Re: RARA-AVIS: Moral or Immoral?

From: Tim Wohlforth (
Date: 23 Feb 2007

I think there is a confusion here between whether or not we should judge books by our own moral standards or insist that books adhere to societal standards and (long sentence) the simple fact that most, if not all, books take what can be considered moral stands usually through the actions and views of the protagonist. To refer again to a review by Tom Nolan, he sees Hammett "answering only to [his] private code". Chandler gives Marlowe "a lonely nobility", Spillane's Hammer "wreaked vengeance first and asked questions later." All these are slightly differing ways the PI hero acts on the basis of what he conceives of as his moral code. Today this critic sees perhaps a greater moral ambiguity.

We could go on and on about our perceptions of differing stances taken by different authors. Occasionally an author just describes, perhaps writes from a criminal's POV, or even a psychopath's. We may or may not perceive somewhere in the background a judgment the writer wishes the reader to make. These latter books may appear to some as
"amoral" or even "immoral."

My point is that once we have established that we oppose censorship of writing and a sanctimonious imposition of the "correct" moral view on writers, we need to proceed to the more interesting point: What the writer is trying to say about the human condition, what that writer thinks about that condition, and how this changes in changing times.


On Feb 23, 2007, at 2:04 PM, Robert Elkin wrote:

> There is no morality, good, bad, or ugly, in the
> book--the morality occurs only when someone with a
> specific set of beliefs about right & wrong perceives
> & judges the book according to those beliefs.
> (IMHO, of course.)
> Rob
> --- wrote:
> > Enough with the abstract discussion, if art is moral
> > or immoral, what
> > makes it so? Where is the morality or immorality
> > found? Is, say,
> > Postman Always Rings Twice moral or immoral? Do we
> > look at all of the
> > actions in the book and judge it immoral, or do we
> > look at the ending
> > and call it moral? Does a moral lesson at the end
> > overpower all of the
> > sin that came before? Related, which do we read it
> > for? Do we immerse
> > ourselves in, and possibly enjoy vicariously, the
> > immorality? Or do we
> > side with the morality lesson at the end? Do we
> > have to choose between
> > the two?
> >
> > And what do you do with something like the book
> > Postman is said to have
> > inspired, Camus's The Stranger? Moral or immoral?
> > Is it real that
> > simple?
> >
> > Mark
> >
> >
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