to communicate, coming from their boredom and trepidation, reveal a genuinely human need. They must convince themselves of their own intrinsic worth to alleviate their desperation.

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