The Assault

In: English and Literature

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The Theme of Responsibility and The Assault By Harry Mulisch

In order to be responsible, one must be able to make moral and rational decisions while taking in consideration the guilt one will feel if the memory of their actions come back to haunt them. The Assault by Harry Mulisch explores the idea of responsibility through the infliction of a murder on the lives of innocent and guilty people. The idea that one must be able to answer for one’s behavior is portrayed in a peculiar way throughout the novel. It seems as if from the beginning of the novel Anton and his family are being held accountable for a murder that none of them were responsible for. As Anton’s “mother and Peter were just in time to see the [Kortewegs] deposit the body in front of carefree,” (Mulisch 19) the reader automatically perceives an injustice that will affect the characters and readers throughout the entire novel. Responsibility is one of the very first subjects that catch the eye of the reader in the novel as the reader is first left with the question of who killed “Fake Ploeg, Chief Inspector of Police, the greatest murderer and traitor in Haarlem” (Mulisch 17) without the thought of a severe consequence that would soon cloud their lives, and why the body was moved in front of the house of the Steenwijks.
The thing about responsibility that catches the reader off guard is the fact that no matter who committed the deed, whether good or bad, someone will have to take the blame for whatever the situation may be. In the case of Cor Takes, a collaborator who took no responsibility of the murder but rather left the body in the street for someone else to deal with, vanished without resurfacing until later on in the novel. For Anton and his family, the blame of the murder was placed upon them even though they had nothing to do with the murder at all. As Anton sat and watched the “long,…...

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