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Author Topic: The Moral Lessons of the Story?  (Read 3080 times)

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October 10, 2012, 04:49:10 PM

HealerOne

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The Moral Lessons of the Story?

JK Rowling is no stranger to presenting in her books deeper moral meaning than is first obvious to the reader. Her past Harry Potter series was an exposé on the power of Love and especially the Power of Mother’s Love. Reams have been written on this subject by John Granger(1), Tom Morris(2) and others of the hidden lessons within the Harry Potter books. So it is reasonable to ask; “What are the moral lessons JKR is presenting in this book?”

I think we could all agree that JKR has placed lessons about responsibility within the pages of The Casual Vacancy.  Specifically in relationship to two age old questions: “Am I my brother’s keeper?” And “Who is my neighbor?”

Of course these two questions change in the light of legal responsibility vs moral responsibility. I thought we could use this thread to discuss what your views are in relationship to Pagford and its residents in response to these questions. Here are some questions to start the discussion:

1.   In what ways do you feel the citizens of  Pagford and Yarvil are fulfilling their legal and moral obligations to the people of The Fields? In what ways are they failing? Why?
2.   Which characters and situations exemplify  their understanding what it means to be  morally responsible?
3.   When victims of irresponsibility, such as children, are involved, how far does the community obligation go?   Can you give examples of both reasonable and unreasonable reactions in the book?
4.   Who do you feel is the best example of being responsible for his ‘brother’? The worst?
5.   Who do you feel is the best example of The Good Samaritan, i.e., 'a kindly person who helps another in difficulty or distress'? The worst example?

Please feel free to make further comments on this topic. We are all interested in your thoughts on this.

(1) Looking for God in Harry Potter 2004; The Deathly Hallows Lectures: The Hogwarts Professor Explains Harry's Final Adventure 2008
(2) If Harry Potter RanGeneral Electric: Leadership Wisdom From the World of the Wizards 2006


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October 12, 2012, 07:28:00 AM
Reply #1

atschpe

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The interesting thing is the responsibilities (whether legal or moral) are mainly used as a shield to hide behind or a means to get one's own way. Yes they have a responsibility to decide about Bellchapel, but it much less about needs, but more about convenience. Even when Parminder has a stack of useful statistics sitting infront of her, she still chooses the route of attacking another medical offender to compare the expenses with. Both approaches lead to the same goal, yet the "cost" is very different. The end goal is to meet a responsibility (however grudgingly) yet moral leaves them on the way to reach it.

As for the communities obligation to the children: I think the scene towards the end of the book where several people bass the wandering Robbie and nobody reacts shows up a big flag of where the issue lies. There is not a care in the world for others (whether child or grown up), until it is too late and one might have to take the blame for what happened. The community as a whole would make a huge step in the right direction if each individual would quit brooding about their own issues and use their eyes to see their surroundings and act, without thinking of self gain. They have not figured out how helping others helps oneself, too. Gossip and appearance is more important than life and care. Not only does that leave the kids stranded to do what they please, but they are forming the next generation of self-obessed grown ups, who will then just continue the down-spiralling cycle.
"Of course it is all in your head, but why on Earth should that mean it isn't real?" ~Dumbledore (DH)
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October 20, 2012, 02:53:40 AM
Reply #2

HealerOne

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As was discussed in the 'Pagford, a place or Satire?' thread ( http://forum.discussionstation.com/index.php?topic=201.new#new ) , the story climax where at least three people walk past the young child, surely eats at all of us to wonder, 'could this really happen?' 'Is it reasonable that  people would just walk by a young child that is without supervision?'

In each of the cases, the characters were so immersed in their own 'dealings' with their life that they failed to see to a red flag of a child that needed assistance. The obvious thought is that "No! A reasonable person would have reached out to this child ..." But is that true?  Are we not so self-absorbed in our telephone conversations and text messaging that we fail to disregard our own safety as well as others? Are we so calloused by having the poor under our eyes frequently, that we fail to see when a drunk is not a drunk, but a man fallen into a diabetic coma; or a woman beaten by robbers? Are we so fearful of germs and 'getting dirty' that we fail to help when we observe a filthy child? I don't think we should be so pious as to think this scenario is so far fetched and 'couldn't possibly happen'... The questions that echo in this book long after you put it down are; "Am I my brother's keeper?" and "Who is my Neighbor?"  It certainly sets me to thinking ....
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November 13, 2012, 04:21:45 AM
Reply #3

HealerOne

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I suddenly realized today that JKR had placed not one but more than one (at least two) instances of The Good Samaritan Parable in this book. Obviously the end of the book when several characters pass by Robbie - but then I got to thinking about the incident where Fats had put the peanut in the marshmallow for Andrew. Isn't this also an example of Krystal being a Good Samaritan when she went for help because she was the only one that realized what was happening?

Being quite familiar with JK Rowling's style of writing - this brought me to the realization  that JK Rowling consistently repeats at least 3 times those things that are important. So that left me to wonder - where is the third example of the Good Samaritan? Is it those who helped out the dying Barry Fairbrother? Is it Barry who singles out Krystal to join the rowing team, thus changing her life?  Or is it the aborted Good Samaritan act of Parminder Jawanda for Howard? 

What do you think? Can you find other possibilities? JKR's 'magical numbers are three and seven, so it could be repeated in the book up to seven times! (I'm just saying ...)
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November 14, 2012, 10:08:47 PM
Reply #4

merrythought

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Kay is another "good samaritan" - actually, she's the "professional" one.  She does attempt to help Terri and Krystal.  Gaia is a good samaritan, too, in befriending and then defending Sukhvinder.  Actually, I think the novel is pretty neatly divided into good samaritans and the people who "pass by."  Samantha, though, is one of the few who moves to a higher level of awareness because she passed by; she's chastened, and perhaps will behave differently in the future.

I also remember hazily from my Sunday school days that the Biblical Samaritans were looked down upon by the greater society; they were outsiders.  And we have several "outsider" characters who are also samaritans:  Krystal, of course, cut off from mainstream society by upbringing, poverty, and bad behavior; Kay and Gaia, who are newly come to Pagford; Kay in particular sets herself apart by directly challenging the social values of some of the others; Sukhvinder, the victimized; and Barry himself, who some characters never really do view as "one of them," although he's lived among them for a long time. 
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October 16, 2013, 12:33:38 AM
Reply #5

HealerOne

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More than year after reading this book, it's message still hangs on me. I wonder daily whether I am too judgmental of people. When I have no patience  - the guy in the car in front that has to zoom in front of me, the lady in the check out that has trouble making out a check, my friend who always needs to outdo me. I wonder what is their story and could that be affecting why they are acting the way they do? I know I have been more willing to stop and check out things that don't seem to be 'right' - most times it turns out to be OK , but once or twice it wasn't OK and I was happy that I stopped to help.  I think The Casual Vacancy changed, in a significant way, my outlook on myself and the world around me. Has anyone else had this reaction to the book?
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October 20, 2013, 02:33:58 PM
Reply #6

T-Dane

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Having finally been able to finish the book it has underlined what life already has shown me: Not everything is at it seems, but sometimes it really is in all its ugly/weird/deviant/wonderful/skilled/etc. way.
 
To me Mrs. Rowling is not letting the reader get through it easily. It's like a skilled composer wanting the audience to enjoy the particular sound of the oboe or the strength of the bratch; yet she does it with words. I had to force myself to just keep on reading and NOT use the dictionary this first time around if the meaning was clear enough, but I had this urge at times to figure out why she chose this or that word not commonly used in a conversation. Next time ...!

Mostly I learned that it might be how some critiques has said, that it does not depict an English Town, but I can assure you that it DOES depict places in Denmark then!  :ron: Weird stuff! Maybe she's been here?

One of the things I read in this book is also a thing I really detest: The notion of "Us" and "Them". How human beings in earnest believes that there should be separation and groupings is not a good thing for us. I hope, that by enlightening as many as possible in as many ways as possible, we'll all be able to think of "Us" only!
« Last Edit: October 20, 2013, 02:36:19 PM by T-Dane »
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October 31, 2013, 01:19:59 AM
Reply #7

HealerOne

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Mostly I learned that it might be how some critiques has said, that it does not depict an English Town, but I can assure you that it DOES depict places in Denmark then!  :ron: Weird stuff! Maybe she's been here?

One of the things I read in this book is also a thing I really detest: The notion of "Us" and "Them". How human beings in earnest believes that there should be separation and groupings is not a good thing for us. I hope, that by enlightening as many as possible in as many ways as possible, we'll all be able to think of "Us" only!

I think JKR got it right that there are plenty of places all over the world with similar goings on that were described in The Casual Vacancy.  I really think she got it right with the universality of her characters and the story. They were, I think based on archetypes of storytelling and Jungian psychology. I feel like, if people deny there are not places like that near them - they are denying reality. We all would love to overlook the dark corners of our world but that doesn't mean they aren't there. TCV was also a story that a lot of people didn't want to hear because it was too real, too close to reality, and - perhaps like me - made them feel very uncomfortable with their 'us' and 'them' outlook on where they lived...
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