How do the morals of the bachelor’s tale and the aunt’s stories connect to the works of some of the most respected and renowned of the great philosophers through the ages?
The difference is nothing less than a philosophical divergence on the issue of morality. In its own modest way, “The Storyteller” is a meditation upon much more immodest conceptions of the nature of ethical behavior upon which entire volumes have been written by such distinguished figures from the world of philosophy as St. Augustine, Kant and Nietzsche. The moral of the stories told by the aunt is that good acts shall always be rewarded in the end. By contrast, the bachelor’s story strongly suggests that even those endowed with the highest ethical character are every bit as much as risk as coming to a bad end as the worst kind of amoral scoundrel.
The bachelor’s offer to take over the storytelling duties from the children’s aunt seems to be based on an intention to keep the children from becoming unruly, but what might be another less charitable intent?
While the darker aspect and more realistic insight into the nature of morality in his story is clearly chosen as a way to capture and maintain the attention of the bored children, those very same elements seem to have been chosen specifically as a means of goading the aunt. The fact that the bachelor’s story essentially upends the entire philosophical view toward morality and ethical behavior which the aunt struggles vainly to get across in her story can be viewed less as an genuine insight into the bachelor’s perspective on the same issue and more as insight into the nature of his character. He may simply find the aunt’s insistent moral-mongering so distasteful that he decides to relate a story that tears it to pieces solely for the mischief of dragging her lofty ideals back down to earth in full view of the children.
Identify the conflict in this story and justify an opinion on the ultimate victor in this conflict.
The conflict that provides the dramatic tension in “The Storyteller” is clearly between the aunt and the bachelor or, more precisely, between the aunt’s rather obvious view that stories told to children require a definite moral and the bachelor’s apparent view that the entertainment value of story trumps any lesson might teach. “The Storyteller” thus becomes an example of how dramatic tension created by the conflict between two people can end with one side irrefutably vanquished yet with no physical harm done. The bachelor is the winner in this conflict of opposing ideologies on the most reasonable basis for judgment: the children are enraptured by his story after being left restless and bored by the story told by their aunt.
How is the ending of the bachelor’s story an example of irony?
The story-within-the-story of Bertha and her medals is an excellent example of good old-fashioned irony since the entire point that the bachelor is trying to make with his story is that the aunt’s insistence that good deeds will always result in reward is misguided. Bertha becomes the very iconic symbol of a good person: she actually receives a number of medals honoring this very facet of her personality. In any story told by the aunt, Bertha would come to a rewarding end by virtue of her demonstrable moral superiority. Therefore, the ending actually possesses two levels of irony. There is the irony of Bertha as a model of the aunt’s moral view coming to a horrific end regardless and there is the irony that Bertha’s horrific end comes about directly as a result of being awarded medals for her high standards of goodness.
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