Early years[ edit ] MacLeish was born in Glencoe, Illinois. He attended the Hotchkiss School from to He fought at the Second Battle of the Marne. He returned to America in By the s, he considered Capitalism to be "symbolically dead" and wrote the verse play Panic in response.
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As a result, suffering is a key part of human experience, and because of this, mankind has searched for meaning in a world which involves inescapable loss, death, and pain. While it is completely understandable that humans question why suffering exists, J. By analyzing J. In other words, these responses are trying to create justice by applying the roles of hero and villain to God and to man when there are no heroes or villains involved in suffering—just the nature of existence.
This description of the mask is intentional and reveals a lot about the idea that evil is the fault of humanity. Basically, this means that when we blame mankind in order to make God the hero in the story of suffering, we close our eyes to evil and overlook the pain of others. In the beginning of the play, there is a scene that demonstrates this: Sarah:[…]I love Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday.
Where have Monday, Tuesday, gone? Under the grass tree, under the green tree, one by one. I love Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday one by one.
Rebecca: Say it again Jonathan: You say it, Father. Sarah: Not at all. The light fades, leaving the two shadows on the canvas sky In this scene, Sarah is questioning meaning and describing loss, but when J. They would rather keep their idea of a good God and justice than acknowledge that God may not be the hero—that there may, in fact, be no hero at all…just existence and everything that comes with it.
Sarah demonstrates this idea in a conversation with J. B: Sarah: […] almost mechanically […] God is our enemy. God has something hidden from our hearts to show. She stares and cannot look away. Nickles: She knows! Sarah: He should have kept it hidden. Yes, I know This scene is so interesting because both the Godmask-response J. At first glance, this response seems logical at least more logical than the Godmask response ; however, there is an important contradiction in the description of the Satanmask and, hence, in its argument.
It ignores beauty to stare at the evil that it wishes to project onto the character of God. Interestingly, Sarah and Nickles almost view this hatred of God and thus evil as heroic, thus, creating their own sense of justice. It is upsetting to accept the fleeting nature of existence.
This is important because the text implies that when mankind wears these masks—these attempts to justify the problem of evil—they become hollow and lose what makes them human. They either completely ignore suffering or they pretend that suffering is all that exists when, in reality, life is a mixture of good and evil… of beauty and pain and simple existence.
Weep, enormous winds will thrash the water. Cry in sleep for your lost children, snow will fall…snow will fall… J. Sarah: You wanted justice and there was none—only love.
He is. Sarah: But we do. By saying this, J. This is why J. Essentially, he is asking which of the Godmask and Satanmask arguments is correct; however, as the play suggests, both arguments are insufficient because they assume that either God or mankind must play the hero while the other must play the villain on the stage of human experience.
When J. Once he realizes that there are no heroes or villains involved in suffering—just the nature of existence, he does not know what it means to live anymore—what it means to be human anymore. Blow on the coal of the heart…the lights have gone out in the sky. Blow on the coal of the heart. Thus, instead of searching for heroes or villains, J.
Archibald MacLeish Quotes
Macleish’s play J.B. and the Problem of Evil