March 28, 2007

See No Evil; Hear No Evil; Speak No Evil; Do No Evil

The Misfit is caught between absurdity and faith. He rejects belief in Christ yet he recognizes that a world in which actions and consequences cannot be made sense of leads ultimately to a world in which logical distinctions between good and evil collapse.
But as [Simone] Weil also remarks: "When there is a transference of evil, the evil is not diminished but increased in him from whom it proceeds. This is a phenomenon of multiplication" (65). The Misfit's killings do not liberate him from his felt degradation. Rather, they intensify his pain, a fact that O'Connor points to when the Misfit says at the end: "It's no real pleasure in life" (153).

John Desmond "Flannery O'Connor's Misfit and the Mystery of Evil"

“See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” is a common phrase, usually used to describe someone who doesn't want to be involved in a situation or someone turning a willful blind eye to the immorality of an act he is involved in. Sometimes, a fourth component "do no evil" is added to the phrase.

Flannery O'Connor's Misfit takes this common phase to an entirely new level. John Desmond's article talks about the obscure justice system that the Misfit holds to. He looks at this justice system not as a defense or explanation for the actions the Misfit takes, but more as a way to show that the Misfit is not purely evil. If the Misfit had been a purely evil character, Flannery O'Connor's story would not hold the sway it does.

Simone Weil's theory on the transference of evil and phenomenon of multiplication fascinated me. It is entirely along the same lines as that Pringles catchphrase: "Once you pop, the fun don't stop." Except in terms of evil (or as I saw it, sin), of course.

By reacting to evil with evil, the evil has built upon itself. It seems a simple equation: evil + evil = evil x 2. However, that simple equation isn't so simple when the terms aren't "evil." For example: murder + revenge = death x 2. The evil is still there, but it is buried under the facade of "revenge." There are still two deaths, even if one does seem more justified than the other. (Weil's theory doesn't take into account motive - I can't figure out if this is a weakness of the theory or not.)

Posted by Diana Geleskie at March 28, 2007 5:25 AM | TrackBack

"Once you sin, you keep giving in."

Posted by: Dennis G. Jerz at March 28, 2007 1:41 PM

This is very clever. I never looked at the story in this way before. What you wrote, and all those math equations made me think of another little catchphrase, "Two wrongs don't make a right." I don't know if that would go with exactly what you were trying to get across here, but I just thought of it when I was reading it.

Posted by: Bethany Bouchard at April 1, 2007 2:13 PM

Good point Bethany, I didn't think of that, but yes, it goes along with the same idea - wrong + wrong =/= right (that was my attempt at the doesn-not-equal sign, how did I do?)

Posted by: Diana Geleskie at April 1, 2007 8:35 PM
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