Tag Archives: morality

American Truth Limiting Our Imagination

“The crude commercialism of America, its materializing spirit, its indifference to the poetical side of things, and its lack of imagination and of high unattainable ideals, are entirely due to that country having adopted for its national hero a man, who according to his own confession, was incapable of telling a lie, and it is not too much to say that the story of George W. Washington and the cherry-tree has done more harm, and in a shorter space of time, than any other moral tale in the whole of literature.”

Wilde, Oscar. “The Decay of Lying.” In Intentions. London: James McIlvaine, 1891. Cambridge: Chadwyck-Healey, 1999. Page 27.

The conversation between Englishmen shifted to our many American faults (they’re still bitter about the whole colony thing) when Vivian read this passage of his article. The morality that comes along with idolizing a man who cannot lie is said to shape our American society. The duality of the ideas of a “lack of imagination”, and “high unattainable ideals” is interesting in this excerpt because in order to dream up these unreachable ideals, one would need to think outside the box, thus showing a clear and present representation of imagination.

The distinction between a good and bad novel

There are bad novels and good novels, as there are bad pictures and good pictures; but that is the only distinction in which I see any meaning, and I can as little imagine speaking of a novel of character as I can imagine speaking of a picture of a character.

Henry James, “The Art of Fiction” Major Stories and Essays (New York: Literary Classics of the United States, 1999), 583.

Every reader has their own taste in novels (“in which I can see any meaning”) and it is not up to the reader to judge what is a bad novel and what is a good novel. Every reader has their own impression on the novel based on the experiences they have been through; therefore, not every novel can be “liked” and enjoyed but that does not make it a “bad novel.”