Didion's on Morality

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MORALITY: WHAT MOTIVATES OUR BEHAVIOUR?
What is it that forms and drives our “moral behaviors”? Are we born with a basic sense of morality or do we develop a set of moral “social codes” to keep society from falling into chaos and anarchy? In her essay “On Morality,” Joan Didion dissects what lies beneath the surface of humanity’s morality. By recounting several stories and historical events, she shows that morality at its basic “most primitive level” is nothing more than “our loyalties to the ones we love,” everything else is subjective.

Didion’s first story points out our loyalty to family. She is in Death Valley writing an article about “morality,” “a word [she] distrust more every day.” She relates a story about a young man who was drunk, had a car accident, and died while driving to Death Valley. “His girl was found alive but bleeding internally, deep in shock,” Didion states. She talked to the nurse who had driven his girl 185 miles to the nearest doctor. The nurse’s husband had stayed with the body until the coroner could get there. The nurse said, “You just can’t leave a body on the highway, it’s immoral.” According to Didion this “was one instance in which [she] did not distrust the word, because [the nurse] meant something quite specific.” She argues we don’t desert a body for even a few minutes lest it be desecrated. Didion claims this is more than “only a sentimental consideration.” She claims that we promise each other to try and retrieve our casualties and not abandon our dead; it is more than a sentimental consideration. She stresses this point by saying that “if, in the simplest terms, our upbringing is good enough – we stay with the body, or have bad dreams.” Her point is that morality at its most “primary” level is a sense of “loyalty” to one another that we learned from our loved ones. She is saying that we stick with our loved ones no matter what, in sickness, in health, in bad times and good times; we don’t abandon our dead because...
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