Tragedy

On the great stage of our lives, the theme of tragedy is not merely reserved for superfluous theatre productions and chick flicks. There are characteristics of the real tragedy that distinguish it from other sad or evil human episodes, such as revenge or karma. There is usually the involvement of one or more innocent persons who are subject to a catastrophe, of synthetic or natural origins, such that the suddenness or (in Arendtian terms) “banality of evil” present in the catatrophe (Tolkien, would call it a dystrophe) creates a state of shock and unspeakable grief. An added element is the fact that the protagonist or hero or the self has exerted considerable effort in preventing such a catastrophe (if possible) or appears undeserving of such a dystrophe due to the merits of his or her character. In the movies, most characters have the fortune to experience a eucatastrophe after the devastation of a tragedy. In real life, most people do not have such luck.

Perhaps the most striking thing about such occurrences is how humans deal with tragedy. Though tragedy normally occurs to “innocents”, we must also consider the “flawed” nature of human beings, as posited in my previous entries. That is, individuals may approach the tragedy with a sort of resilience and willingness to push forward out of the pit into which Fortune or Evil Intent has placed them. Others may be broken by the shock of the dystrophe and lapse into vice that, in most cases, is contrary to their “original” self-created nature if it exists. Tragedy may be a further support of Freudian social determinism, but this would ignore the fact that individuals are presented with a choice of reaction to their misfortune, that is free will. This stance is decisively existentialist and supports Nietzschean-forged identity through the choice of positive or negative exercises of power within the constraints of our social environment. Tragedy is self-constructing as much as it it self-destructing.

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