“We have only one story-- the neverending contest
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“We have only one story-- the neverending contest in ourselves of good and evil.” This eternal struggle between the forces of human nature can cause much confusion because the lines that distinguish between what is good or evil are rarely clearly drawn. Depending on the circumstances of the event or the state of mind of the person, what is good can appear evil and what is evil can appear good. As history and works of literature have shown us, only societies perception of what is morally right prevails and then dictates what is.
Whether it be the love between a man and woman or the love between a mother and child, this emotion can often cloud judgement and prevail over reason. The price for such a transgression can be great, despite anyone’s intentions. In Beloved, by Toni Morrison, an escaped slave, Sethe, slits her own daughter’s throat to save her from the horrors and abuses of slaver that she had experienced herself. Shaken by what he had seen, the man sent to retrieve Sethe and her family is deeply disturbed and can only ask, “Why she want to go and do that for?” Thus, in doing so, she saves herself and her three other children from returning to slavery. Unlike characteristacally evil characters, Sethe was not motivated by selfish or malicious purposes merely tried to do what was best for her children and would have eventually turned the knife on herself. (eft to live the rest of her life with the knowledge of what she had done, Sethe is aware of the horror in what she had done. ) “No more running--from nothing...I took one journey and I paid for the ticket, but let me tell you something...:it cost too much!” The reader is then left to determine for themselves if this action was in fact evil and whether or not it would have been evil for Sethe to allow her children to return to slavery without trying to prevent it. Sethe addresses this issue when she wishes to explain what she did to her daughter and tell her “how if I hadn’t killed her she would have died and that is something I could not bear to happen to her.”
The story of Sethe and her children is in some aspects similar to that of Susan Smith and the murder of her children. Both women took the lives of the ones they loved, but unlike Sethe, Susan Smith was influenced by selfish desires and saw her children more as a burden than a source of joy. In Beloved, the community does not support Sethe or condone’s her action, but they accept and understand it. However in the case of Susan Smith, the entire country expressed their disbelief at her crime and condemned her for it. Thus, the morality of these two acts, one apparently evil and the other justly so, is then left to society.
“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” As quoted by Edmund Burke, the presence of evil in a society is directly related to how it is perceived by those within the socity, depending on their values and morals. In Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury and A Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, the authors offer an insight as to what they expect man, society, and life to be like if society becomes devoid of free thinking. the main character in each novel rebel against the restraints and evils of his socity by seeking individuality By refusing to accept a passive, conforming approach to life,. In Fahrenheit 451, Guy Montag was a fireman whose job was to burn books. “Monday burn Millay, Wednesday Whitman, Friday Faulkner, burn ‘em to ashes, then burn the ashes. That’s our official motto.” As he began to discover the faults of the society in which he lived, he saw the affects that ignorance and lack of personal involvement had on the people around him. His society had sought to do good by standing “against the small tide of those who want to make everyone unhappy with conflicting theory and thought” by eliminating those conflicting theories and claiming that they never existed. Montag “stole” and hid these illegal books to preserve as much knowledge as he could
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Fiction, Literature, Speculative fiction, Fahrenheit 451, Beloved, Women and death, English-language films, Guy Montag, Good and evil, Sethe, Ash Williams, Montag
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