Every choice an individual makes indubitably carries with it no less than one implication, however insignificant that effect may be. Arguably the most paramount choice of all, which has to be made by every individual at one point or another, is what to do with one’s own life. Despite the fact that many believe wealth, fame, or power comprise living the Good Life; one will come to find that this is not always the truth. Indeed, many people pursue the Good Life by striving to make a beneficial difference in society or within their self. However, the decision to commit oneself to a certain route in life, irrespective of the endpoint, proves exceedingly difficult as this decision typically closes the door to other possibilities and passions in life. Harold Brighouse’s “Hobson’s Choice” and Bessie Head’s “The Prisoner Who Wore Glasses” are two works that showcase the immense sacrifices one must make if he or she wishes to follow a path of the Good Life that entails fighting for independence and social justice. Both works depict with prodigious detail the cost of leading a life that threatens the status quo. An individual who chooses a Good Life that fights for freedom and social justice may incur many costs, both tangible and intangible, including impoverishment, imprisonment, estrangement, and humiliation.
In “Hobson’s Choice” one of the main characters, Maggie Hobson, strives for self-determination and social fairness after her father tells her that she is too old to marry and that she needs to remain working unpaid in the boot shop to help run the family business. Maggie decides she no longer desires to be an unpaid servant to her oppressive father and proceeds to pursue her Good Life by announcing her intentions to marry Will Mossop, the lowly but skilled boot maker of the shop. Mr. Hobson is infuriated that his daughter would go against his requests and marry a man from a lower social class who’s “father was a work house brat” (Hobson’s Choice). Her father fears embarrassment when the town discovers that Maggie is getting married at her age and especially out of class. Alice and Vicky, Maggie’s two younger sisters, are also appalled at her outlandish decision and begin disparaging her. Unfortunately, Maggie’s pursuit of freedom and social justice causes her family to view her as a disgrace and alienate her. Maggie understands that humiliation and estrangement are the costs associated with her decision, yet she doesn’t waiver from the path of her Good Life. She realizes that paying this price is acceptable because her newfound independence will make it worthwhile. Additionally, since Mr. Hobson refuses to pay Maggie for her time in the shop, she tells her father that she will open up a new rival shop with her fiancé. Maggie realizes that in order to continue her fight for autonomy and social justice she and Will Mossop will be living in poverty for a few years until they can establish a profitable business. For example, during the wedding dinner at Maggie and Will’s poor tiny house, Alice and Vicky ask “haven’t you furnished?” and Maggie replies that she’s “not getting wed to help the furnishing trade along” (Hobson’s Choice). All in all, Maggie’s strive for the Good Life in “Hobson’s Choice” illustrates that humiliation, estrangement, and impoverishment are some of the potential costs that come with fighting for freedom and social justice.
Bessie Head’s “The Prisoner Who Wore Glasses” pertains to the costs of a person named Brille working toward his Good Life. Soon after Brille becomes involved in politics in South Africa, the government seizes him as a political prisoner because they see him as a threat. Corrupt government regimes typically take political prisoners to ensure stability of the current regime and prevent a coup d’état. Nonetheless, it is discernible that this politician’s objective was not to reach a violent coup as Brille’s concept of politics was that of “an ordered beautiful world with just a few basic slogans to learn along with the rights of mankind” (Bessie Head). In fact, Brille worked to bring about freedom and equal opportunity to all the people living in a region inundated with racial discrimination and Apartheid. However, any person that expressed opinions or beliefs contrary to that of the government was seen as opposition and would be thrown in prison in order to impede the dispersal of such ideas. This unjustified and immoral imprisonment was a major cost of Brille’s choice to fight for independence and social justice in this part of the world. Furthermore, being imprisoned also cost Brille the time and relationship he could have had with his wife and twelve children. If Brille had wished to become wealthy or live in a different country, these options now were not possible due to his choice. Even while being held captive, Brille always fought to defy corrupt power and improve the lives of those around him. For example, even though his comrades from Span One say “forget it, brother. You’ll get shot”, Brille puts his life on the line to attain the proper treatment they deserve from Hannetjie, the cruel warder (Head). Brille boldly challenges the authority of Hannetjie by threatening to reveal the warder’s theft of fertilizer. From that point forward Hannetjie left Span One alone due to Brille’s valiant actions. This political prisoner gives up his liberty and risks his life to resist corrupt authoritarian rule, however upholding his pride and helping to better the lives of his comrades allows the costs to be bearable.
In conclusion, one who decides to lead a life that fights for freedom and social justice should be wary of the associated costs which may comprise poverty, incarceration, isolation, unacceptance, and ridicule. It can be argued that the price of the Good Life is the sacrifices one experiences, as well as, the opportunities one capitulates while attempting to pursue whatever route he or she has chosen in life. In order to truly live out a Good Life, the benefits should at least compensate for the costs of one’s life. Thus, it is imperative to attempt to comprehend and realize the costs of the path of life one takes prior to committing oneself.
Head, Bessie. Under African Skies. New York: 1997. 171-176. Print.
Hobson’s Choice. By Harold Brighouse. Constans Theater, Gainesville. 30 Jan. 2014. Performance.