Symbolism and the Concious and Uncounsius Mind in The Assault by Harry Mulisch

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Symbolism has a powerful effect on both the conscious and unconscious mind. Conspicuous symbolism engages the conscious mind making one think about the many clever connections the author has made. Symbolism of the more subtle variety can have just as much of an effect on the reader; even though the reader may miss an intentional connection made by the author, they are likely to detect it subliminally. This can have a profound impact on the readers understanding and impression of a work. In his novel The Assault, a novel about the consequences of a particular dramatic event that occurred during World War II where the main character’s house was incinerated and all of his close family killed, Harry Mulish takes advantage of this fact by his…show more content…
Because of the emphasis placed on his youth and naiveté, Anton contrasts strongly with the motherly wisdom of Truus. Anton strengthens Truus’s assertion by commenting on the antithesis, “But if that’s the case, then … then no one’s ever at fault. Then everyone can just do as they please.(p 33)” Similarly at the end of episode 2 when Anton entertains Fake Ploeg, Ploeg is introduced as having come in from the night from the chaos of a riot. This emphasizes his disorganized mind as he tries to explain to Anton the innocence of his father. However, he is unable to convince Anton because his origins seem to come from the darkness of the past, and because what he says is directly contrary to what Truus states earlier in the novel it is impossible for Fake’s argument to be convincing to the reader. This an example of how Mulisch is able to either support or discount an argument he presents by the symbolism associated with the character making it.
Mulisch uses references to darkness as well as small seemingly unimportant details that reach in a conspicuous manner to impact the reader. The most important instance of this is the referenceto the darkness within the neighboring houses, as the windows are closed in covered to avoid any confrontation with the Krauts. During the original description of the assault nothing is revealed about what is happening within the neighboring houses the only description of the actual houses was that

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