Thursday, April 17, 2014

A Minor Musing About Annette Bosworth, Tragedy, and Pathos

This morning started out well. I slept a bit later than usual, made a pot of coffee, fried some eggs, wrote a blog post, called my mother, and corrected a few quizzes, but then it all went to hell. I watched the Annette Bosworth video posted on the Madville Times.

In the video, which I won't post because it is the internet equivalent of a Sunday outing at Bedlam, Bosworth casts herself as an underdog hero embarking on an epic quest to fight the forces of darkness on the downtrodden's behalf. One hopes that most find the fact that she uses the suffering she and her husband have caused her son as a reason to vote for her pathetic, in the contemporary definition of the word.

The video, however, reaches the deeper level of pathos that Arthur Miller discusses in his classic essay "Tragedy and the Common Man." (Were he writing today, I have every confidence that Miller would have titled the essay "Tragedy and the Common Person.") Miller writes,
For, if it is true to say that in essence the tragic hero is intent upon claiming his whole due as a personality, and if this struggle must be total and without reservation, then it automatically demonstrates the indestructible will of man to achieve his humanity. The possibility of victory must be there in tragedy. Where pathos rules, where pathos is finally derived, a character has fought a battle he could not possibly have won. The pathetic is achieved when the protagonist is, by virtue of his witlessness, his insensitivity or the very air he gives off, incapable of grappling with a much superior force. Pathos truly is the mode for the pessimist. But tragedy requires a nicer balance between what is possible and what is impossible. And it is curious, although edifying, that the plays we revere, century after century, are the tragedies. In them, and in them alone, lies the belief--optimistic, if you will, in the perfectibility of man. It is time, I think, that we who are without kings, took up this bright thread of our history and followed it to the only place it can possible lead in our time--the heart and spirit of the average man [emphasis mine].
The video does not reveals a woman engaging in total effort to achieve her due as a human being. The fact that she uses suffering she caused her child as a reason to consider her fit for office reveals a rather inhumane sadism. More importantly, video illustrates that Bosworth is insensitive to the fact that she has engaged in a foolhardy effort that she has no chance of winning. Further, she is insensitive to her flaws and her inability to overcome those flaws.

I have used Miller's essay as a discussion starter when I teach his play Death of a Salesman, and I have always been skeptical that tragedy can be optimistic. Tragedy illustrates a character brought down by a situation that he or she should have prevented. Preventable suffering has never struck me as optimistic. Watching Bosworth implode, however, illustrates the wisdom in Miller's observation. Bosworth lacks to wit to know that she is flawed and that she lacks the ability to deal with the chaos she has caused. Watching a destructive situation unfold, one that the protagonist has no chance of preventing, is depressingly pathetic.


Kenneth Kary Knutson said...

First to be so negative, and then not post the video, makes you look subjective to say the least. After finally finding the video in question, I have to say you are the one who is delusional. How someone as intellectually bright as you, could miscue the intent of someone's presentation, such as in Dr. Bosworth's video. It never fails to amaze me when a fresh breath of air blows in on the political winds, and all the pundits (online as well) notice the difference in the wind, but are totally clueless as to the genuinely honest attempt to inject something of value in a corrupt process, that so desperately needs some revamping. You missed the opportunity to aide the citizenry of this state, to return South Dakota values back to the electorate. You make yourself look pathetic.

Kal Lis said...

Thanks for stopping by.

If I thought Bosworth were an authentic person or candidate, I would say so. That too would make me subjective. (By the way, the link to the video is in the post.)

P&R said...

It's a stretch to call Dr. Bosworth's presentation, "genuinely honest."

The further we go, the more she proves my earlier characterization - the Christine O'Donnell of South Dakota politics.

Anonymous said...

this video explains some of it