One of the central philosophical components of Friedrich Nietzsche's varied stance is the fact that pain is integral to providing meaning to the human life. This basic tenet is echoed in Andrew Miller's Novel, Ingenious Pain, which chronicles a protagonist who is born with a marked inability to perceive suffering or physical pain -- whether it is his or that of someone else (Barnard). Although the life of James Dyer -- the protagonist -- is highly eventful and full of action, it is curiously devoid of much meaning from Dyer's perspective, until a change encounter with a woman named Mary bestows upon him the capacity to feel pain. The sudden transition for the young man, and the fledgling empathy he eventually develops as a result, eventually overrides his life and leads to his death. Yet in the process, Dyer's life gains the significance and meaning that Nietzsche believed pain delivers to people in their respective journeys through life.
Although Nietzsche certain evinced a tendency to maunder in his writings, his philosophy regarding the beneficence of pain is ultimately revealed in Twilight of the Idols fsairly succinctly. In this work of literature the author philosophizes that "What does not kill me makes me stronger" (Nietzsche). This statement was made in the context that suffering and pain are ultimately beneficial for the well-being of an individual if he or she can learn from these things, adapt from the mistakes that rendered pain and suffering, and ultimately endure them to reach additional triumphs. Yet there is a slight degree of difficulty in applying this phrase to Dyer, for the simple fact that Miller's book is a work of fiction and that it is only after the protagonist gains the capacity for pain that his life ultimately suffers and falters. However, a close analysis of this work demonstrates that in Dyer's faltering, he actually gains a great deal more humanity than he had when he was unable to empathize with others. Therefore, even though Dyer's ability to experience pain ultimately does kill him, in the process it allows him to become much stronger and much more of a human being than he previously was.
The progression of Dyer's march towards fully realizing his humanity which his capacity to pain brought him is slow and lengthy. As a child, the protagonist was born both mute and without the ability to feel pain. Although the latter aspect was what eventually would gain him renown and was most remarkable about him, it prevented him from fully connecting with other individuals, including his family. When Dyer's entire family is devastated by the small pox killing them all except for the young boy (who has a swift, regenerative healing power in addition to his imperviousness to pain), he is not as affected by the loss (K. Miller) as a child who should have been -- largely because he cannot experience pain. To the contrary, as a child Dyer is described as " a most delightful, cold-blooded monster of a boy" (Miller). On the one hand, his incapacity to feel pain protects Dyer from the terrible trauma of losing his entire family to a pernicious disease. Yet further events in the story allude to the fact that his dearth of feeling pain ultimately prevents him from engaging in the richness of life and experiencing what it fully means to live.
The nadir of the icy hardness that Dyer's life encompasses is probably best shown after he has embarked on a career as a doctor. His composure and lack of sensitivity for the agony that his patients experiences actually aids him in tangible ways -- such as the fact that he is able to garner a significant amount of acclaim as a military physician. Yet as beneficial as this trait of Dyer's is both to his professional career and to the livelihood of the numerous maimed soldiers that he is able to treat during his tenure in the armed services, the author constantly alludes to the fact that his inability to empathize with his patients was somehow noxious. Dyer's lack of humanity is underscored by the following quotation, in which…