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The Broken Globe Author: Henry Kreisel Essay

Kreisel artfully establishes Solchuk as a victim of his beliefs through the manipulation of archetypal symbols. Raised under the influence of the medieval church in an isolated Ukrainian village, Solchuk grew up with the archaic values of his forefather’s conditioned into his consciousness. The rigid confines of his religion were so omnipresent in his childhood that he grew to depend on the unwavering foundation of its principles. Even before Solchuk’s transition into adulthood, he had irrevocably adopted the pious tradition of his forefathers as his own and thought it only natural that he would pass them on to all future descendents. Consequently, his son’s refusal to accept Solchuk’s personal values and preachings came as an unexpected shock. Since his religion had become the basis of his identity, Solchuk felt his son, Nick, had not only denied his religious principles, but also forsaken his own father. None of the forefathers before him had ever failed to save their offspring from Satan, so Solchuk concluded that Nick’s unrighteous beahviour must be an indication of his own deficiencies.

This seed of self-doubt lead him to the irrational fear that his son was raised corrupt because of the shortcomings in his own faith. Terrified that he might be succumbing to the devil that the church had conditioned him to abhor, Solchuk exhausts all his time and energy fighting off temptation and sin. To successfully block out all unrighteous influences, however, he must hide from the blasphemous ideas of the modern world. This isolation ironically eliminates any communication with his son, whom Solchuk feels he must save in order to truly affirm his faith. Unable to demonstrate his religious worth while desperately maintaining his faith, Solchuk becomes checkmated into a state of psychological torture by his own beliefs. Without any means of escaping the doomed cycle, he is forced to retreat and live in a permanent state of impotence.

The powerlessness brought on by Solchuk’s beliefs is evident in the battle with his son after Nick uses the globe to demonstrate that the world is a round ball that moves: “I have to laugh. A toy, I say to him, you bring me a toy here, not bigger than my hand, and its supposed to be the world,…this little cardboard ball…. But look, he says, she moves. Now I have to stop laughing…” To Solchuk, the idea of a crushable “cardboard ball” “no bigger than his hand” posing a threat to his God of unfathomable power and proportions is simply ridiculous. Because his belief that the earth is flat has encountered almost 2000 years of trials and still endured through the line of his ancestors, he cannot help but laugh when his son challenges his faith with a little “toy”.

However, Solchuk’s mirth quickly wanes when he realizes from Nick’s unyielding insistence that he is laughing at his own pathetic failure. His forefathers have overcome political exile and religious persecution to perpetuate this faith, and yet, he doesn’t even have the strength to convey God’s message by discrediting a child’s plaything. Since the bible states that faith gives one strength to make the hardest tasks possible, Solchuk perceives his inability to convert someone that should be as compliant as his own son as an indication that he lacks faith. Consequently, he develops doubts for his own piety and becomes desperate to redeem himself by righting his son:

‘That’ll learn you, I cry…. He stands there, the tears rolling down his face, and then suddenly like, he takes the thing in both his hands and throws it at me. And it would have hit me right in the face for sure, if I did not put up my hand. Against your father, I cry, you will raise your hand up against your father. Asmodeus! I grab him by the arm, and I shake him and beat him like he was the devil. And he make me madder because he don’t cry or shout or anything. And I would have killed him there, for sure, if his mother didn’t come and pull me away.

Because “raising a hand against your father” is an action that defies one of the Lord’s ten fundamental commandments, Solchuk deduces that his son must be flawed at a fundamental level. Thus, he logically construes that Nick’s defects can be traced back to his origins and his birth. Since his son was “born of his flesh”, he concludes that Nick’s sins are direct extensions of his own imperfect faith. This thought process is evident in Solchuk’s accusations. He compares Nick to “Asmodeus”, who was biblically known as the King of Demons and said to have been the offspring of Adam and one of his wives. This choice of parallels expresses Solchuk’s subconscious belief that he resembles Adam, who descended from a father of purity, but succumbed to temptation and passed on corruption to his son.

Terrified that he too, might be easily demoralized, Solchuk “puts up his hand” in order to block the blasphemous concept of the globe that “would have hit him right in the face” and corrupted his weak soul. In a desperate attempt to destroy the cause of his tragic flaw, Solchuk also “shakes and beats” his demonic son, who he perceives as a part of himself, to exorcise the demon from both of them. Even though his actions appear violent, however, it is clear that he means no harm to his son; he is so blinded by his need for salvation that can only see Nick “like he [is] the devil”. In fact, his recollection of Nick only includes the descriptions of sounds because his “hand”, raised to block temptation, obscures his perception of reality altogether. Solchuk’s self-established obstructions prevent him from realizing that his aggressively closed mind is destroying his relationship with his son, and he continues to desperately beat at his sacrilegious beliefs.

Since Nick refuses to emit any of “cries or shouts” to mirror his own desperate “cries” of weakness, Solchuk feels as if he is powerless to diminish the demon responsible for his depravity. Consequently, he lashes at his son even harder in hopes that it will weaken the corruption within him. However, each blow that he delivers only drives them further apart, until his over zealous beliefs “pull [him] away” from his son completely. With the communication severed between them, Solchuk not only loses the person dearest to him, but also ruins his chances of purifying his son and earning his own absolution. Since he is unable to affirm his faith while trying to subdue temptation, Solchuk must live in permanent doubt of his own piety while overcome with an eternal sense of impotence. In his powerlessness, he cannot even acknowledge his psychological torment and begin to heal because it would blasphemy to admit that he is a victim of his beliefs. Consequently, Solchuk retreats into a life of wretched isolation and despair.


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