Life, Work, and Death in “The Last Man”
So, the biblical correlations between Grainville’s “The Last Man,” and the Holy Bible are quite obvious, particularly with the books of Revelations and Genesis. The novel does at times, though, exhibit sentiments of yet another book of the bible. Comparisons to Solomon’s Ecclesiastes can be seen, for sure. In fact, I would even argue that, alongside the other two biblical books, the book of Ecclesiastes resonates throughout the entirety of the novel. As many know, Ecclesiastes speaks of human vanity, and the struggle to contend with it — life, work, and death, with some pleasure mixed in between. That is the depressing but humbling message, in a nutshell, of Ecclesiastes. No matter what one may do or strive to do, it is, as its author, the wise King Solomon says, frivolous, and pointless. There is “nothing new under the sun,” (New International Version, Eccles. 1.9) according to King Solomon. The connection to Grainville’s “Last Man” can be seen simply by observing the consistent dedication towards the hope of fulfilling the prophecy regarding the salvation of Earth. Faith and hope are constant themes throughout the novel, and yet they are presented as being vain also. They are presented as being vain because humanity can no longer be relied upon at this point based on their abusive past. One such passage sees Omegarus at odds with the burden of life as a result, with him giving in to his seemingly inauspicious shortcomings.
“I had touched the end of the scale of violent emotions. Must I tell to what excess it drove me? I would hide my weaknesses from you, had I not promised to be truthful. I had gone out to hunt and kill the animals that provided us with food. Tired of life, overwhelmed with despondency, careless of the need to preserve a life that had grown hateful, I broke my bow and arrows. (Grainville 33)”
Of course this can be viewed many different ways, be it giving up, or a natural predilection of humankind’s downfall, their being prone to imperfection. The point, however, is that like the message that is projected in Ecclesiastes of desire versus vanity, and then a realization of the two being connected, the message that is also projected in Grainville’s novel is quite similar. Vanity, vanity! Perhaps, unfortunately, this idea of vanity can also be connected with Grainville’s personal ideals at the time and his eventual suicide.
Grainville, Jean Baptiste Francois Xavier Cousin de. The Last Man. Middletown: Wesleyan, 2002. Print.
New International Version. Grand Rapids: Biblica, 2014. BibleGateway.com. Web. 11 Sep. 2014
Tompkins, Jim. Vanity of Vanities. Digital image. Loving the Word with the Mudpreacher. N.p., 04 Sept. 2014. Web. 11 Sept. 2014. <www.mudpreacher.org>.