To Be, or Not To Be? has a double title, that in a literary-historical perspective is in line with today’s increasing materialism and the national crisis around the First War. The novel is in line with the many bildungsroman novels while also religious debate novel that tackles the growing materialism and puts the philosophy-related crisis in connection with the three-year war. The conflict of the novel is a view of life as a struggle between the religiously rational and irrational. Hans Christian Andersen seems think that faith and knowledge can unite in a single ideology and not be contradictory. The topic of the relationship between religion and science is depicted through protagonist, Niels Brydes life and destiny in an evolution from the old to the new.
Niels Bryde is born and grows up in the Round Tower, where his father is a gatekeeper. The father dies, when he goes left instead of right, and the mother dies shortly after from disease. Niels dreams of stars and is familiar familiar with outer space, but he is aware of his implausible ambitions. Niels has access to the university library and has come into possession of two books: the Bible and Thousand and One Nights. The books point in opposite directions relative to the ethnic foundation and Niels as an innocent cosmos fanantic. Niels breaks with his environment in an attempt to see the world in through the right perspective, whether it is in relation to belief or knowledge.
To Be, or Not To Be? is the fifth novel by Hans Christian Andersen and was first published on May 20. 1857 as part of the Collected Works of Hans Christian Andersen. – 23rd Volume. (Pictured above is a paper clip by Hans Christian Andersen – Copyright Odense City Museums – Reproduced with permission.)