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4 The Forms of Determinism In Frank Norris’s satiric allegory “The Puppets and the Puppy” (1897), a Lead Soldier, a Doll,a Mechanical Rabbit,a Queen’s Bishop (from a chess set),and a Japhet manikin discuss determinism,free will,sin,moral responsibility ,anddeath.1 ThestorybeginswiththeLeadSoldierremarking:“Well, here we are, put into this Room, for something, we don’t know what; for a certain time, we don’t know how long; by somebody, we don’t know who. It’s awful!” (175). This initiates a discussion about the plausibility of the existence of the Boy (who represents God in the allegory).The Doll believes thattheBoyexists,asdotheMechanicalRabbit(thoughheseemslesssure), Japhet, and the Lead Soldier. But the Queen’s Bishop dissents: “There is no Boy, except that which exists in your own imaginations,” but “there is, perhaps, a certain Force that moves us from time to time—a certain vague power, not ourselves, that shifts us here and there.” All of the chessmen, claims the Bishop,believe in this “certain Force.”The Force is not omnipotent , for even it is subject to certain natural laws. The Force “can move us onlyalongcertainlines.Istillretainmyindividuality—stillhavemyownwill. My lines are not those of the knight,or the pawn,or the castle,and no power in the Room can make them so.I am a free agent—that’s what is so terrible” (176). The Bishop, then,sees himself as caught in a dreadful paradox: he is both subject to the manipulations of natural law and a free agent.2 In response to the Queen’s Bishop,the Doll argues that all of the Bishop’s “science and learning” does not necessarily mean that he has all of the answers . The Doll then reasserts a belief in the Boy and joins with the Lead Soldier and Japhet in claiming to be made in the Boy’s image. This chorus is supplemented by the Mechanical Rabbit,who adopts a modest teleological argument for the existence of the Boy—somebody must have “wound Forms of Determinism 101 up”the Rabbit,for how else would he have come by this “strange power of playing upon these cymbals?”(176).Japhet then turns their attention to the mystery of death,or being “Thrown-away.”Japhet believes he will be transformed into rosewood and take his place eternally in a “Noah’s Ark of silver .” The Lead Soldier believes that upon being Thrown-away he will be melted and recast,ad infinitum,with each incarnation an improvement over the previous one. The Queen’s Bishop, claiming that Japhet and the Lead Soldier are deluded by “Dreams! dreams! dreams!” suggests that upon being Thrown-away he will rot,decay,and be absorbed into the elements.The Doll finds the Bishop’s position unthinkable, for this would constitute a dissolution of personal identity.For the Doll,the body may disintegrate,but personal identity—what the Doll refers to as the internal “Not-Me”—shall persist. Finally, the Mechanical Rabbit asserts, decisively, that “when I am Thrown-away that’s the end of me—it’s annihilation” (178). The conversation then turns to various conceptions of sin and moral responsibility .Again it is the Lead Soldier who broaches the question by asking why “Falling-down” (i.e., “falling” or “lapsing” into sin) was “brought into the Room”(178).3 All of the toys seem to agree that “it is wrong to Falldown ,” for it “displeases the Boy” (or in the Bishop’s case, Falling-down displeases the “Force that moves us”). The Mechanical Rabbit can understand how it is “horribly and fearfully wrong” for the Lead Soldier to Falldown ,for in his falling he “drags with him the whole line of other soldiers.” Inthemanneroforiginalsin,theLeadSoldier’sFalling-down“doesnotstop with himself—it communicates itself to others.It is a taint that progresses to infinity” (178). But, argues the Rabbit (in a manner similar to Crane’s cowboy at the end of “The Blue Hotel”), why is it wrong for him to Fall-down, to transgress? After all, he hurts no one but himself. To this, the Queen’s Bishop (like Crane’s Easterner) responds by noting that the Rabbit would be held just as morally responsible for Falling-down as the Lead Soldier,for his Falling-down would disrupt the “vast,grand plan of events.”No one can know the intricate network of causal links that governs the “vast, grand scheme of the Room.” Falling-down, argues the Bishop, reverberates throughout this network and inhibits the development...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780817390891
Related ISBN
9780817313852
MARC Record
OCLC
1016777872
Pages
238
Launched on MUSE
2018-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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