February 05, 2005

The Adding Machine and Ressentiment

Numerous Nitzschean motifs throughout the play accompany the message of the Life-Denying, No-Saying poison of Ressentiment. Refusing to simply affirm life and enjoy, as Daisy does by dancing in the Elysian Fields to the music (Dancing-strong Nietzschean connotation from Thus Spake Zarathustra), Zero reacts to the values of others by hiding his developing relationship with Daisy from Shrudlu. When his previous lives are recounted at the end of the play, an emphasis is placed on the floggings he has received (the Whip, another strong Nietzschean image). The desciption of Lt. Charles as overcome with "world-weariness" also points to Nietzsche's influence. Although Nietzsche's writings weren't available in English until the mid-century, his theories most likely were circulating among American educated circles and Rice probably got the gist of them from conversations with others. His application of them, mixed with an implied criticism of the enervating effects of reliance upon machinery, technology, bureaucracy and the bourgeois economic order anticipates the work of the Frankfort school, especially Adorno and Horkheimer's post-war studies of the barbarism present in modern life (valuable study given the impact of irrationality in the forms of antisemitsm, fascism, nazism and, reluctantly admited by the neo-marxists, stalism).

Posted by JamesStutzman at February 5, 2005 02:01 PM
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