April 23rd, 2012
Word Count: 1222
What significance does the theme of innocence versus guilty play in the novel, The Assualt, by Harry Mulisch? The novel, The Assault, is told against the backdrop of shifting Dutch post-war society, centered around significant points in that history. Mulisch paints a canvas of the difficulties of Dutch society in coming to terms with the events of the war. Mulisch faces significant questions of guilt and innocence when writing the novel thus leading to the hand of fate lurking strongly in the novel. The Assault becomes a morality play with much difficulty in determining and judging what right and wrong is, and guilty from innocence becomes a central theme throughout the novel in the lives of Anton Steenwijk, Fake Ploeg’s son, Cor Take and Karin Korteweg and Mr. Korteweg.
Anton Steenwijk is the central protagonist in the novel and has been plagued with the murdering of his family at a very young age. Anton struggles to understand and comprehend the events that happened that very night which ultimately leads to his apathy for the subject. Anton’s apathy and attempts of forgetfulness toward the killings makes him guilty in the novel; however, the fact that Anton’s only mechanism for coping with the tragedy is detachment and forgetting gives him the characteristic of innocence thus raising important questions of guilt and innocence in his character. Anton’s apathetic characteristic can be seen when he gains the “awareness that his house no longer existed [, coming] briefly but vanish[ing] at once (43).” Here Anton gains this awareness of a tragic event and quickly decides not to impose any guilt upon himself thus making him guilty, but because of the dreadful events that have happened to him, this can be seen as simple innocence of a teenage boy. Next, “[Anton] had felt upset at first, yet now, with shouting and screaming everywhere, people bleeding and trying to reach safety, he...