Character, Dignity, and Self-Respect

1 January 2017

This paper will summarize the movie Glory and relate one or two characters to Aristotle, Epictetus, and Saint Augustine on character, dignity, and self-respect. Alina Campbell This paper will summarize the movie Glory and relate one or two characters to Aristotle, Epictetus, and Saint Augustine on character, dignity, and self-respect. The movie Glory is based on a true story about the Commander of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry which was the first black regiment to be listed in the service of the United States.

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It is based on the letters by Col. Robert Shaw. Col. Shaw felt he was involved in something that he was not completely sure about, considering he had previously lost a lot of soldiers to battle. He was now faced with survivor’s guilt which he knew would heal in time. Shaw later became a mighty leader that lead the black regiment to take on the battle in Fort Wagner. Aristotle Character is mental and moral qualities distinctive to an individual. Aristotle believed character to be neither a feeling or a capacity or a mere tendency to act in certain ways (Sommers & Sommers, 2010).

He believed instead that character was a settled condition we are in when we are well off in relation to our feelings and our actions. The virtues of character are dispositions to act in a certain way in response to similar situations. Good conduct arises from habits that in turn can only be acquired by repeated action and correction. Col. Robert Gould Shaw fits Aristotle’s view of Character best in my opinion. He was not only the commander of the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, their voice.

The black men that fought with Shaw were slaves that wanted to fight for their freedom. When Shaw was told of the United States Government planning to form this regiment of black soldiers he agreed to take the Commanding position. He then asked his best friend Major Cabot Forbes to fight along with him and Forbes accepted. At one point Shaw fights for these men to get the proper uniform and boots. He also refuses pay along with them after finding out that they are paid less than the white soldiers.

Both Shaw and Forbes strongly connected with this group of men: the angry Private Trip (Denzel Washington); Private Jupiter Sharts (Jhine Kennedy); Corporal Thomas Searles (Andre Braugher), a very smart and educated man that grew up with Shaw and worked for Shaw’s father, and Sgt. Maj. John Rawlins (Morgan Freeman), a runaway slave who speaks with the voice of wisdom and reason. Dignity is the state of quality of being worthy of honor or respect. Aristotle’s view on dignity consists of the consciousness that we deserve honors, not in processing them.

You cannot earn dignity through external awards; instead it is something you bestow upon yourself. “Dignity consists not in possessing recognition from others, but in consciousness that we deserve recognition from others” (Sommers &Sommers, 2010). The character played by Morgan Freeman, Rawlings, knew that being a slave was not worth much, so he decided to help Shaw fight the battle at Fort Wagner. Forbes also displayed dignity in the movie. Forbes was Col. Shaw’s best friend and is who told Col. Shaw of this regiment.

Due to the type of relationship the two had, Col. Shaw asked Forbes to come along with him to prepare the black slaves. Forbes agreed and stood by Col. Shaw and these black men through the name calling, getting the proper shoes, and receiving their uniforms like the white soldiers had while fighting in the Civil War. Aristotle describes the position of character, dignity and self- respect as character being a state concern with choice, lying in a mean relative to us, that this is determined by reason and in such a way that a man of wisdom would determine it.

It is a mean between two vices that depends on excess that depends on defect (Sommers & Sommers, 2010) Aristotle feels neither a feeling nor a capacity nor a tendency to behave in specific ways. It is the settled condition we are in when we are well off in a relation to our feelings and actions when we are in a mean or intermediate state in regard to them. Meaning we have a vicious character that we are badly off in relation to feeling and actions, and we fail the means in regards to them.

The character that I felt showed this type of role would be Denzel and Andre’s characters, known as Trip and Thomas. Trip was a runaway slave that was very angry. He didn’t have anybody and had been previously beaten several times. Trip had specific thoughts of the white man and they were that the slaves were seen as monkeys. He thought that the slaves should be dressed up in uniform and fight, since the white men would only get themselves killed and wouldn’t be able to win. Andre Braugher played Thomas. He was an educated man that had worked for Col. Shaw’s father.

He believed that black men should know how to read and have pride within themselves. In the movie Glory, Thomas had learned to take a lot. Thomas assumed that since he and Col. Shaw were close friends that he would be treated a bit differently, but to his surprise, he was called out by his best friend to train a lot faster than he was and then yelled at. Thomas learned much at the end of the movie, including self-respect. Thomas had been shot in a previous battle and he asked Col. Shaw to promise that he wouldn’t send him back, which Shaw didn’t allow Thomas to continue in battle.

Later in the movie, Col. Shaw asks who would be willing to standin the place of the flagman, should something happen, and Thomas stated that he would and did. Epictetus Epictetus held the Orthodox Stoic view that everything in the universe is directed by divine will. Epictetus was different from the early stoics in that he believed happiness was found in maintaining one’s moral character as opposed to striving for moral excellence. He emphasized self-knowledge and keeping one’s moral character in order as the way to achieve a happy life.

Epictetus warned his students to expect persecution since their actions and attitudes would be different from those around them. He encouraged them to view life as an athletic challenge, a festival or a short military service, where success would come from a combination of correct choices and skill. Epictetus believed that “grief was the most offensive emotion; he considered the suffering of grief as an act of evil. It was a willful act, going against the will of God to have all men share happiness” (Stockdale, 1995). Col.

Robert Shaw, through his personal growth and internal realizations fulfilled his leadership duties on the battlefield, as well as beyond. He chose to take the beliefs he had from his life prior to war to another level. Shaw struggled with the question of equality among the races yet he recognized the character and desires of the Black Americans and chose to act on their behalf as well as the Unions. Shaw felt that his soldiers, regardless of color, deserved respect just as much as the white soldiers. Shaw was willing to not take pay to make a point that his soldiers deserved the same pay as their fellow white soldiers.

He stuck his neck out to make sure they received the proper gear in order to fight. Shaw had finally decided to not let the grief from the prior battle to control him, he chose to help in the happiness of the slaves and continue to fight for their freedom. Saint Augustine Augustine’s approach was not just brilliant, it was practical. His insight is intellectually credible and emotionally satisfying in that it gives hope and offers meaning to the Christian trying to make sense out of life in a fallen world (Sommers & Sommers, 2010).

To Augustine, anything that had being was good. Good as the ground of being was perfectly good, along with everything he brought into being. This goodness was a property that came in varying degrees. The obstacles that Col. Robert Gould Shaw had to overcome is the fact that he failed in battle another time. He had to pick himself back up, and he then led the black regiment in the Civil War and was refused to let these black soldiers be treated with any less respect than the white soldiers. Another hardship that Col.

Shaw and his black soldiers had to endure was the fact they were getting under paid, they were not given the proper shoes to march in, and the fact they were not given the proper uniforms like the other soldiers. Col. Shaw had shown a life of character, dignity and self- respect by being the honorable Commander that he was. Col. Shaw never let others views get in the way of his personal view of his soldiers. Col. Shaw had self- respect even though he had been defeated, prior to leading the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry soldiers with dignity and never gave up on them. He was a man that believed in faith and that the black soldiers were no different than any others.

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