Moral Ambiguity Term Paper

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bad it's to say that something is morally ambiguous. Moreover, something which is perceived as morally ambiguous has reasonable grounds and one could say, justifiable means for existing. Let's take, for instance, an individual who although tends to do good deeds usually, is forced by certain circumstances to behave badly: that is morally ambiguous. One such example, however general, is the presence of the courtesans in Higuchi Ichiyo's "Takekurabe" or "Child's Play," as translated in English. Although prostitutes are morally blamed, in Higuchi's story they are somewhat responsible for "how these great establishments prosper" since "the rickshaws pull up night and day. "(Higuchi 1807) Thus, the courtesans deserve certain credit for the economic survival of the Yoshiwara district, making their presence necessary and, as Higuchi acknowledges, "most of the people here, in fact, have some connection with the quarter. The menfolk do odd jobs at the less dignified houses." (Higuchi 1808) The late nineteenth century in Japan was met with America's process of industrialization, but some areas remained secluded from this touch of modernism and people had to pulled through the best way they could in "the red light district." That Higuchi introduces the courtesans right at the start of the story, when the characters are still children growing up around the brothels, only for their lives to be eaten up by an "uncertainty of the faith" upon the end of the story, seems to imply that such occurrences like the heroine becoming a prostitute herself, are all there is left for a generation of adolescents transitioning from an innocent age towards a new world of modernity that bears influences which the children can hardly escape from.

Another example can be depicted from a different short story, this time from an American writer by the name of Shirley Jackson. In "The Lottery," morality is to be understood in the context of collective mentality and people's behaviour when part of a group. It has been shown numerous times in studies that individuals tend to act differently when they feel they are part of a group rather than when they are alone. In Jackson's story, Mrs. Delacroix serves Tessie the same treatment as everyone else by selecting "a stone so large she had to pick it up with both hands" (Jackson 7), although she is a close friend of the latter. She therefore contributes to killing Tessie Hutchinson without giving it any second thoughts and we can relate that to the animal instinct in human nature which tends to act according to a group's intention, however atrocious the deed might be. Perhaps something external but still related to the subject in "The Lottery," is people's reaction to Jackson's story. The writer said she was mesmerized to read the letters she got after the publication in 1948 and to find that people were not so much concerned with what the story was about but that they wanted to know where the sacrificial rite took place so that they could go and watch it. We may take confort in knowing that the stone throwing ritual is merely part of a writer's fantasy, but unfortunately we cannot be so comfortable at the thought of people's such curiosity. It is an aspect to be treated rather psychologically than philosophical and it makes one want to put aside the issue of morality in the story itself and rather focus on the morality of the people who read it. But, for the purpose of this essay, we shall continue to observe how morality is depicted within the two stories.

Disillusionment is part of Higuchi's story as a "coming of age" realization with the characters growing up to find that the world as they perceived it as children is not the same world that expects them in adulthood. In his dialogue with Donkey "at the dumpling shop," Sh-ta tells the former that he hopes Midori "won't end up like ?maki" but Donkey is only thinking to "buy her for a night" and Sh-ta sadly realizes that "he didn't understand things" (Higuchi 1833). Midori's own feelings are "just sad things, vague things" that "she couldn't put them into words" and none of her "so many thoughts…would ever have occurred to the Midori of yesterday" (Higuchi 1834). She thought being a courtesan was something glamorous when she was a child, but she discovers as she matures that there is no glamour in that; in this sense, she chooses a kind of self-exile within herself and the walls of the house. Midori's transformation from a "delightful, saucy child" into "so ladylike, so well behaved" marks the passing towards another modernist theme, alienation, that feeling which Sh-ta becomes familiarized with once he understands that "from that day on Midori was a different person" (Higuchi 1836). When she finds out that Nobu, a boy she grew up with, is to leave to the seminary to become a monk, Midori becomes fully conscious that her fate is locked within the red light district. Midori is known in the story to be quite a giving person, although she does so only upon her sister's profits, thus stabilizing the morality of the character as neither black nor white. The focus here, although she is depicted as the heroine, is not to portray here as an all good deeds person, but such flaws rather humanize her and her suffering when confronted with her fate determines the reader to feel sympathetic towards her.

In Jackson's "The Lottery" morality is more evidently pictured and obviously violent although, exactly just how much violent, the readers only discover at the end of the story when Tessie is killed in the sacrifice. Moreover, the nature of violence is something subtlety introduced by Jackson who uses the character of the otherwise understanding Mrs. Delacroix to demonstrate that even the most mannered and calm people can resort to evil. When Tess is late, the woman assures her that everything was fine and chit-chats her way into being the first to pick up a stone and "sacrifice" Tessie for the good of the community. What is ambiguous here is that she seems so be so caught up in the tradition and relieved that she hadn't been the one randomly chosen for sacrifice, that she doesn't think back on what she is about to do and that the person involved had been her friend, the one she had been casually laughing with just a moment ago. She is blind at her own viciousness and it's revolting to know that, not only her, but none of the villagers participating in the act, have no clue of the sort of evil they're doing. On the other hand, Jackson sought to indicate that the lottery went so far back that "the original paraphernalia for the lottery had been lost long ago, and the black box now resting on the stool had been put into use even before Old Man Warner, the oldest man in town, was born." (Jackson 1) Thus, to the villagers, the lottery was no more than just another "civic activity" to which they all knew the outcome. And although some talk about how other villages have given up the practice, no one makes a stand for it here, seemingly because they fear the traditionalists. However, there seems to be some recognition on the villagers' behalf in regards to the seriousness of their ritual and its impact on people. In the scene where people are numbered to see who showed up for the lottery, the Watson boy declares he is drawing for both his mother and himself to which "people in the crowd" acknowledge what a "good fellow" he is and how lucky his mother who's "got a man to do it" (Jackson 3). While it does not serve as a justification for their act, the…[continue]

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