Play Or Novel Contribute To Democratic Pedagogy: Durrenmatt’s Play The Visit And Nussbaum’s Article
1. How does a play or novel contribute to democratic pedagogy? Use Durrennmat’s play and Nussbaum’s article to explore this idea. Include a discussion of how The Visit can be interpreted in various ways.
Democratic pedagogy is an ideal to which democracy brings about methods of instruction and goals. This includes self-determination within a community of equals, respect, and values of justice. Durrenmatt’s play “The Visit” explores the question of the corruptibility of justice by examining whether it can be bought in return for material wealth. Durrenmatt shows at numerous times throughout the play where justice has been bought at the expense of others. Firstly, Ill bought himself justice at Claire’s expense by staging dishonest witnesses during the paternity trial that she brought against him. This resulted in Claire going about a life to which she never imagined for herself and her seeking revenge and justice for herself against Ill. Secondly, Claire wanted to seek justice for herself by returning to the city of Guellen and issuing a target over Ill’s head for a cash reward. She was able to purchase her own justice that was characterised by revenge. Thirdly, the townspeople justified the murder of Ill by buying material items and saving themselves from a mediocre life. Throughout the play, Claire continues to purchase justice. Boby the Butler was a judge for the town of Guellen but retired from his profession in order to pursue Claire’s proposal. He explains that the offer Claire proposed was too good to reject. This is what led the townspeople to accept the offer – the offer was too lavish to refuse therefore the martyr of poise is not too high of a price to pay in exchange. Claire also rescued characters, Toby and Roby, from the death sentence by purchasing their lives.
“Two gangsters from Manhattan, sentenced to die in the electric chair at Sing Sing. Released at my request to vary my sedan chair. One million dollars per petition is what it cost me. The sedan chair comes from the Louvre, a gift from the French president.” (Durrenmatt, 14)
This demonstrates that she’s capable of amending the American justice system with her mass amounts of money. Another example of this is when the town of Guellen’s mayor, the face of political justice, becomes complicit in Claire’s scheme. This formulates a hidden argument and a way in which the play can be interpreted: that political institutions are helpful in establishing ideas of justice, however, they can be easily influenced and corrupted with the influence of money. Individuals can alter what they perceive as justice based on how the situation benefits them, and the idea of justice in the political sphere can be corrupted depending on the remunerations.
“If the political economy does not include the complexities of the inner moral life of each human being, its strivings and perplexities, it’s complicated emotions, its perplexity and terror, if it does not distinguish in its descriptions between human life and machine, then we should regard with suspicion its claim to govern a nation of human beings.” (Nussbaum, 886)
Nussbaum emphasises that story-telling plays a significant role in the importance of emotions in moral philosophy and expanding empathy as a necessary part of society. Story-telling makes readers reflect on the role of social justice and what is in the role of “human rights”. Nussbaum argued that empathy is an essential part of humanity, and the use of disgust of disregard has been used to deny the humanity of marginalised people and categorized who is worthy of concern. In relation to the play, Claire who had become a prostitute was a taboo of society. “The world made a whore of me, now I’ll make a whorehouse of the world.” (Durrenmatt, 47). She was at the bottom of the social hierarchy, where no one payed any attention to her or wanted to help her because she was seen as a delinquent. This made me question why she specifically chose to employ American gangsters Toby and Roby. While reflecting on the Nussbaum article, it is possible to draw a connection between empathy and her choice to employ the boys. When she was a prostitute she was regarded as an unnecessary part of society and was shown little empathy, she could therefore emphasize with gangster’s Toby and Roby. Nussbaum explores the role of emotions in the building of the understanding of justice arguing that the innate human-ness of emotions have been undervalued in Western political thought. It was the role of emotion that influenced the characters in the play to act in their own self-interest. Emotion in heartbreak is what drove Claire to put a target on Ill’s head. Emotion in wealth and self-interest is what drove all characters in the play to commit a crime.