The Wages of Sin is Death: Breaking Bad as the New American Tragedy SELECTED COURSE NOTES Selected quotes from C.S. Lewis Mere Christianity: The most dangerous thing you can do is to take any one impulse of your own nature and set it up as the thing you ought to follow at all costs. There is not one of them which will not make us into devils if we set it up as an absolute guide. (Mere Christianity, p. 11)
People who take [the materialist view of the universe] think that matter and space just happen to exist, and always have existed, nobody knows shy; and that the matter, behaving in certain fixed ways, has just happened, by a sort of fluke, to produce creatures like ourselves who are able to think. The other view is the religious view. According to it, what is behind the universe is more like a mind than it is like anything else we know. That is to say, it is conscious, and has purposes, and prefers on thing to another. (Mere Christianity, pp. 21-22) Wickedness, when you examine it, turns out to be the pursuit of some good in the wrong way. (Mere Christianity, p. 44) Goodness is, so to speak, itself: badness is only spoiled goodness.
(Mere Christianity, p. 44) Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind. (Mere Christianity, p. 122) Pride is essentially competitive--is competitive by its very nature--while the other vices are competitive only, so to speak, by accident. Pride gets no pleasure out of having something, only out of having more of it than the next man. (Mere Christianity, p. 122) There is nothing makes a man feel so superior to others as being able to move them about like toy soldiers. (Mere Christianity, p. 123) Pride is spiritual cancer: it eats up the very possibility of love, or contentment, or even common sense. (Mere Christianity, p. 125) Good and evil both increase at compound
interest. That is why the little decisions you and I make every day are of such infinite importance. (Mere Christianity, p. 132) The Christ Himself, the Son of God who is man (just like you) and God (just like His Father) is actually at your side and is already at that moment beginning to turn your presence into a reality. The real Son of God is at your side. He is beginning to turn the tin soldier into a live man. The part of you that does not like it is the part that is still tin. (Mere Christianity, p. 189) The Christian way is different: harder, and easier. Christ says Give me All. I dont want so much of you time and so much of your money and so much of your work: I want you. I have not come to torment
your natural self, but to kill it. No half-measures are any good. I dont want to cut off a branch here and a branch there, I want to have the whole tree down. I dont want to drill the tooth, or crown it, or stop it, but to have it out. Hand over the whole natural self, all the desires which you think innocent as well as the ones you think wickedthe whole outfit. I will give you a new self instead. In fact, I will give you Myself: my own will shall become yours. (Mere Christianity, pp. 196-197) On the one hand we must never imagine that our own unaided efforts can be relied on to carry us even through the next twenty-four hours as decent people. If He does not support us, not one of us is safe from some gross sin. On the other hand, no possible degree of holiness or heroism which has ever
been recorded of the greatest saints is beyond what he is determined to produce in every one of us in the end. (Mere Christianity, p. 204) The more we get what we now call ourselves out of the way and let Him take us over, the more truly ourselves we become. There is so much of Him that millions and millions of little Christs, all different, will still be too few to express Him fully. He made them all. He inventedas an author invents characters in a novelall the different men that you and I were intended to be. In that sense our real selves are all waiting for us in Him. It is no good trying to be myself without Him. The more I resist Him and try to live on my own, the more I become dominated by my own heredity and upbringing and surroundings and natural desires. (Mere Christianity, p. 225)
The principle runs through all life from top to bottom. Give up yourself, and you will find your real self. Lose your life and you will save it. Submit to death, death of your ambitions and favourite wishes every day and death of your whole body in the end: submit with every fibre of your being, and you will find eternal life. Keep back nothing. Nothing that you have not given away will be really yours. Nothing in you that has not died will ever be raised from the dead. Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in. (Mere Christianity, pp. 226-227) Characteristics of tragedies: 1) The major characters are not commoners or
ordinary people. Theyre heroes, kings, and gods. 2) A tragic flaw, significant personal error, or bad decision, usually revealed by conditions beyond the protagonists control and often outside of his direct action, brings about his downfall. 3) Conditions for the protagonists and associated characters go from good to bad. 4) The protagonist brings down others in his fall. 5) The purpose of a tragedy is to bring catharsis, cleansing the soul of viewers of fear and pity. Tragedy term list: Hamartia (tragic error, missing the mark) Hubris / Hybris (violent transgression, excessive self-pride) Anagnorisis (tragic recognition or insight) Nemesis (retribution) Peripateia (plot reversal)
Catastrophe (turning downward of plot) Catharthis (emotional discharge) Tragedy is an imitation of an action that is serious, complete, and of a certain magnitudethrough pity [eleos] and fear [phobos] effecting the proper purgation [catharsis] of these emotions. -- Aristotle, Poetics Tragedy implies the weight and worth of its central figures. Tragedy is never the fall of simple victims or villains: these falls are dramatically uninteresting and untragic. Tragedy implies the fall of someone who is responsible and significanta person of substance. In fact, tragedy implies the fall of
someone who is naturally great but whose greatness has been compromised and finally crushed by a mix of forces, including personal agency, that work together for evil in a way that seems simultaneously surprising and predictable, preventable and inevitable. A tragic figure is, in some intricate combination, both weak and willful, both foolish and glitzy. We therefore want to accuse him and also to sympathize with him. (Think, for instance, of Shakespeares King Lear and his featherheaded demand that his daughters declare their love for him.) In tragedy, sin is surely one of the forces at work, but it is by no means the only force and sometimes not even the most obvious one. -- Cornelius Plantinga, Not the Way Its Supposed to Be, page 140 Everyone is born with a mind, but it is only through this act of introspection, of self-examination, of establishing communication between the mind and the heart, the mind and experience, that you become
an individual, a unique beinga soul. And that is what it means to develop a self. So what does college have to do with it? College helps to furnish the tools with which to undertake that work of self-discovery. Its very hard, again, to do it on your own. The job of college is to assist you, or force you, to start on your way through the vale of soul-making. Books, ideas, works of art and thought, the pressure of the minds around you that are looking for their own answers in their own ways: all these are incitements, disruptions, violations. They make you question everything you thought you knew about yourself. -- William Deresiewicz, Excellent Sheep: The Miseducation of the American Elite and the Way to a Meaningful Life, page 84 Writing review: exploration / explication / analysis vs.
description / survey / summary Titles! Possible focuses for blog posts: a particular piece of music a particular image/photo a particular connection/comparison/contrast to another cultural work (see partial list of page 3 of syllabus) a particular connection/comparison/contrast to another television show (The Sopranos, The Wire, Mad Men) Questions on Antigone: 1) Are Creons and Antigones actions justified or not? 1) Compare Antigone and Breaking Bad, esp.
the character of Antigone. 2) Whats the difference between rightful and unjust authority? When is civil disobedience justified? 2) Compare Antigone and Breaking Bad, esp. the character of Creon. 3) Whats the relationship between mans law and Gods (or the gods) law? 3) Compare Antigone and Breaking Bad, esp. Gods (or the gods) law. 4) Where should our highest loyalties lie? What duties do we have to family? To natural law/religion? To the
state/government? 4) Discuss the various perspectives on duty to family seen in Breaking Bad to this point. With which perspective are you most sympathetic? 5) How does the play use the terms friend, enemy, traitor? 5) Who in Breaking Bad doesnt see themselves and situations around them rightly? 6) Analyze Antigone based on Wheelers article and the categories in Freytags pyramid: anagnorisis, hamartia, hubris, nemesis, peripateia. How would you
map Antigone with these categories in mind? 6) Analyze Breaking Bad based on Wheelers article and the categories in Freytags pyramid: anagnorisis, hamartia, hubris, nemesis, peripateia. How would you map Breaking Bad with these categories in mind? Questions on Breaking Bad, Episodes 301-305: Why do you think theres a divergence in Waltscores and in how Walt and Skyler are evaluated by various viewers? Both Walt and Skyler say that theyre motivated by family in what they say and do. What do they mean by family? What do you think of their use of family? What strikes you as true/genuine about how they use this word?
What strikes you as false/blind? Proverbs 6:16-19 (ESV) There are six things that the LORD hates, seven that are an abomination to him: 17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, 18 a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that make haste to run to evil, 19 a false witness who breathes out lies, and one who sows discord among brothers. 16 Galatians 5:16-26 (ESV) But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of
the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
16 Mark 7:20-23 (ESV) And he said, What comes out of a person is what defiles him. 21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person. 20 The Seven Deadly Sins (or Capital Vices)
Lust Gluttony Greed Sloth Wrath Envy Pride Questions on Oedipus the King: 1) How does Oedipus character change over the course of the play? How would you describe him at the beginning, in the middle, and the end of the play? 2) What are the vices and virtues illustrated in Oedipus the King? Does Oedipus have a fatal flaw? If so, what is it?
3) What role do religion and piety play in Oedipus the King? In the cultural context of the plays original setting, would Oedipus be seen as a pious figure? Why or why not? 4) To what degree are the vices and virtues illustrated in Oedipus the King similar or dissimilar to those often noted by Christians? Does Oedipus the King and Sophocles other plays have anything to teach Christians? 5) Whats the place of sight and blindness, light and darkness, knowledge and ignorance in Oedipus the King? What explains Oedipus ability to see certain things and not others? 6) To what degree is the conclusion of the play the result of fate and to what degree is it the result of Oedipus free will? Questions about comparative views on the nature of human evil / wrong-doing / sin: 1. Is it real? objective? universal? 2. Does it originate from the inside or outside? from internal or external factors?
3. Whats the solution to it? Sophocles (497-406 BC) Shakespeare (1564-1616) Plantinga you (b. 1946)(b. 1992-5) |--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------| Jesus of Nazareth (2 BC-AD 33) Lewis
relationship between cousins / cartel & Gus relationship between Walt & Skyler relationship between Walt & Gale relationship between Walt & Jesse relationship between Walt & Hank relationship between Hank & Marie relationship between Walt & Gus family truth-telling and lying danger and safety Two questions Shakespeare poses for us (from Dr. Smiths lecture): Do humans have free will?
What is a man? What is it to be masculine? Discussion questions on Acts I & II of Macbeth: 1) There are numerous references to things natural and unnatural. Where do we find these references? Why are they in the play? 2) Compare Macbeth (as we know him through Act I) to other major characters, including Banquo and Lady Macbeth. 3) Pinpoint key moments through Act II in Macbeths transformation. 4) Select a handful of revealing or memorable lines spoken by major characters, and tell us why you chose them. Questions on Breaking Bad, Episodes 311-402: 1) Why is the Georgia OKeeffe painting used in the teaser of Ep 311 (Abiquiu)? 2) Whats the relationship between Jesse and children in these
episodes? 3) Why does Skyler want to get involved in Walts business? 4) Who is strong/brave and who is weak/scared in Ep 312 (Half Measures)? 5) What do we learn about Mike, esp. in Ep 312 (Half Measures)? What motivates him? 6) What do we learn about Gale in Ep 313 (Full Measure)? What kind of person is he? 7) What are Walts, Jesses, and Gus motivations in Ep 313 (Full Measure)? 8) Why does Gus kill Victor in Ep 401 (Box Cutter)? 9) How do Walt and Jesse respond to Victors death? 10) Why does Jesse start partying in Ep 402 (Thirty-Eight Snub)? Questions on Act III of Macbeth: 1) Act III, scene 1, lines 1-41 - Analyze the relationship between Macbeth and Banquo at this point in the play. Whats contributing to their mistrust? How have they each reacted to the earlier prophecy of
the witches? 2) Act III, scene 1, lines 47-142 - Analyze Macbeths use of persuasion in speaking to the hired assassins. What various persuasive techniques do you find here? 3) Act III, scene 2 - Analyze the dialogue between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth. Whats their mood? How are they dealing with Duncans murder and the events following? 4) Act III - Earlier, we looked at Freytags theory that true tragedies pass through 6 phases: Exposition, Rising Action, Complication, Reversal, Falling Action, and Catastrophe. Use Freytags phases to analyze Act III. Do you find any of these 6 phases to be centered in Act III? 5) Act III, scene 4, lines 40-107 - Analyze the appearance of Banquos ghost. Is this figure necessary or not? How does it contribute to Macbeths transformation? Questions on Breaking Bad, Episodes 403-407: 1) What are Walts emotions in Eps 403-407? 2) What are Skylers emotions in Eps 403-407?
3) What are Jesses emotions in Eps 403-407? 4) What are Hanks emotions in Eps 403-407? 5) What are Maries emotions in Eps 403-407? 6) What are Gus motivations in Eps 403-407? 7) What are Mikes motivations in Eps 403-407? 8) Tragedies such as Breaking Bad often explore the relationship between fate or chance on the one hand and free will or individual choice on the other in the lives of protagonists. Whats the relationship between the two categories in Eps 403-407? Which seems to be more significant in driving events? Questions on Acts IV & V of Macbeth: 1) Act IV, scene 1 - Describe and explain the three apparitions the witches conjure up for Macbeth, and then the fourth that Macbeth demands of them. How do these visions affect Macbeth? How do they eventually play out? 2) Act IV, scene 2 - What kind of a woman is Lady Macduff? How would you compare and contrast her to Lady Macbeth--including their relationship with
their husbands and family members? 3) Act V, scene 1 - Whats Lady Macbeths state of mind here? What connections do you find between this scene in Macbeth and our other course readings and our viewing of Breaking Bad? 4) Act V, scene 5, lines 17-28 - Analyze this famous soliloquy. What does it suggest about Macbeth himself and about human life? Does this soliloquy change your view of Macbeth? 5) Act V - Tell us where you find Freytags categories of Falling Action and Catastrophe in Act V of Macbeth, and why? Where would you place Freytags categories in Breaking Bad to this point? 6) Act V - How does Macbeth connect to some of the themes weve explored recently--esp. guilt, responsibility, and self-acceptance? Questions on Breaking Bad, Episodes 408-413: 1) Toward the beginning of Ep 408 (Hermanos), Walt gives a fellow cancer patient some advice: Never give up control. Live life on your own terms. Whats your assessment of this philosophy? [for last names A-Bo] 2) What do we learn about Gus in Ep 408 (Hermanos)? Whats his back story?
[for last names Bu-D] 3) When you first saw the blood in the flash-forward teaser to Ep 409 (Bug), what possible explanations ran through your mind? [for last names E-H] 4) How do Walt and Jesse approach each other in Ep 409 (Bug)? What do each of them want at this point? How does this episode affect your evaluation of both Walt and Jesse? [for last names J-Ma] 5) Analyze the scenes featuring Walt and Walter Jr. in Ep 410 (Salud)--11:18-17:10 and 21:12-29:29. How do these scenes relate to the series focus on family? What kind of father does Walt want to be? What kind of father does Walter, Jr. want? [for last names Mi-Mu] 6) How does the team who created Ep 411 (Crawl Space) set the mood of the final scene [42:50-46:13] in which Walt rushes home looking for his money? [for last names My-R] 7) Analyze the writing, directing, and acting in the scene [from 26:11-34:35] of Ep 412 (End Times) when Jesse confronts Walt at his house [for last names S-St] 8) Did the scene [from 33:31-38:20] at the nursing home in Ep 413 (Face Off) work for you? Why or why not? [for last names Su-T] 9) What was your reaction at seeing the final shot of Ep 413 (Face Off)? How did this affect your Walt-score? [for last names W]
Definitions of terms (from OED) Hero The central character or protagonist (often, but esp. in later use not necessarily, male) in a story, play, film, etc.; esp. one whom the reader or audience is intended to support or admire (cf. anti-hero). Anti-Hero One who is the opposite or reverse of a hero; esp. a chief character in a poem, play, or story who is totally unlike a conventional hero. Villain Originally, a low-born base-minded rustic; a man of ignoble ideas or instincts; in later use, an unprincipled or depraved scoundrel; a man naturally disposed to base or criminal actions, or deeply involved in the commission of disgraceful crimes.
How to evaluate heroes and anti-heroes: 1) His or her characteristics. What virtues and vices does this character display? 2) His or her prominence and relationship to other characters. Is he or she a protagonist? An antagonist? Something else? 3) His or her appeal. Is the author intending for us to be sympathetic to this character or not? Anti-heroes in literature, movies, and TV: (1667) (1856) (1925) (1951)
Johnny Strabler (played by Marlon Brando) in The Wild One (1953) Dirty Harry (played by Clint Eastwood) in Dirty Harry (1971) Michael Corleone (played by Al Pacino) in The Godfather (1973) Tony Montana (played by Al Pacino) in Scarface (1983) Don Draper from AMCs Mad
Men (2007-present) Tony Soprano from HBOs The Sopranos (1999-2007) Omar Little from HBOs The Wire (2002-2008) Dexter Morgan from Showtimes Dexter (2006-2013) Questions on Breaking Bad, Episodes 501-506: 1) What questions does the teaser to episode 501 raise about whats to come? 2)
In episode 502, why does Walt go to such lengths first to make and hide the fake ricin cigarette and then to help Jesse find it? 3) After learning more about Mike in the first half of season 5, how would you describe him? How would you compare him to Lydia and to Walt? 4) In episode 503, why does Walt try to get Jesse and Andrea to split up? 5) In episode 504, why exactly is Skyler so depressed and despondent? 6)
The first time you watched the teaser to episode 505, what were you thinking? What questions did you have? 7) Who is responsible for the death at the end of episode 505? 8) In episode 506, why does Walt urge Jesse to stay for dinner? 9) What are the various families or groups of people that function as families in these episodes? 10) How have the last several episodes changed your thinking about where the show and its characters are heading?
Questions on Breaking Bad, Episodes 507-511: 1) How does Walt and Jesses confrontation in episode 507 relate to their recent history? What persuasive tactics does Walt try to use on Jesse here? What place are Walt and Jesse in at the end of the scene? 2) Why does Walt kill Mike at the end of episode 507? 3) How does Skyler convince Walt to stop cooking in episode 508? 4) What was your reaction the first time you watched the end of episode 508? 5) What do you notice in the teaser to episode 509? Whats happened to the White family home? 6) How does Skyler respond to Hank at their meeting in the diner in episode 510? Why does she respond this way? 7) By the end of episode 510, Skyler seems to have decided to help Walt. What are the various possible reasons why she makes this decision? Which do you find most convincing? 8) How many confessions do you count in episode 511? 9) Analyze Walts videotaped confession in episode 511? What makes it so effective?
10) Episodes 507-511 feature songs by Duke Ellington, The Monkees, Nat King Cole & George Shearing, The Shondells, Squeeze, Jim White, Jos Larralde, and Slim Rhodes, among others. Why do you think these songs were chosen? What do they contribute to the show? The 16 Worst Things Walter White Has Done On Breaking Bad [in chronological order] By Louis Peitzman, Buzz Feed, July 30, 2013 http:// www.buzzfeed.com/louispeitzman/the-16-worst-things-walter-white-has-done-on-br eaking-bad#48qmun7 Ep 101: Pilot Walt forces Jesse to cook meth by threatening to turn him in otherwise. Ep 101: Pilot Walt sets off poison gas in the RV and locks Emilio and Krazy-8 inside.
Ep 103 Walt strangles Krazy-8 with a bike lock. Ep 204: Down Walt turns Jesse away when he had nowhere else to go. Ep 212: Phoenix Walt lets Jane choke to death on her own vomit. Ep 303: I.F.T. Walt refuses to leave Skyler alone. Ep 305: Ms Walt kicks Jesse out of the business after he accepts Gus offer.
Ep 312: Half MeasuresWalt rats out Jesse to Saul and tries to have him arrested. Ep 312: Half MeasuresWalt runs over two drug dealers and then shoots one of them. Ep 313: Full Measure Walt makes Jesse kill Gale. Ep 406: Cornered Walt gets the women working at the laundromat deported. Ep 411: Crawl Space Walt deliberately gets in a traffic accident, injuring Hank in the process. Eps 412-413 Walt poisons Brock with lily of the valley. Ep 413: Face Off Walt kills Gus with a bomb at a nursing home and puts others lives at risk. Ep 507: Say My Name Walt kills Mike. Ep 508: Gliding Over All Walt orders the murders of nine inmates and Mikes lawyer.
Questions on Breaking Bad, Episodes 512-516: 1) Whats the purpose and meaning of the teaser to episode 514 (the 25th and final teaser in the series)? 2) What is Walts motivation in trying to negotiate with Jack at the beginning of episode 514? 3) Why does Walt call Skyler on the telephone at the end of episode 514? Whats his goal here? 4)
What is Walts/Heisenbergs mindset in episode 515? What does he want? 5) Why does Walt get angry while watching Charlie Roses interview at the end of episode 515? 6) How did you feel in watching Walt con his old friends in episode 516? 7) Whats your opinion about how episode 516 (and the series as a whole) closes? 8) Assess the relationship between Walt & Jesse in episodes 512-516.
9) Assess the relationship between Walt & Skyler in episodes 512-516. 10) Assess the relationship between Walt & Hank in episodes 512-516. 11) Compare and contrast the tone of the last three episodes (514-516). Did you have a favorite or preference among the three? 12) Did the series end as you expected? As you hoped? As befits a tragedy? Themes in Breaking Bad (for possible blog posts, etc.)
time (In many TV shows, time is marked by seasons, observance of holidays, etc.) parents & children, parenthood family friendship masculinity & femininity religion any of the 7 deadly sins / capital vices (lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, pride)
ethics (incl. situational ethics) lying & truth-telling money work vocation sickness & health life & death
relationship of series to movies relationship of series to other TV shows relationship of series to works of literature relationship of series to academic disciplines, majors
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