Lao Tzu Critical Lens

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Lao Tzu once said, “He who gains victory over other men is strong, but he who gains a victory over himself is all powerful.” I believe this means that the most powerful person is one who understands and has control over themselves. Richard Wright, in his autobiography Black Boy, and the titular character of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel, The Great Gatsby both lend themselves in portraying the truth of this quote.

This quote can be interpreted as saying that one who understands and has control over themselves is the most powerful individual. A person might be physically strong enough to defeat someone in battle, but when faced with a personal or internal problem, they will not be able to overcome it since they don't understand themselves enough to deal with the issue. Lao Tzu is saying that people who fully understand themselves enough to overcome their problems and defeat the internal obstacles that stand in their way are more powerful individuals than those who do not, even though they might be stronger in a physical or other sense.

In his autobiography Black Boy, Richard Wright has the most power over himself because even though he lives in a society that oppresses blacks, he does not let it affect his own sense of morality, and continues to oppose the will of his superiors throughout the book by not conforming to their expectations. His self control and understanding guides him through the many struggles he faces in life. Were he not the wise and understanding person he is, the chances of him giving in to the oppressions of society would’ve been much greater and he might not have been able to lead the life he did. Even though he may not have much power over his surroundings, the fact that he knows himself makes him the most powerful.

In The Great Gatsby, Jay Gatsby is not powerful because has no real understanding of himself or his actions. While Gatsby is a very successful businessman and extremely powerful in the financial and social world, his lack of...
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