1. In Aristotle, the good of man is described as final and self-sufficient. That is, the chief good is something final.
This relates well to Uncle Chris throughout the movie. Everyone was scared of him – he drank, he drove fast and was quite brash. However, when he died, his nieces discovered that there was no inheritance, because he had been donating it to children with leg problems so that they didn’t grow up and limp as he did. No one knew, until that moment, that he was spending his money on children that he didn’t even know (aside from his nephew) so that they didn’t suffer the pain that he did.
These donations were his chief good, and he could be described as a good man, even with his shortcomings, only after he died. He died happy, with a smile on his face, knowing that he had done a good thing. In all the years that he spent donating, he never asked for recognition or thanks, nor did he WANT anyone to believe he was a good man. This in itself made him good.
2. Aristotle describes the life of a good person as pleasant in itself. It contains adventitious charm and virtuous actions. This is a definition of Mama’s life. Mama very rarely gets angry, rather helping others with a kind word or act. She has raised her children very well, they offer to help out by doing odd jobs when money is tight, although they don’t necessarily realize how tight things truly are.
Not only is Mama’s life pleasant, but she does everything she can to ensure that other’s lives are pleasant, as well. Mama is willing to do anything she needs to in order to keep her word, including posing as a cleaning woman in order to keep a promise to her baby. The most important example, however, is Mama’s admittance to Katrin that she had no desire to be rich. She likes the way her life is, and is happy just the way things are.3. In Book II, Aristotle addresses moral virtue.
This moral virtue, which is acquired by repetition of the corresponding acts, is the definition of Mama and how she lives. This is shown throughout the movie, from the first scene to the last. For example, when Mama spends Saturday evening counting the money that Papa has brought home and divvying it among their bills, the kids are always as relieved as Mama that they don’t have to go to the bank. Only later did we find out that there was never a bank, but Mama didn’t want to unnecessarily worry her children.
They were, after all, only children. Mama was always willing to do anything to make her children happy, including selling the brooch that was her mother’s in order to get Katrin the dresser set that she had been eyeing for her graduation gift. When Christine told Katrin, it was Christine that was admonished – Mama, again, didn’t want to worry her children. Finally, when Aunt Trina came to tell Mama about wanting to marry Mr. Thorkelson, Mama took matters into her own hands because Aunt Trina was afraid her sisters would laugh at her.
Mama threatened to tell her sisters’ secrets rather than let her timid sister be laughed at.4. Also in Book II, Aristotle states that to live a morally virtuous life one must avoid excess and defect. Drinking (or eating) above a certain amount destroys the health. This is proven in Uncle Chris dying of the DTs. Although Uncle Chris was a good man, he had vices and believed in indulging himself in pleasures, whether it be drinking, driving fast or the pleasure of a woman.
This last one, however, was once again perception, as they had been married for seven years by the time Uncle Chris passed. However, being a good man and being morally virtuous are not dependent on each other. Papa, for example, had a vice in tobacco. However, he was a very good man – he worked hard and provided for his family. Mama even tried to convince Katrin to write about him, but Katrin saw more adventure in Mama.5.
Book VI discusses intellectual virtue. Aristotle describes Art, one of the chief intellectual virtues, as the knowledge of how to make things. It is a true capacity to make, involving a true course of reasoning. Katrin, by the end of the movie, has established that she has this virtue. The entire movie is the story written by her, about Mama.
Although there was a point in the movie when she was giving up her writing because she couldn’t get published, she just needed a bit of guidance in order to realize she truly did have the virtue of Art. Other than her diary, Katrin was writing about things she had only heard or read about. Art cannot be imitated – it can only come from within. When Katrin opened herself up and drew on what she knew, she showed everyone that she did indeed possess the virtue of Art.