Re: RARA-AVIS: Sidekicks

From: George Upper (
Date: 14 Nov 2001

--- JIM DOHERTY <> wrote:
> Spenser stands by and lets the murder occur without
> interference. This isn't allowing Hawk to "live by
> his code." This is allowing a murder to occur, when
> he's already decided that this murder is
> unacceptable
> morally or ethically, and, further, when he has the
> means at hand to prevent it. By deciding not to
> prevent it he, in effect, becomes an accomplice to
> the
> very murder he's already decided is immoral.

What you're missing here is that Spenser didn't decide the murder was immoral. He decided it was immoral for HIM to commit it. Spenser's code is a personal one--part of it, I would argue, is that he doesn't impose his code on others. This is part of what made their relationship so hard on Susan, according to VALEDICTION and A CATSKILL EAGLE, and he learned through a number of books in the late 80s that his code was not universally applicable.

> This is not Spenser making a decision than allowing
> his friend to make a different one. This is Spenser
> PRETENDING to make a decision, than not following
> through and facing the consequences of his decision,
> one of which is that if he's morally obligated not
> to
> murder the bad guy, then it follows that he's
> morally
> obligated to prevent anyone else from murdering the
> bad guy.

It does not follow. A moral obligation is often personal. An example that jumps to mind is that orthodox Jews are morally prevented from eating pork, but not morally obligated to prevent anyone else from eating it. Living in the south, I know many fundamental Christians who would never read Spenser in the first place, simply because they believe the subject matter to be immoral. But I don't know anyone who would attempt to prevent me from doing so.
(Although I'm sure they're out there, of course--no offense to anyone's personal beliefs intended.)

In one paragraph you state that Spenser has become an accomplice to murder, and in the next that he is avoiding consequence. I would argue that those are contradictory statements. He's willing to accept the consequences of being an accomplice, obviously. He's willing to be an accomplice to murder, because backing up Hawk is part of his code as much as not murdering the guy in the first place.

I'm not trying to say that his code makes much sense in any practical way--just that it exists, and that Hawk serves to illustrate it, not to allow him to violate it with impunity.


===== George C. Upper III, Editor The Lightning Bell Poetry Journal

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