(Short Story) War by: Luigi Pirandello
(Reaction) Characters in search of solace by: Antonio Conejos
Pirandello's short story War is a fine example of epiphany as well as how this sudden realization can cast meaning on the entirety of a narrative.
At the onset the characters of the story argue for the notion that it is but right and proper that their children are off fighting a war. First, the parents reflect that their sons are fighting for a higher calling - for their country.
Our children do not belong to us; they belong to the Country... Moreover their sons are happy to be sacrificing themselves in the name of the nation,
And our sons go, when they are twenty, and they don't want tears, because if they die, they die inflamed and happy....
Most of the short story is composed of this bravado, of parents telling themselves that it is correct that their sons are off killing and being killed. The chief believer in this line of reasoning is a father who has just lost his son. Yet he maintains that his son died happy and thus,
I do not even wear mourning.
However a simple question by the newest passenger on the train makes this man confront the fact that his son is indeed dead. Faced with this epiphany the passenger breaks down,
he tried to answer but words failed him... to the amazement of everyone, [he] broke into harrowing, heart-rendering, uncontrollable sobs.
In light of this father's sudden realization that his son is truly gone his earlier statements take on a ring of passionate desperation. Clearly the father has been trying to convince himself that everything is as it should be, that his son died for a noble cause.
Yet ultimately the father's assertions ring hollow. His tears of mourning at the end reflect how the consolations we hide behind (his death was for a higher purpose, he died fighting for what he believed in) evaporate in the face of inconsolable fact.
Lastly this father has poured tremendous energy in constructing the facade that he hides his grief behind. While he is defending the war he is described as a
fat man whose
bulging eyes seemed to spurt inner violence of an uncontrolled vitality. Yet after he gives in to sorrow it as if his body withers and his energy leaves him. Faced with his son's death the father is described as
old... his great bulging, horribly watery light gray eyes turning to look at these people before whom he has so vigorously defended the war.
This short story is composed almost entirely of dialogue which emphasizes the passionate denials of the unfortunate father. It is also a study in the economic use of words, how subtle themes can be suggested in a very compact space.