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Unformatted text preview: Professor Bonevac UGS 303: Ideas of the Twentieth Century 15 October 2018 The Divergence of Judgment and Action In ​The Murder of Roger Ackroyd​, possibly set in the early 20th century, Agatha Christie presents mankind’s disparity in judgment and action– in which one takes a course of action that is different than what they originally perceived to be the better choice, after assessment of merits as well as ethics. Perplexed by disparity in judgment and action, philosophers refer to this universal phenomenon as “the weakness of will”. Even within the boundaries of Christie’s novel, several individuals and their actions embody this philosophical theme of the weakness of will, like Flora Ackroyd’s theft from Roger Ackroyd, Ralph Paton’s engagement to Flora, and especially Dr. James Sheppard’s murder of Roger. During the investigation of Roger’s murder, Hercule Poirot, a retired detective, discovers many underlying secrets over the course of the novel. For example, Roger’s niece, Flora, financially struggled, and Roger was Flora’s source of financial support. Upon Roger’s death, there were forty missing pounds from Roger’s bedroom, and Poirot theorized that Flora was the culprit. Flora confirmed and confessed, explaining that she was “at her wits’ end for money,” (Christie, 217) and declaring herself as “weak, miserable, despicable” (Christie, 218). Clearly, Flora feels remorse towards her own decision and says “I hate myself when I think of it all!” (Christie, 217): however, if Flora truly believed that theft is a worse option, why did she steal? Why did her judgment and action disconnect? Her overwhelming desperation to acquire money leads her to steal from Roger, despite her knowing that the act of thievery is wrong– this reveals her weakness of will, because she went against what she truly thought was right, and did the opposite. When Flora describes herself as weak, she also describes Ralph Paton, her fiance, as weak along with her, claiming this mutual weakness is what brought them together, saying “We were both weak!…We’re weak, miserable, despicable things.” (Christie, 218). Similarly, Ralph’s weak will derives from the desperation for money; Roger found himself in a great deal of crippling debt, and although he knew that the easy way was wrong he agreed to marry Flora in order to get out of debt. However, before his loveless engagement to Flora, he was already previously married to his step-father’s parlourmaid, Ursula, in secret. He knew that love was more important but why did he, eventually, choose money over true love? Despite Ralph evaluating that he genuinely loved Ursula and not Flora, he yielded to his weakness and desperation and chose to follow the course of action that he deemed lesser. Similar to the weaknesses of Ralph and Flora, Dr. James Sheppard’s weakness of will stemmed from his greediness for money. Perhaps the most accurate and extreme example of the weakness of will is the murder of Mrs. Ferrars’ and Roger. Dr. Sheparrd took advantage of the knowledge of Mrs. Ferrars’ murdering her ex-husband, and blackmailed her for money in return for keeping her secret. Before her suicide, Mrs. Ferrars’ left a letter that detailed her secret and also revealed Dr. Sheppard as her blackmailer, prompting Sheppard to murder Roger to prevent him from finding out. However, Dr. Sheppard isn’t the conventional, apathetic killer– he cares dearly about his sister Caroline, and what she thinks of him. After Poirot discovers Dr. Sheppard murdered Roger, Sheppard commits suicide in order to avoid Caroline finding out that he was a killer. Furthermore, Poirot describes a hypothetical man who manifests the weakness of will: “...There is in him somewhere a strain of weakness—deep down” (Christie 201). Essentially, Poirot says that when desperate enough or prompted by external circumstances, a weak man is thus provoked to commit a crime or a murder. Sheppard knew murder was wrong, as shown by his guilt towards by Caroline, but why did he still murder? Sheppard’s thought and action disconnected and succumbed to the temptation of money. The weakness of will exists in individuals globally, as well as those in Christie’s novel. A source of desperation or temptation that triggers one to disobey one’s own judgment and take an opposing action. The weakness of will instilled in Flora, Ralph, and Dr. Sheppard is truly revealed through their divergence of judgment and action. Works Cited Christie, Agatha, 1890-1976. ​The Murder of Roger Ackroyd.​ London :Collins, 1926. Print. ...
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