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Irrational Man

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Irrational Ending

By Amir Faress • 12/25/19

A leading authority in his field, Abe is a successful author and a professor of philosophy at a prestigious university. Neither his career success nor the admiration he receives from students and faculty, however, guard him against experiencing severe depression to a point of acting on suicidal instincts. His depression does not seem to be rooted in a chemical imbalance but a deep awareness of the suffering in the world. His intellectual contributions and philanthropic efforts have not – in his mind – made a dent in the calamities humanity faces throughout the globe.

A chance encounter suddenly snaps him out of his funk. While at a restaurant, Abe happens to overhear a group of people discussing the corrupt practices of a judge. This jolts him into action. He decides to take the matters into his own hands by killing the judge. This unorthodox decision brings with it a rush of happiness the like of which he has not previously experienced. This newfound happiness is entirely attributable to his self-perception as an instrument of good. Far from academic philosophizing, Abe now embarks on a tangible undertaking to uproot a source of suffering. The idea that the world will be a better place as a result of this action fills his life with tremendous joy. The world will become a better place only if people of courage take it upon themselves to do what must be done--however unconventional and whatever the consequences.

But the third act contradicts everything we know about Abe and his newfound happiness. It turns out that an innocent man is soon to stand trial on the accusation of murdering the judge. Abe could prevent this person’s conviction by stepping forward and turning himself in as the real killer. But his newfound happiness is just too precious to relinquish: “But I had no intention of giving myself up. A few months ago, my life meant nothing to me, I got no enjoyment out of it, no pleasure,” Abe justifies his action. “But since I planned and executed the elimination of Judge Spangler, my life had taken a new turn. I understood why people loved life and saw it as something joyous to experience.” In fact, he goes so far to attempt another murder to keep the word from getting out.

This flies in the face of everything we know about Abe and his motivations. The idea that Abe could experience happiness despite murdering his former lover (Jill Polard) and ensuring the conviction of an innocent person can hardly be squared with the character sold to us earlier, the character whose happiness is dependent upon taking a tangible step in mitigating the suffering in the world.

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