Characteristics of a good life





Characteristics of a good life

Human beings spend all their lives searching for happiness and fulfilment. This can be found in everyday activities such as family life, work, hobbies, travel and interests. Sometimes, people are willing to go to extreme lengths in search of the elusive concept of happiness. Literature is a reflection of this desire for a good life, for example, Lena Younger in ‘A Raisin in the Sun’ wants a good home for her family and Nora Helmer in ‘A Doll House’ took a loan so that her husband could regain his health in Italy. Similarly, Elizabeth Bishop explores her love of fishing in her poem ‘The Fish’, and Calixta cheats on her husband in search of happiness. From these four works of literature, it is evident that health, a comfortable home, and coexistence with other beings are the key characteristics of a good life.

The first defining point of a good life is a comfortable home that can accommodate all the family members. Since a family occupies a home, a good life will also entail a devoted and thoughtful spouse. In Lorraine Hansberry’s ‘A Raisin in the Sun’, Lena Younger is the matriarch of the Younger family after the death of her husband. The family receives a check for the late Younger’s insurance money, and a conflict ensues over what the family should do with the money. Lena wants to buy a house, a dream she and her husband shared while he was alive (Hansberry). Her son Walter intends to start a business while her daughter Beneatha wants to use the money to pay for medical school. Lena finds out that her daughter-in-law Ruth is pregnant, even more reason to move to a bigger home. Their quarters are already cramped, and they share a communal bathroom. Moving to a bigger and better house would be suitable for the family; they would be more comfortable and have more space especially with the new baby.

The theme of a comfortable home with a devoted spouse is shown in ‘The Storm’ by Kate Chopin; Calixta’s husband Bibi and their son Bobinot head out to the store, and they get caught up in a storm. Alcee, one of Calixta’s old acquaintances, stops by to shelter from the storm (Chopin). They have sex during the storm; which is a sign that both of them may have been unhappy in their marriages. In ‘A Doll House’ by Henrik Ibsen, the play ends with Nora Helmer storming out and leaving her husband because she feels he treats her like a doll to be played with. Her husband got furious when he learnt of the loan that Nora had taken from Krogstad. He did not appreciate the fact that she did it out of concern for his wellbeing. He tells her that he will not let her raise their children but later relents (Ibsen). However, by that time Nora was already furious and declared that they did not understand each other even after they had been married for eight years.

The second requirement for a good life is health. Nora Helmer took a loan from Krogstad who happens to be her husband’s employee. A few years before, Nora and her husband Torvald were poor and had to spend their money carefully. During that time of want, they spent long hours working, and Torvald fell ill as a result. To regain his health, the couple travelled to Italy. Nora claimed that money for the trip came for her father, but she secretly took a loan from Krogstad without her husband’s knowledge (Ibsen). She prized his health above all. However, this comes back to haunt her as Krogstad blackmails her when Torvald fires him.

Coexistence with other beings is also another essential quality for a good life. In her poem ‘The Fish’, Elizabeth Bishop explores her fishing hobby. She has caught a large fish, and at first, she is proud of her achievement. She describes the fish with pride but later realises that she has harmed it when she sees the lines that have pierced through its lips (Bishop). She feels remorseful for having hurt the fish and lets it go in the end. This is a sign that human beings should coexist with other living things such as plants and wildlife. Humans also have a responsibility to care for these forms of life. Aside from coexisting with animals, people should also strive to coexist with each other. Many times people get into conflict with each other and must learn to resolve their issues peacefully. Lena Younger in ‘A Raisin in the Sun’ came up with a plan for her family members to coexist. They would split the money so that each person could fulfil their own dream.

In conclusion, all the four works; ‘A Raisin in the Sun’, ‘The Fish, ‘The Storm’, and ‘A Doll House’ share a similar theme, the search for a good life. From the four it is clear that to have a good life there must be good health, a happy home, and coexistence with others. For good health and a happy home, money is the underlying factor in the short stories under study. Peace with nature and other people is also emphasised; Elizabeth Bishop lets her prize fish go, and the Younger family finds a way to share the insurance money. These stories and poem reflect the general society where people spend their lives searching for things that make them happy.

Works Cited

Bishop, Elizabeth, and David Ishii. The fish. John Sollid, 1974.

Chopin, Kate. The complete works of Kate Chopin. LSU Press, 2006.

Hansberry, Lorraine. A raisin in the sun. Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic, 2007.

Ibsen, Henrik. A doll’s house. A&C Black, 2008.