The Human Condition has applied to humans, regardless of the time period in which situations take place. Often, through literary works we see themes relating back to the Human Condition, making the piece of work relatable and often successful. The Novel "The Song of Achilles" by Madeline Miller and the poem "The Story of Old Women" by Tadeusz Różewicz shares the theme of existential anxiety – that there is angst of existence that we struggle to free ourselves from. Różewicz shows that there is a constant of hope even in dire situations proving it is possible to be free from angst, whereas Miller portrays hopelessness regardless of circumstance. The contrasting views bring light to the aspect of the Human Condition in which we as humans struggle to free ourselves from fears of life. Together, both the poem and the story touches on the different aspects of existential anxiety through the literary elements of setting, point of view and character, with Różewicz expressing hope regardless of the situation and Miller portraying the inability to see hope in any circumstance.
The setting of a piece of work often creates the groundwork for the theme to begin to build, often strengthening the message. In his poem, Różewicz creates a timeless setting from the start when he writes old women as “salt of the earth” (line 4). Although “Dictators…come and go” (line 11-12), “old women are immortal” shows the strength and hope that old women carry throughout troubles. Furthermore the poem states “civilization dies / old women get up at dawn” (line 31-32) creating imagery of entire civilizations dying and moving on, yet the constant strength and perseverance of old women exist. Różewicz makes it a point to keep descriptions of civilizations dying brief, bringing focus to the old women who continue to wake up at dawn and resemble hope. In contrast, Miller, with detail depicts the scene during the ten-year war of Troy “… of corpses, and burning, and our faces streaked with pus,” (Miller, 276) painting a negative picture and focusing on the hopelessness.
The characterization of old women, Patroclus and Achilles brings insight to the angst of existence itself. Death is the root of existential angst, as it only exists because death itself exists. Różewicz takes death and portrays it as a final peaceful goodbye, showing the beauty old women bring to death when they "plant flowers / on graves" (lines 39-40). The strength of Różewicz character of old women proves to readers there is hope even when