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Moby Dick is an epic story of a long journey of a whaling ship called (Pequod) and its captain Ahab. The story develops where Ahab pursues the great Sperm Whale during their voyage around the world. The novel by Melville is a narration having Ishmael, who is a sailor in the whaling ship, as the narrator. Ishmael takes undertakes the journey out of his affection for the sea. Apparently, the story begins with Ishmael’s arrival in New Bedford while travelling to Nantucket (Kimmel 87). While in New Bedford, Ishmael agrees to share a bed with a stranger called Queequeg. Later, both men became good friends and decided to sail together to their destination. While sailing, Ishmael lacks his further ambition of sailing since Queequed was excellent in the harpoon than he was and, therefore, becomes a common sailor in the whaling ship. Ahab remains unknown to the two sailors while in the ship (Spanos 44). However, Ishmael and his friends have his description as ungodly, grand and god-like man (Chapter 16).
While in board of the voyage, the author of the novel highlights different characters that playing different roles in the ship. Ship officers are some important characters in the novel. They play a role of directing the early voyage. These officers have Starbuck as the chief mate whom we learn as a sincere Quaker and leader. The other mate among the officers of the whaling ship is Stubb, whom we learn as a prankster and an able seaman. Flask is the other mate among the sailing officers present in the whaling ship. He is dull but competent while carrying out his duties in the ship. As stated earlier, Ahab is the sailor of the voyage and plays a crucial role of ensuring that he organizes all the crewmembers working in the whaling ship. Therefore, in the novel, he appears as the leader of the ship. His description in the novel demonstrates his physical appearance and the authority he had over his crew in the ship. Ishmael describes him having an imposing, frightening figure that sent shivers to him. The paper is an analysis of the leadership of Ahab in the novel Moby Dick (Spanos 89).
Comparison of Owen Chase and Ahab
During the period when the author of the novel was developing his work, there was also a young man in the Pacific who was beginning his whaling career. Melville signed for a board of the New Bedford whale ship Acushnet. It was while he was in the pacific that he met with William Henry Chase (son to Owen Chase). Initially, Melville had knowledge of stories regarding the Essex and questioned the William about his father’s experiences. He leant that Owen Chase was the first mate of the whale ship Essex. Owen had his work records while he was working in the whale ship. His major work was an incident in ‘Narrative of the most extraordinary and distressing shipwreck of the Whale-Ship Essex. It is in this instance that we learn a comparison (similarities) between Ahab (found in the novel) and Owen (who was as well a mate in the whale ship in real life).
Comparing the two, both have the characteristic of having an obsession of the whale ship. Owen could not get rid of the image of the huge sperm whale. We learn that he faced a torment arising from the memory of the ramming ship. Apparently, from his description that he could not get rid of the image during the drift of the small whaleboat. This is a demonstration that he had a great attachment with the whale ship. More so, according to his description, he gives a clear account of his experiences while he was working as a mate in the ship.
On the other hand, in the novel, Ahab is a character who had a great obsession and link with sail work. We learn similar with Chase, Ahab had a prior convincing approach that the whale had faced attacks from the Essex out of revenge. Out of this prior information, the white whale, after taking Ahab’s leg haunts him and he believes that this was because of a calculating mischief. This appears as a comparison between Chase and Ahab (Spanos 105).
More so, we learn that Chase and his colleagues were fighting for their lives after the attack. However, this is in contrast with Ahab. In the novel we learn that Ahab was only a fighting a symbol (that is as a course of revenge). From his narration and record of his experiences while in the sea, Chase, on a tiny boat did not have the possibility of revenge, but the possibility of struggling for his life with his shipmates.
Both Ahab and Chase had leadership skills. According to his narrative work, we learn that even after the attack and when they settled in the wilderness, Chase continued with his leadership where he organized other shipmates (Kimmel 230). He was among the eight survivors after the attack. Similarly, in the novel, the author introduces Ahab as the leader of the other crew working in the ship. In addition, both Ahab and Chase in their context appear as heroes. In the case of Ahab, having led the other crew members in the revenge mission, he demonstrated some character traits of heroism and as well came up as an overconfident. He had a belief that just like a god he could enact his wills and remain stronger than the forces of nature. This made other characters in the novel to develop fear to him. Likewise, in Chase’s context, he demonstrates a high level of heroic character when he emerges among the eight survivors in the attacked ship and despite the many days spent in the unknown island, he still took the role of leading the survivors back to their homeland. This direct similarity lies between Chase and Ahab. Lastly, both Ahab and Chase in their contexts are sailors of long distances (that is both mostly dealt with voyages across different cities through the sea).
Leadership analysis of Ahab in the novel.
As stated earlier, in the novel, Ahab plays a major role as the captain of the voyage ship. As a captain, we observe some leadership characteristics. Firstly, from the novel, it is clear that Ahab had obsessive qualities while leading the ship. As from the novel, after recuperating on board his previous ship, and after he was sick with fever, he goes crazier where he blames Moby Dick for everything that was happening to people. Initially while reading the novel in the earlier chapters it is easier to establish that Ahab was a victim of an attack by a vicious animal. However, this ends in “Chapter 36 The Quarter Deck” where a description is made demonstrating that Ahab was an obsessed man. He had an obsession of destroying Moby Dick. While going through “Chapter 37 Sunset,” it becomes clear that Ahab is mad. As the story develops, his obsession nature becomes more vivid. According to the author, we learn that after some months, he can get some of his insanity under control. As the leader of the ship, his obsessive character affects others in the ship. In the novel, we learn that Ahab was undertaking all his efforts with the aim of killing a whale. Despite being after a long period, he remained with the idea of revenging back to the whale as it led to his loss of the leg (Spanos 229).
In his obsessive nature, revenge was another defining characteristic of his leadership. As the captain, having have declared a revenge on the whale, he appeared and was not capable of showing concern for anything else (Espinosa 254). His revenge mission on the whale is another demonstration of his obsessive nature. In the story, we learn of his family where he reveals some details about his past and states that he spent over forty years at sea once he married and had a son. However, according to his description, we learn that despite being in a family life, he appears unchanged with his mission of revenge. Supposing that Ahab did not carry the unhealthy mission of revenge, there is a great likelihood that he would be the main hero in the novel. This is because he would be an experienced and intelligent captain with strong moral guidelines to his crew members (Kimmel 44). However, as we read the novel, these things may just be a glimpse into whom the real Ahab was before he faced an attack from Moby Dick and some of the changes that took place in his life after he lost his leg. This is the definition of his need for his revenge on Moby Dick. In the novel, we learn that his leadership as a captain he had a will of sacrificing everything he had for his revenge. More so, according to the description made in the novel, we learn that he puts a false blame on a creature that had not hurt him intentionally.
Unquestionably, as the novel progresses, Peleg describes Ahab as “He’s a grand, ungodly, god-like man.” From this description made, Ishmael develops both feelings of pity and as well awe for Ahab (Espinosa 165). This is a suggestion that Ahab may be a tragic hero. In Chapter 26, the author of the novel employs a classic device of apostrophe while exalting the first mates and as well the captain of the Pequod. He states that, “If, then, to meanest mariners, and renegades and castaways, I shall hereafter ascribe high qualities, though dark; weave round them tragic graces. If even the most mournful, perchance the most abased, among them all, shall at times lift himself to the exalted mounts. If I shall touch that worker’s arm with some ethereal light. If I shall spread a rainbow over his disastrous set of sun; then against all mortal critics bear me out in it, thou Just Spirit of Equality, which hast spread one royal mantle of humanity over all my kind!” this is an indication of some bit of the heroic nature of Ahab (Michael 45).
Apparently, in Chapter 28, when Ahab stands on the quarterdeck, the author states that “There was an infinity of firmest fortitude, a determinate, unsurrenderable willfulness, in the fixed and fearless, forward dedication of that glance.” This description made by the author highlights that Ahab, as the captain of the ship, was fearless. In addition, he intends to demonstrate that Ahab had dedication while carrying out his duty as the captain of the ship implying that, in that, he was a tragic hero. Despite the risky revenge mission he was undertaking, Ahab had the determination to ensure that he accomplishes his mission. This, on the other hand, is important in concluding that his leadership in the novel as a captain has a characteristic of heroism (Spanos 345).
In Chapter 36, another quality of Ahab becomes clear. He ascends to the cabin-gangway to the deck and orders Starbuck to “send everyone aft.” When his crew members arrive, he inspires them with the desire of seeking the great whale (pasteboard mask) for evil. As he asks his crew questions, they responded immediately indicating that he was feared and his leadership was full of commands. That is the crews obeyed his orders and none questioned him on his decision. This is a characteristic of his leadership while playing the role of a captain that he is commanding in nature and his leadership was full of commands that other crew members obeyed fearfully.
In the same chapter (Chapter 36), we learn that other crew members fear Ahab. On the other hand, there is a description that he is respected for his Shakespearean intensity and nature while giving commands. More so, we learn that he also admits in Chapter 28, “I am madness maddened!” According to the author of the novel, he highlights that due to the madness drives him to detriment to others working in the ship (Michael 189). As described above, in the paper, he has an obsession of conquering Moby Dick that causes him to become “a ravenous monster.”
This, on the other hand, appears to have a great impact on his reasoning as the author demonstrates it in a manner indicating it prevents reason. For instance in Chapter 128, when Captain Gardiner asks Ahab for assistance in finding his son whose whaleboat lost in the chase after Moby Dick, Ahab refuses fails aiding him claiming that he wants to pursue the white whale. This is an indication that despite being a leader of the ship (captain), he did not pay attention to the requests of other people around him despite his commanding nature towards other crewmembers in the ship.
Later as he talks to Starbuck in the later chapters, we learn that he realizes the dangers of his pursuit of revenge. However, he pays nil attention to the dangers in undertaking his revenge mission and feels compelled to continue with his mission (Kimmel 88). He asks himself…” What is it, what nameless, inscrutable, unearthly thing is it; what cozening, hidden lord and master, and cruel, remorseless emperor commands me. That against all natural loving and longings, I so keep pushing, and crowding, and jamming myself on all the time. Recklessly making me ready to do what in my own proper, natural heart, I durst not so much as dare? Is Ahab, Ahab?”
In addition, having used Pip in the whaleboat implies that Ahab has already endangered his life and as well caused the cabin boy loose his mind due to confusion as he meets new experiences during the mission (Espinosa 89). This demonstrates a sense of lack of care for other crew members during his leadership. Similarly, Ishmael loses his life in the obsessed pursuit of revenge by Captain Ahab. Therefore, from the two experiences with his crew members in the whaleboat, he appears to care less about his crew members. Unlike other leaders, his leadership focuses more on his personal desires of pursuit without considering the risks faced by others during the revenge mission. Therefore, his leadership is tragic and was life threatening for those involved in pursuing the revenge mission.
In the novel, while looking at leadership of Ahab, it is clear that he is not appreciative and does not promote personal efforts done by the crew members. In the case of Starbuck, he is smart and dedicated in terms of his duties. More so, he is an introspective character that ask difficult questions. On the other hand comparing him with Stubb (the ship’s second mate) who is humorist (Spanos 98). He is an easy to go crew that does not bother going an extra mile of questioning what is happening since he feels that everything happens due to fate.
These two characters involved in the revenge mission have different reasoning capabilities. In relation to Ahab’s leadership, they have equal positions and opportunities. More so, we learn that Ahab links more with Stubb as compared to Starbuck. This becomes clear that, in his leadership, he has a higher reliance on crewmembers who are easy to control. This is a tragic leadership method used by Ahab since it does not rely on the realizing the goals, but ensuring that he has command and as well dominance over his crewmembers (Michael 244).
In his leadership, Ahab demonstrates a high level of evilness. Evil begins with his over obsessive nature that he did not care of what was happening to other crewmembers and the risks he put their lives (Espinosa 314). In the novel, there are different instances demonstrating on the evil nature of Captain Ahab. “Ishmael, (the narrator) responds that the biblical Ahab was a wicked king, but Peleg insists that the name is simply a misfortunate, not a prediction of Ahab’s character,” this a direct comparison made by Ishmael. With the saying, that the biblical Ahab is evil, but it should not have to be described like the biblical Ahab. “Ahab is a defiant rebel against all human limitations. He will sacrifice life itself in his search for truth: Truth hath no confines,” despite the narrator undertaking the voyage for adventure, it is an indication that he had already learnt the prevalence of evil nature in the captain. In addition, it implies that that Ahab will do anything with the aim of killing Moby Dick. This means that even if he has to have his whole life spent or even die on his voyage to kill Moby Dick. This an evil demonstration of Ahab since he does not want to let go of the injuries he got from the whale. It comes up that he has a great interest in revenge than his own life (Kimmel 104).
Going back to his earlier life, “Captain Ahab was a man who had left life on land, a wife, and children all behind in his quest after Moby Dick,” this is a description made about his past and family life (Michael 215). It implies that Captain Ahab did not care about anybody or anything. His focus was on killing Moby Dick and having his normal life back again. However, in the novel, Ishmael plays a role of realizing the meaning of the fateful voyage and it is through his vision we learn of Ahab’s quest for absolute truth that must lead to suicide.
According to Ishmael, a description of the voyage is in that it is a sacrifice of the ship of humanity. That is it is simply as a sacrifice of humanity (different people) in the name of revenge. He states that they would risk anything or anyone with the aim of getting Ahab’s revenge on Moby Dick for biting his leg off. This is a demonstration of the evil nature of Ahab in the novel indicating how he was willing to sacrifice people’s lives with the aim of pursuing his revenge mission.
In the novel, there is a description of Ahab as being noble and religious. In addition, we have Ahab being partly sacrilegious, grand, ungodly, god-like man. This means that Captain Ahab is also a religious person despite his evil deeds of carelessness. While seeking vengeance upon a whale that attacked and maimed him out of blind instinct, he appears mad and obsessive. This is according to a description made by Starbuck that he is full of madness. However, analyzing on his madness, it appears that his madness is of a deeper sort.
While first faced by an attack of the white whale, he felt the pain and shock. It is through these feelings that he developed some sense of madness based on his personal experiences with the whale. In his revenge mission, he has a strong belief that human beings must recognize their own morality and fight for justice (Michael 98). With this demonstration, there is an implication that, despite the evil deeds and beliefs of Captain Ahab, he was mad for a good reason of reaching out for his justice after the whale made him lose his leg.
In conclusion, to the essay, it is clear that Captain Ahab leadership was full of mixed characteristics. Initially with his focus on the revenge mission, he appears, as a tragic hero who wants to ensure that he attains what he believes is fair. Apparently, his mission incorporates different risks to the crewmembers involved. He does not pay attention to these risks and as a result endangers their lives (Espinosa 456). This is an indication that, despite a consideration that he is a hero, he has some sense of being unfair and not caring for his crewmembers. His leadership is tragic and lastly leads to death of his crewmembers and as well sinking of the ship. This shows that he had a high level of dedication in his life in that he was willing to sacrifice his life for a revenge mission. However, it also implies that he was a leader with lack of reason since he did not care about his family. He sacrificed his life for revenge without spending time with his family. Lastly, his leadership is a failure. This is because, at the end of the novel, he does not accomplish the revenge mission as the ship sinks before getting the whale.
Spanos, William V. The Errant Art of "moby Dick": The Canon, the Cold War, and the Struggle for American Studies. Durham: Duke Univ. Press, 1995. Print.
Michael, John. Identity and the Failure of America: From Thomas Jefferson to the War on Terror. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2008. Print.
Kimmel, Michael S. The Politics of Manhood: Profeminist Men Respond to the Mythopoetic Men's Movement (and the Mythopoetic Leaders Answer). Philadelphia: Temple Univ. Press, 1995. Print.
Espinosa, Rod, and Herman Melville. Herman Melville's Moby Dick. Edina, Minn: Magic Wagon, 2008. Internet resource.
1."As long as she is pretty and innocent, and young enough to have nothing else on her mind, she may well put her heart into learning a pastime she has seen others enjoy, and in fact she may become quite good at it. And when those who know her disguise her weaknesses and advertise whatever passable qualities she may have so as to present them in the best light, how could anyone think ill of her, having no reason to suspect her of being other than she seems? (Genji 20)
This passage gives a glimpse of Murasaki writing. She mastered the art of effective communication and this passage shows it. She is specific and to the point in her descriptions. This passage adequately distinguishes the prettiness that the girl possessed. The use of questions is something that Murasaki has mastered in. By asking questions she throws the ball into the court of the reader who is then forced to think deeply about the situation.
2. There was an aging Dame of Staff, a lady of impeccable birth, witty, distinguished, and well respected by all, who nevertheless was intensely coquettish; and Genji was curious to know why, when a woman might of course be light in her ways, she should be so thoroughly dissolute even in her declining years. On jokingly testing the waters he was shocked to find that she did not think his proposition at all incongruous, but the adventure still amused him enough to pursue it, although to her great chagrin, he kept his distance for fear of starting gossip about his liaison with an old woman. (Genji 142)
Murasaki in this passage is talking of Dame of the Staff. This is one of the least developed characters in the story. Genji’s curiosity is put under the question and she feels that there are indeed several things that are not right with Dame. He admired her but felt that indeed there was something off with Dame of Staff. His description of the Dame of Staff is spot-on.
3. "You so seldom speak, but when you do, you say the most extraordinary things! That is hardly our relationship to each other. What a way to talk! I keep trying this and that in the hope that you may change your mind and give up rejecting me all the time, but as far as I can tell, you only dislike me the more! Well, one day perhaps . . ." (Genji 105) This passage is taken from the time where Uri confronts Genji in regards to paying attention. The use of direct speech is evident in this passage, and it brings on a conversation like manner and gives more information regarding the characters. This again is something that Murasaki has been able to master. This again is repeated by the girl Ukifune. Kaoru is a sensitive when he approaches Ukifune and feels that there is a need to open up to her. He feels that indeed there are several things that have gone wrong with the relationship with Ukifune and this passage can relate that relationship.
4. "Leave me, if you will, burdened with your bitterness through all lives to come,
but know your real enemy is your heart, and yours alone."
The simplicity of her words was beyond all praise, but respect for her feelings and fear for his own situation now led him, dazed, to take his leave. (Genji 202)
The use of direct quotations and simulation of a conversation is evident in this passage. There is the use of italics also in order to emphasize the statement. This is of importance to understand. The direct confrontation is something that can also be seen in other parts of the story. For example, when Empress Akiko first met with Genji, there was a confrontation that looked similar. She was complaining to somebody that is not named. She is described as being shy, unsociable and fond of several old tales.
5. The voice, the manner, were not hers but those of someone else. After a moment of shock he understood that he was in the presence of the Rokujō Haven. Alas, what he had dismissed so far as malicious rumor put about by the ignorant now proved to be patently true, and he saw with revulsion that such things really did happen. "I hear your voice, but I do not know you. Please make it clear to me who you are." (Genji 176-77)
This passage shows the chronicles of events that occurred. Empress Sadako is the one that is being described in this text. There is the use of a self-reflective analysis which helps Empress Sadako to better understand the situation at the ground. She said that in the presence of Rokujo Haven. The use of direct quotes is again repeated in this passage.
6. In the summer of that year Genji's mother became unwell, but the Emperor refused her leave to withdraw. He felt no alarm, since her health had long been fragile, and he only urged her to be patient a little longer. However, she worsened daily, until just five or six days later she was so weak that her mother's tearful entreaties at least persuaded him to releaser her. (Genji 7)
This passage gives a glimpse of the chronology of events that occurred when Genji’s mother became sick. This is a self reflective analysis that was being done by Genji. He understood this phenomenon and never forgot about this mistreatment. This passage is in fact extremely important in the development of the story line in the book in that it marks the revolution of Genji. It shows Genji the cruelty of the world.
7. "I am giving you the advice," I said, "that I should follow myself: for I set such high store by sincerity that I think if my mistress or even my wife were to tell me she was attracted to someone else, I should be upset, but not bitter. I should cease to behave as a lover or a husband, so that I could offer her my advice and sympathy." (Clèves 65)
This passage refers to the relationship that existed with Mademoiselle de Chartres and Monsieur de Cleves. There is the use of direct quotations in this passage, this brings out simulation of conversation. This information is said in regards to chevalier de Guise who is a young knight that is described as being madly in love with princess de Cleves. He is attracted to the Princess and feels therefore, this is the reason as to why the advice exists.
8. Mlle de Chartres replied that she, too, had observed the same qualities in him, and even felt less disinclination to marry him than any other man, but that she was not particularly attracted to him.
The next day, his proposal was communicated to Mme de Chartres and she accepted it, not fear that, in giving her daughter to the Prince de Clèves, she was giving her to a man whom she could not love. The contract was drawn up, the king informed and the engagement publicly made known. (Clèves 39)
Monsieur de Cleves is the husband of princess de Cleves, and he is described in the story as being prudent and rare. This passage gives information in regards to the relationship that existed between the two. Mademoiselle de Chatres did not love Monsieur de Cleves and instead loved Duke de Nemours. There is the use of allusion in regard to King Henri II who is believed to have been King Louis XIV.
9. Mme de Clèves read and reread this letter several times, yet without knowing what it was she had read. All she could see was that M. de Nemours did not lover her as she had believed, but that he loved other women and was deceiving them as he was her. What a thing that was to see and know for a person of her temperament, passionately in love, who had just displayed her feelings to a man whom she judged unworthy, and to another whom she had scorned for love of him! (Clèves 91)
In this passage, there is reference to the love that the Duke of Nemours had for Mademoisselle de Chatres. She loved Duke of Nemours and felt that indeed there was a need to ensure that she maintained the relationship. She was able to get information that the duke might not love her and therefore felt at loss. There is the use of vivid description in the passage. The use of a letter is another stylistic device that is used by the author to emphasize.
10. "I remember how confused you were, the day when your portrait was lost. You gave it away, madame — you gave away the portrait that was so dear to me and legitimately mine. You could not hide your feelings; you are in love, and he knows it; but so far your virtue has preserved you from anything beyond that."
This passage gives information about the painting that was given away by Madame de Chatres that belonged to Mademoiselle de Chatres. De chatres is extremely annoyed about this situation and feels aggrieved. She feels like her mother does not understand her and this might explain the reason as to why her mother decided to support the marriage between her and Monsieur Cleves despite knowing that her daughter loved another man. This relationship that exists between Mademoiselle de Chatres and her mother can be described as the highlight of this passage and in general the whole story.
The mission of the Peace Corps is often to promote world peace as well as friendship by the provision of qualified volunteers that are trained manpower n dealing with certain emergency scenario and the fostering of a better understanding within different parties (Adams, 2007). It can be described as an American Ideal to believe that one can advance their life by working hard, however, in the Peace Corps being a volunteer and having time to help other people improve their lives is seen as a far much greater ideal. The type of leadership that can work with the mission of Peace Corps is transactional leadership (Adams, 2007). Transactional leadership often involves the exchange of several incentives for a job well done. This is important in the volunteering industry where people will feel appreciated and wanted.
The mission statement of Starbucks is to inspire and nurture different human being, one man, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.
However, this mission statement can be bettered with addition of several important things such the needs of the customer as well as the expectations of the employees. The leadership program that might be feasible for Starbucks given their mission statement is democratic leadership (Derr, 2008). This is where the employees have a say in the way the company is run (, 2007). This approach of leadership is effective to the Starbucks as their mission statement demands that each person in the society be represented.
A leader should however be flexible and use the different types of leadership in rotation. For example, a leader should ensure that when there is a time to be democratic and listen to the employees, he or she does that. On the other hand, when it comes to making decisions that are best for the company without consultation the leader should not be afraid to become authoritative. Therefore, an effective should mix the different styles of leadership (Winkler, 2010).
Winkler, I. (2010). Contemporary leadership theories: Enhancing the understanding of the complexity, subjectivity and dynamic of leadership. Berlin: Springer.
Derr, C. B., Roussillon, S., & Bournois, F. (2002). Cross-cultural approaches to leadership development. Westport, Conn: Quorum Books.
Lim, N., Cho, M., & Curry, K. (2008). Planning for diversity: Options and recommendations for DoD leaders. Santa Monica, CA: Rand.
Regardless of the fact that “Night” was written about sixty years ago, it is still a book that many of today’s leaders and individuals can use as a reference guide, particularly when it boils down to matters of ethics. While some call the book a memoir of Wiesel’s own life, others choose to view this masterpiece as a novel inspired by his life and experiences during the Holocaust. Nonetheless, this is a seemingly irrelevant fact when it comes down to the nitty-gritty because the book in itself conveys the message Wiesel intended to communicate, memoir or novel notwithstanding. It accurately communicates the experiences of Jews under the oppression of the Nazis, and the effects that this oppression had on the individuals. When one reads between the lines, one gets to understand how this oppression affected the views, principles and ethics that the individuals professed before being led into oppression.
In the modern world, scholars and individuals alike are looking for originality and difference in the way of doing things. Many at times, this difference or originality is sought out through the expression of different ideologies and social concepts. Due to the development of some of these “modern approaches” to social structure and topics such as ethics, much of the old guard with all its different ideologies gets forgotten. Many attribute this to the fact that a changing world demands a change in the views and approaches the society should have, even in the field of ethics. However, I completely disagree with this train of thought, and this is why I believe that “Night” by Elie Wiesel is still relevant today. I believe that this book is relevant for a number of reasons. First, it is rather foolish to disregard an informative and insightful book on the basis of age. This is because unlike individuals that age with time, the insights developed and portrayed by Wiesel remain as they were at the time of publishing. In this sense, I am strongly convinced that the book still remains relevant, regardless of the sixty years since its publication. Secondly, I believe in a concept of ethics that is timeless. The passing of time should not have any influence on the core and ethical values that an individual or society holds. Should there be an influence, then it should only be with regards to having greater consideration and respect for ethics. The degradation of ethical principles and values on the basis of time is only an indicator that the society is failing in its duty of instilling and maintaining ethical views within its populace.
The readers of today do not exhibit a great difference from the readers at the time of publication, other than the fact that this is a new and different century. That aside, today’s readers can still draw a plethora of lessons and insights from the themes and characters in this book. The first and most vital concept that today’s readers can learn from “Night” is the concept of humanity (Wiesel & Brown, 1986). Sure enough, there is no Gestapo or Nazi to crack down on innocent Jews and subject them to slave-like conditions, but inhumanity has taken on different forms today. Right from nuclear households up to Fortune 500 multi-billion dollar corporations, individuals seem to care less about those around them with every passing day. An inherent insensitivity continues to creep through our society, alienating individuals from those around them, and particularly so those that they consider socially beneath them. This has continued to affect the human race, and in its own unique way, it applies the blueprint of the Gestapo and the Nazi during the Holocaust. The belief that an individual is superior to another, which many hold today, resonates with the Nazi belief that the Jews were an inferior populace that could be used as they deemed fit (Wiesel & Brown, 1986).
Today’s society can learn to embrace humanity and consider other individuals, regardless of whether they are socially beneath them or not, as human beings with emotions and opinions that matter (Phillips, 2009). While “Night” does not espouse this directly, it paints the clear picture of what the world was like in the absence of such consideration. In this way, the society, and today’s readers by extension can lead happier and more fulfilling lives. Today’s readers can also learn about the importance of family bonds. In an increasingly self-centered populace, the emphasis on family has taken a slight dip compared to societies in the previous century (Phillips, 2009). Today, families are more of a collection of individuals living under the same roof than a group of individuals related by blood and bound by love. Great emphasis on careers and personal preferences has seen the slow death of family bonding activities. In “Night” the separation of Eliezer and his father from Eliezer’s mother and sister is a painful ordeal (Wiesel & Brown, 1986). While it would be painful even today to have one’s loved ones ripped from them by cruel individuals, one wonders if that has not happened already, albeit in other forms. For instance, social media and the internet continue to pull apart families, without many realizing so. In some cases, one even witnesses individuals that would rather spend time on social media chatting with friends than they would with their own family members. I have a strong conviction that by reading this book, individuals can really begin to question themselves insofar as their bonds with family are concerned. Perhaps even some can learn the true value of having family present physically, emotionally and mentally, such that they do not have to experience the sadness Eliezer and his father felt.
Reading this book has impacted me in a unique way. Upon completion of the book, I realized that in a world that is increasingly driven by self-interest, making ethical decisions in not just hard, it is extremely hard. This is based on the simple fact that ethical decisions, majority of the times, are not those that put self-interest first. Because of this, one is forced to make decisions that may affect them negatively as well, but which are ethical. The violation of ethics by the Nazi and the Gestapo was a big blow to me as a reader, particularly because it reflected the cruelty and self-centeredness that they personified. However, the fact that a war was being fought to rid the world of the Nazis reminded me that there are individuals that still believe in ethics and in ethical decision making. From this book, readers can look at the lives of the characters as a roadmap of ethics. Indeed, not many employed ethics in their decisions, but this absence of ethics when it was called for serves to remind all readers, I included, or the vital role it plays in our society (Kidder, 2009). For instance, the fact that Eliezer decides to save his own skin rather than come to the aid of his father is a clear indication of the self-centeredness every individual inherently possesses. However, it is necessary that as a society, we overcome this by making ethical decisions that work in favor of the majority of society. Although not every member of society can be contented, having the majority contented is definitely a good start.
This book also resonated well with many concepts that were covered in class. One of the most significant concepts was that of core values. Indeed, to make ethical decisions, one must possess and believe in certain core values. It is this belief that allows them to take an ethical stand on a matter even in the face of insurmountable opposition. In “Night”, the characters constantly have their core values tried and tested, and regrettably, many of them fail to uphold these core values. Eliezer’s father quickly resigns to a state of abandon and despair when his family required him to be strong and to lead them through the tough times ahead (Wiesel & Brown, 1986). They did not demand that he kill the Nazis or the Gestapo, but having a strong figure emotionally and mentally would have done more for Eliezer, his mother and his sister. In addition to this, his diffusion of responsibility to Eliezer when it was needed the most betrays an absence or ethical views or core values. Eliezer also has his core values tested, and fails to come out victorious. He ends up forsaking his father to die of a beating in the bunker below him, as well as doubting the existence and power of a God he had believed in all his life.
In addition to this, the activities carried out by the Nazi and the Gestapo were extremely cruel. What was crueler was the fact that they were carried out by the foot soldiers under instruction from those in high command. This makes us question the matter of obedience to authority with respect to ethics and ethical decision making. Did those soldiers who perpetrated such cruelties have consciences or were they all blinded by their obedience to authority? Personally I confer with the school of thought that the perpetration of such activities was in reality a betrayal of oneself. The fact that such individuals obeyed orders and carried out acts that they would not have, or that they did not deem right was a betrayal of their own views on ethics.
From such insights, today’s readers can hope to make themselves better individuals that have core values, and that are capable of discerning what is right and wrong. A closer look at “Night” helps us to understand the challenges that ethics, as an entity, faces. The fact that personal opinions, preferences and decisions tend to be skewed in the direction of self-interest serve as a critical stumbling block to the establishment of ethical standpoints in many individuals (Kidder, 2009). However, I believe that by cultivating the habits of consideration, being humane to those around one and paying attention to the social rather than individual needs can help the society to repair the decaying faculty that is ethics and ethical decision making. In order to achieve this, one needs to examine situations in which ethics and ethical decision making have been successfully applied, as well as scenarios in which ethics has failed to carry the day (such as certain parts of “Night”).
Through analysis and comparison, then the society stands the chance to see the disadvantages of ignoring ethics and ethical decision making processes. This would jolt the society into laying key emphasis on ethics and ethical decision making, and such values would allow leaders to make sound and ethical decisions, although they may be tough. Ultimately this would enable the society to improve insofar as ethics and ethical decision making is concerned. It is based on such thoughts that I hold the conviction that “Night” as a book is relevant today, just as it was sixty years ago.
Kidder, R. M. (2009). How good people make tough choices: Resolving the dilemmas of ethical living. Pymble, NSW: HarperCollins e-books.
Phillips, D. T. (2009). Lincoln on leadership: Executive strategies for tough times.
Wiesel, E., & Brown, R. M. A. (1986). Night. Toronto: Bantam Books.
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