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Morally Correct

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Morally Correct

Throughout life people are faced with difficult choices and how to act on them. The actions people take determine how they are perceived by others. According to John Ruskin, thoughts, beliefs, and knowledge are “of little consequence” when a person does not act on what he considers to be morally correct. George Orwell, Tim O’Brien, and Virginia Woolf assert Ruskin’s idea on the importance of action through their use of rhetorical strategies such as paradox, irony, and rhetorical questions. Although the circumstances under which actions are taken may be difficult, staying true to one’s feelings is most important, though it may not be the easiest path to take.

The protagonist in Tim O’Brien’s “On the Rainy River” and Orwell in “Shooting and Elephant” disregard their personal feelings to avoid public humiliation and embarrassment. O’Brien’s protagonist fights for a war he is terrified of and does not believe in. Though his conscience advises him “to run”, he decides to join the war to escape “shame”, “disgrace”, and “patriotic ridicule.” It is of no significance what the protagonist felt or thought, he went against his beliefs and became a “coward.” O’Brien’s being a coward is a paradox because he was brave enough to go to war, even though he went against his morals. The irony in Orwell’s autobiographical essay emphasizes Ruskin’s idea of thoughts and knowledge versus action. Being a white European man in authority should have given Orwell the power to act as he chose. Rather than Orwell controlling the Burmans, the Burmans controlled Orwell. He felt pressured to kill the elephant in front of the “two-thousand” Burmans to prevent being “laughed at” and “looking a fool.” Orwell and O’Brien commit acts that are against their morals to saisfy the expectations of their society.
With the use of rhetorical questions such as “how far can she [Englishwoman] fight for freedom without firearms”, Virginia Woolf reasserts Ruskin’s belief. She mentions that Englishwomen “can fight with the mind.” They can think of ideas that will help their Englishmen win the war. Woolf declares, “to make decisions effective, we must be able to fire them off. We must put them into action.” Woolf believes that ideas are worthless to have unless they are acted upon.

The aftermath of actions are consequences. People are responsible for their actions and the consequences that follow, be they good or bad. John Ruskin states that
“the only consequence is what we do.” Taking action and taking a stand on an issue is more important than doing nothing. If a person’s beliefs counteract his actions, he is responsible for the consequences that follow.





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