TERROR AND TRAGIC OPTIMISM AS SUSTAINING CONSTRUCTS IN CAMUS’S THE PLAGUE AND SOYINKA’S SEASON OF ANOMY

TERROR AND TRAGIC OPTIMISM AS SUSTAINING CONSTRUCTS IN CAMUS’S THE PLAGUE AND SOYINKA’S SEASON OF ANOMY

ABSTRACT

Camus’s The Plague has been read variously as an allegory of Nazi terror in France as well as a depiction of Camus’s absurdist philosophy. Many critics of Soyinka’s Season of Anomy strangely also have interpreted the text as an allegory of the Nigerian civil war in which terror is seen as a political weapon. Although these modes of reading explore the resistance to terror, critical reading of a work cannot be achieved through allegory which searches for meaning outside the text. The present reading, therefore, while distancing itself from the above perspectives, undertakes a comparative examination of the two novels in order to demonstrate that terror and tragic optimism are their sustaining constructs. The study examines tragic optimism following Nietzsche’s notion of the universal instinct. In his theory of the Ubermensch, Nietzsche presents the figure of the Overman who is able to shatter the rules of rationality that are often built on mediocrity, and set up new ones out of his owrn superabundant life and power. This figure views life as evolving to higher forms with the human instinct as the spear-point of this evolution. In tragedy, the Overman resembles the “titanically striving” individual who struggles because he must. Tragic optimism as a Nietzschean notion that runs in opposition to Schopenhauerean pessimism, is thus about “saying yes” to life in all its tragic realities, an idea that runs through The Plague and  Season of Anomy. Using formalist-oriented critical approach, this research shows that in the heroes’ confrontation with the “more than man”, the universal instinct and cheerfulness which they possess as heroic beings enable them to face up to what had to be done. In the paradox underlying tragic suffering in the texts, not only does the research suggest that collective suffering creates the necessity for solidarity, it also concludes that for the tragic optimist, defiant struggle is uplifting.