Life After God Review/Essay (Through Marxism and Freudism)

2 Nov

I have recently written an essay for a small thing I had to do and decided to share it with you all. Especially for those of you who are into contemporary stuff.  Enjoy! Tell me if you’d like to see more stuff like this. I think it’s just a good way of looking at books – a different perspective compared to the usual reviews we see.

Life After God
We are the first generation raised without God. We are creatures with strong religious impulses, yet they have nowhere to flow in this world of malls and TV, Kraft dinners and jets. How do we cope with loneliness? Anxiety? The collapse of relationships? How do we reach the quiet, safe layer of our lives? In this compellingly innovative collection of stories, bestselling author Douglas Coupland responds to these themes. Cutting through the hype of modern living to find a rare grace amid our lives, he uncovers a new kind of truth for a culture stuck on fast-forward. A culture seemingly beyond God.

The book Life After God by Canadian author Douglas Coupland is a contemporary, new age collection of short stories that illustrate the importance of faith in our society. When combined, the underlying message is that without faith, morality and values are unexplainable, which will lead to confusion about people’s roles in society and, ultimately, the feeling of alienation. Although the title of the book is Life After God, the stories mainly focus around societies where God exists, and yet the protagonists are raised without religion, and this shapes their perspective of life through various stages of growth. As well, Coupland establishes the ideas in this book based on his own non-existent religious upbringing experiences, and the troubles he deals with in finding the meaning of life. He explains that people do not understand the value of faith unless they grow up without it, in which case they spend their lives looking for it. He also entrenches that the search for faith will ultimately lead to the search for death, because only when facing death will people understand the need for a religious figure. Each story is a snippet of a different protagonist in a particular age group or situation, explaining the difficulty in understanding their thoughts and actions without the guide of faith or God. The more advanced modern society gets, the less thought is given to religion and faith. When society looks back one hundred years, the majority of life, especially social interaction, is based on religion. Today, religion does not play a big role in society. More children grow up without a religious upbringing, which increases the chances of these children becoming atheists, or being lost in the right and wrong of morality. Coupland, being one of the children who grew up with no religious influences, is lost in the search for a religious belief that fits into his own morals that he continually establishes as he grows older.

There are two lenses that are outstanding in the book. The first is the Marxist Lense. This is evident when the reader realizes that the focus of each story is more on the surface appearances, rather than the characters, themselves. Coupland crafts his story through the heavy use of metaphors, and essentially the focal point of each story then becomes about the socio-economic relationships that the characters forge. This is because they are unable to form true connections with people, due to the heavily industrialized culture. The other lense prevalent in the novel is Freud’s Psychoanalytical Lense. The characters are missing a strong development of their superego as a result of the missing religious aspect of their lives, which then carries on to affect their psyche. The characters all suffer from anxiety, as a result, and heavily depend on defense mechanisms to justify their actions. When in search for a certain moral aspect to their lives, characters often find themselves face-to-face with their life and death drives, which makes them act impulsively. The use of these two lenses modernizes the novel, and thus makes it timeless.

The Marxist Lense is heavily used throughout the novel. It is especially obvious when Coupland writes, “An older yuppie-type businesswoman paid him $250.00 just to go see Batman Returns with her. Donny said it was things like this that really made him wonder about human nature” (Coupland, 58). The protagonist uses an anecdote to reveal the heavily industrialized culture he lives in. There is a loss of a moral ideology. The shared beliefs and values held in an unquestioning manner by a culture are co-dependent on the economy. The woman has no qualms in buying friendship, because she is able to afford it, and the missing aspect of God in her life keeps her from dwelling on the moral rightness of her actions. Donny muses that society has become so corrupt that bribery for friendship has become the norm due to society’s constant need to climb up the economic hierarchy, and therefore must have contaminated the meaning of friendship as a result. Human nature, itself, has been sullied, due to the loss of faith. As well, the psychoanalytical approach is pronounced in the novel when the protagonist says, “But Donny actively invited stabbing into his life. He said that stabbing didn’t hurt nearly as much as you’d think and that it was actually kind of cool… He said that in the end, his big goal was to get shot” (Coupland, 60-61). There is an irony in what Donny says, because he is the character that values life and questions the idiotic decisions society makes when there is no God or religion present in their lives. He is afraid of death because he has not yet found the meaning in life, and yet he indulges in risky behavior that will likely get him killed. He uses the defense mechanism Reaction Formation, acting in the opposite way to his fear. As well, his life and death drives are also at play. He appreciates life and love, Eros, and yet his search for the meaning in life leads him to death, Thanatos, which is the one thing that can bring him as close as he can be to appreciate the importance of life. His search for faith creates feelings of confusion, and the only way he comes close to understanding the importance of faith in life is, ironically, by trying to lose his life. In the end, his chancy behavior gets him shot and killed.

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