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From: "Nigel Price" 
Subject: (urth) Being and pretending
Date: Thu, 10 Apr 2003 14:05:07 +0100

Thanks to Matt DeLuca for raising the question of favourite quotations. It's
a good idea, though not one I find easy to respond to. This is partly
because of my poor memory for this sort of thing, and partly because the
general standard of Wolfe's writing is so consistently high. Some writers
come up with the occasional memorable phrase, and it stands out from the
surrounding text. With Wolfe, a passage has to be really exceptional to
stand out in that way.

I was interested, though, by the lines which Steve Case cited from "On
Blue's Waters" as being among his favourite Lupine quotations:

	"If I need more courage than I have to live, I will pretend to have it and
live anyway.  I did that on the battlefield . . .  I acted the part of a
hero.  That is to say, I acted as it seemed to me I would have if I had
actually possessed dauntless courage."

I have been rereading TIoDD&OS&OS recently and was interested in the
similarity betweent the above quotation and the following speech from "The
Death of Dr. Island". Nicholas is talking to Diane about the pros and cons
of taking medication for their respective psychological problems and stating
his preference for carrying out disruptive behaviour whether or not is given
any therapeutic drugs:

	"Not doing it doesn't do any good either-I mean, we're both here. My way, I
know I've made them jump; they shoot that stuff in me and I'm not mad any
more, but I know what it is and I just think what I would do if I _were_
mad, and I do it, and when it wears off I'm glad I did."
(p97 of the Arrow pbk edn of TIoDD&OS&OS)

The use of the word "mad" is interesting here, because in this context it
seems to combine both the traditional sense of "insane" and the contemporary
American usage where it means "angry". Just as the narrator in Steve's
quotation is brave because he acts the part of a brave man, so Nicholas is
mad because he acts the part of a madman.

What can we deduce from this about Wolfe's understanding of psychology and
virtue? That it is the will that is paramount, that we can choose to be
virtuous or wicked? Or that the nature of our will, whether virtuous or
corrupt, will be shown by the choices that we make? In either story, there
doesn't seem to be any practical difference between the person who does
things, whether good or bad, instinctively, and the person who does them as
an act of choice and will. Or is there? Is the person who chooses in this
way actually braver (or madder) than the person who acts from simple

Perhaps there is no difference from the point of view of the observer, but
all the difference in the world for the person themselves, and, therefore,
for God too.



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