Do you believe in fate? Believing in fate does not contradict with any religious belief. It simply means people accept the fact that their power in making changes in their own lives is limited.
On the other hand, some believe in themselves. There is an old Chinese saying: man can conquer nature. Some people think that they are the owners of their lives and they are the ones who make their destinies. After all, does fate decides character or is it the other way round? There are always debates on this issue, but there are no definite answers for this question.
I have another point of view: just as the main character Al clearly indicates, I believe that one’s destiny and character are constantly interacting with each other in determining one’s life. In “Jerry and Molly and Sam,” the main character, Al, is a loser in most aspects of his life. He is not even a “man” since he is so immature at problem solving by escaping from the problems that he has and turning to something else that can relax him, but not willing to face and tackle the deep-rooted problems in his life.He wants to change himself so that he and the people around him will have a happier life; however, “some dogs you just couldn’t do anything with” (Carver, 137).
He uses the old saying, “it is hard to teach an old dog a new track,” to convince himself that he has done his best in providing a happier life for both himself and his family. It is not hard to tell that it is his character that determines his messed up life. Looking into the following theories and viewpoints suggested by other scholars can surely help understand that Al’s destiny is determined by his character.From Upanishads, the ancient Hindu texts, “Thoughts become words; Words become actions; Actions become habits; Habits become character; Character becomes destiny” (as qtd in Saver 2011).
Some believe that fate decides destiny, consider the famous quote by Heraclitus, the Greek philosopher: “Character is destiny” (as qtd in Malakoff). Indeed, this is one of Heraclitus’s most famous quotes, yet I do not share the same viewpoint with neither the quotation used by Saver nor Heraclitus.People later elaborate Heraclitus’s theory and believe that “the fates are not outside us, in the heavens, weaving and cutting the threads of our lives. Instead, they are consonant with our character.
This consideration is at the root of the world view that good things happen to good people” (Malakoff). I partly agree with Heraclitus and how Malakoff interpret Heraclitus’s theory, as I think one’s character is not the sole factor to one’s destiny, just like what the others think as shown below. Some hold a belief which is totally different from Heraclitus’s theory.They claim that it is destiny that decides peoples’ characters.
Again, using Al as a vivid example, it is not hard to put ourselves into Al’s position and feel the desperation from every aspect of his messed up life, which may be the reason for Al’s lack of motivation. He is not satisfied with his wife, who sometimes explodes when she has been having a hard time with the children and housework, and most importantly, the lack of care from Al. Apparently, Al does not want to tackle the problem that he has with his wife; instead, he goes to his girlfriend Jill and escapes from reality.Also, he does not like Suzy, but he forgets that he should be bearing the responsibility for Suzy’s irritating behaviour.
If Al is not a failure in all these aspects of his life, he would probably not become so hopeless and give up on changing his negative attitude towards everything; instead, he would be brave and stand up and tackle his problems. Take the well-known tragic drama, Romeo and Juliet, as an instance showing fate is an important factor in deciding one’s life. Romeo went to a party that he was not supposed to attend and met Juliet.He could have escaped his fate by not attending the party, and dying at an early age because of falling in love with Juliet.
He even had a nightmare before going to the party, about his young death due to attending the party. Romeo did not take this nightmare as a warning and insisted on going to the party. His past experiences, which are also his fate, did not make him a man who acts with caution. His character is shaped by his fate and led him to a bad decision.
The effect on Al’s character by his past experiences is obviously influencing his life.If Al were not facing so many obstacles at once, which are mostly created by him, he might be more eager to make changes and then be able enjoy life with his positive qualities. If his past did shaped him into a man with good character, he could repair the relationship with his wife, Betty, instead of quarrelling all the time; or he could train Suzy to become a dog that he likes, rather than dumping her; or he could work harder to avoid being laid off, rather than worrying about becoming jobless.To me, the most reasonable statement would be “destiny and character interacts determine one’s future.
There would be a dilemma when it comes to deciding whether “character is destiny” or “destiny decides character” is the land to stand, as peoples’ destinies would be changed when they make different choices with their different characters, while their characters are constantly influenced by their destinies. While Al is a vivid example showing how his negative character and his unfavourable past had made a mess in his life, a young man in the following short story is totally different from Al. This is a story given by Malakoff about how fate and positive character of a Jewish young man helped him to the way of success.Moishe Lipsky was a new immigrant in New York City from Odessa.
Since he was illiterate, he was turned down while applying for a job as a janitor since it requires record keeping skills. He then turned to picking up scrap and built himself a little business, and even opened himself a little storefront as time passes with his honesty and unremitting attitude and opportunity-grasping ability. Years later he became the major operator on tenement real estate in Manhattan and even owns the complete city block of tenements with an opportunity offered by his friend and his good reputation for the success of loan making by a loan officer.The story of Moishe is a vivid example in explaining how fate and character of a man is inseparable and at the same time interacting with each other.
It is Moishe’s fate that he is illiterate because of his background, and this failed him in applying for a job as a janitor. He then turned to picking up scrap without giving up and grasped the opportunity to start a business. His toughness is formed and shaped by his unfortunate life; and clearly, his positive qualities have changed his fate, from a jobless person to a man who has his own business and who is even able to own a complete block of tenements.Moishe’s story is not a miracle; instead, it is a combined influence of his fate and his character.
Again, looking back into Al’s case, it is no hard task to define the influence caused by fate and character to his life. Al can be called a loser as he fails in many parts of his life. He is immature, wishy-washy and emotional; incomplete for not being a “man”; he is not heartless though he has unnecessary worries over everything. With all these weak characteristics and has the acceptation with the fact that he is a loser, it is sure that he is not going to make any changes in order to have an enjoyable life.
It is easy to predict his life: it is pretty sure that he is not changing even though he is not satisfied with his life. Thus, his destiny is staying the same as his character is not changing, while his character was constantly shaped by his past experiences, which is his fate. To go deeper in to the case of Moishe, the Jewish young man, there is one thing should not be missed out, which is his chance encounter. Encounter can be briefly defined as any meeting that is unexpected and sudden (Oxford 2011), while the word “chance” makes it clear that the meeting is unplanned and happened without any prediction.
Again, looking into the experiences of Moishe, he succeeded because he grasped the opportunity. But what if he was not offered a golden opportunity, which is his chance encounter, would he still able to become a wealthy man? I guess he would still be picking up scraps in the streets instead. I believe people’s encounters are decided by their fates. For me, the factors for the success of Moishe are his positive character and his fate: his past experiences and his opportunities offered.
Coming back to the topic of Al’s life, I think that he did not have his chance encounter; and if he is staying the same way, he would not have it in the future either. His encounters in life are not graceful at all. He is not happy with his wife, Betty, and stay in marriage just because of his kids; he is not happy with his family dog, Suzy, and wants Sam, the dog he used to have, back; he is worrying about being laid off and losing his job; he is not happy with paying for the car of Sandy, his sister-in-law.He does not have the sense of belonging in his house with his family.
To Al, his encounters in life are awful enough to make his a loser in many aspects. However, fate is not the sole factor for his unfavourable encounters. According to Colleen Seifert, Ph. D, professor of psychology at the University of Michigan, “90% of what happens to us is actually brought about by the way we think” (as qtd in Berg 2009).
She is convinced that if one is thinking about what one wants and imagining the situations of the event, one is more likely to succeed. Preparing your mind for a certain behaviour increases (by as much as 50 percent) the chance that you will pull that behaviour off” (Seifert 2009).She has been studying this phenomenon and has termed it “predictive encoding”. She did an experiment with 128 undergraduates at the University of Michigan and the predictive encoding hypothesis is proved (Seifert 1993).
I am convinced that Al’s fate is reason for his adverse encounters in life, but his negative thoughts and mind-set should also be blamed. Al is not satisfied with his life and feels depressed with everything he encounters.For instance, he complains about his family, his lover and his dog: “Sandy! Betty and Alex and Mary! Jill! And Suzy the god-damn dog! ” (Carver 124). He is always negative towards everything but he never take action to make changes neither mentally nor physically, that’s why, according to Seifert, Al is less likely to have his chance encounter, as “ordinary perception of features in the environment leads to automatic recognition of opportunities already prepared in memory” (Seifert 198), not to mention every little thing that he encounters in all aspects of life.
In short, just as Al’s story has shown, I am convinced that one’s destiny and character are constantly influencing and interacting with each other, which shapes one’s present and future. In other words, it is incorrect to claim solely that destiny decides character, or character is destiny.