COURAGE; THE DECIDING FACTOR OF OUR FATE
BY KRISTINA LAZORKO
Individual identity is the umbrella term for the characteristics that distinguish one from everyone else. Unfortunately it is difficult to preserve these traits, as society encourages us to look and act a certain way. As humans we want to feel accepted, often overlooking how beautifully individualistic we are, and that is when problems arise. If our desires are not cohesive, then we will spend our lifetime juggling these personas, and yearning for something more. Therefore, we must choose which identity will shape us, and this chice is facilitated by our courage, or lack of. Furthermore, courage shapes our individual identity as it dictates whether one will succumb to society's expectations, or preserve our individualistic traits. This is supported by the short stories, “Just Lather, That's All,” by Hernando Tellez, “Two Fishermen,” by Morley Callaghan, and “The Most Dangerous Game,” by Richard Connell, as it prevents the barber from becoming a murderer, prompts Michael to turn against Smitty, and allows Rainsford to win the game. To start, the barber’s lack of courage affects his individual identity as it influences him in choosing not to kill Captain Torrez. The barber thinks that the ethos of the captain is skewed, and therefore the barber must rebel to prevent him from gaining power. Many people from the barber’s faction saw the captain enter the shop, and therefore his objective is to kill Torrez as, “An enemy under one’s roof imposes certain conditions,”(2.23) and he will otherwise suffer the consequences. While the barber gives Torrez a shave, he starts to juggle between his morals and ethics, wondering which is more important to him. His point of view starts to change when he realizes that nothing is worth the “Sacrifice of becoming a murderer,”(3.58); not even honoring his morals. This is because society has conditioned him to believe that murder is wrong, and should not be performed under any circumstance. When the captain’s beard is almost shaved, society's expectations have clouded over his reason. His morals have vanished, and he makes his final decision based purely on ethics. Furthermore his individual identity is overridden by his lack of courage, as if he had stayed true to his morals, and killed the captain, then he would be a totally different individual. Additionally, Michaels identity is affected by his lack of courage as this limits his social circle. At the start of the story, Michael only knows Smitty by his profession, which has a negative connotation associated with it. Nevertheless when Michael actually meets Smitty, he comes to discover that Smitty is actually a “Very enthusiastic,”(2.32) and “Charming,”(3.5) man, and Michaels perspective of him begins changes accordingly. When they are on the boat together, they are able to converse openly, and free of obligations and expectations. This is possible as the lake acts as a literal and symbolic barrier between the relaxed and open atmosphere on the boat, and the hostile and condescending air of the town. Unfortunately, this free speech comes to a halt when Michael mentions the hanging, as the men are brought back to assuming their career roles. This is especially true when Smitty admits that actually likes his job, but immediately feels embarrassed as that is how society has conditioned him to respond. The next day, after the hanging, Smitty offers Michael a fish, as a gift, and also to symbolize their unique and unlikely friendship. He is oblivious to what others think of him because he is a courageous man that knows what he wants, nevertheless Michael is not. Due to Michaels lack of courage, he succumb to social pressures, and is unable to associate with Smitty in public, as “It’s different,”(4.11) and he does not want to tarnish his own reputation and career. Therefore, he does not stand up for Smitty when he is being pelted by rocks. Finally, courage affects Rainsford’s individual identity, as he is forced to choose between his dignity and his life to survive the hunt, and win the game. While still in the boat, Rainsford states that “The world is made up of two classes, the hunters and the hunted”(1.37). Furthermore, he believes that humans are always the hunters, although this statement is proved false when Rainsford is forced take part in General Zaroff’s game. In this environment, Rainsford is the prey, and The General is the hunter. Therefore, humans are not always the hunters, and Rainsford recognises his lapse in judgement, and his steadfast mindset starts to weaken. Furthermore, to survive the hunt, Rainsford must swallow his pride, and truly embrace the role of the prey. It is difficult for him to be so vulnerable after being a hunter his entire life, and battles with internal hardships while repeating, “I will not lose my nerve,”(12.26) to reassure himself. This is an example of Rainsford reinstilling the courage within himself to stay strong in this time of distress. Despite the challenges Rainsford faces, this vulnerability is what allows him to escape as his survival instincts kick in and assist him in outsmarting his opponent. He wins by jumping into the ocean to escape the dogs. If his character remained the same as at the start of the story, he would not have survived, as his aloof attitude would not have allowed him to accept defeat. Jumping into the ocean was Rainsford accepting his loss in the game to keep his life, but ironically in this game, survival was the ultimate objective. Therefore, diminishing his ego allowed for victory that would be otherwise impossible. Even though all three sources speak truthfully on the subject of contemporary individual identity, “Two Fishermen” by Morley Callaghan best illustrates the role of courage in shaping one’s identity, as friendship plays a crucial role in this development. Our friends are the individuals that we spend the bulk of our time with, so if we limit ourselves to certain groups, our identity is affected. Correspondingly, Rita Mae Brown enforces this by stating that, “The reward for conformity is that everyone likes you except yourself,” and if you are not living to your full potential, then what is the point of life? The way others view us is irrelevant, as pleasing the majority does not allow us to flourish as unique individuals, as we must connect with ourselves and find comfort in our own skin to truly be happy. To conclude, courage shapes our individual identities, as it dictates whether one will succumb to society's expectations, or preserve our individualistic traits. This is proven by the short stories, “Just Lather, That's All,” by Hernando Tellez, “Two Fishermen,” by Morley Callaghan, and “The Most Dangerous Game,” by Richard Connell, as The Barber, Michael, and Rainsford all influence their identities based on whether they are courageous enough to challenge their oppressors. Additionally, universal truth and the nature of life itself further enforces this theme, as one must embrace their flaws to be truly happy. If life is the ultimate objective, then freeing yourself of obligations is the first step to nirvana, to do so, one must seek the courage within to preserve our distinct identities.