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The Human Dilemma Essay, Research Paper
THE HUMAN DILEMMA
Time and time again, humankind finds itself in a tragic predicament. A tragedy can be represented by the famous Oedipus Rex, who defines the term ?tragic hero,? or humans, no different from you or me. A tragedy evokes two emotions in particular, pity and fear. The reader pities the tragic hero, but fears that he may be placed in the same predicament. Humans are not perfect, as we all very well know. Humans have natural flaws, which in turn may contribute to their own tragic downfall. Our species is a rare species, one very complex in structure. Although humans find no fault in having an excessive amount of pride, or hubris, it has been self-destructive to many beloved characters in literature.
Tragic circumstances, for humankind, can be self-inflicted. Most humans have a tragic flaw, the one imperfection in their character that places them in this predicament. Humans have different flaws depending on their personality. Flaws can often be considered the cause of human tragedy. Prior to Miller?s redefinition of the ?tragic flaw,? Aristotle led us to believe that it was a ?failing,? common to men of elevated status. Kings and members were ?cursed? with this imperfection, unfortunately contributing to their downfall. Oedipus is one of the first literary characters in which Aristotle?s definition of tragic flaw is prevalent. Oedipus was defined as a hero in his kingdom, for it was he who solved the riddle to end the plague. The defining characteristics of pride and determination attributed to Oedipus? demise. Oedipus fulfilled his prophecy because of his own actions. In addition, Oedipus was an angry person with a fierce temper. The murder of Laius can be considered a simple twist of fate, but it was Oedipus? anger that led to the King?s murder. Oedipus let his emotions get the best of him, a flaw certainly contributing to his tragic predicament.
Arthur Miller defined the tragic flaw in perspective to the common man, the generalization that categorizes most people. A ?tragic flaw,? according to Miller, was ?the inherent unwillingness to remain passive in the face of what he conceives to be a challenge to his dignity…? Our underlying fear revolves around the thought of being displaced and ?torn away? from the image we have chosen for ourselves. John Proctor, of The Crucible, portrays the quintessential common man in a tragic predicament. Proctor was a highly respected man in Salem. His pride hindered proper decision-making and led to his tragic death. John Proctor refused to live in shame and gave up his life to save his name. Proctor?s pride placed him in an ill-fated position, which could have been prevented if it were not for this tragic flaw. John Proctor serves as a steadfast character who refused to sell his soul to save his own mortality. Rather than living in a world of guilt and shame, Proctor upheld his morals and beliefs with his choice of death. Proctor supports Miller?s view of tragedy and the common man. Proctor refused to remain passive when he felt his dignity was being challenged. This ?flaw? was not an imperfection, but rather a ?crack? in his character that most ?flawless? people do not possess.
Beowulf also found himself the victim of a tragic dilemma. Beowulf, like John Proctor, refused to remain passive. As a young man, he strived to earn a good name to preserve his dignity. Beowulf never betrayed his people against predators, in part to preserve his name and honor. Beowulf was altruistic because he always put the needs of others before his own. Beowulf?s true tragic flaw, according to the philosophic views of Aristotle, was his self-confidence. His self -confidence, in comparison to his pride and altruism, is not as prevalent a flaw as the other two. Beowulf, although a man of royal status, supports Miller?s view of human tragedy of the common man.
In every tragic predicament, there is a ?tragic right? and a ?tragic wrong.? As stated by Miller, ?a tragic right is a condition in which the human personality is able to flower and realize itself.? In this, the tragic human will realize their flaws and refuse to remain passive. John Proctor lived up to this characterization. He realized himself and felt devoid of his own dignity. He wished to maintain his pride and save his name. This exemplifies Proctor?s moment of tragic right. A tragic wrong ?is a condition that suppresses the man, perverts the flowing out of his love and creative instinct.? Most common men exhibit this ?tragic wrong,? in which their personality never fully develops.
Often times, fate controls the quandary in which humans are placed. Blind fate picks random victims and man is never reconciled with the world. Oedipus was fated from the day of his birth to kill his own father, marry his mother and become king. This, unlike his pride, was beyond his control. Although it is still considered a ?flaw,? fate is controlled by a power beyond our reach. Fate is a fierce power used to place humans in tragic dilemmas. Characters who seem almost perfect, lacking any obvious flaws, may be doomed by the gods. In Beowulf, Grendel?s random murders were based on the premise
of fate. Grendel did not choose his victims, but rather snatched the first thirty that were closest to the door. Fate involves the inevitable and is decided for us. Fate can put limitations on one?s destiny and that is the true tragedy that often inflicts us all.
Human mortality is our flaw. Mortality is unavoidable, but one?s time before death can be prolonged. Mortality is part of the human tragedy controlled by fate. God has a time and place for our final demise, something that we do not possess the power to manage. Death can be prolonged, but never cheated. Humankind finds itself in the desperate search for immortality, a mission which has often cost the lives of well known characters like Doctor Faustus. Faustus strived to possess the power and knowledge of God. His undying quest for supremacy and immortality could be considered his fatal flaw. He placed himself in a predicament and paid a very large price, his soul. In his quest for power, he contracts with the devil. Deceived by this demon, he lives years of pseudo- divinity before his time runs out. Faustus is able to prolong his death for years before his own mortality catches up with him. Faustus is only one of the many humans who believed they could exist in a divine universe without mortality. The prime tragedy of all humankind is our mortality, the lack of power to escape death. Today, humans attempt to prolong their own mortality, without Satan?s intervention. Health awareness and proper diet are factors that influence humans to subconsciously believe we are immortal. The evolution of medicines and vaccines to prevent premature death are widespread in our society. Religion is believed to hold the power to strengthen humankind by forming a closer bond with God. Many hope to achieve the ?immortality? that religion promises.
Similar to heroic characters in literature, I have flaws that have hindered my success. Although they may not be considered full blown ?tragic flaws,? my anger has definitely contributed to a few of my downfalls. I find myself in these predicaments where my emotions get the best of me. I can easily identify with Oedipus in that I have been a
victim of my own anger. I have hurt myself in the long run and hindered many prospective relationships. I do not know how to speak in a rational manner without raising my voice, like Oedipus. I have thrown my fits of anger, but have fortunately not resorted to violence. I will eventually come to my own tragic realization of my actions. Aside from those I have harmed, the biggest loser in this situation is myself. My flaw has not led to the tragic downfall of any other person, except for me. I can?t control my fate because that has already been determined, but I can control my anger. The unnecessary conflicts I have caused are only part of my downfall. My true tragedy is my lack of effort in anger management, which predetermines the end result.
Humans are created with flaws because we are not fated to be perfect creatures. We were born into tragic predicaments and to a certain extent, protect ourselves from self-destruction. We all have flaws which control our emotions and twist our fate. We fear tragic dilemmas inflicting our well-being, but that has been predetermined by God. As a creature prone to imperfections, we can?t expect to be immune to downfalls that hold true in our future. It is our duty to realize we will all be put into tragic circumstances where our emotions and flaws are put to the test. The true tragedy of humankind is not our flaws, but the failure to prevent them from causing our final demise.
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