Thursday, September 22, 2011

Morality and Immorality are Essentially the Same Thing When It Comes to Society

Can someone make a moral decision and an immoral decision; is there a definite line between right and wrong? After The First Death, by Robert Cormier, is an action filled novel about a terrorist, Miro, who contemplates whether or not he is making a right or wrong decision throughout this story. Miro is a very complex character most see as an extremely immoral character, however he is not immoral. There are many instances where we find Miro making moral decisions, as well as immoral decisions; the moment he is given the mask, instances while he is on the bus, and when he kills Kate.
When Miro is given the mask, it is an empowering part of the story. Miro is contemplating whether or not killing the bus driver is the right thing to do; “Sometimes, however, he brooded about the mask. He had the feeling that he must be doing something dishonorable if the operations and confrontations had to be carried out with faces hidden. If what we are doing is heroic, to deliver our people and restore our homeland, why must we hide who we are? He once asked Artkin. And Artkin had told him that there were many laws in this world, good laws and bad laws, right laws and wrong laws. According to the wrong laws, their mission, their work, was condemned. But their enemies had made these laws. So they had to disguise themselves to remain free under the wrong laws,” (41). Miro does not believe that if he has to hide who he is to follow through on his actions then they can not they be moral. When we are heroes we are happy about what we are doing and want people to know who we are, and in this quote, Miro shows us that he feels the same about that; but if he is doing this for his civilization there is a possibility that Miro is being moral and heroic.  
Another instance where we see Miro being immoral, along with when he is given the mask, is while he is executing his terrorist attack on the bus. We begin seeing Miro is terrified when he is walking onto the bus; “Miro entered the bus and removed the mask. His skin was hot and flushed,”(104). The fact that Miro is flushed shows us as readers that he feels very uneasy about what he is doing from the start. As time passes on the bus we see numerous occurrences where Miro keeps talking about the girl, and he frowns every time he looks at her. The sadness and apprehensiveness we see displays Miro’s conscious side, showing a sign of morality. We also see Miro being moral when he says; “I accept mistakes because humans make mistakes. And the the young are expected to make mistakes. But to be careless is different. To be outside the bus with the girl inside, that was more than a mistake,”(165).  Miro validates that he is a scrupulous person with this quote because it is showing his thoughts to himself; ultimately making him a moral character because even though it is wrong to him, he is still following through with the attacks for his society.
            Along with the moment Miro is given the mask and instances while he is on the bus, lastly we see Miro kill Kate. This event was extremely appalling because at the moment when he shoots her it is completely unexpected. As Miro is mourning over Artkin we see a nurturing side to Kate; “ Kate cradled him, moving one free arm to embrace him. His wailing formed a word now as it rose from the hiding place, bursting out of the enclosure. Aaaarrttkinnnnnnn! Rising and then dying in the air lingering as only a faint echo in the ears. Kate rocked him gently, the way she had rocked the children on the bus, crooning softly, a song without tune, words without meaning, but sounds to bring him comfort and solace. She closed her eyes enfolding him, enclosing him with her body, with her warmth and her breath, her sweat and her urine. When he squeezed the trigger, the bullet smashed her heart, and she was dead within seconds,”(220). As we see Kate instantly die without Miro even contemplating whether or not he should, he just does it. Perhaps, he killed her so he could stay content within his society, if nothing was holding him back he could easily forget and continue more deaths after the first death. By doing this for his culture, this still makes him a moral character because in his civilization, what he did is morally correct.
The Nurture vs. Nature debate explains that our minds begin as a blank slate, if this is true then can a true moral really exist, the answer is no. Different people, different countries, and different ethnicities all have clashing morals and this is because we believe something is wrong due to what our society tells us. In Miro’s society it was perfectly fine to begin a terrorist attack and take innocent peoples lives because that is what he had to do to defend his homeland. In the end of After the First Death we see Miro finally choose the immoral side, the dark side; but essentially Miro never did anything immoral because killing people is considered honorable in his mind. It is up to us, as readers to decide whether Miro was a moral or an immoral character, and in the end Miro was a moral character because he knew what he had to do was technically bad, however he had to do what was best for his country, which makes him an honorable character. 


  1. This is a really good post. It is interesting to think about how something that is so wrong in most people’s minds, like a terrorist attack, and be moral and justifiable on someone else’s mind. At the end of the post you brought up the Nature v Nurture debate, how do you think that we are born with any morals or are they all taught to us as we grow up? For example, every society says that murder, for the most part, is immoral does this mean that we are born with an aversion to killing or have we all just learned that it is immoral over time?

  2. It seems like Miro was not only confused about his morals, but also confused about the person he is or wants to be. You say that Miro seems both moral and immoral, and at the end Miro chooses to be immoral. Do you think there was a chance that Miro could have chosen to be moral?

  3. Sara, I believe that when we are born we have no morals, because if something bad does not exist to us yet and we do not know what it is; then how can we make a decision if it is right or wrong? I believe the reason we have immorality in our lives is because someone started saying it was wrong, how can something be wrong if no one ever says its wrong? You really can't because then the problem does not exist. We believe everything that is pounded into our heads day in and day out from our society; and that is how we make our morals.

    Chandler, In the end, I decided that Miro was not an immoral character, but a moral and heroic character. In his society what he did was the right thing to do and he was fighting for his country just as our soldiers do in Iraq. Our soldiers in Iraq kill people everyday and we find them the most moral people because they are fighting for the good of our country. To a reader, most would find Miro an extremely immoral character, but in my opinion I found him to be a moral character. Miro, to me, symbolizes the idea that we are only immoral if we believe we are immoral and if we are going against what our society believes to be morally correct.

  4. Alex this is great, I find the first quote intriguing. Miro seems to be having such a moral dilemma. I like how he questions his action in reference to the mask; because he’s wearing the mask he feels as though he’s performing a crime. In reality he is, however because he is helping his people and country he justifies that crime. That is a very powerful moral relation. "And Artkin had told him that there were many laws in this world, good laws and bad laws, right laws and wrong laws. According to the wrong laws, their mission, their work, was condemned. But their enemies had made these laws", This exert is so intense and true. I think its a universal and mutual belief that killing is wrong, however, considering circumstances, is it always the last resort? Is this the idea and theme or book is based on. I would like to know a little more, sounds like an interesting book filled with self moral conflict!

  5. Alex this is great, and raises a lot of genuine arguments. For example the very end where you talked about Miro being honorable because he was honoring his own morals, such a controversy! He considers killing people honorable because that is what he must do for his country. A similar connection can be made with the book I read The Book Thief. Nazi's were working for their country and ultimately doing the same thing; killing people because their country told them to. But most people do not consider Nazi's to be moral people, and in fact the moral characters in the Book Thief were those that stood up to Nazi Germany with small acts of defiance, even though they themselves were ostracized and punished for these actions. So from the description you gave I am not sure that I could consider Miro a moral character, especially because you said that he knew what he was doing was wrong. Do you consider Miro moral, or were you just stating that that is how he sees himself?

  6. The beginning question when the essay started already made me start thinking myself. Also, are ALL hero's actually happy about what they are doing? There must be at least one hero who doesn't exactly enjoy saving the world. The mask in this story seems to hold a lot of significance. What symbol do you see the mask as?