Life’s worth is determined by how well one has lived his or her purpose. What does a man live for? In life, what is the thing of great essence? Answer to the first question is subjective. However, a more sensible answer would discard anything material and choose to identify things of greater value that material wealth cannot afford to buy. It goes to show that along these lines, answer to the second question begin to emerge. Although worldly things provide pleasure, none of those things lasts forever.
In knowing one self, a sense of purpose is achieved. A sense of worth in life is a quest for everyone to find. In the greater scheme of things, a human being exist for a purpose – to see life beyond face value, to look past the outer trappings of blinding material wealth, and to value life as a gift by treating each and every person as an individual and not as a slave to its master. The process of acquiring self-knowledge is relative. Nonetheless it is fashioned from the lessons one can gain out of his or her life experiences.
While characters like Nick Carraway of the Great Gatsby, John Proctor of the Crucible, and Frederick Douglass of the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass gained self-knowledge in distinct ways, through it they came to know the most essential things of existence. In F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, The Great Gatsby, Nick Carraway learned that wealth does not guarantee happiness to an individual. Riches and material possession cannot afford a life of worth. The sense of right and wrong in a person is more valuable than the presence or absence of the amount of wealth he or she can possibly possess.
These are the most important lessons that Mr. Carraway has learned and are the very same things which moved him to live a life patterned after more conventional moral values. John Proctor, a character from The Crucible, a play by Arthur Miller came to a realization a little too late about the most important things in life. Nevertheless, he lived long enough to amend his wrongdoings as well as to live a mark to the lives of those he has touched in one way or the other. Of all the things he has lost, dignity is the one thing he has chose to be left with him until the very moment he has to breathe his last.
Being born to a life devoid of fortune is not an end in itself. This is the lesson that may be learned from the life lived by Frederick Douglass. In his memoir, entitled, the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, he found the tool to end his slavery and worked his way to secure liberty to those who share the same plight as he has. Life may take away everything one has, but if he or she attempt to seek further deep within oneself, one can find that the very situation that presents itself is the same things which offers solutions to one’s plight and would likewise lead towards the road of a relatively better life than one presently has.
Fitzgerald, Miller, and Douglass may have different approaches of underlining the importance of self-knowledge but all three authors know quite well that it is in knowing thy self that one may be empowered. Fitzgerald has allowed his character Nick Carraway to acquire self-knowledge by bearing witness to the immoralities in the life of the people around him. Miller and Douglass on the other hand, have allowed their characters, John Proctor and the latter’s self respectively to form the knowledge of themselves through their own life experiences.
These authors know that it is in empowering oneself that one can cause a difference in the life as he or she knows it. It is through this that one can find purpose and direction in life. It is in every bend and turn on the road that one has to look beyond. This is because the bends and turns may seem as hindrances to the goal but they are also the things which make one’s quest more fulfilling that past the hardships and seeming immoralities of life, one is able to surface a better person strengthened by life’s experiences. The Great Gatsby
In the novel, The Great Gatsby, it is noticeable that some of the characters are products of self-creation. Such was a process they have undergone so as to lift up the social status as well as to realize possible dreams in order to become someone else. The character who best exemplifies this theme is the person of Jay Gatsby. In contrast, the presence of self-knowledge in other characters assists them in acquiring moral sense regarding the complex reality for it helps to determine one’s character and imperfections. Self-knowledge appears to be gained by means of maturity as well as through life-changing experiences.
Nick Carraway, the narrator in the story seems to be the only character that is not self-created. This is because hailing from the Midwest Mr. Callaway does not belong to the new rich class because of his social background as well as due to his financial standing as a bond businessman. Furthermore, he is the only person who appears not to have established his friendship on the grounds of material wealth the other person has. People befriend him not for what he has materially but for what he has to offer in as far as genuine human qualities are concerned.
The social status of Mr. Carraway draws a distinction to the fact that he discovers his luxurious lifestyle leads the readers towards the discovery of the novel’s environment guided by an objective judgment. Mr. Carraway is both reliable and open-minded. He once said that he is “inclined to reserve all judgments, a habit that has opened up many curious natures” to him (Fitzgerarld, 1988, p. 42). Such was the trait which rendered him to be an ideal confidant to Tom, Daisy, and most especially to Jay Gatsby. Mr. Carraway’s character symbolizes self-knowledge.
It was his knowledge of himself which permitted him to examine and assess the actions of the people around him. It seems that in the case of Mr. Carraway, self-knowledge is more like a trait for it permits him to discover as well as live life anew guided by an open mind and a more profound level of maturity. The complexity reality of the artificial world he finds himself into, on the contrary will pose as a challenge to his moral sense of the real world. A specific version of the story has been told from what was seen by the alert eyes of Mr. Carraway.
He narrated the story providing structured thoughts to important details along the way. Furthermore, the story has been influenced by the narrator’s moral behavior which reflected the existence of self-knowledge in his character. The Crucible In the play entitled The Crucible, the two main characters, particularly John Proctor and his wife Elizabeth, are tough yet at the same time imperfect individuals who have both been brought in a situation wherein they have to confront their individual weaknesses. Their marriage has been put to the test (Miller & Blakesley, 1992).
The couple was able to surface from it notwithstanding or may due to what each of them is bound to suffer. The play traces the growth in self-knowledge by Mr. Proctor and his wife and investigates the source of their pain, guilt, and most importantly, of their moral courage in taking responsibility for the actions they made. Towards the end of the play, Mr. Proctor is ready to face death in his decision to protect his name and save for himself his dignity. By doing so, he exhibited an act in the name of something more valuable than his own self.
His was a character who goes beyond the understanding of taking responsibility for something more than what seems to be his self-restricting needs. From the point of denial, he was able to so for his own good. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass Frederick Douglass’s memoir begins with his struggle with the lack of self identity. Talking about his lack of knowledge about his age he writes “a want of information concerning my own was a source of unhappiness to me even during childhood” (Douglass & Garrison, 1995).
By his revelation, the readers start to realize the value of one of the many things usually taken for granted. The introduction to this memoir stresses the lack of knowledge and at the same time highlights the consequences of such reality. Among the most striking consequences of lack of knowledge is the nonexistence of the dimensions self-knowledge or identity as well as of self-definition. The slaves are reduced to the ranks of animals by withholding their right to education. Mr. Douglass stressed not just his goal for self-knowledge but also his determination to gain knowledge itself.
It is his belief that knowledge is and leads to empowerment. In the first part of his memoir, it was stated that the need for information regarding his personal identity is sufficient to be “a source of unhappiness during his childhood’ (Douglass & Garrison, 1995). One of the fundamental principles of Western civilization is the concept of self-knowledge. Mr. Douglass believes that self-knowledge as well as knowledge itself is vital importance. In this belief, he likewise pertains to the knowledge or rather small talents, for instance, one’s ability to forge documents.
He was resolved to realize his dream of becoming literate. He was able to come up with different ways which allowed him to learn reading and writing. By means of educating himself, he was able to redefine the meaning of slave. Knowledge cannot be equated to freedom. As Hugh Auld predicted, it awakens consciousness to the ugly truth of a slave’s plight. Slaves begin to loathe their masters the moment they come to an awareness of how much cruelty the latter has been causing them.
However, freedom is impossible in the absence of even greater danger. Frederick Douglass is very much aware that knowledge does not guarantee freedom. He knew for a fact that knowledge allows a slave to express the injustices he or she endures. Through knowledge, slaves learn to regard themselves as human beings. A life of purpose is a life of worth. Privileges in life or the lack of it does not constitute its meaning. The impact one’s life has left to others is the measure of a life well lived and a life of great value.