Emperor's Club

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Thomas Williams
May 23, 2011
English question 5

"It is not living that is important, but living rightly and honestly."

 
The definition of success varies depending on who is defining it. By the end of the novel, Hundert and Sedgewick Bell each believe that they have reached success in their own lives. Sedgewick, following in his Dad’s footsteps of using and manipulating every situation and opportunity in order to advance his selfish goals, feels successful as a wealthy and powerful businessman. Sedgewick by the example, set by his distant, judgmental, and uncompromising father has learned that being honorable and having good character are qualities that are unimportant when measuring a man’s success. Just like his father who did not see the merit of developing a moral conscience, Sedgewick Bell rejects the moral guidance of his caring teacher, choosing instead to cultivate the cut-throat tactics his father instilled in him as necessary to achieve the fame and fortune vital for success. In contrast, Hundert is only able to feel successful when he has regained his dignity and honor by confessing his breach of trust and asking for forgiveness from the student he betrayed. Once Hundert does the honorable thing and tells Blythe about Hundert’s cheating during the selection of the contestants for the Emperor’s Club competition, Hundert is able to reset his moral compass, and move on with his life. Hundert comes to understand that it was his selfish desire to see Bell succeed that drove Hundert to disregard what he knew was right in order to avoid the truth – that Sedgewick Bell had no desire to become the honest and hardworking student Hundert “willed” him to be. Through this realization Hundert is able to see that even though he may not have succeeded with Bell, this one “failure” does not minimize the positive contribution he has made to the lives of his many other students. Hundert’s success is evidenced by the fact that even after 25...
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