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Free Will vs. Determinism Essay

Free will and determinism are two opposing beliefs as far as responsibility for outcomes or results is concerned. Free will signifies that as we make choices and decisions by ourselves, we become responsible for the results of our decisions and actions. Determinism, on the other hand, tells that humans have no influence on the future and its events and that human beings’ influence on their future is determined by present and past occurrences. In this writing, we present an analysis of the realities of these two philosophies.

We will go through two stories: Daisy Miller, a novel by British author Henry James; and The Yellow Wallpaper, a short story by American writer Charlotte Gilman. Our goal is to find out the extent of free will and determinism. Is reality a mix of these two principles? DAISY MILLER The main characters in this novel are Daisy Miller, a beautiful American girl, and her suitor Winterbourne, also an American. In their encounters in Switzerland and Italy, they fall under the scrutiny of people in the society surrounding them. Daisy’s flirtatious attitude is frowned upon by Mrs. Walker, a fellow American who owns a parlor in Rome.

Mrs. Costello, Winterbourne’s conservative aunt, strongly disapproves of Daisy’s because she agreed to date with him after only a half hour of being acquainted with each other. Their Free Will Prevails Over Other People’s Opinions. Daisy is not dissuaded by the disapproving eyes of the other Americans, neither is she affected by the ineffectual attitude of her own mother. Winterbourne, on his part, continues to court Daisy despite the disapproval of his conservative aunt; It is their free will that made them stand against the minds of these other people who could have otherwise, influenced their decisions.

Winterbourne could have acceded to his aunt’s desire if he chose to but he followed his own will and pursued courting Daisy. Daisy could have chosen to change her ways to gain the approval of her compatriots considering that they are all in a foreign land but she stuck to her own will to act and behave as she really is, although they can consider her as some sort of an outcast; someone who is not accepted in the society where she moves.

Determinism Can Be More Closely Associated with Daisy’s Death. The novel was set in the 19th century during which time, the “Roman fever” (malaria) was endemic to many Roman neighborhoods. Winterbourne warns Daisy about its dangers upon seeing her in the Colosseum. Daisy rushes home but still, she catches the fever and dies a few days later. She could have been more careful and avoided catching the illness but this could be considered as something that is more out of her own control.

This can be compared with accidents which can occur no matter how much care is taken by a person. There are outside forces that can go beyond one’s control. THE YELLOW WALLPAPER This is the story of a wife who falls into complete insanity after being locked up in the upstairs bedroom of a mansion rented by her husband, a physician, so that she can ‘recuperate’ from a ‘temporary nervous depression’ during one summer vacation. Determ inism is Observed from the Outset of the Story.

The woman, who narrates this story as a series of journal entries, is locked up inside the bedroom against her will. She could not go out nor see the outside world, nor see her baby. She is completely controlled by actions of her husband. Her Free Will, at the Same Time, Remains Strong Within. Although she has fallen into insanity, her desire for freedom is made manifest by the visions that she sees in the wallpaper, especially the figure of a woman who is trying to escape from the bars of the shadows.

In her mind, she has to free the woman in the wallpaper, thus she strips the designs off the wall, later on believing that she is the woman who has escaped from inside the wallpaper. In the end of the story, thinking that she is ‘free at last’, she steps on the unmoving body of her husband, symbolizing that she has triumphed and that her will and desire for freedom has been achieved. SIMILARITIES AND DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE TWO WORKS Both “Daisy Miller” and “The Yellow Wallpaper” are set in the 19th century.

There were existing conditions at that time that interplayed in the plots of the stories: the Roman fever endemic that caused the death of Daisy Miller and androcentrism or male domination in human affairs that gave power to the physician to lock up his wife. In spite of these factors, the main female characters both carry in them strong wills. In “Daisy Miller”, the main characters live their lives in the outside world mingling with various personalities, as contrasted with the main character in “The Yellow Wallpaper” who is locked up inside a barred room, dealing with herself all along.

CONCLUSION From the above works, one may deduce that a person has a strong will and determination to do or to have what he wants without having to give to an outside factor neither any credit for a desired result nor any blame for a bad outcome. Factors beyond a person’s control, as strongly suggested in determinism, can truly cause the outcome in a situation but the interplay of free will always exists along with it. Works Cited Gilman, Charlotte. The Yellow Wallpaper. United States: New England Magazine. 1892. Print James, Henry. Daisy Miller. United Kingdom: Cornhill Magazine. 1878. Print


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