The Five- Forty Eight

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Peaceful Triumph in the Face of Evil

Atonement can be achieved without vengeance. Revenge is so basic, so animal a reaction to evil; it takes a higher level of thinking to achieve redemption without hateful spite and revenge. Atonement is satisfying after the anguish of rancor and internal violence brought on by maltreatment. When the goal is to equalize one’s enemy rather than destroy him, the end result is fulfilling. Although one immediately wants to take down his aggressor, in the long run, he will discover that this does not bring him the peace that they seek. In the short story “The Five- Forty- Eight” by John Clever, a businessman named Blake is kidnapped at gunpoint by his former secretary, Ms. Dent. She is mentally ill and angry with him for ignoring and promptly firing her after their one night stand, bringing him to a warehouse where she contemplates shooting him in revenge, but instead simply walks away. Having confronted the man that has wronged her without taking his life, Ms. Dent eventually leaves the scene, reborn without her anger. Redemption found in the absence of revenge is far more fulfilling a solution to a problem than one found through vengeance and violence. “The Five- Forty- Eight” is a prime example of this philosophy. Ms. Dent feels that Blake’s malice is the root of her unhappiness. While her mental illness has contributed to her deep inner turmoil, a great deal of it has been stirred up by his cruelly insensitive actions towards her. He preyed on her as he had other women, revealed through the narrator’s assertion that “most of the many women he had known had been picked for their lack of self- esteem” (Cheever). This gives us a brief glimpse into Blake’s past treatment of women. It is meant to be assumed that the women that Blake has “known” in the past are others that he was intimate with in brief and loveless affairs. Having said “picked” allows the reader to recognize that these were not simply women he happened...
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