The novel Mother Night was a popular novel of its time and still affecting its reader in present day. The film of this novel followed the text exceptionally well representing comedic scene and romance accurately. In the film main character Howard Campbell Jr. was faced with some ethical dilemmas and tough choices that would determine the path of his life. I determined four actions in the story that were significant in steering Howard Campbell Jr. life. Listed as follows: the choice to stay in Germany while his parents left to America, becoming an American Spy, Returning to Israel for trial, and finally committing suicide.
In this essay I will determine which action were justified or unjustified, using the beliefs of philosophers Simone De Beauvoir and Josiah Royce. During the initial scenes in the film the Nazi Party was combining its power over Germany, many families fled to America or any country that would accept them. Campbell’s parent decided to leave as well, while he selected to remain in Germany. In Germany Campbell had created a successful play writing franchise with his wife Helga that remained popular through the tough times. Campbell’s wife Helga was the star actress in all his plays, his love for Helga empowered his play writing ability.
Throughout the movie there are countless scenes effectively demonstrate the love he had for Helga, the only thing Campbell lived for was “their nation of two” (12min 19sec). Consequently, we can draw the conclusion that the reason Campbell decided to stay was to obtain his love for Helga and his success with Helga. According to Beauvoir making a decision based on romantic love alone, can lead to bad faith and disappointment. Beauvoir explains a woman in love denies her freedom. Women elude their freedom and accountability by hiding in romantic love relationships.
They may not be happy but they associate the love relationship with success in their life. A women falls into the trap of bad faith by allowing her world to collapse in contingence, for she really lives in his (Beauvoir, the Second Sex pg. 662-663). My argument is Helga could very much be using Campbell for the fame he has given her and based on Beauvoir that would result in Helga living in Campbell’s world instead of her own. Then Campbell’s decision to stay for Helga would become unjustified. Beauvoir philosophy of other clarifies “in a trusting loving relationship the freedoms must remain equal” (Beauvoir the second Sex pg. 7).
Campbell was offered to become an American spy by Frank Wirtanen, an agent of the U. S. War Department. Frank made it clear that if anything goes terribly wrong the United States would not come to Campbell’s defense. Campbell still chose to help the United States this decision to become a spy remains ethically justifiable based on Beauvoir definition of condemned violence. Beauvoir argues that condemned violence is the engaging in war against those who curtail freedom of others (discussions, slides). The Nazi party was taking the freedom of all others through murderess violence.
Campbell saw an opportunity to affect the outcome of Hitler’s ruling and act against him by spying on Nazi activity. Royce definition of loyalty also justifies Campbell’s decision. Royce argues loyalty is a choice, a choice for a worthy causes and the choice must be chosen without fear (discussions, slides). Campbell is taking it upon himself to ally with the Nazi party, and move up the ranks to spy on their operations. Justifiable choice because he remains fearless, furthermore the abilities and influence Campbell possessed remained optimal for this task. Campbell’s decision to return to Israel for trial represents a moment of clarity.
Campbell was tired of running and definitely tired of be lonely, he determined it was time to face the demons from his past. Royce’s explains that an individual is in need of salvation from themselves because of the partiality of their limited experience (Parker). Royce’s argues an individual must be delivered out of this partiality in order to determine what the individual truly wants (Parker). Campbell’s decision to return to Israel was Campbell’s idea of obtaining salvation for himself. This moment of clarity was a chance for Campbell to redeem himself and allow himself to be truly delivered from his individual partiality.
Campbell’s broadcast had a heavy influence on his listener’s information and outcomes. Campbell’s actions to return to Israel will also extend to the families his broadcasts effected categorizing a worthwhile decision. Those families can now have some righteousness as Campbell is tried for his war crimes. Thus, Campbell decision to return to Israel is a justifiable action through Royce’s definition of loyalty of self and to grasp his salvation. It is also worth noting Campbell’s decision acts as a lasting purpose, which in turn improving his individual condition. The ending of the film developed a compilation of emotion.
Campbell was given the confession he needed to win in trial by his recruiter Frank Wirtanen. But, he decides his best alternative would be to just end it all through suicide. Campbell came to the realization that his life legacy would be remembered as the Nazi propagandist. That any grasp of freedom would be over shadowed by his past endeavors. In Beauvoir ethics she defines bad faith as fleeing our freedom (discussions, slides). This can be interpreted as man’s natural method to lie to himself. Additionally, she claims man pursues bad faith in order to avoid risks in exercising transcendence.
In Campbell’s case he is pursuing bad faith in order to avoid the responsibility of his action. Based on Beauvoir’s ethics of ambiguity she explains “a man is free if he does not flee his freedom. Human freedom can be only in concrete projects, not in the abstract. Freedom requires the realization of concrete ends, of particular projects” (Beauvoir 1976 pg. 24,Beauvoir2008 pg. 32). Projects are defined as human beings attempts to make themselves into positive content. The choice of suicide posed a negative outcome on himself thus, an unjustifiable decision under Beauvoir’s moral ethics.
In the Mother Night Howard Campbell Jr. was a character that challenged rough times and hard decisions. Campbell being faced with the rise of Hitler, his moral actions come in question and morph to subsistence. Although, some of Campbell’s decisions remained unjustifiable by Royce and Beauvoir studies; being met with extreme carnage from Hitler’s wrath can alter anyone’s moral decision making. It seemed Campbell’s acting skills made him a convincing Nazi, and he himself was beginning to believe he was a Nazi as well. This falls in conjunction with a major theme of the book “you are what you pretend to be. ”