Essay, Research Paper: Guilt Of Killing The Innocent

Literature: Ernest Hemingway

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"A conscience cannot prevent sin. It only prevents you from enjoying
it" Harry Hershfield Have you ever hurt or killed something throughout your
life and felt bad about your actions? A sense of wonder and reason probably
crossed your mind and all you could ask yourself was, why? There's many times
people feel guilty about their actions and sometimes have a feeling of sadness
and depression. Animals are a huge part of the world that cause remorse among
society. Many people share love, bonds, and relationships with animals, but
continue to hunt them for pleasure and nourishment. There are times that people
feel bad about what they do to a creature just for a few minutes of pleasure or
just a bite to eat. It's amazing how close one can feel to an animal and then go
to many extremes to kill it. Besides reality within humans, there are many
authors that incorporate guilt with killing throughout their novels. Humans and
authors novels such as James Serpell's In The Company of Animals and Ernest
Hemingway's Old Man and the Sea, portray images throughout their ideas that
dispense thoughts and representations of killing animals through feeling a sense
of shame. Take for example the millions of vegetarians throughout the world.
They are all different in their selection of foods, opinions of animals, and
what they eat. Some people won't eat certain meats while others will go to the
extreme of eating nothing that comes from animals, whether it is eggs or
gelatin. Vegetarians feel a sense of disgust and a sick sensation of eating a
creature that God placed on the earth. They feel that God placed the animal on
the earth to live in peace and harmony, not to face the trauma and death for the
benefit of others. Vegetarians feel it is disrespectful towards animals and
believe it is not fair to kill off an innocent creation. Some feel very strong
about the issue that they will protest the slaughtering of animals and the plan
of making garments from their skin and fur. They experience guilt by eating the
remains of a dead animal that used to be alive. The torture and pain that each
animal endured causes vegetarians to feel bad about eating them. People are
still fighting to discontinue the violation of animals, but the guilt and
feeling of shame will never leave the mind of a true vegetarian. Besides humans,
Hemingway displays a similar portrayal of remorse with the killing of an animal
throughout Old Man and the Sea. A close relationship that is united between a
man by the name of Santiago and a marlin allows ones emotions to take a toll and
undergo an adventure of guilt. Santiago has a strange appreciation and sympathy
for the fish. Marlins, to Santiago, are ornaments that create a feeling of
nature and loyalty towards him. The old man holds a bond and strength of love
and devotion with the creatures lurking the environment that he is surrounded
by. The turtles for example have similar characteristics like Santiago, such as
a heart, feet, and hands. The flying fish act like his family members since they
encompass him everyday by playing and searching for food. Over time Santiago and
the marlin mold a connection that causes the old man to feel more emotion for
the fish than expected. On the first day, Santiago speaks to the marlin
"Fish…I love you and respect you very much. But I will kill you before
this day ends"(60). By the end of the day, the marlin is still alive, but
trying to strive for every last bit of its lasting life. Santiago then
sympathizes for the fish and does his best not to disturb or violate the marlin
during the sunset. " The setting of the sun is a difficult time for all
fish"(81). Santiago wants the fish to rest in peace and cares for the well
being of the creature. The old man distinguishes the great worth of the fish
that he never knew existed. "Then he was sorry for the great fish that had
nothing to eat and his determination to kill him never relaxed in his sorrow for
him. How many people will he feed, he thought. But are they worthy of eating him
from the manner of his behavior and his great dignity" (83). As the fish
continues to fight for survival, Santiago gains an enormous amount of admiration
towards the marlin. He says to the fish, "You are killing me, fish…. But
you have a right to. Never have I seen a greater, or more beautiful, or calmer
or more noble thing than you, brother. Come on and kill me. I do not care who
kills who" (102). By the time Santiago defeats and reels in the fish, he
feels a sense of love and respect for the animal, but his emotions are
excruciating. Santiago realizes how much the fish really means to him. Both of
them know that in the end someone is going to get hurt. Santiago wants a prize
possession and the marlin wants nourishment, but only one can win. Since they
are in similar positions, one of them was going to suffer the consequences.
Santiago feels guilty killing the marlin since his emotions and love for the
creature begin to arise. He starts to notice similar traits between him and the
fish that make him realize that he was trying to kill a great friend. Throughout
James Serpell's chapter "Killer with a conscience" in his novel In the
Company of Animals, he discusses the thoughts of guilt accompanying the killing
of animals. Serpell explains how it is difficult for humans to differentiate
clearly between themselves and animals. Many people develop close relationships
with animals and attribute many human characteristics to animals. Because we are
animals, and can share and relate many or our feelings with animals, we can use
it for understanding and predicting the outcomes of other creatures thoughts.
Since we usually think of animals in terms of humans "we are bound by the
same code of morality" that watches over our contact with other people
(174). Generally it is hard for people to kill or hurt animals without feeling
shame or a lack of sympathy. "If we were capable of being truly objective
about animals, we would not have the slightest qualms about damaging or
destroying them, except, conceivably, for abstruse intellectual or aesthetic
reasons" (174). Hunting is one of the examples that Serpell uses as a model
for feeling guilty. Because animals are looked upon as being equal to humans, it
is basically killing off someone that is similar to ones self. In a way it could
be considered murder. It would be an adventure to be in an animal's body and
perceive the world from its point of view. Feeling its emotions and what the
animal was going through would help analyze the objective in hunting. If one
knew how much it were hurting and abusing the animals then it would make them
aware and know that they would not want to be treated that way. If something
should give you a guilty conscience then obviously there are thoughts crossing
your mind that are telling you that something is wrong. Throughout history, many
animals have had to face the hardships of abuse and death. Being the killer,
hunter, or abuser is not always an easy task for everyone. The guilt that
overcomes many people is not always easy to deal with. Humans and even authors
of novels share many of their ideas and views about the shame that accompanies
the killing of animals. Besides humans, Serpell's work of In the Company of
Animals and Hemingway's Old Man and the Sea incorporated guilt with the
senseless acts of killing animals. The awareness that these people portray aids
in the ability for the reader and society to think about the disrespectful
events that are occurring to animals throughout the world.
Hemingway, Ernest. Old Man and the Sea. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons,
1952. Serpell, James. In the Company of Animals: A study of human-animal
relationships. Canto edition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996.
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