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How To Be Good

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Abstract:

This reviews "How To Be Good" by Nick Hornby, with analysis using Aristotle's philosophy of ethics, precisely virtue and friendship. The paper closely focuses on the character of Katie and elaborately examines her inner self and her attempt to find means on becoming perfectly good. The paper examines her relationship to the main characters and how they implicitly or explicitly aid her in achieving her goal - attaining her perfect self. Using Aristotle's Nicomachaen Ethics it is easier to derive some of Katie's conclusions and consequently find out "How To Be Good."

Outline:

I. Introduction

a. Main character, Katie, and her problem of not knowing "How to be Good"

b. The inner self

i. Self-satisfaction

ii. Aristotle's emphasis

iii. Nick Hornby's point of infinite answers

II. Katie

a. Believes she is good, but wants to show it (second self)

i. She is a doctor which self-implies her goodness

ii. Thinks about world problems

III. Katie's Relations With

a. Stephen

i. Her lover

ii. Utility-love

iii. Pleasure-love

iv. Realizes that doing something good doesn't excuse doing something bad

b. David

i. Her horrible husband

1. egocentric

2. boring

3. cynical

ii. Her children

1. love for the sake of character

2. motherly love

3. care

IV. David and DJ GoodNews

a. DJ GoodNews

i. Magical healer

b. David changes entirely

c. David turns into an exaggerated charitable man

d. Confuses Katie

e. DJ GoodNews moves in

f. DJ GoodNews' anti-materialism

g. DJ GoodNews' makes David even more exaggeratedly caring

h. DJ GoodNews' "act not words" theory

V. Katie's Realization (Conclusion

a. Love is enough

b. No perfect self

c. No wrong no right

No guidelines to "How To Be Good"

Nick Hornby's How to be Good raises some complex questions on what it means to be good. Katie Carr, a wife and a mother, is certainly trying to be good. She cares about Third World debt, about the homeless, and struggles to raise her children in good ethics. After all she is also a doctor, and that should self-imply her goodness. Nevertheless, she is having enough trouble holding herself and family together to make such a commitment to saving the world. So does this mean that Katie is not good, because she works hard as a doctor, but doesn't want to come home and breathe the problems of marriage? Like most people in the world, she's basically human looking to save the world while failing to save her own self. It seems as if this book is trying to lay philosophical guidelines to being good as does the Bible, Aristotle's ethics, or Cicero's Essay on Friendship. This perception is however false, as it rather directs the reader to his own conclusions by implicitly questioning these above mentioned works. Nick Hornby points to the demise of religion, as nobody goes to Church when looking for the definition of being good. He also points to the fact that everyone has a second self, which implicitly relates to Cicero's idea that everyone's second self, the one people can see, should reflect the inner self. In addition, the idea of the self also relates to Aristotle, Nicomachaen Ethics, where the inner self is elaborated in relation to what makes a person virtuous - good. Nevertheless, it is the inner self that is being examined up more closely, simply because it holds the true qualities of a person. In writing this novel, Nick Hornby construct an idea, that in an attempt to create a perfect self, one finds infinite possibilities, with neither being right or wrong.

Katie is certainly a character that seeks to be good. "I'm not a bad person. I'm a doctor," (6) says Katie. A person who seeks to be good is certainly someone that feels that he is lacking goodness. Katie however, doesn't think of herself as lacking goodness. She believes she is a good person already, but wants to show it to in doing something that is good. In addition she thinks that doctors are good out of nature. "One of the reasons I wanted to become a doctor was because I thought it would be a good - as in Good, rather than exciting or well-paid or glamorous - thing to do" (6). This again shows her reason behind choosing to become a doctor, which is undoubtedly to be good. "As in regard to the virtues some men are called good in respect of a state of character, others in respect of an activity." (Aristotle, Nicomachaen Ethics 8.5) One could say that Katie is trying to prove that she is good both in respect of a state of character and in respect of an activity - the activity being the profession of a doctor.

Nick Hornby, therefore, introduces Katie as being a good character. Nevertheless, our good portrayal of Katie is ruined with her saying: "Anyway. I'm a good person, a doctor, and I'm lying in a hotel bed with a man I don't really know very well called Stephen, and I've just asked my husband for a divorce." (6) Reading this, one wonders whether Katie has gone mad. She goes on, explaining how good she is, and finishes off by mentioning that she has just cheated on her husband whom she has just asked for a divorce.

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