A well known American author, George Steiner, created his work The Deeps of the Sea to depict various aspects of a human life. George Steiner is fond of Leo Tolstoy and Fyodor Dostoyevsky, and their impact is obvious in all his literary works. In his story “Return No More”, George Steiner raises theme of love and hate. It addresses the issue of relationships between love and hate after the World War II in France. The author attempts to explain that it is easy to turn love into hate, but nobody can turn hate into love, since mutual distrust becomes the major obstacle for it.
The main character of the story is a former German officer, Falk, who returned to the small French village for the sake of his love to a girl, Danielle. From the very beginning, Falk is depicted as a stranger, whose past was well known to each old and young citizen living there. All of them hated Falk. The author intrigues the reader and does not reveal the mystery of such an attitude to Falk, depicted as a cripple without one leg. The omniscient narrator does not tell the story the Falk’s past in the beginning. Thus, the author attempts to cause the feeling of the compassion to Falk. Steiner prepares his readers to sympathize with Falk, especially when local people were hurting him, an unhappy amputee. Mister Lurot “hissed again and the dog understood… They [dogs] flew at him like crazed shadows… Beyond the reek and clamour of the charging dogs,… the lame man heard laughter from the marketplace” (Steiner 151). Of course, everyone feels sorry for Falk. Step by step the readers come to know about the Falk’s dark side. Nobody wanted to speak to him, but the readers are ready to protect Falk not knowing his past and real reasons for being treated so cruel by the local people. Such an approach softens all further conditions and readers are ready to believe in true feelings of both the former Nazi officer and the French girl, Danielle. Thus, the author turns the universal hate to Falk into the reason for sympathizing with him, and even loving him. Eventually the readers believe in his feelings. However, hate cannot be turned into love so easily. What hampers the appearance of this positive feeling is the crimes committed by Falk in the village – he hung the elder brother of Danielle. This fact gives rise to the distrust in his feelings towards Danielle.
Nevertheless, the author states that it is possible to love a person, even if this s a killer of the relative. Moreover, Danielle had an elder sister, Nicole, who loved Falk, too. Still, it is only logical to doubt these feelings for the following reason. Supposedly, Falk was a handsome man in the German uniform when he just arrived in the village. Of course, he did not commit any crime at that time, and he and girls could develop friendship. The author did not reveal in details the reasons or deeds which brought the young people together. Contrary to that, diegesis of the story. reveals only recollections of Falk about his life there. As the author depicts Falk’s feelings to Danielle, he says that he “bore her image with him, inviolate and precise. But it was that of a twelve-year-old… She brought him breakfast” (Steiner 155). That is all one learns about their relationship. For what deeds did Danielle and Nicole fall in love with him? What did he mean to them? What did he do for the sake of them? There is one thing in the story, which characterizes Falk as a kind man, – an episode when he gave some chocolate to a small girl, who asked a cigarette (Steiner 158). At the same time, a little pitcher was a precious thing for Falk. The author uses it as a symbol of the Falk’s love, of his hope for a happy life in the future. He even hid the pitcher in their barn to return and take it from there (as if it could return his health and age). The author depicts some tragic events in the village. Falk killed the elder son, but he did not repent of this because he fulfilled the order. The Nazis hung Jean on an ash tree near the hotel. Of course, the whole family knew that Falk killed their Jean because the brother helped partisans in their struggle with Germans. This event was a major reason to hate Falk, but the girls do not change their feelings.
Nobody could forget the death of Jean. It shocked the whole village. Therefore, the father of Danielle and Nicole wanted to kill Falk. How could a teenager love a killer of her brother? Of course, the author uses a well known practice of psychological conviction that it could happen in the real life. There is one excuse for that: Falk fulfilled orders of his supreme commanders. He had to obey. To show that the man took his duty very seriously, the author describes how Falk had to kill his sister after giving her his last kiss. As author describes it, Falk deliberately told Danielle’s family how he killed the sister to soften his blame for killing Jean. Probably, the readers could have believed in the real love of Falk to Danielle if he had saved Jean from death. Instead, Nicole said to Falk, “Jean wanted to kill you and you killed him instead” (Steiner 165). Falk was a Nazi officer. Nazism is the highest degree of hate of one human being to the other one. It is psychologically complicated phenomenon, and Faulk’s behavior and strange feelings are also a symbol of life of a human being under the influence of Nazism.
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Steiner depicts Falk as a helpless cripple, offended by everybody in the village. Only two sisters sympathized with him. Their behavior illustrate that Love is the greatest feelings from all human emotions. Depending on the individual features of a person, it can either make him or her stronger, or disgrace. Therefore, the readers became witnesses of the other contradictory scene in the story when the father tried to convince Falk, the killer of his own son, to marry his elder daughter. The father simply wanted Nicole to marry before Danielle. He even promised to give a sufficient sum of money to Falk if he would obey him, saying “You can’t replace Jean on the farm with that leg of yours, but you can make a proper home for Nicole and help us out a bit” (Steiner 173). This scene reveals one positive feature of the man – Falk was a real gentleman. He refused to take money because Falk loved only Danielle. However, Falk had a sufficient sum of money after his imprisonment in a camp. At the end of the story, the father changed his mind and forbade Danielle from becoming a wife to Falk. Thus, Falk had to leave the village, but love pushed Danielle to search for Falk. One cannot believe in it because all citizens lived in the village. They could not do anything without taking into consideration the society’s opinion. Therefore, the whole plot reminds a beautiful myth, which could not happen in the reality.
To conclude, Falk could love nobody because he had to fulfill all orders of his commanders, which required killing people without any emotion. All statements about the Falk’s love were a beautiful myth to make the story more interesting for reading. The reader also finds it difficult to believe that someone could fall in love with the killer of a sibling Therefore, after reading the story it is necessary to conclude that in the real life, love turns into hate easily, but hate could not turn into love in such an easy way, as it is depicted by George Steiner.
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