Wednesday, June 23, 2021


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The Importance of Morals

The question of whether or not a choice is morally right or wrong varies a great deal from person to person. The first step in determining a moral choice from an immoral one is to know the definition of the word moral, which is "of or concerned with the judgment of the goodness or badness of human action". The judgment of a human's action determines the morality of that action. Judgment is "the capacity to make reasonable decisions", and reason is "the basis or motive for an action". Knowing this, a better definition of the word moral might be the capacity to make a decision based on the goodness of one's motives. Therefore, a choice is based on a person's motives, so whether the motives are good or bad determines the morality of the choices.

In Antigone, Antigone's motivations for the choice she made were to obey the laws of the gods and to value her family, which resulted in her making a moral decision; one based on positive motives. Her motivation stemmed from love for her family and respect for the gods. On the other hand, Creon based his decisions on what would be best in maintaining his own power as opposed to the power of the gods. His motivation was to improve himself, regardless of what it would cost to others. He was blinded by his power and unable to see the importance of other's opinion.

"Guests of the Nation" addresses the issue of immoral choices and results. Donovan follows orders to have two hostages killed in order to seek revenge. Motivated by this revenge and a sense of duty, he willingly shoots the prisoners. Unlike Noble and Bonaparte, who are hesitant about this plan, Donovan is "shaking with excitement" (O'Connor, 45). Although

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Noble is forced be a part of the killing, he refuses to do the shooting himself due to his religious beliefs. Bonaparte reluctantly goes along with the shooting, feeling that it is his duty as an Irish soldier. Their motivation for choosing to go along with the shooting was fear of appearing as traitors. This went against both of their beliefs. In the end, Noble and Bonaparte are negatively affected by the result of their actions.

Antigone is the story of immoral and moral choices, and their effects on an individual. Whether a choice is immoral or moral determines the results. Through the conflict between Antigone and Creon, Sophocles brings up the question of which is more important abiding by the laws of the gods or the laws of human. As Creon's power increases, his personal beliefs and morals seem to become less and less important to him. Creon seems to hold his power higher than that of the gods, thus making immoral choices that bring negative consequences to his own life and the lives of others. Antigone's brother, Polyneices, fought against the state of Thebes, and because of this he was labeled as a traitor. Creon denied him of a proper burial for this, leaving his body to rot in the city as an example. He was too prideful and stubborn to see Polyneices as anything more than a traitor. Due to her strong morals and beliefs, Antigone feels that it is her duty as Polyneices' sister to grant him a proper burial. In her conversation with Ismene, it is clear that she is aware of the dangers and consequences of her actions, but chooses to carry them through regardless. Creon wants her killed for going against his will. Although Antigone is the bride of his son, Creon fails to consider the pain he will be putting his son through. He seems to put more consideration into how his power will be affected rather than how his family will be affected. Haimon, although he respects his father, desperately tries to convince him of his immorality. He says to his father, "Do not believe that you alone can


be right. The man who thinks that, The man who maintains that only he has the power A man like that, when you know him, turns out empty"(Sophocles 47). Creon disregards his son's opinion, thinking it would be ignorant of him to listen to someone so much younger than he is. He is angered by his son's disobedience and goes so far as to say he wants Antigone killed in front of Haimon.

"A person who chooses to die or to risk death demonstrates that there are values, principles, maxims, that are more valuable to him than is life itself. In short, he places his immortal self above his mortal self" (Thoreau, 1). Antigone's morals and beliefs are more important to her than her own life. The choice she makes is carefully thought out and is supported by her morals and beliefs. In the end, she is killed for the choices she made. This result may seem to be negative on the surface, but in reality she was able to change Creon's unreasonable ways of thinking and die for a good cause. The outcome of her moral choice produced positive results.

Creon's power outweighs everything else in his decision-making, including his own family. The choices Creon makes are based on his pride and power, and consequences of his actions are not considered. It is only after the consequences occur that he realizes the bad choices he has made. Through his son's death, he is finally able to see what a huge mistake he has made, and that human compassion is far more important than maintaining his power. In the following quote, he realizes the negative impact his pride and power had on his life. "Lead me away. I have been rash and foolish. I have killed my son and my wife. I look for comfort; my comfort lies here dead. Whatever my hands have touched has come to nothing. Fate has brought all my pride to a thought of dust" (Sophocles, 60). He became blind by his powers as king, and his only motivation was to uphold that power. It is unfortunate that he failed to take his ethical

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beliefs into consideration before his conversation with Tieresias, who convinced him of his wrong doings. His immoral choices lead to the destruction of many lives. When he was finally able to understand the negative consequences of his immorality, he chose to die an unhappy death out of desperation. His immoral choices based on selfish motives brought him negative results.

"Guests of the Nation" is a story about the morality of choices made during war. Hawkins and Belcher are prisoners of war being held hostage by Irish soldiers. They are seen as no more than hostages to most of the country, but Bonaparte and Noble get to know them as more than just objects of revenge. Because of this, they are directly affected by the choice made to kill the prisoners and are able to see it as being morally wrong. Although they realize this, the rest of the country is so overcome with anger that revenge seems to outweigh the value of a human life. In their ignorance, they failed to realize that a brief feeling of glory from revenge is not worth the suffering of lost human lives.

Jeremiah Donovan's decision to kill Hawkins and Belcher was not based on any personal feelings of dislike towards them but out of anger. His motivation for killing the English prisoners was revenge. The problem with the choice Donovan makes is not in any way due to him having a bad conscience. He seemed like a sincere person, truly believing that in killing the English soldiers he was doing what was best for Ireland. The mistake Donovan made was that he failed to consider other possible solutions to the problem. On the topic of war, John F. Kavanaugh writes,

"When you join a sincere conscience with unwillingness to consider any data that might challenge it, you have a dangerous situation. You may be sincere and certain that you are

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right, but if you are incorrect in your judgment and you have almost unlimited power to implement your choices, you can be a menace"(Kavanaugh, 1).

Although Bonaparte and Noble disagreed with Donovan's actions, they made the choice not to express their opinions. Going against their morals to avoid being labeled as traitors, they reluctantly followed Donovan's orders. However, they seem to regret this choice in the end. Noble went against his strong religious beliefs. After the shooting, he falls on his knees in prayer. Bonaparte followed through with something he believed to be ethically wrong. He describes the way he feels afterwards by saying,

"it was as if the patch of bog where the English men were was a million miles away, and even Noble and the old woman, mumbling behind me, and the birds and the bloody stars were all far away, and I was somehow very small and very lost and lonely like a child astray in the snow. And anything that happened to me afterwards, I never felt the same about again" (O'Conner, 456).

He also says, "It is so strange what you feel at times like that you can't describe it" (O'Conner 455). Perhaps the reason he felt so "very small and very lost" was because he knew he was just one person out of thousands and even if he had tried to save his friends it wouldn't have mattered. Too many people wanted them dead. He never questioned authority in the beginning; he just went along with the crowd. It was not until he was forced to be a part of the shooting of his two friends that he was able to understand that the majority is not always right, but it is almost impossible for a few people to change their minds.

Albert Einstein once quoted, "Never do anything against conscience, even if the state demands it." Over time, more and more people understand the importance of this statement.

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Laws are important in a society, but they should not overpower morals. Like everything else, authority should be questioned. It is through questioning that humans are able to evolve and improve themselves. Those who have the courage to question what is legally right and compare it to what is morally right should be praised, not punished. After all, it is them who have brought positive changes into the world that humans now sometimes take for granted. Due to people like Antigone standing up to the law for a good cause, today's society no longer has to live in fear of being killed for expressing their opinions and standing up for what they believe in. Noble and Bonaparte chose to follow through with the decision to shoot their friends instead of doing what they believed to be morally right. Maybe it would have been impossible to change the outcome, but because they did not try, they will spend the rest of their lives feeling guilty.

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