Ethics In Sophie's Choice By William Styron
Sophie’s choice is a film adaptation of the novel Sophie’s Choice by William Styron. In the movie adaptation, Sophie, which is played by academy award winner Meryl Streep, is a polish immigrant, and survivor of the Nazi invasion. The most known and shocking scene from the movie was when Sophie made her infamous choice. In the movie, she was forced to choose which of her two children were to die in a gas chamber. This scene is a common topic discussed in Ethics. Was choosing a child to live and the other one to die morally correct? I believe that in order to answer this question, we need to look and analyze three important arguments of ethics, which are the Aristotelian theory, the Kantian theory and Utilitarian theory.
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Viewing her situation with a utilitarian mind-set, what Sophie did was right. In that difficult situation, her duty as a mother was to save at least one child. If she did not make her choice, then both of her small children would have died. Utilitarians believe that when committing an act, we should increase happiness and decrease pain and suffering. Because of obvious reasons, Sophie would still be filled with guilt because of the loss of her child, but by just giving up one she would eliminate the pain that the child was to face. I believe that she made her decision based on who she believed was most fit to survive the harsh conditions of the Nazi camps, not because she loved the little girl less than she loved the boy. Looking at this situation through the Kantian theory, it gives us a completely different answer. Kantians, which mostly focus on the act and whose goal is to commit an act only if everybody else was allowed to do it, believe that she would have done the wrong thing no matter what. Kantians would argue that if she would have not make a choice and killed two innocent and healthy children, she would still be in the wrong because they were both killed. However, since she made the choice of giving the little girl away, she was also in the wrong because she sent an innocent child to