Robert Benigni’s movie “Life Is Beautiful” and Cormac McCarthy’s novel “The Road” represent some of the most prominent works of art in the contemporary literary world. The two literary genres offer a visionary depiction by literary creators who are considered to belong to the post-apocalyptic world, in which humanism and human is exposed in extremes. In such scenarios, the movie and the novel’s authors investigate the essence of humanism and human nature by juxtaposing the basic instincts of humanity that assumes a characterization that is considered superior human value, even in a world of savagery, in which there seems to be the absence of humanism. And yet, on the same line of thought, the authors seem to have a strong sense of belief in the supreme nature of humanism, as well as the supremacy of human values above the primary instincts even in situations wherein humanity struggles for own survival.
Perhaps, the author of “The Road” also tries to convince his audience that, in fact, it is in the context of humanism and humanity values that mankind has the potential to get salvaged from all the inflicting challenges as well as problems. In this regard, the presented post-apocalyptic world offs a conclusive reminder to the contemporary world in which individuals have greater concerns for their self-survival and wellbeing only (Kunsa 68). In the modern era of consumerism, there seems to be little space for the pursuit of humanist values and ideals, as well as little support for people in situations of dire needs. Instead, obsession with consumerist ideals alongside the struggles for higher social statuses and unrelenting pursuit of wealth seem to prevail in the contemporary social setting. This offers a similarity of the struggles of humanity for survival as is portrayed in Robert Benigni’s movie “Life Is Beautiful” and Cormac McCarthy’s novel, “The Road”, within the context of the post-apocalyptic world (Bullaro 2005, Graulund 66).
Conversely, it is quite an elemental symbolism that humanistic ideals and humanism, which the main character of “The Road”, the boy, offers personifications of, seems to be exceptional though survived due to the fact that the boy is by all practical considerations in a lonely and cruel world. Of course, the novel’s author is emphatic regarding the exceptional nature of the novel’s main character, particularly with respect to his inexplicability of the primary human values, of sympathy as well as compassion to the general humanity and other humans. Thus, this is the reason why the novel’s main character is the ‘one’. Actually, the boy seems to be only individual that has be able to preserve the good elements of humanity and human nature, while offering a degrading depiction of the other adult humans the most primitive level (Graulund 68).
In essence, both the novel and the movie offer a depiction of the post-apocalyptic world after the total ruin and varnishing of the traditional world, which led to the abandonment of humans a wild and deserted world, in which human struggle was the key to survival. For instance, the main characters of “The Road”, both the son and the father, are seen to be in the move to the Southeastern region of the former United States of America, whereby they have high expectations about finding a better life, maybe, at least some kind of livelihood support sources (Kunsa 69). The author seems have intentionally created a darker and cruel atmosphere in which human struggle and survival becomes seemingly beyond the basic reality. In a sense, it seems as though mankind has gone back to the primary phase of its natural development, at a time when individuals had to confront nature as well as wilderness for survival, given there was nothing available except their hands, minds as well as basic or primitive tools (Graulund 69). The novel portrays, the imagery of the absolute degradation, wherein cannibalism seems to be the norm and individuals are ready to kill one another in order to obtain some basic necessities such as food for purposes of survival.
In “The Road”, the author has made remarkable use of the road in order to symbolize the overall life of mankind in its entirety. In actual sense, the son and the father are moving from a place in which they used to reside and which has undergone total destruction. Their movement to the Southeast is based upon the hope that they might find the salvation they apparently need. As in Robert Benigni’s movie “Life Is Beautiful”, the author seems to suggest that humanism is always about some elemental struggle towards the achievement of a better life (Bullaro 2005). They continue to press on, in spite of the problems and obstacles presented along the way. Similarly, the author seems to indicate to the audience that in human struggles there is always some home, and even in the aftermath of the most tragic disasters, mankind keeps faith and belief in their search for salvation as well as new opportunities for a better life (Graulund 66).
Concurrently, the main characters in both works, especially “The Road” seem to be situations of absolute isolationism. The new post-apocalyptic world is a world of fights and individual struggles for self-survival as well as own interest. Thus, it seems the main characters have considerable difficulty in keeping memory, especially as a result of the growing remoteness of the past world (Kunsa 70). In a sense, to it seems as though the lonely characters are facing the onset of a kind of cold glaucoma making the old world deem (MaCarthy 110). In effect, the past seems to have become a habitat of newly blind, with all past memories gradually slipping away. With regard to the future, author seems to suggest that there is nothing like “later” (McCarthy, 112). Thus, the main concern of the main characters is about the looming challenges and problems they have to deal with through coping mechanisms. Moreover, the ravaged setting of “The Road” is woven with abysmal, illuminating artifacts, including: old newspapers; a single lone Cocal-Cola bottle, still bizarrely fizzy in a place where everything else is dust; charred corpses in their final miens of frozenness (McCarthy, 87). Occasionally, these artifacts tend to prompt the boy’s father to recollect a seemingly “dull rose” glowing in their window glass in the wee hours of the morning, at a moment when clocks seem to have stopped in eternity (McCarthy, 88), pointing to a seemingly timeless world.
Obviously, the depiction of such circumstances offers an insight into the naturalness with people can lose their humanism and humanistic ideals that use to receive greater appreciations in the gone past but have gained a worthless stature in the contemporary world. The young boy hardly remembers his mother, who died in the immediate aftermath of the boy’s birth at the time of the ravage when both the man and she observed “distant cities burn” in the rapture (McCarthy, 76). Her death, and their scare memory of her, offers a great symbolism of the fact she was unable to resist the constant problems and challenges that they faced in their struggles for survival in a world that is dehumanized (McCarthy, 83). Traditionally, motherhood is closely linked to humanism and human care, love as well as other positive humanistic qualities. Symbolically, her self-suicidal demise, is a pointer to the possible reality of the loss of the last hope of the son and the father, and therefore the loss of mankind’s hope. The same experience occurs in the Italian concentration camps as depicted in “Life is Beautiful” (Bullaro 2005).
In Beinigni’s life is beautiful, Guido naivety also points to humanism. When Ferruccio offers a description of the Schopenhauer Method, his literal and serious take on it shows his failure to understand it as a state of mind rather than magic trick, thus unable to understand the cruelty and evil in humanity. Moreover, when Eliseo, his uncle shows the “Jewish horse” painting of his horse, he naively views it as an annoyance prank, rather than a pointer to hostility and violence. In effect, his naivety is a symbol of his belief in the goodness of humanity. Even the game he devises for Giosue, is meant to shield him (his son) from the nasty elements of human nature. This both an indicator of the dualism that exists in humanism (Bullaro 2005.
Nonetheless, the two pieces are not completely pessimistic of the nature of humanity and humanism. For instance, in “The Road”, the boy seems to be different from any other human encountered along the lengthy journey. Seemingly, he possesses good inclinations, strong innate urge to offer support to others, which explains his father’s disturbance as he believes the world is full of deceitful and cruel people who may potentially deceive and cannibalize his son. But the boy was the only hope for his father (McCarthy, 174), and symbolically for the overall mankind, as he naively incorporates significant humanistic values which are essential for humans to remain authentically human, which can offer them the salvaging recovery from the ongoing calamitous degradation that inevitably leads to mankind’s extinction. Hence the boy is “the one”, pointing to his uniqueness and difference to mainstream humanistic inclination in the face of savage and dehumanization around him.
In conclusion, the above discussion points to the view that Cormac McCarthy’s novel “The Road” and Robert Benigni’s movie “Life Is Beautiful” are literary warnings to the contemporary society. Yet, the authors of the two pieces seem to believe in the possibility of survival in terms of humanism, humanistic ideals as well as primary human values that uniquely characterize humans and separates humanity from other living beings. The authors show that humanity can be extremely destructive, often degrading to the primitive level of cannibalism response to survival challenges. Nonetheless, there is often some hope for humanity that there must be at least someone who will maintain compassion and true authenticity to humanism, even in the face of dehumanizing cruelty existing within the world.