Homo Faber Analysis

Literary works are, more often than not, formed on the basis of the
experiences of their composers in the societies in which they were
brought up or where they were born. It goes without saying that literary
works, essentially, are the voice of their composers as they are aimed
at sending a particular message to their audience or readers. In most
cases, these are issues that the composers, who may be artists, writers,
playwrights or poets and poetesses, feel that depict the societies in a
bad way or are oppressive and archaic to certain groups of people in the
society. The storylines, in this case, may involve the characters,
mainly protagonists, struggling against certain aspects of the society
and emerging victorious, or even with inconclusive ends. However, the
lives of such characters may be analyzed to determine their level of
success, as it the case for Walter Faber in Max Frisch’s novel, Homo
Faber. While varied issues may be blamed for the failure of Walter Faber
in his life, it is evident that the main culprit was his intense
fixation on rationality and failure to connect with the things that are
happening or the people around him or even to recognize the role of his
practical or real masculinities when pitted against his own mortality.
Walter Faber seems to have extremely warped priorities or agendas. At
the beginning of the story, he is flying from New York to Mexico, a trip
that ends abruptly as the plane develops mechanical problems and makes a
forced landing in the desert (Belasco, 2008). Throughout the commission
and the chaos that are taking place around him, Walter’s priorities
are completely different. He is primarily worried about his lunch. He
says “My first worry: what to do about the lunch” (Frisch, 1959).
This is also seen when he returns to New York, when he is unable to show
compassion and give the necessary emotional comfort to Ivy, who is his
long suffering partner. Instead, Walter takes into examining his defunct
electric razor and states “Any appliance can break down it only
worries me until I have found out why” (Frisch, 1959). These two
incidences outline Faber’s misplaced priorities and worries, which
underline his warped agenda. Indeed, this is also seen when he is
explaining to the reader the details pertaining to the first sexual
experience that he had. He conveniently becomes amnesic to details
pertaining to the same and does not furnish the readers with the same,
an aspect that has its roots on his reckless prioritization. It
underlines the fact that he thinks of the event as simply not worth
revisiting or dredging up, in spite of its being arguably momentous.
This warped prioritization is essentially what causes disconnect with
the people who should matter to him. Indeed, reviewers have underlined
the fact the behavior results in the subversion of the things that truly
matter to trivial fact, and relegation of the same to peripheral
Underlining his rationality is his statement at the beginning of the
story when he says “I believe in reason”, and says he would rather
read engineering periodicals than novels. On the same note, his interest
is fixated on the still-functioning Roman bridges and roads rather than
the dusty cultural treasures (Belasco, 2008). He dares anyone who is
against the exaltation of technology to stop using any form of
technology and go back to the jungle. It is this rationality that
results in the breaking of his relationship with Hanna who does not
match his character as, he says, she is a “sentimentalist and arty
crafty”. This may essentially be the reason as to why it was so easy
to take the UNESCO job after Hanna hesitated to marry him despite
knowing that she was carrying his baby.
This is the same rationality that causes him not to follow up on issues
that he should consider as important. Right from the beginning, Walter
Faber states “I’m a technologist and accustomed to seeing things as
they are”. Indeed, Faber shows his rational mind to the readers
through regaling them with statistics pertaining to how likely it is for
improbable incidents or accidents to befall them. In addition, he
downplays the importance of providence in the guide of the fate of human
beings. However, he goes through some extraordinary experiences and
coincidences that mainly take the form of chance encounters. Walter
Faber is forced to reassess the faith that he had put in technology over
providence or fate, especially when he realizes that Sabeth is his
daughter, who he never knew (Belasco, 2008). Indeed, he is left
dithering when unforeseen experiences occur, as well as when improbable
things evolve into the unbelievable. He is forced to revise his entire
outlook at the end of the novel as he lay desolate and vanquished on the
hospital bed and states “Life is not matter and cannot be mastered by
technology” (Frisch, 1959). Walter Faber, a man who had mastered
matter realizes that life does not revolve around matter, in which case
his technological talents have been rendered useless as far as unlocking
the secrets of life is concerned (Belasco, 2008).
Frisch, M (1959). Homo Faber. London: Abelard-Schuman.
Belasco, J (2008), The Bedford Anthology of American Literature, Volume
II: 1865-Present, Bedford-St.Martin`s Press, Boston

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