Essay, Pages 10 (2356 words)
The question around whether people have an inescapable fate or if they have free will to do with whatever they please with their lives is one of the most debated. In our day to day lives, it is easier to identify the free will in the menial decision-making we do. Some events in our lives, however, do have a sense of control by a higher power that is beyond us. Once someone decides that they have no free will and their whole life is already predetermined, then they voluntarily give up their free will and succumb to the fate they believe they are given.
Whatever people believe, they can see the potential of the future and decide what they want to do with it. An examination of Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe, Veronika Decides to Die by Paulo Coelho, The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin and Brave New World by Aldous Huxley show how people grapple with fate and free will.
The film, The Matrix, directed by Lilly and Lana Wachowski shows the clash between fate and free will.
In The Matrix, fate is viewed as unchangeable because everyone’s decisions are predestined by the programme, which reduces free will. The film is set in a dystopian society where machines have created a simulation to contain humans in while using their natural body heat to run. The pills Morpheus offers to Neo which would allow him to end the story and “believe whatever [he] want[s] to believe” or see “how deep the rabbit hole goes” are representative of fate and free will. The blue pill would let him return to an ignorant bliss within the Matrix and lead a comfortable life. Contrastly, the red pill would allow him to see the harsh reality of the world and free him from the enslavement of the Matrix but life would be significantly more difficult. The scene is significant in showing that even though fate seemed definite in the machine controlled world, a small element of free will still could be exercised. The Oracle is a symbol of fate in the film. The other characters consult her in order to hear prophecies about their lives.
In the scene where Neo first meets The Oracle, the director explores the pull between fate and free will. The scene explores if knowing one’s fate would affect that individual’s choices. This is demonstrated by The Oracle saying: “what’s really going to bake your noodle later is would you still have broken it if I hadn’t told you about it” after Neo breaks a glass as The Oracle predicted the beginning of their meeting. Neo reveals to Morpheus that he does not believe in fate because “[he does not] like the idea that [he is] not in control of [his] own life.” This could be part of his motivation for exercising his free will by joining the resistance against the simulation. This, however, does not help him fully escape the clutches inevitability because he still goes to The Oracle to hear about his fate. Neo spends the whole film trying to exercise his free will and disprove The Oracle’s prophecies and ultimately, fate. While Neo is a strong symbol of free will, the choices he makes end up proving all The Oracle’s prophecies true.
This suggests that choice is an illusion because free will always lead to one’s fate. The concluding scene of the film shows Trinity as she faces her own fate, as predicted by The Oracle. The Oracle had given Trinity a prophecy that she “will fall in love and that man would be The One.” In the scene, Trinity exercises her free will and falls in love with Neo and not merely because it was fated. However, it could be argued that she fell in love with him because it was her fate to do so and therefore she had no free will on the matter. The kiss shared between Trinity and Neo shows that they have both decided to live their lives and make their own choices, regardless of whether it is in their fate or not. Them deciding to disregard the impact of fate in their lives emphasizes the significance of free will. The Matrix shows that free will can exist as an element of fate, but the inevitability of fate is shown as being unavoidable.
Additionally, Things Fall Apart explores fate and free will through the seemingly paradoxical belief system of the Ibo people through the character Okonkwo. The Ibo people believe in fate and that everything happened according to Chukwu or God’s will. However, they also believe they in lesser gods, ancestors and that everyone has a chi or a personal god who influenced how they live their lives. Okonkwo is a prominent symbol of free will in the novel. He is a man who created his own wealth and climbed the Ibo society hierarchy despite the challenges he had been born into. His father had been a failure according to the Ibo societal standards and was referred to as “agbala,” a term that was the synonym of the word ‘woman’ that was used to mock a man’s incompetence. Okonkwo’s free will and determination allow him to avoid a fate similar to his father’s. He was so “possessed by the fear of his father’s contemptible life and shameful death” that he developed an almost insatiable attitude towards succeeding and receiving societal validation. Unoka, his father, is described as an “ill-fated man,” unlike his son who is recognizably “clearly cut out for great things” from a young age. Okonkwo used his free will to change his life for the better and thus tried to control his fate.
When things start getting sour for him the novel states that “he saw clearly in it the finger of his chi or personal god. For how else would he explain his great misfortune.” The chi is representative of fate and it is used as a scapegoat by both Unoka and Okonkwo for their failures. These two characters blame their faults and misfortunes on a bad chi. During his time in exile after he accidentally kills a fellow-clansman it becomes evident that his “chi was not made for great things.” Even though Okonkwo was adamant in his goal to be better than his father, he learns that “a man could not rise beyond the destiny of his chi.” Okonkwo’s “inflexibility” is an example of his free will. He chooses to be deeply rooted in his belief. However, this leads to his demise because it robs him the ability to see things from his son’s side and from the missionaries’ side.
This leads to a lot of pent-up anger and frustration and this along with his exile and gloomy past contributes to his suicide. Okonkwo’s efforts to improve his life and change his fate prove to be futile because his fate is undeniably strong and whatever, he tries to do, he cannot elude it. When the missionaries arrive, they pose a threat to the beliefs and traditions that lay the foundation for the Ibo society. Okonkwo’s son, Nwoye, uses his free will to pick his faith when he becomes Christian. Okonkwo views this as a huge betrayal since he was such an influential figure in the village and having a Christian son could make people doubt his own devotion to Ibo tradition. Okonkwo describes Nwoye as “degenerate and effeminate” and goes on to disown him. As much as Okonkwo hated his father’s life and undignified death, he ended up receiving a similar fate. Okonkwo used his free will to try deter his fate, but fate is inescapable and it caught up with him.
Veronika decides to die depicts a mental institution that both suppresses people’s free will, yet allows them to stay beyond the requirement that binds them if they choose to do so. Don’t be fooled, however: There are still many things going on, such as forced medication, forced inside and outside time, and even a scene that describes, very graphically, a treatment of induced insulin shock that sends a patient into what she calls a state of astral travel. The balance of treatment of human dignity with that of the way that disabled people are often treated as objects to be shuffled around and poked and strapped down is troublesome at best, and hard to read without a watery field in front of you. Vilette’s head psychiatrist attempts a fascinating but provocative experiment. Can you ‘shock’ someone into wanting to live by convincing her that death is imminent? Like a doctor applying defibrillator paddles to a heart attack victim, Dr. Igor’s ‘ prognosis’ jump-starts Veronika’s new appreciation of the world around her because “people never learn anything by being told, they have to find out for themselves.”. From within Vilette’s controlled environment, she finally allows herself to express the emotions she has never allowed herself to feel: hate and love, anger and joy, disgust and pleasure. Veronika also finds herself being drawn into the lives of other patients who lead constrained but oddly satisfying lives. Eduard, Zedka, and Mari have been sent to Vilette because there doesn’t seem to be any other place for them but then again fate is an important element because the book states: “nothing in this world happens by chance”. Their families don’t understand them, and they can’t adjust to the social structure that doesn’t tolerate their individuality. Each of these patients reflects on Veronika’s situation in his or her own flash of epiphany, exposing new desire and fresh vision for life that lies outside the asylum’s walls. Vilette is an asylum in the purest sense of the word: a place of protection, where one is shielded from danger.
In this case, the danger is society. Those who refuse to accept society’s rules have two choices: succumb to the majority’s perception that they are mad, or struggle against that majority and try to find their own way in the world. The protective walls of Vilette are liberating to its patients, allowing them to explore their ‘madness’ without criticism or harm. The book challenges what ‘madness’ is and states, “collective madness is sanity.” Zedka describes insanity as if you were in a foreign country, able to see and understand everything that’s going on around you but incapable of explaining what you need to know or of being helped, because you don’t understand the language they speak there.’ ‘We’ve all felt that.’ And all of us, one way or another, are insane.’ What they discover is both natural and startling. A novel that starts out as contemplation on the expression of conformity and madness, turns into a dazzling exploration of the unconscious choices we make each day between living and dying, despair and liberation.
In The Immortalists, though the four Gold children examined together are a case study on the value of content versus longevity of a life, each individual narrative explores topics outside of this eternal question. Simon builds a life for himself in San Francisco as a dancer while the AIDS epidemic swirls around him, while Klara attempts to become a magician. Daniel finds solace as a doctor in the army, and Varya dedicates her life to research as a scientist. Despite their wildly different lives, they each grapple with grief and whether or not they will take stock in what was told to them as children. For instance, Simon lives in San Francisco during the early 1980s at the start of the AIDS crisis. As Simon struggles with the new, harsher stigma forced onto his sexuality, he begins to understand how his black partner feels as a minority: “Simon can conceal his sexuality. Robert can’t conceal his blackness.” Benjamin does not spend too much time on this topic—a brief argument between Robert and Simon, and a few stray thoughts of Simon’s briefly highlight the complexity of their intersectional relationship—but it is enough to make a reader pause and think. Other such issues include the role of magic in our lives, the humanity—or lack thereof—of sending healthy men to war, and how much happiness humans should sacrifice in order to live longer.
In what could have become an overwhelming melting pot of hot topics, Benjamin creates a splendid blend of thought-provoking narratives. The first section is filled to the brim with Simon’s exciting life: learning to dance, falling in love, working at a nightclub. The second, Klara’s, features magic tricks and Las Vegas lights. But the two older siblings, Varya and Daniel, live much more mundane lives and carry remorse and regret all the things they never said to their dead siblings. Varya lives with “no room for anyone else’s pain” even though her fortune predicted a long life. As events slowly unfold, the unhappiness of lives not lived to their potential seeps through to the reader. The lull in action doesn’t induce sleepiness, which it easily could, but rather awakens the mind to deep, philosophical questions about the meaning of life. The Immortalists asks questions whose answers could—and should—affect a reader’s life. It is a thought-provoking novel that resituates culturally and historically significant phenomena, from the AIDS epidemic to the military in a post-9/11 world.
In the novel Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, the concept of free will is brought up in the context of new technological advances. In the novel, technology controls every aspect of human life in a future society. People are given hypnopaedia in order to condition them from a young age, as well as given drugs when they are still embryos in order to put them into a certain social class. Essentially, this new society plays God and assigns people predestined lives. People are made to be a certain way and no matter what they do with their lives, they are unable to change what they do, or even who they are. This philosophy can be viewed as a perverted concept of creationism and is used to point out how ridiculous and wrong it is to predetermine a person’s life. The people are free in that they can choose what they do, but they do not chose what they want to do.