He Was a Quiet Man

April 20, 2013

In films like this which depict the anxiety of a meaningless, self-described “weak” person, there is often the emotion of revulsion than there is of empathy. The characters seem to just wither away by the ordeal of living a life, and their inability to calculate what makes them most happy. Even if it can be ratiocinated, the characters can be so anemic, that their inclination for resentment over achievement is overpowering, and they deflect their self-loathing even further onto the world.


Such is the instance with “Bob” in He Was a Quiet Man. His resentment towards the world acts as a buffer from the realization that he is his own limitation. He lives a meager life working in a faceless corporate office, in a perfunctory cubicle, and lives in a non-descript home. His life is the realization of a nihilistic existence. If he disappeared, no one would remember his existence after the first week.


And so behind closed doors he despises such a truth. He plots to be remembered in the world before he disappears, through what else but a violent send-off? He sits in his cubicle, grinding his teeth, and angrily willing sweat to drip onto his face, as he coddles a revolver and visualizes his target in his office before he does the deed. Yet, again, his meekness prevents any sort of actualization in the world. His existence is resentment in itself. And this is an interesting relationship between the nihilist and his resentment. Indeed, because of the ease of finding meaning or pleasure in life, there requires a profound reason to deny any values that exist in the inhabited world. The nihilist would defend himself from being indicted on resentment, and perhaps he rationalizes himself on the grounds of a materialist paradigm, one of a physical universe that is indifferent on whether a baby is suffocated or not. In turn, however, because he denies the existence of values external to his self, he is left to be arbiter of what to value. And as does happen often, such values are treated indifferently by the world which has no place for them. Resentment of a world which denies versus affirms what is affirmed by the self typically follows, to defend from the recognition that one’s self is meaningless then; that one must do something reactionary to justify living over suicide.


Cosmic irony strikes Bob, and he is left to follow the consequences of a world where he is heroic. In this sense, He Was a Quiet Man is triumphant. It demonstrates the implausibility of a resentful meek to carry the burden of accomplishment. It simply is not in Bob’s being to be a success in this world; an emphasis on the world which human lives share. Though it would be mistaken to presume that all who find misery in the world develop such a negatively reactionary response; nor would it be prudent to presume that the alternative choice is suicide. There are many who, simply, prevail in the darkness of their souls, who find a creative way to express their antagonism toward that which rejects themselves. Creation, in other words, versus destruction.


Grade: A



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