Where Is Piotr Niewiadomski Headed? The Protagonist of “The Salt of the Earth” in a Mythic-Ritual Context

Dorota Siwor

Abstrakt

The author returns to The Salt of the Earth conceived in the mythic-ritual context. She presents characteristic elements of the plot that allow us to interpret the fortunes of the main character through the prism of the initiation ritual. However, what she proposes differs from previous interpretations of the novel. She concludes that by using the poetics of myth and the initiation model the author not only demythologizes war, but also presents a diagnosis of the situation of European civilization on the eve of the cataclysm of World War II. Wittlin also passes judgment on fascination with the primeval myth, as well as on simplistic concepts of the return to a state of unblemished nature, which was supposed to be an antidote to the civilizational threats of the time.

The author also contemplates the meaning of the presentation of the protagonist of the novel, Piotr Niewiadomski, as an innocent simpleton. By using the context of the initiation ritual, we can understand Niewiadomski's journey as a path to recognizing one's situation in the world leading to rebellion but culminating in cognition and self-awareness. However, the novel's protagonist does not fully achieve these aims. He remains a person who is incapable of carrying knowledge about the world and about conscious participation. Therefore, in The Salt of the Earth Wittlin poses a question about the responsibility all of us bear for evil, including that resulting from simplifications and from mythologization.

Słowa kluczowe: Józef Wittlin, The Salt of the Earth, mythic-ritual context, initiation ritual
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