Throughout Philip Roth’s Nemesis, we can see the main protagonist, Bucky, constantly putting more and more responsibilities on himself even if he shouldn’t be the one to bear the burden. After knowing that he “might be” the cause of the contagion (not even definite about the exact source of contagion), he holds himself accountable for the whole polio epidemic among the children of the Weequahic section and the children of the Camp Indian Hill and deprives himself of all the joyful events in his life.
“The only way to save a remnant of his honor was in denying himself everything he had ever wanted for himself.” (262)
Though we may never know the true source of contagion among the children of the Weequahic section and the children of the Camp Indian Hill, let’s suppose, just suppose, that Bucky is the source that spreads polio. In this case, should he be blamed for the contagion even if he is a good-willed man, a decent, responsible man only hopes and attempts to help all the children to be healthy?
This reminds me of the two competing systems of ethics, namely, deontology and utilitarianism. Deontology is concerned with whether an act is intrinsically right or wrong, while utilitarianism believes that only the consequences of an act are important. Deontology deals with intentions and motives while utilitarianism focuses only on results.
What do you think in this case? Should he be blamed?
As we look at the title of Kushner’s masterpiece: Angels in America: A Gay “Fantasia” on National Themes, the idea of “this is just another fiction” probably flashes through all of our minds. As a matter of fact, the fantasia is based on several real-life events that makes this play look more related to our lives. Since not all of us are that familiar with US history and politics, below are the links that provide some relevant information that can make the course of the reading less confusing and more interesting.
Julius and Ethel Rosenberg
Democrat V.S Republican
Camus contracted tuberculosis, a highly contagious disease, in 1930 at the age of 17. He was forced to abandon his ambitions in football (he was a goalkeeper at the prominent Algerian University team then). He was long confined to bed, and thus only able to study part-time. One feature worth noticing is that even though Camus was once a patient, he chose to narrate the story from a doctor’s perspective rather than the ill one. Shouldn’t he had more experience as a patient? Why did he choose to do so? Is there anything Camus hopes to convey that would be abortive if presented from a patient’s point of view? By far we have read about the plague from various perspectives, and these lead us to the broader question: How does the perspective of narration influence the reader’s conception towards an idea or an event?
Having the experience of being the infected one, Camus is concerned about the sufferings of the patient and how people should treat and react to them. Yet, he started the setting with citizens concerned solely about themselves, about doing business and earning money. Inundated with individualism, the town is a place where “discomfort attends death” . People were so concerned about commercials and profits that they behave extremely indifferently toward each other. They were so obsessed with business that they were completely unprepared when the plague struck by surprise. Is the plague a punishment from some divine power for the sin of greed?
The reaction of the government and the measures taken have significant influences on the spread of the plague. What is the moral dilemma that falls upon the government when a plague hits their people/city? Do they tell them and risk panic that will cause them to attempt to leave and further spread the disease? Or do they risk their community and population completely dying?
Reading Camus, made us think of Dan Brown’s ‘Inferno’. The story revolves around the threat a new world plague created by a deranged lunatic. The protagonist Robert Langdon and other government institutions are on the race to find the threat and eliminate it before it destroys the world. The fear arises from the fact that no one really knows what the ‘plague’ actually is. This is the same in Camus’s ‘The Plague’. The fear arises from the unknown factors at play in a plague. The unknown cause, the fear of waiting for one’s own possible demise. In the ‘Inferno’, the creator of the plague claims that the plague is nature’s way of purging the earth. Is it a natural response for over population of the earth?
Who is responsible during a plague? Is it the authorities? The patient himself? Or medical practitioners? Whose responsibility is it make sure that the plague is curbed? Who does the responsibility fall onto if the “Global Health Organization” can not find a cure for an epidemic, does it fall back to the individuals that carry these diseases?
Furthermore we found an interesting Reddit post about a guy who, through his words, had the responsibility of letting the world know of an upcoming plague or pandemic. Despite the government forbidding him from leaking the information. He took the burden of releasing the information although he has no way of finding a cure.
In the situation of a plague, is one solely responsible for oneself or do we have some duty towards protecting others as well?
–Lateefa, Kai-Wen, Neha
When reading the accounts of various characters in the book Ghosts, we stand in their perspectives, immersing ourselves in their situations and displaying sympathies toward what they encountered. Nevertheless, our perception toward the character change dramatically when we receive other people’s accounts. There is only one truth. Who should we believe in? We can assume that one of the people is lying, or perhaps, none of them are not telling the truth.
The plot mentioned above reminded me of a short story “Rashōmon” written by a Japanese litterateur Ryūnosuke Akutagawa which is now adapted into a film “Rashomon”.
“The film is known for a plot device that involves various characters providing alternative, self-serving and contradictory versions of the same incident.” (excerpted from Wikipedia)
The film depicts the psychological strategy that helps hold one’s self-esteem in place by only talking about the certain things that are beneficial to themselves, and avoiding mentioning the misconducts which might be detrimental to their reputations. Therefore, instead of presenting the whole picture, people opt to merely show fragments of truth, or even create stories to disguise the real situation.
In Ghosts, at the beginning of the play, Pastor Manders tried to help Engstrand because the Pastor was convinced by Engstrand that he was a good and righteous man. His conception toward Engstrand shifted completely when Mrs. Alving told him the stories that she had buried for years. However, his feeling of Engstrand turned back to sympathy after hearing Engstrand’s monologue. Who is telling the truth? What is the truth? It seems that it is something that might never be able to be revealed under the self-protecting strategy everyone is taking advantage of.
It is not about casting doubts on others, but think twice before forming our own judgements. After all, none of us would like to be the second Pastor Manders, a gullible, easily tricked person that believes in whatever people say.
A Trailer of Rashomon for your reference!