Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Ego Integrity vs Despair: Moving Day a novel by Jonathan Stone

Moving Day by Jonathan Stone is an exciting action novel on one level and an interesting philosophical discussion on another. The main theme is the contrast of light and dark, good and evil, maturation and regression. The story concerns the retirement of a 72 year old Jewish survivor of the Holocaust in Poland and his decision with his wife to sell their lovely home in New England and move to a simpler life on the West Coast. Peke, Stanislaw Shmuel Pecoskowitz, is a fortunate survivor of Nazi atrocities who has repressed his memories of survival as a 7 year old hiding from the evil of a nation gone mad. Peke was able to travel to the United States after World War II and through hard work and willingness to assume financial risk, rise to upper class status and economic success. Valuable possessions were tangible symbols of his survival, achievement, and success. When his possessions are taken from him, Peke is forced to change his plans from movement to action in a 21st Century social context. Life appeared to be stable in America given his achievements, but his loss brings up strong repressed emotions related to his childhood survival in a context of the Holocaust. Although the elderly man never developed an association with Jewish religious beliefs, his identity as a member of a race of people targeted for annihilation persisted for his entire life. Now, as Peke seeks his stolen possessions, he is confronted by strong feelings of rage and fear that he thought were resolved by the hard work and accomplishments of his adult life. In terms of Erik Erikson, the 72 year old man is confronted with the task of reviewing his life in terms of a dichotomy: Ego Integrity (light, good, maturation) vs Despair (darkness, evil, regression). Peke is physically fit and, although forgetful in minor ways, fully functioning as an intelligent and thoughtful person. He takes action, in contrast to movement, and reworks his memories from a standpoint of elderly wisdom to attempt to gain a greater understanding of his lifetime motivations, decisions, and identity. Ultimately, as a Jewish man, Peke must choose to act on the basis of a unifying philosophy of Ego Integrity or the personal chaos of Despair.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this novel and identified with Peke in his experiences of vulnerability in our current society and the necessity of calling on survival strengths and resolving dilemmas of weaknesses carried over from past personal decisions. I give this novel my highest recommendation to all but particularly to elderly readers.