Evil is the top question of moral actions and social relationships between people. Nowadays the term “evil” is discussed by scientists and writers from different sides. Problems of the right choice of affiliation and evil are discussed by many writers, but each of them cannot make definite conclusions on the question of social standards and moral actions. The nineteenth century saw emergence of prominent female figures who explored the themes of inequality of the sexes and the inability of women to live on their own without relying on men. Glaspell is one author who struggled with the same themes and concerns but that enabled him to inherit a rich legacy from these women. Trifles is about mysterious murder exploring gender relationships and power between sexes and the desire to know the truth. In The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas by Ursula Guin showcases a philosophical parable about a utopian society in which the city of Omelas’ happiness is hinged on the sacrifice of one kid for the sake of the whole group. The aim of this paper is to showcase the dilemma the fictional stories create through the question of evil affiliation and the result of evil deeds by people who are not evil and the change they have upon us; that we need to stand by our moral ethics on what should be the case on right or bad and good or evil.
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There are two examples of ethical dilemma, that will be discussed: “Trifles” by Susan Glaspell and “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” by Ursula Guin. Ursula K. Le Guin in her story The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas describes utopian city Omelas. She presents this city as the place, where everybody is happy. There is a description of the Festival of Summer at the beginning of the story. The folk of Omelas has no King, no slavery and no swords. They have no real economic and political structure. The author compares Omelas with an ordinary town and admits that nowadays people do not imagine their lives without hurt; there is “a banality of evil and boredom of pain” in real life (Guin 2). Delight and joy have disappeared from minds of men. The main idea of this story is the habitants' choice between happiness of all citizens and unhappiness of one or everybody`s hard life and joy of one feeble-minded child. It is very hard to make choice, as on one hand you will be accepted by the nation and on another hand you will be ignored by it. Ursula Guin suggests that there is a little, dirty and dark room with six year old boy inside it (Guin 5). People, who come in, especially youth, look at that child with a wish to help him, but soon they understand that they cannot help this poor boy (Guin 6). There are two categories of citizens in this town: the ones, who feel disgust to that child and stay away from him, and the others, who feel that they cannot help the boy. Representatives of the second category choose to walk away from Omelas and find better life.
The problem in Omelas will be solved, whether there will be found at least one person, who is not afraid of public opinion and will explain Omelas habitants that good can never grow out of evil. The child needs help and understanding. He requires family and care. People should think about this child, as all are equal before God. If people, who understand the cruelty and injustice of others, walk away, citizens in Omelas will not feel happiness and joy, but only emptiness.
Trifles is a play in one act, written by Susan Glaspell. It shows ethical dilemma of Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale between understanding of woman`s hard life and man`s misunderstanding in this case. County Attorney, Sheriff, Mrs. Peters and Mrs. Hale undertook investigation of murder of John Wright, the owner of the farmhouse, where the story took place. The play starts with the story of Hale, the first person who saw Wright strangled. Four coroners started to examine the house in order to find something strange: two women started investigation inside the house and two men outside of it. At first Mrs. Hale told County Attorney, that she had not visited Minnie Wright, John`s wife for a year and she pointed on the strangeness of the house (Glaspell 11). She claimed that farmers` wives had their hands full, when Sheriff and County Attorney noticed dirty towels in the kitchen and a great mess in the cupboard (Glaspell). Women began to align themselves with their husbands, but at the end of the story - with Minnie Wright. They changed their minds because of their husband`s mocking at the women`s method of investigation. When Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters found sewing and they wondered whether Minnie quilt or knot it, their husbands laughed at them. Men discovered that nobody came inside the house. At that moment women understood that not all the things were equally understood by women and men. When Mrs. Hale recalled Minnie Foster in her youth, the girl, that sang very well, she compared young Minnie Foster and Minnie Wright, who`s life was unhappy with John Wright (Glaspell 27). Women found a dead bird in a pretty box. It was a canary bird. The ladies had a dilemma: either to tell their husbands that Minnie was a murderer, or to protect her. Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters chose to protect Minnie Wright. Mrs. Peters took the bird from the box and put it into her coat`s big pocket. Mrs. Hale snatched the box and put the box away (Glaspell 29). The women preferred woman`s solidarity to justice.
The evil must be inflicted anyway. When the problem deals with the family relationships and miserable position of a woman in it, justice has nothing to do with it. From this point of view Minnie Wright should be punished, but in a very mild way. After some time she will become wiser and choose what she really deserves. Minnie Foster will find the man, who will love and respect her and her feelings.
Every day we might have ethical dilemmas, when further turnaround of events depends only on our decision. Whatever we decide, we will sacrifice something. When I was sitting at the class writing a test, another student asked me to help him. I gave him the answer, as he was my best friend. The teacher heard me telling him the right answer and lowered my points. After that I got C instead of B and was very upset. I chose humane relationship instead of strict rules and paid too much for my choice.
There are three different authors, who wrote about evil and its understanding: Le Guin, Glaspell and Arendt. Ursula Le Guin built the utopian city Omelas, where everybody was happy. In the culmination of the story the readers understand, that Omelas` citizens have one serious problem. They are inhumane, they force feeble-minded little child to suffer for their welfare. It is better for these people to think that the boy doesn`t exist and take care of themselves. Omelas` citizens are not evil, but they commit evil acts and even do not understand it. It is difficult for them to believe that the boy will be all right. Of course, they cannot kill him. They also do not believe in his normality. Guin leaves it up for the reader the possibility to decide, either to walk away or stay and feel pain about the child`s future.
Glaspell compares human relations with hopelessness of woman that takes responsibility on herself when marrying somebody. She specially points out that women-investigators found material evidence of the murder. At that moment the feeling of compassion wakes up in them and they begin to struggle against stern truth to defend poor woman. If there were men found the material evidence, they would put justice on the first place. They will surely put justice on the first place and imprison the murderer. Husbands of women-investigators love and believe their wives and they even do not suspect them to turn to the evil side. Defending a poor woman is the ethical choice of Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters. They affiliate with the chance to help Minnie Wright, the murderer, to change her life for the better, as they have not helped her when they could. The first impression is not always truthful. Mrs. Hale thought that Wright`s farmhouse was not cheerful, as there was no children`s laugh and ease. Trying to help a person cannot be a bad thing. Maybe if Mrs. Hale spoke with Minnie Wright and tried to understand the inner condition, the woman would not become the murderer of her husband. However, it was too late. Every time, when people have a dilemma, they do not see where the real evil is. People become victims of circumstances.
Hannah Arendt discussed evil in the political sphere of life in her work The Banality of Evil. The main topic of the novel is the trial of Nazi official Alfred Eichmann in Jerusalem in 1961 (Richter and Burke 144). Political crimes are the hardest ones. Political leaders kill millions of innocent people, which belong to exact nation, only because they do not like it. One nation has to suffer for the welfare of others and for the strict state`s structure. In this work the Nazi officials do not even think that they commit evil acts, as they have not broken any moral or legal standards (Richter and Burke 149). An individual chooses what will be best for him and we cannot punish this person for the choice in the difficult life situation. Calmness of one part of the state`s population usually means suffering of another. Nazi Germany was strong and invincible, but with what aftermath?
Previously mentioned works of fiction help us to understand “real” problems with evil. When readers view the inner uncertainty of main heroes, they start to act in a right way in everyday life situations.
As seen from above, the problem of evil is presented in all these works of fiction. Ursula Le Guin touches upon moral standards of life, the sacrifice of a society member in order to save the city of Omelas. Susan Glaspell’s Trifles – problems of justice and women`s solidarity showing the concerns of women who are just considered as mere trifles with no any important issues hence they bear no importance to the society, which s carried out by men. Arendt – political issues. Everyone may face these difficult questions, but the problem of evil and right choice is individual for everyone. However, we should be guided by ethics in making a choice in what should be the right case and the case itself.
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