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Crimes And Misdemeanors Essay

2631 words - 11 pages

Judah Rosenthal is a prosperous ophthalmologist, a father, a husband and a generous donator to charity: he has all the traits of a noble man, but has a secret. He has had an affair for the past two years, and now the hysterically in love woman is threatening to expose him to his wife and to the rest of the world. Crushed by fear and torment, Judah resolves to have her murdered. Despite the brutality of his choice, it is not a simple task for him, even though he has always been skeptical towards the Jewish traditions he learned from his father and being himself a man of science. Murder had never been taken into consideration before now. It is the sin of sins, the highest depravation of ...view middle of the document...

For Aristotle, man has to try and develop oneself to the maximum in order to reach a full realization of oneself.

However, with the coming of Christianity a new view of morality emerged: a religious one. This approach to morality is profoundly God-centered and God is the prime formulator of rules and duties that tell us how we ought to live. We can decide to accept or reject them, but disobeying God’s commandments equals to immorality. A figure throughout Crimes and Misdemeanors that seems to personify this religious approach to morality is Sol, Judah’s father. We learn from Judah’s speech that in his youth his father taught him to know how God sees everything, and those who are righteous will be rewarded while those who are wicked will be punished for eternity. And it is exactly these religious teachings that torment Judah after committing the murder of his mistress Dolores. He sees himself as a man of science therefore has always been skeptical towards his Jewish upbringing, but the crime he has committed throws him into a vortex of thought that makes him reconsider a sort of higher moral structure of the world. His fear of being punished for eternity pushes him to the verge of confession, but he seems to be pulled in two directions: that of his father, in which no deed can be unpunished, and that of his aunt May, for whom might equals right.

An emblematic sequence in regards to this aspect can be seen during the dining table scene. While trying to register his horrific crime, Judah revisits his childhood home to seek some comfort. New tenants now occupy the house, and for the first part of his visit it remains a picturesque memory of his childhood. Suddenly he hears forks clinging and chattering from the dining room and moments later he finds himself in his own flashback: Judah is standing in the dining room of one of his family’s past Seder dinners where the dialogue at the dinner table copes with the possibility of a universe with no God. The argument takes place between Sol and May, the two opposite philosophical approaches. Religious Sol is firmly convinced that evil will always be punished in some way or another; while May insists there is no God, no nothing. In a very interesting speech, she affirms that if the man who commits evil gets away with it and ‘chooses not to be bothered by the ethics, then he’s home free.’ She also adds that ‘history is written by the winners’, referring to Hitler and to his possible victory of World War II. All this information appears both puzzling and promising to Judah, but this sequence is an excellent portray of his inner turmoil. He is being pushed to one side then to the other, completely losing control of himself.

Another figure that may personify religious morality is that of the rabbi Ben. Ben is also he who ties together the stories of Judah and Cliff, as he is Lester’s brother (therefore Cliff’s brother-in-law) and Judah’s patient. Before deciding the unthinkable, Judah confesses his need...

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