“Nothing is harder than to accept oneself.” – Max Frisch.
Walter Faber is a paradigm of collective identity v/s self-identity, rationality v/s irrationality and providence v/s concurrence; counter positioning free will. You cannot find yourself anywhere except in yourself. Frisch portrays the contradictory worlds of methodical reasonableness and the quandary of being a mortal. Walter believes in what he nurtures. As a technologist working for UNESCO, he lives in the present and connects with the world through scientific implications of his free will. Walter truly believes that it is mere a sequence of coincidences that fashions a man’s life, not fate. He defies the very nature of human sentiments sheltering his vulnerabilities through an itinerant lifestyle and transitory associations. Nevertheless, when circumstantial occurrences go beyond coherent justifications revealing the blatancy of Walter’s concealed emotions; the dichotomy of fate and coincidences are collided. Walter’s encounter with Herbert, his travel to the tobacco plantation, facing his uneasy past through Hannah and the sexual relation with Sabeth banishes Walter’s logic of concurrent consequences and imposes the idea of destiny. His obstinate belief that a man should not be held responsible for the actions he did not choose is shattered when guilt overrides his conscious after knowing Sabeth’s true identity. He appreciates the value of forgiveness, a concept which he had alienated himself from.
A man is a not a machine but an incongruous creature. Frisch talks about the influence of industrial age and its significance in etching human mentality. The evolution of scientific technologies has assured human beings the capabilities of capturing the materialistic wonders controlling every aspect of human survival.
Above all, however, the machine has no feelings; it feels no fear and no hope … it operates according to the pure logic of probability. For this reason I assert that the robot perceives more accurately than man.
Walter’s fixation with the technology constantly asserts the conflict between the modern world and the so called primitive thought processes. To a spiritual mind, death is the ultimate liberation of a soul. Whereas in a scientific setting death is seen as a failure of the aortic pump. Frisch toys with the post-modernism attitude towards technology suggesting that even though technology can make life easier it cannot define the workings of human connections. Walter’s practicality in every decision shielded him from the absurdity of emotions and fear making him helpless and nauseated in his own personality, is analogous to the resolution of Antoine Roquentin in Sartre’s Nausea:-
I was thinking of belonging, I was telling myself that the sea belonged to the class of green objects, or that the green was a part of the quality of the sea. Even when I looked at things, I was miles from dreaming that they existed: they looked like scenery to me. I picked them up in my hands, they served me as tools, 1 foresaw their resistance. But that all happened on the surface. If anyone had asked me what existence was, I would have answered, in good faith, that it was nothing, simply an empty form which was added to external things without changing anything in their nature. And then all of a sudden, there it was, clear as day: existence had suddenly unveiled itself. It had lost the harmless look of an abstract category: it was the very paste of things; this root was kneaded into existence. Or rather the root, the park gates, the bench, the sparse grass, all that had vanished: the diversity of things, their individuality, was only an appearance, a veneer. This veneer had melted, leaving soft, monstrous masses, all in disorder—naked, in a frightful, obscene nakedness. I kept myself from making the slightest movement, but I didn’t need to move in order to see, behind the trees, the blue columns and the lamp posts of the bandstand and the Velleda, in the midst of a mountain of laurel. All these objects . . . how can I explain?………. I realized that there was no half-way house between non-existence and this flaunting abundance. If you existed, you had to exist all the way, as far as mouldiness, bloatedness, obscenity were concerned. (Jean Paul Sartre; Nausea)
The underplayed incestuous approach and the irony in Walter’s analysis on abortion as a logical outcome in a civilization, shows that even though ‘man plans’ the absurdity of fate makes technology a pitiable surrogate of human identity. Ultimately, Walter’s trepidation of death and emancipation from his social identity as an engineer, proves that “Man the Maker” relates to how an individual classifies oneself from a hollow world where one cannot suffer nothing.