Walter Benjamin And The Past Disassociating With Present

2521 words - 10 pages

In Walter Benjamin’s Berlin Childhood Around 1900, he applies a variety of concepts with respect to time: past, present, and future. The concepts are highlighted in his vignettes: “Victory Column”, “The Telephone”, and “Butterfly Hunt”. Benjamin attempts to imbue his writing with a different structure of time from what was conventional. He perceives history as a section of moments, and each moment is an integral whole in its own right, making it equal to the present (Knights). Benjamin also notes that the ignoring of the past and the focus on the progression of the future causes harmful effects to nature (Knights). The concept of technological progress appears to give grounds for the domination and abuse of nature (Patke). Subsequently, Benjamin is arguing that modernization has produced an inauthentic experience of time. He further contends that the redeeming of history is not correlated with a new future. Benjamin's key ideals are regarded to be restorative. This ideology emphases that hope is set in the past and its memory. There is a very traditional aspect to this viewpoint. It considers that the wishes of the former generations must be preferred. Another of Benjamin's concerns is to remove the impression of continuity in history that is attainable if the past and the present are separated. Benjamin searches for the past with the ability to reform in a manner to halt the exchange of present satisfaction for past misery, capable of suspending the reproduction of past tribulation and injustice. Benjamin’s rhetoric in Berlin Childhood around 1900’s vignettes, “Victory Column”, “The Telephone”, and “Butterfly Hunt”, assert that the past contains an immense power of unrealized potentialities, that is unable to associate with the present, as it is conformed with the with the unknowingness of a progressive future.

Benjamin’s vignette, “Victory Column”, is a moment of his past where he can perceive himself in a utopia like state, before the overbearing present has oppressed him. There is a certain innocence that he is attempting to recapture, as his present state is fully aware of injustice and abuse. For example, as a schoolboy when Benjamin states that “Best of all, I loved the bishop holding a cathedral in his gloved right hand…Since that time I have met with no Saint Catherine without looking around for her wheel, with no Saint Barbara without hoping to see her tower” (Benjamin 46). Although, the aforementioned appears harmless, there are undertones relating to a tragic present life. According to the seventh editor’s note, Saint Catherine was “tortured on a wheel and decapitated” (Eiland 170), and Saint Barbara was “imprisoned in a stone tower where she too was beheaded” (Eiland 170). Consequently, Benjamin’s reasoning for adding these references becomes unearthed. His present state of spiritual belief is lacking, and his only way to rekindle feelings of innocent faith is through the past. Moreover, by engaging in the method of remembering,...

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