In The Fabric of Existentialism, Richard Gill (1973) identifies the following themes as being common to the philosophical worldview known as existentialism:
Freedom and responsibility, with limited control over unforeseen circumstances.
How we ôcreateö ourselves by our choices.
The anguish and fear that is part of the radical responsibility we have for our choices.
The inescapability of death and finite time of life.
Loneliness of being ultimately alone with our choices.
The burden of our situation in a historical context that we did not shape, but in which we must live.
The conflict between our unlimited desires and the finitude of human existence.
Most if not all of these themes are illustrated in works of fiction by Ernest Hemingway (A Clean Well-Lighted Place), Jean Paul Sartre (The Wall), Ivan Tolstoy (The Death of Ivan Ilych), and Arthur Miller (Death of a Salesman). However, chief among these themes in these works are two: 1) The inescapability of death and finite time in life; and, 2) The anguish and fear that is part of the radical responsibility we have for our choices. This analysis will explore these themes as exhibited in these works, including a comparison of how Wittgenstein and Heidegger view these themes from the analytical and phenomenological approaches respectively. A conclusion will summarize my personal views of meaning and experience in comparison to the existentialist approach to life.
In A Clean Well-Lighted Place, critics generally contend that Ernest HemingwayÆs short story embodies his existentialist view of life, including the meaninglessness of an existence that is finite in time and further limited by human capacity. As well, the inescapability of death and the anguish and fear that are part of the knowledge of the meaningless of life are also exhibited. The story is set at night. The dark imagery and the religious setting, Spain, a primarily Catholic nation, helped re...