In Susan Glaspell's play "Trifles," two women cover up evidence that would help convict a murderer. I will ask: did the women do the right thing? At the end of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Chief Bromden kills (the lobotomized) McMurphy. Again I will ask: was Chief Bromden's action ethical? Certainly the contexts of both these works push a read toward a particular answer, but I still find the discussion engaging and fruitful. I think these may be the sort of questions students want to engage with; perhaps young adulthood is a time when people find themselves both open to exploring such questions and deeply invested in these questions.
Thursday, April 16, 2009
The Ethical Decisions of Imaginary Characters
I'm not afraid to ask students whether the fictional characters we encounter do "the right thing." I do think sometimes this question can help us better understand the particular text. But I also don't think a literature class is an inappropriate setting to challenge students about ethics and values.