How does the aesthetic discourse used construct a voice and subject position from which to explore larger ethical questions? I need to find an argument, a thesis for this question. The essays I...

How does the aesthetic discourse used construct a voice and subject position from which to explore larger ethical questions?

I need to find an argument, a thesis for this question.

The essays I must refer to are The Death Of a Moth, Shooting an Elephant and For Whom the Bell Tolls. 

Thanks in advance.

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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  • "The Death of a Moth"

In this essay, Annie Dillard perceives a connection between the moth, drawn to the fire of her candle, and though it is dying, remains there, its burning body flaming the fire as it acts as another wick and provides more light for her, and the French symbolist poet Arthur Rimbaud, "a Romantic, hotheaded figure who attracted [her] enormously." After further reflections, she concludes in a discourse on why she wrote "The Death of a Moth" Dillard concludes,

So the writer is like the moth, and like a religious contemplative: emptying himself so he can be a channel for his work.

Moreover, the writer, like the moth, must be willing to die for the expression of art and self-significance.

  • "Shooting an Elephant"

George Orwell's essay about the cost of imperialism to both the rulers and to the ruled expresses the ideas that the English became tyrants in Burma while the Burmese lost their sense of identity--Orwell describes the Buddist monks as having no more "to do except stand on street corners and jeer at Europeans." Thus, there is a sacrifice of the self involved on both sides of imperialism.

  • For Whom the Bell Tolls

Since this work is a novel rather than an essay, a literary form that has as its express purpose the conveyance of a single idea, perhaps a discussion of one theme may connect this work to the essays. As in the two essays, there is a soul-searching, a quest for self-knowledge and significance. The title which is a phrase taken from John Donne's Meditation XVII:

...any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankinde; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee

connects the soldiers in the struggles of war. Yet, in this unified struggle, there is also the attainment of self-knowledge that accompanies purpose and self-sacrifice, and each man measures himself in moments of battle and crisis.

__________________________

There can, then, be an argument made that in the quest for significance, there is a certain self-sacrifice whether it be positively to art [writing], or political and ideological struggle, or negatively to imperialism and its tyranny.

Sources:

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