7/2/2020 0 Comments
On personality and situation, further thoughts, this time about people not hens.
In thinking about hens, I seem to find clear evidence both for how distinct each hen’s personality seems to be from the moment they hatch out of the egg, and for how dependent their personality is on their place in the pecking order. I have been spending some time in hospitals lately (not as a patient) and what is so striking is how many profoundly good people work there, people whose goodness seems absolutely intrinsically a part of their character, expressed in the smallest and most individual gestures as well as in the larger heroic acts of working long hours, beyond their shifts, day after day. Obviously this goodness is not just situational. It is hard to imagine any of these people going home and being less than good outside the hospital. Perhaps it takes a certain kind of character to go into health care in the first place, perhaps even to look for administrative or receptionist roles within the health system. Perhaps, though, also, the work required of them shapes their character, and the acts of care and attention their roles require them to perform become a part of who they are. The Stanford Prison Experiment has largely been discredited, the experiment which divided students into prison guards and prisoners, and seemed to quickly lead to ordinary students becoming sadistic when given a prison guard role. I am quite sure none of the people I’ve met in the hospital this week would become sadistic in a guard role situation. George Eliot – whose fiction we’ve been reading to pass the time – doesn’t see character as situational either, or, rather, particular situations do bring out particular qualities of someone’s innate character, but the same situation would bring out very different qualities in someone else. It is the particularity of the revealing responses to situations that is so enthralling in her fiction, as it is in the hospital.
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These are paragraphs without essays or books to go in.