Becoming Human: Kierkegaardian Reflections on Ethical Models in Literature
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What does it mean to become a human being? This question was persistently repeated by Kierkegaard scholar Howard V. Hong (1912–2010) to students during his forty-year tenure at St. Olaf College. As one of Dr. Hong’s students, Jamie Lorentzen never forgot the question—one that always pointed to the ethical upbuilding of individuals. Lorentzen’s Kierkegaard studies inform commentary on how central characters in four works of literature help readers answer Howard Hong’s question. Twain’s Huck Finn becomes human by being an unwitting ethicist despite himself and the pro-slavery culture in which he was reared. Ishmael and Queequeg’s embrace of the neighbor and outcast in Melville’s Moby-Dick is an ethical counterpoint to Ahab’s terrifying narcissism. Meanwhile, Ibsen’s famous narcissist, Peer Gynt, offers an archetypal negative ethical model for becoming human. Finally, Dostoevsky’s Father Zosima and Ivan and Alyosha Karamazov show how ethics informs human development in both secular and religious cultures. More Details