Thursday, March 3, 2011

Henry IV

In the face of adversity, what causes some to fail while others triumph?

In Henry IV, the real triumphant figure is, I feel, Prince Hal. When one sees his ultimate triumph over the life of dissipation he previously led, one is ecstatic! To see the Prince overcome such horrid conditions and come back to redeem himself in splendid fashion, one cannot help but feel proud and even admiring of him! The ultimate cause for Hal's triumph is his almost uncanny planning and self-control, even in his dissipation and squalor. Who but a true trickster would think to live a life of sub-standard behavior as a Prince only to come back and shine even brighter than expected? To do that is a truly genius P.R. move, I feel. Hal does a great job of controlling himself, even when he seems out of control. Self-control, discipline, and temperance are the keys to Hal's victory; while the reader does not see them, it is understandable. Hal plays his cards extremely close to the chest.

The Stranger

In the face of adversity, what causes some to fail while others triumph?

In many respects, this is similar to my post on Crime and Punishment and, therefore, will be much shorter since much of the subject matter (concerning the Law of Human Nature) is already covered. The only difference is in the context of the violation of this Law. In The Stranger, we encounter an emotionally distant, even disconnected, man named Meursault. I believe that, for all intents and purposes, it cannot be said that he either triumphs or fails in relation to the context I put his actions in (namely, there is a universal moral law that he, for some reason, is unaware of). How can a man truly triumph when there is nothing to really triumph over? I suppose that Meursault triumphs in the end by finding a sort of peace and calm in his perceived absurdity of the world, but apart from that Meursault is really just apathetic about most of what happens. He is, for all intents and purposes, a "hollow man." What triumph or defeat can be found in something without meaning? The absurd provides no wins or losses, that would be absurd to think of if the world truly were absurd.

Crime and Punishment

In the face of adversity, what causes some individuals to triumph while others fail?

I would like to state, first off, that this post works on the premise that there is an ultimate, objective moral law that functions in most all of us. To go against this is insanity, to not have it is akin to being blind or tone-deaf (incredibly rare). The point being, there is a law ingrained in us (written on our hearts, you might say) that does force us to judge our actions, a law that compels us to do right and hate wrong. To go against this law is to violate the fundamental foundation of our spiritual being and, as such, ultimately leads to our collapse if we refuse to come to terms with this.

In the context of Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky, this question takes on completely new leaps and bounds by way of uncertainty. We'll say, for the sake of this question, that the adversity faced in this book is the internal strife in the main character brought about by his murder of an old pawnbroker and her sister. Raskolnikov "triumphs", one could say, in his murder of a pawnbroker... but is ultimately overcome by the weight of conscience (which, one could say, makes all such victories impossible to all but sociopaths). I believe that Raskolnikov ultimately fails in this novel and it is a result of circumstances out of his control; the vast majority of people do, indeed, have and recognize a conscience in themselves. Those who don't are sociopaths, madmen, and are as rare as the blind or those with no ear for a tune. However, if these people don't have this conscience as we do, are they ultimately to blame? If, for example, Hitler had no conscience, we could no more blame him for the atrocities he committed than we could blame him for the color of his hair. Plainly put, there is no point in calling Raskolnikov wrong and a bad man unless he does know, deep down, the same thing that you and I know; that murder is fundamentally wrong and to murder is to unroot one's conscience and life. I do believe that, judging by Raskolnikov's reactions to the murders, that he realized the horrific consequences of what he had done, he even physically suffered symptoms of this great spiritual disease. Ultimately, what caused Raskolnikov to fail is his choice to go against the law of his nature, the law of Human Nature.