War with the Newts

The beginning of Karel Capek's "War with the Newts" uses the word "devil" frequently, often for the Newts. The story reveals, however, that the Newts were not devils initially, but were turned into devils by human wickedness, which may be a reminder from Capek that people don't need to look outside their community for evil, but may cause evil themselves. Captain van Toch was warned away from Devil Bay because of the "sea devils" to be found there by "the cross between the deuce and the devil." When van Toch went to Bondy to start his business, Bondy reminisced that van Toch used to shout after him: "the devil will get you," which is ironic since that essentially happened by the end of the story.

Right until the end, however, Newts were seen as being "peaceful," an attribute most people would probably consider desirable. Although the Newts were clearly the intellectual equals of humans, as demonstrated by their production of learned scholars and professors, they were treated like cattle by most humans, who desired merely "the rational production and exploitation of the Newts." In their great ambition to use the Newts for all they were worthy, humans armed and trained them to work for humans. Not recognizing that this was wrong and an abuse, the humans trained the Newts in the ways of devilishness. In one of the greatest demonstrations of humans using Newts, the Germans had the Newts explode some sand dunes, causing "sunsets over the whole of Europe [to be] unusually beautiful, blood red, and fiery as they had never been before." The Newts were transformed just like the sunsets, from peaceful and mundane to bloody murderers. Capek's point seems to be that although humans blamed the Newts, the fault was really their own. Bondy was caught by the devil, but the devil was of his own creation.