Shame Creeps Through Guilt and Feels Like Retribution
Jeffrie G. Murphy
Arizona State University College of Law
Law & Phil., Vol. 18, p. 327, 1999
The stories of William Trevor often contain, near the end, a single sentence that captures – in one crystalline moment – a core insight toward which the story has been building all along. Near the end of his recent novel Death in Summer, the following sentence occurs:
“Her compassion faltered: shame creeps through guilt and feels like retribution.” I believe that my ability to understand the profundity of this sentence, and thus the story in which it occurs, was aided enormously by my reading of the essays of Herbert Morris. And thus, in my essay, I will reflect on the themes present in this sentence and thereby follow, in my own limited way, a path familiar to all those who have read Morris: drawing philosophical inspiration from literature, trying to be open to the moral and spiritual insights latent in dark and mysterious stories and sayings, reflecting on the inter- twined emotions of guilt and shame, and seeing – in all of this – implications for punishment and forgiveness, both of self and of others. In Morris’s own work, of course, these perspectives are all employed with great human sensitivity – employed by a person
whose compassion never seems to falter.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 18
Keywords: Punishment, guilt, forgiveness
Date posted: September 9, 2009
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