Reconstruction of Ideologies from Self Consciousness in Italo Calvino's The Non-existent Knight and Yu Wah's On the Road at Eighteen

Essay by kimmy_funny March 2004

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Italo Calvino's The Non-existent Knight and Yu Wah's On the Road at Eighteen are both written in the age in which ideologies are collapsed; the former one after the Second World War and the later one after the Cultural Revolution. The historical background makes people retrospect their own beliefs and leads to further dissolution of ideologies. After the First World War, people especially Europeans believe that people would learn from this painful experience but a more destructive war, the Second World War, still took place thirty years later. After the ablutions of two world wars, people begin to doubt about their beliefs. Before they believe that human beings are rational, the two wars destruct their faith on systems and they turn from the outside world to their inner consciousness, questioning what human beings are and their meanings of existence. It is the same case in China as after the Cultural Revolution, people begin to contemplate and find out the ideology, socialism, is irrational.

The revolution brings a great disaster to the traditional culture and human relationship and people understand that their passion for revolution is manipulated. So they too abandon the ideology and begin to search their own beliefs. Therefore, people in this age are the generation of disillusion. This is evidently shown in both stories.

Ideologies and beliefs, both at the individual and social level, are destructed and denied. People always set meanings in their lives and contrived to attain them but in both stories, aims and targets are uncertainties. Once Raimbaud has unshakable determination to join the army to revenge for his father's death. He regards revenge is the most important aim in his life but when he seeks his enemy out and his enemy is killed, he "confuses at finding himself suddenly deprived of the...