Sunday, August 21, 2016

a reflection on The Neon Bible.

At the culmination of John Kennedy Toole’s The Neon Bible, David shoots the preacher. What’s disturbing is that I was glad that David shot the preacher. This is disturbing, I say, because I was glad that David shot the preacher before I had considered whether David was justified in shooting the preacher. By my lights, no one should be glad that someone shoots another person until he or she considers whether it was justified. And even if it is justified, it’s not clear to me that one should ever be glad about it.
How is that I was glad that David shot the preacher? It was because I felt for David—given what he was going through and how awful a man the preacher was, I felt glad that he shot him.
I think this shows two things. First, it shows that empathy is dangerous. It is dangerous because it allows one to be glad or be sad for someone prior and therefore independently of the justice of his or her actions. Second, It shows that rhetoric is dangerous. For, had Poole not been good at his story telling, I wouldn’t have been empathetic towards David in the first place.


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