Landmines

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The main character, Bernard, is unhappy with his personal identity because he lives in a society that controls his freedom of expression. Moreover, his society is preoccupied, according to Bernard, with unimportant matters, such as constant physical gratification. As a result, he feels that his life is meaningless because he believes that he “could be doing something much more important.” At the present time, he does not know what that is, but he is convinced that he will discover it through writing.

"I feel I could do something much more important. … Words can be like X-rays; if you use them properly, they’ll go through anything. You read and you’re pierced. … But what on earth’s the good of being pierced by an article about a Community Sing, or the latest improvement in scent organs? … [C]an you make words really piercing … when you’re writing about that sort of thing? Can you say something about nothing? (80-81)

In this passage, Bernard rejects the idea of a “Community Sing” or the “latest improvements in scent organs,” which he believes are activities used to distract individuals from more important matters. In response, he is determined to expose the problem and find a solution. This is evident when he says that words are so ‘piercing’ that they function “like X-rays.” Words are x-rays because writing can help a person describe exactly what is broken. He also says that words can “go through anything,” which means that they are capable of making changes. These ideas imply that an act of creativity, such as writing, enables one to discover new ways of doing something. In doing so, one also discovers one’s own personal identity because a solution is ultimately an expression of those ideas most important to oneself.
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