Ethics In Crimes And Misdemeanors

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorCollege, Undergraduate November 2001

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Ethical Dilemmas in Crimes and Misdemeanors There are two plots in Crimes and Misdemeanors, which oddly parallel each other. In one story, the "Crime" story, Judah Rosenthal, an apparently happily married and successful ophthalmologist, life is on the verge of disintegration because Delores, mistress of two years, wants to reveal their relationship. Juda is not a religious man, yet he consults Rabbi Ben, whose advice to confess and seek his wife's forgiveness Judah rejects. He knows it would destroy his wife and consequently their marriage. Out of ideas, he turns to his immoral brother to make the problem disappear.

Juda Rosenthal is the central character. He lives a double life; in fact, just the sort of life, which Socrates has said, could not be happy. To his wife, daughter and medical associates Juda is, with the usual human foibles, a model father and community benefactor. Who would believe that Dr.

Rosenthal, a respected ophthalmologist, has misappropriated trust funds and is having an affair with a stewardess he met on a business trip? His Mistress, Delores, becomes uncomfortably clinging and possessive, insisting that Juda tell his wife about their affair. When her behavior threatens to unravel his marriage and career, Judah decides, after much hand wringing, to have her murdered. His brother Jack arranges for the dirty work to be done and Juda pays for it. After she is "taken care of" Juda nearly goes crazy with guilt; and here, it seems, Socrates' diagnosis is proven true. The unjust man's interior life will be a most unenviable state of remorse and anxiety. But just when we think Juda's guilt will be his undoing, we learn that his inner torment abates: his world starts to take on brighter hues and, with the exception of intermittent lapses, he is able to...