Sample Essay Cold War

Sample Essay Cold War

The cold war was a period of perennial anxiety and global tension which composers responded to in a variety of ways.

Ways of thinking during any era are influenced by overarching socio-political concerns, and the perennial anxiety of the cold war is apparent of this, from the end of WWII to continuation of US-Soviet tensions. Paranoia about spies and the spread of communism created global tensions, underlined by the constant threat of mutual nuclear annihilation. The 1950s tragicomedy “Waiting for Godot”, by Samual Beckett, responds to the sense of impending doom and anxiety through the  philosophical paradigm of absurdism, exemplified by two homeless men’s eternal wait for “Godot”.  The espionage paradigm responded to cold war anxiety through emphasis on national security as explored through Leamus in the 1960s spy novel, “The Spy Who Came in From the Cold” by John Le Carre. A mentally-unstable Viet Nam veteran, Travis, in the 1970’s movie, “Taxi driver” directed by Martin Sorsese reveals the role of violence in US foreign policy. The politically paranoid environment of the cold war is revealed in the 1980s comic, “Watchmen” written by Allan Moore, in an alternative history where superheros hired by the US are being mysteriously killed off.

The prospect of mutually-assured annihilation creates an atmosphere of anxiety where individuals responded by clinging to failing metanarratives or resigning to their fate. Samual Beckett’s (You could divide this easily into separate points.) “Waiting for Godot” exemplifies both these responses to economic and religious paradigms in their apparent failure to provide consolidation for global tensions and anxieties. The reactionary nature of post-war ideology is exemplified by Pozzo’s exclamation, “As if I was short of slaves!”, revealing the way perennial anxiety turned people to the familiar status quo of the capitalism despite the stark inequality of the system. People also relied on religious doctrine despite their contradictions, this extended metaphor is explored in Vladmir’s discussion of different versions of the biblical story of the thief being saved. He becomes exasperated, declaring “It’s the only version they know”, revealing the dominance of religious thought in Western civilisation. The failure of communicative paradigms in the cold war ,where global tensions mount consequent of unresolved political differences, characterises absurdism in which characters are symbolically unable to hold a conversation. The repetition of “nothing happens, nobody comes, nobody goes” shows the stasis of the cold war which juxtaposes with random action, apparent of the bursts of political confrontation in which the perennial anxiety of nuclear annihilation resurfaces. Beckett presents a world where cold war anxiety have accumulated in the character’s behaviour of clinging reverence for failing economic, religious and political paradigms.

(You have a number of points here which do reflect your topic sentence but could be easily be given more depth. If you are worried about word counts, you may need to eliminate some of these and focus purely on the point that ‘nuclear annihilation creates tension and anxiety’. You don’t need to fall into categorising by metanarratives and absurdism, though you can use these ideas as evidence to substantiate your overarching point.)

The ‘necessity’ of scouting out the political other through espionage involves philosophical paradigms of  “the ends justify the means” mentality. “The Spy who Came in From the Cold” by John Le Carre demonstrates the psychological realism and moral ambiguity of political ventures through the eyes of Leamus, who is sent to infiltrate a communist ring in Germany. The Berlin Wall is symbolic of cold war tensions, the simile, “like a base line of a tennis court” connotes the war’s competitive and farcical nature with political powers competing for global supremacy despite the human costs. The paradoxical imagery of  the “double apron of barbed wire” to describe the wall reveals the dual-natured concept of security, as what could protect could also harm. Oppositional ways of thinking which fuel cold war tension become apparent as Christianity becomes the opposite of Communism, the antithetical declaration that Leamus will “despise God and Karl Marx in the same sentence” when conversing with Liz about ideology is a subversion of both dominant religious and socio-economic paradigms that had split society. Leamus makes the biblical allusion the “eye of God followed Cain” to describe betraying his spy network, revealing the omnipresent sense of  cold war anxiety. The motif of “coming in from the cold” is apparent of Leamus’s disillusionment with the hypocritical doctrine of the British spy network, while claiming righteousness, attempts to assassinate the idealistic communist leader, Fiedler, and leave Mundt, the violent opportunist, in his place. The cynical mentality of Leamus responds to global tensions and perennial anxieties by questioning the integrity of espionage politics during the cold war era.

(Good ideas, but you have a few too many points and quotes again.)

The ‘armchair wars’ destabilised dominant meta-narratives of US supremacy through losses shown in televised conflicts like Vietnam, heightening public sense of anxiety. Travis in “Taxi Driver” , is a Vietnam veteran suffering from existential crisis as he struggles to fit into routine life. The camera pans over his bare apartment, a metaphor for his bleak existential condition. The use of individuals as tools in global political paradigms of capitalism vs. communism creates a sense of existential abandonment, exemplified by Travis as metaphorically, “God’s lonely man”. The increasingly attractive view of violence as a solution against communism as employed by the USA is alluded to by the ominous drums which juxtaposes with smooth jazz in Travis’s theme music, symbolic of his slipping mental state. The anti-climax of Travis returning a normal life after he attacks a mob hotel symbolises the volatile and absurd nature of cold war conflicts. The perennial sense of anxiety follows Travis in the final scene, a close-up of his paranoid  expression in the rear view mirror of the taxi, as though the global tensions from his past might catch up with him.

The atmosphere of disillusionment is explored through the 1980’s American comic, “Watchmen” by Alan Moore. The absolutism of the ‘us versus them mentality’ which characterised cold war conflicts is shown to be incompatible with reality through the Rosarch, his black-and-white ideology represented by the metaphor “never compromise, not even in the face of Armageddon” leads to his eventual demise when he is faced with the decision of death or surrender. The Comedian, an American soldier, is metaphorically described as “practically a Nazi”, revealing the similarity of America’s absolutism against communism to that of the Third Reich. The rhetorical question, “Why are so few of us left active, healthy, and without personality disorders?” posed by Rosarch, reveals the damaging psychological effects of  dogmatic ways of thinking. Dr Manhattan, the personification of the atomic bomb, is a central figure in the success of America. His ambivalent tone:“A live body and a dead body contain the same number of particles”, being informed of the Comedian’s death connotes the disregard the scientific paradigm has for human suffering, subverting the notion that science improves the human condition. The motif of “the joke” in “Watchmen” reveals the absurd feeling of trying to sustain life while paradoxically waiting for a seemingly inevitable nuclear annihilation. “Watchmen” questions dogmatic ideologies in the cold war and reveals the damage done to individuals who perpetuate them.

Clinging reverence to comforting religious, economic, and social meta-narratives as well as radical ideology shifts and social change served as a response to cold war anxiety and tensions . Worldwide disillusionment and questioning of the role of the individual in global conflicts was part of the cold war conscience, (You need to discuss it relation to the texts, unless you have specifics on the contexts. You cannot assume that a text provides an absolute representation of an age’s values. They are only influenced by those values ) serving as a reminder that even at the face of overwhelming dogmatic pressure, individual integrity can be retained.


Excellent choices of texts – they contain some really strong representations of the issues pertained within the question and topic. Excellent knowledge of the texts.

You have too many points. Simply put, you need to think about quality over quantity. In a thousand word essay, you cannot represent all of your ideas without losing quality of argument. You need to also consider reducing your quotes as well. A one idea – to two examples ratio means you can clearly state your point, discuss it and its meaning, and prove it.

As much as it pains anyone to do it, you have to avoid including all of the research and analysis you have done in preparation for a task. You have to be selective and you have to be mindful of what you use. This often means cutting half to seventy-five per cent of all the hard work you did. But it must be done.

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