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Character, Dignity and Self Respect

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Introduction

Glory (1989) is an American war film drama that was directed by Edward Zwick. Denzel Washington, Mathew Broderick, Morgan Freeman and Cary Elwes starred in the movie. This story is based on the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, which was the initial formal unit in the United States Army, completely made of the African-American men (Zwick, 1989). The commander of the troop was Colonel Robert Shaw. As indicated in the story, Col. Shaw had a feeling of doubt and uncertainty due to the fact that many of his soldiers were killed in the battle. The movie reveals that he was experiencing survivor’s guilt. Later, he became a powerful leader who led his troop in a Fort Wagner battle.

This paper seeks to construe the movie Glory and relate its characters to the themes of character, dignity and self-respect as highlighted by Aristotle: ethics based on personal virtue; Epictetus: ethics based on inner strength of the individual and, Saint Augustine: ethics based on following a Divine Command.   

Character

According to Aristotle, character is the outlook of the emotional and appetitive faculties that make a person feel and act in certain ways (Pakaluk and Pearson, 2010). Epictetus, on the other hand, stressed that in order to attain a happy, individuals needs to have self-knowledge and keep their moral character in good order (Sommers, 2010). He perceives life as a military, a festival or a sporty challenge and advised his learners to do the same. Triumph according to him emerges from becoming skillful as well as making the right choices.

Col. Robert Gould Shaw was the principal character in Glory. He is featured as a dedicated and demanding militia who decides to lead the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Regiment (Zwick, 1989). He stands up for the black men who are committed to attain independence.

As a commandant, Shaw had to overcome many obstacles. He had previously lost a battle, and this required pulling himself together so that he could efficiently direct the black regiment. He is portrayed as a leader who hates slavery, a characteristic that required him to fight for equal treatment for both the white and black soldiers (Zwick, 1989).

Together with his followers (black soldiers), Shaw had to overcome a lot of hardships. For instance, unlike the white soldiers, they were underpaid, besides being under supplied with appropriate uniforms or shoes. However, Shaw was devoted and stuck to that which he perceived correct and did, what he was required to. His character is also portrayed when he led in the front line in a dangerous battle on Fort Wagner. The commander felt that they were treated as substandard troops, who were poorly equipped and predestined for non-combat and boring missions (Zwick, 1989). As a result, he demanded a battle that could allow his soldiers to prove themselves.

Shaw’s self-respect can be demonstrated from the fact that even though he had lost in a previous battle, he did not give up on the black soldiers and led them with dignity. Although he was white, he never looked down on the blacks as his fellow men, as they were humans same as others. His strong believe and faith can be based on St. Augustine believe that to live a good life, one has to confess and know God (Zagzebski, 2004). Augustine’s ideas of dignity, character and self-respect are based on religious perspectives. Together with his army, Shaw was able to overcome the prejudices and hatred of the confederates. He was willing to give his life during the battle unselfishly.

In general, Col. Shaw exhibited a life of dignity, character and self-respect. He was an honorable and noble commander who did not allow his pride to interfere with his work, although most people scorned his soldiers while others thought that what he was doing was controversial during that period.

Dignity

According to Aristotle, dignity is not something that one can earn as a reward. It is something bestowed upon oneself from within. It is more of conduct and respect for oneself. In other words, dignity does not entail possessing recognition from others but the consciousness that we deserve recognition from others (Sommers, 2010).

In the movie, Morgan Freeman who played the role of Rawlings portrayed dignity. Irrespective of the fact that he felt that being a slave was not something worth, he braced himself to help Commander Shaw in leading the black regiment, in the Fort Wagner battle.

Forbes, the best friend of Commander Shaw, also displayed dignity in regards to their close relationship; he offered to accompany Colonel Shaw to prepare the black slaves (Zwick, 1989). Irrespective of the abusive names they were called and the hardships that they went through such as not getting payment and matching bare foot as well as lacking proper uniform, Forbes gave his full support to the commander throughout the battle (Zwick, 1989)

Self-Respect

Aristotle states that self –respect is the inner reason motivated mechanism, which infuses ones emotions with vigor with no need for an external force (Hooft, 2006).

Both Trip and Thomas displayed the theme of self-respect. Trip as shown in the movie is an angry runaway slave who had no one to turn to. On the other hand, Thomas is an educated smart man who worked for the father of Col. Shaw. With regards to self-respect, he thought that black men are supposed to know how to read and be proud of themselves. Thomas had the idea that since he was a close friend to the commander, he would receive a cordial treatment, than the rest of the troop members. To his amazement this was not the case. In some instances, he found Shaw yelling at him but due to his self-respect he found himself being calm and he continued being loyal (Zwick, 1989).

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