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Pride and Existentialism Essay

The famous existentialist Jean-Paul Sartre claims that existence precedes the essence of human beings. This existentialist claim holds the view that human beings are the highest form of creatures and that no God or any other greater being exists. Human beings are created without purpose and are solely responsible for their actions and decisions in life. They are free to do anything they intend to as they are all to blame for the consequences that may arise. Simply put, a human being is alone in this planet and everything depends on this person; therefore, a person must hold himself/herself above all the other creatures.

This way of thinking inevitably includes the concept of pride because a human being considers himself/herself to be above the others. The fact that an existentialist point of view does not have any regard for a god reveals that man himself/herself is god. Pride, therefore, is an essential constituent of existentialism. Fyodor Dostoevsky’s “Notes from the Underground”, Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man is Hard to Find” and Thomas Hardy’s “Hap” all have the common theme that insinuates the concept of pride.

Note that not all these authors are existentialists but their works reveal similar concepts which reveal pride in its characters. Pride in Dostoevsky, O’Connor and Hardy’s Works Dostoevsky’s Notes from the Underground is considered to be one of the first existentialist novels ever written in history. The novel revolves around the character of the Underground Man who deems himself to be above all others. This is very evident in the way he narrates and speaks to the readers.

He is a character who has alienated himself from the public due to his belief that his intellectual ability does not match those of the public. “Oh, gentlemen, do you know, perhaps I consider myself an intelligent man, only because all my life I have been able neither to begin nor to finish anything” (Dostoyevsky 32). He claims that he I bored with his life due to his inability to act. However, he defends himself by justifying his inaction as a form of intelligence because he tends to think and analyze things first before acting and making decisions.

His pride reveals how he holds himself to be better than others. “. . . a man in the nineteenth century must and morally ought to be pre-eminently a characterless creature; a man of character, an active man is pre-eminently a limited creature” (Dostoevsky 6). Moreover, he also tries to justify that the contempt that he feels towards other people who are able to act on certain things is due to the fact that their think less; therefore, he considers them to be lesser of a person than he is.

The grandmother in Flannery O’Connor’ A Good Man is Hard to Find has certain prejudices of the youth after her generation as she firmly states that in her time, “children were more respectful of their native states and their parents and everything else” (O’Connor 34). This shows her biased belief that “People did right then” which seems to suggest that everything is wrong in her grandchildren’s time (O’Connor 34). She always takes pride in the “rightness” of her time and denounces the behaviors of the present generation. She is also observed to be a racist when she remarks, “Oh look at the cute little pickaninny” (O’Connor 34).

The use of the word “pickaninny” suggests a quite offensive term for a small Negro child. It seems here that she is always unaware of the hypocrisy that her actions and statements are demonstrating. Hence, the complexity of her character lies in the idea that she thinks everything that she says and does is best for everyone around her. This kind of pride that the grandmother insinuates is similar to the pride that the Underground Man radiates. They both consider themselves to be better than others. It seems that everything they do and think about are right and of the best reasons.

In Thomas Hardy’s poem “Hap”, an existentialist view is apparent. The speaker clearly does not believe that there is a god but he prefers to have one so he could at least have something or someone to blame his sufferings for. Know that thy sorrow is my ecstasy, that thy love’s loss is my hate’s profiting! ” Then would I bear it, clench myself, and die, Steeled by the sense of ire unmerited (lines 3-6); The speaker tells how suffering is much miserable to bear with to think that it happens by chance and without any reasons or purpose.

The second stanza of the poem, “Half-eased in that a Powerfuller than I / Had willed and meted me the tears I shed” (lines 7-8) shows how the speaker believes that there is no other creature more powerful who is responsible for all of the “tears [he] shed” (8). Similar to the Underground Man and the Grandmother, the speaker considers himself/herself the greatest of all beings. The only difference is that the speaker prefers to have someone above him/her to take the blame. Conclusion Dostoevsky, O’Connor and Hardy’s works share a similar theme of self-importance. Self-importance is an essential value in the philosophy of existentialism.

However, excessive valuing of the self can be considered pride. Pride, in this manner, is related to existentialism because it intensifies the fact that human beings are the highest form of being on earth. Works Cited Dostoyevsky, Fyodor. Notes from the Underground. Ed. Mary Tattam. Plain Label Books, 1986. O’Connor, Flannery. “A Good Man is Hard to Find. ” A Good Man is Hard to Find. Ed. Frederick Asals. New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1993. 31-51. Hardy, Thomas. “Hap. ” Thomas Hardy. Ed. Lance St. John Butler. Australia: Cambridge University Press, 1978.


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