Responsibility in World Literature

An analysis of the theme of responsibility in “Complicity” by Iain Banks, “Waiting for the Barbarians” by J.M. Coetzee and “Le Mur” by Jean-Paul Sartre.

This paper deals with the theme of responsibility in three works of world fiction; Iain Bank’s Complicity (Scottish), Coetzee’s “Waiting for the Barbarians” (South-African) and Sartre’s story Le Mur (The Wall) (French). It analyzes whether the characters in these different works are responsible for their own fate and whether they can also be held responsible for the fate of others. It attempts to show through the literature how our actions or even the lack of them bring forth ethical questions on our responsibilities towards the consequences of our actions and on the degree of responsibility we have in this regard towards others.
“Sartre makes the question of responsibility even more complicated. In his story le Mur he asks the question if an individual is responsible for something he caused but could not expect to cause. The protagonist of the story is Pablo, as a member of the resistance captured by soldiers he is given two choices by his captors. Or Pablo gives away the hiding place of the leader of the resistance or he is executed. At the beginning of the story he refuses to give his leader away and is put in prison. In the room where he is held prisoner Pablo goes trough many different stages of fear, and at the end his (regular) life now seems precious, but far away: C’est un sacre mensonge.