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Blog // Thoughts
August 25, 2006

Brooks On Peyton Place

Breaking behind the veil of The New York Times, I found these words that might be of interest to those thinking about Ethics, “‚ÄúPeyton Place‚Äù is what George Orwell called a good bad book because it doesn‚Äôt just instruct readers to discover their authentic selves so they can be free to be you and me. […]

Breaking behind the veil of The New York Times, I found these words that might be of interest to those thinking about Ethics,

“‚ÄúPeyton Place‚Äù is what George Orwell called a good bad book because it doesn‚Äôt just instruct readers to discover their authentic selves so they can be free to be you and me. That bit of na?Øvet?© wouldn‚Äôt become popular until the 1970‚Äôs, a more innocent decade than the 1950‚Äôs. Metalious reminds readers that some people‚Äôs authentic selves are truly rotten. The most authentic character in the book rapes his stepdaughter.

Metalious’s core message is not that everybody can be good, but that everybody should engage in the high-risk search for unpleasant truths. She has her favorite character define two kinds of people: “Those who manufactured and maintained tedious, expensive shells, and those who did not. Those who did, lived in constant terror lest the shells of their own making crack open to display the weakness that was underneath, and those who did not were either crushed or toughened.”

This message obviously hit home in the 1950’s. The biggest change between then and now is that the whole tradition of moral and cultural commentary, so prevalent then, has been swallowed up by politics. Today, it’s hard to find writers who define social problems as matters of intellectual rigor — at least since Christopher Lasch and Allan Bloom died. Now we have our moral arguments by proxy, by debating who is more hateful, Bush or Clinton, or whether Terri Schiavo should live or die.

In today‚Äôs debates the battle lines are more clearly drawn, and since people are organized into factions, there‚Äôs actually more conformity and complacency than even in the 1950‚Äôs.”

[tags] David Brooks, Peyton Place, Ethics, Identity [/tags]

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