Good and Evil Essay
Good and Evil
My report examines the connection of the coexistence of good and evil across texts and how these aspects effect human nature and society. The texts I used were ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ by Harper Lee, ‘The Help’ by Tate Taylor, ‘Noughts & Crosses’ by Malorie Blackman and ‘Harawira drops N-bomb in water hui debate” by Danya Levy. I believe these texts explore the moral nature of society and human beings as essentially being good and evil through social drifts of racial prejudice, discrimination and illustrates the effect of these on human nature and society through the characters responses to these societal niches.
The primary form of evil across the texts is the social drifts that exist in the texts such as racial prejudice and discrimination. These are prevalent dilemmas in all texts. If we take for instances in “To Kill a Mockingbird” prejudice is often committed against the Negroes of the community of Maycomb by the whites. The community often regards Negroes as liars and criminals simply because they are black.
“You gentlemen would go along with them on the assumption- the evil assumption that all Negroes lie, that all Negroes are basically immoral beings…” Without actually considering the black peoples perspective the community immediately gain the preconception that this is how the blacks are. This is the whole nature and attitude of most of the people in Maycomb( where TKMB is set) throughout the story. Likewise with ‘Noughts & Crosses’ the Crosses believe that Noughts are inferior to them in every way and are nothing but trouble.
Crosses put forward these prejudice ideas about Noughts in order to keep the two races from living alongside each other as both races despise each other and keeping themselves in power with no influence of Noughts running the country. The article ‘Harawira drops N-bomb in water hui debate” is slightly different in a way as it deals more with discrimination against Maori but nevertheless discrimination has the same effect of injustice towards a race or class as prejudice.
In this article it is suggested by Hone that Maori are under the harsh dictatorship of John Key and have no control over their actions. “Maybe they should go back to John Key and tell him to stop treating his Maori MPs like he’s a plantation owner from Alabama in the 1950’s. ” Hone throughout the article points out that John Key is not being lenient on his Maori MP’s on attending a debate about ‘Water Rights’ concerning the Maori, Hone expresses the fact that John Key
should leave it up to the Maori MPs to decide what they want to do rather than follow orders by John Key like “little house niggers. ” “The Help” tackles discrimination quite differently. Not only are the black maids in “The Help” treated unfavorably on the basis of their skin but “Miss Hilly” who is regarded as the main antagonist of the film is wrapped up in this idea that blacks carry a harmful disease that threatens the community of Jackson, Mississippi(Where The Help is set).
The discrimination in “The Help” is the obvious white and black scene but the fact that the blacks are also treated unfavorably based on what diseases they carry and made to use separate bathrooms go beyond discrimination. This sort of conduct is how animals are treated because animals are made to stay outside just as blacks are made to use separate bathrooms. The one thing I noticed across these texts is that these social drifts left a certain race or class victimized by the turmoil these social drifts inflicted on them.
Naturally from this consequence of victimization the audience of these texts is likely to gain a negative impression of prejudice and discrimination and make an informed decision that these conducts are “evil” which is exactly the way I regarded these social drifts. What prejudice and discrimination does is it makes somebody to believe that they are less human than everybody else whereas in actual fact we are all equal as anybody is as human as everybody around them and when prejudice or discrimination is committed it goes contrary to this therefore making them evil attributes and inhumane.
In Alabama 1950’s racism did in fact pose an effect on human nature as people reacted in irrational ways towards blacks and rather than have a society that operated together it was segregated and balanced precariously on the razors edge of hostility and violence. The effect racism in general has on human nature and society further supports the evil that embodies prejudice and discrimination. The effect on human nature or the characters in these texts is apparent as characters across the texts are seen to react to them in irrational ways.
The characters react to prejudice and discrimination in anger, hatred, violence and even suicidal ways. In “Noughts & Crosses” Lynette is a Nought who is a victim to the prejudice and violence in her society. Unable to cope with the struggles she faces in everyday life she takes the easy way out my committing suicide and walking out into an oncoming bus. Also in “To Kill a Mockingbird” Boo Radley is forced into confinement in his house because the prejudice in Maycomb marks him as a maniac and therefore outcasts him from society.
The idea that these cases pose is that social drifts such as prejudice is a big threat to people and thus making them again evil attributes. Lynette and Boo Radley encountered these evils and consequently were victimized or affected by these evils (social drifts). In regards to society as a whole prejudice and discrimination effect society because if there is a sufficient amount of these attributes around individuals than society itself is influenced by prejudice or discrimination and if society operates this way than people tend to believe that’s how society is meant to operate.
This is most clearly seen in “To Kill a Mockingbird” by characters like Bob Ewell who is a drunken, abusive father who despises the blacks without reconsidering his attitudes towards blacks simply because prejudice is the status quo in Maycomb and this is what Bob Ewell has no doubt been brought up to believe that blacks are vile creatures. The effect of racism swings both ways though as seen in “Harawira drops N-bomb in water hui debate.
” Hone is fueld with hostility towards John Key and forces Hone into a state of abuse and uncivil behavior. The point I am getting at is that racism effects the nature of humans as seen in Lynnete and Boo Radley or the countless examples across the texts. The effect is that it robs people of their innocence and effects society by disrupting the order because if you look at the definition of society. “The aggregate of people living together in an ordered community.
” Bob Ewell by being racist towards blacks disrupts the peace between the races therefore disrupting the order and Maori are likely to be influenced by Hone who is a prominent Maori therefore he causes hostility between Maori and Pakeha due to his disagreements with the discrimination of the Maori MPs in turn this will disrupt the order and when there is no order there is no society which is the ultimate effect on society. I might have only used single people as examples but like I said there are countless examples across texts in terms of the effect racism has on human nature and society.
When you think of ‘good’ across the texts people almost immediately regard the race or individuals being oppressed as the ‘good guys’ which brought me to the conclusion that the manifestation of ‘good’ comes from the oppressed. Across the texts the exploration of oppression is evident. In “To Kill a Mockingbird” the black community is the oppressed as Maycomb frown on their very essence and they are subject to racial prejudice. A prime example is Tom Robinson. A black man falsely accused of the rape of a white woman.
He is innocent as proven by Atticus but society accuse him on the basis of his skin colour making him oppressed for his racial standings in the community. Similarly in “Noughts and Crosses” the Noughts are viewed as the scum of the world and everything bad that happens people point the finger at the Noughts. Like Tom Robinson, Callum( who is one of the main characters) is hanged for the rape of Sephy(another main character) despite her supplying the fact that he did not rape her to Kamal Hadley who is her father and orders for Callum to be hanged.
Kamal knew Callum was innocent but wanted to see him hanged and this act saw that Callum was oppressed because of his race. “The Help” though more or less deals with a specific sub group of the Negroes. The obvious oppression against the blacks stand in “The Help” but the oppression is more specific in the texts. Rather than the blacks as a whole being oppressed “The Help” is primarily dealing with the oppression against the black maids of Jackson, Mississippi. The black maids work clearly isn’t valued in Jackson.
The Maids are only paid minimal amount for their strenuous jobs and are always on edge and full of fear in the homes they work in. If the maids were being paid well or being provided better working conditions than the ones they were working in, things would be different but since this is not the case oppression is the means of explaining the hardship that the maids suffer. Like The Help, “Harawira drops N-bomb in water hui debate” deals with oppression against a specific group rather than a race as a whole.
In the article it explores how the Maori MP’s of National are subject to the dictatorship of John Key and are unable to make a decision without John Keys approval. On a personal opinion I see this as oppression as it restricts the Maori from acting on free will which is within their rights in accordance to New Zealand being a ‘free country. ’ John Key by not allowing the Maori MPs to make their own decisions is oppressing the Maori of their rights consequently leaving the Maori oppressed in terms of their rights.
A connecting aspect between the oppressed across the texts is that they are generally innocent people. This connection is paramount to the reason why I perceive the oppressed as being ‘good’ because when you look at the word innocent, the word itself associates with being good. Futhermore I think this quote in “To Kill a Mockingbird” expresses why innocence is a characteristic of a good person. “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up peoples gardens, don’t nest in corncribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us.
That’s why it’s a sin to kill a Mockingbird. ” Mockingbirds are innocent birds that do no harm but just sing. In the instances of the texts the oppressed are the Mockingbirds as they do nothing but go about their work. If I use the maids in “The Help” as an example they do nothing but go about their work as a maid and are treated like dirt. The oppressed are innocent making them good. Having oppressed races or individuals in the texts effects human nature and society. The effect is that it causes people to act for the common good and yearn for a society that does not discriminate based on race or class.
Across the texts we can see that characters that recognize the injustices that occur towards the oppressed approach these situations with empathy and understanding and a need to incorporate change. The obvious examples of this would be people like Atticus in “To kill a Mockingbird” and Skeeter in “The Help” but this also occurs in minor characters along the plot of these stories that serve as a reminder that there are people who care about the oppressed and see them at eye level.
In “Noughts & Crosses” Miss Paxton who is a Cross teacher notices that the Noughts that attend Heathcroft which is a prestigious school are incessantly picked on and bullied by the Crosses. She makes it her cause to implement change and make life easier for Noughts at Heathcroft by consulting with the principle and working out a strategic plan to substantially improve the relationships of Noughts and Crosses. Unfortunately the principle is of the majority who are racist so this plan does not work out as well as Miss Paxton envisioned.
Also in “To Kill a Mockingbird” Scout Finch applies Atticus’s principal of considering others perspective before judging them and approaching others with empathy and understanding. Although she understands that being a child it is beyond her ability to create a significant change in society but she understands that the simple conduct of considering others perspective will go a long way in terms of change because this simple conduct leaves oppressed less victimized and leaves them with their dignity.
If human nature is affected for the common good then the people who are affected and are acting for the common good hold a marginal influence on society. This affects society because having people act for the common good would influence people to believe that the injustices that the oppressed are facing are immoral. This would ensure that society works on counteracting these injustices in order to create a more stable society that holds the peace of the people living in it so that they may live together in harmony.
Much like Hone Harawira although he has a great capacity for violence he also has a greater capacity and yearning for the common good. He brings to light the hardship the Maori MPs are facing under John Keys dictatorship and exposes them in an unthinkable way but nevertheless in the hopes that people become aware of the injustices taking place against the Maori in order to influence people to make a stand against these injustices for a better social structure in society.
This in fact is exactly the way Martin Luther King made an impact on the development of Negroes social standings in society. Through his many speeches and public appearances one would notice that he ‘dreamed’ of a world where people were not discriminated by race or class and he always acted for the best intentions or for the common good and many in ‘society’ were influenced by his actions in terms of acting for the common good. Through Martin Luther King he was the first stepping stone to society in America excepting Negroes into society itself.
From this analogy we can see that living in a world with oppression, this influences people to act for the common good and society becomes influenced by these people so therefore society begins to operate more efficiently and in unity. This is a positive effect and further supports the capacity for good oppression poses for people. “We all have good and evil inside of us. It’s what side we choose to follow that defines who we really are. ”(J. K.Rowling)
This quote about good and evil suggests that rather than being simply creatures of good or creatures of evil human nature has a capacity for good and evil( which means we have both good and bad qualities) but its which part we choose to act on that marks who we are. From studying the texts I have come to an agreement that this is true.
The characters that abide by prejudice and discrimination (The oppressors) have good and bad qualities but since they pursue these social drifts that are interpreted as evil rather than their good qualities the audience of the texts concludes that they are evil characters; Kamal is seen as the antagonist of ‘Noughts & Crosses’ because he uses his social status to punish and discriminate the Noughts. In the perspective of the audience Kamal is the antagonist because discrimination is associated with ‘evil’ and he resorts to discrimination therefore he is seen as an evil character. Likewise with the oppressed.
The oppressed remain oppressed in order to keep the peace rather than acting out in violence and hostility towards the oppressors; In ‘The Help’ Aibileen, a black maid, does not antagonize the white society and goes about her work without any hassle despite suffering from incessant discrimination from the white society. She is just an innocent person who goes through life coping with racism. Aibileen is perceived as ‘good’ because innocence is associated with ‘good’ and she is innocent so therefore the audience interpret her as a ‘good’ character.
In terms of both having good and evil characteristics Hone Harawira is an excellent example. Hone stresses the fact that Maori are being exploited of their rights but he uses violent approaches such as name calling and abuse to emphasize his point. He has good intentions of promoting equality amongst Maori and Pakeha which is his ‘good’ quality but social drifts cause him to act out in irrational and hostile ways which are his ‘evil’ qualities. He has the capacity for good and evil as they both affect his human nature.
There is an old story that illustrates the fact that human nature has the manifestation of both evil and good but we are marked as being either good or evil by which qualities we follow. “A native American elder once described his own inner struggles in this manner: Inside of me there are two dogs. One of the dogs is mean and evil. The other dog is good. The mean dog fights the good dog all the time. When asked which dog wins, he reflected for a moment and replied, the one I feed the most. ” The affect of good and evil on human nature and society is simple.
Good associates with peace, love, innocence etc. which are likely to leave a positive affect on human nature simply by the nature of these attributes. Having a positive affect on human nature means a positive affect on society as humanity holds influence on how society operates. Whereas with evil. Evil leads to war, violence hate which definitely leave negative affects on human nature because the pain these attributes cause. Having a negative affect on human nature means a negative affect on society as humanity under the influence of evil cause society to work backwards and away from unity and order.
Going back to Alabama 1950’s the racist society were affected by the evils of social drifts like prejudice and discrimination so society was forced into a state of hostility and deplore. Afro-Americans like Martin Luther King were effected by the goods of oppression leading to his fight for equality, due to Martin Luther King society became more aware of the injustices that were taking place so society substantially changed to a society that did not discriminate based on race but upheld the peace and equality.
Subject: Core issues in ethics,
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 11 November 2016
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