The Emperor’s Club is a fascinating movie about a teacher’s moral struggle between doing what’s right and wrong. The plot of this movie revolves around the relationship of a history teacher; William Hundert and his students. Mr. Hundert develops a relationship with one of his students Sedgewick Bell, and his actions leads him to start questioning his moral conscience of whether what he was doing was right. Sedgewick Bell, son of a senator, was a rebellious student who constantly challenged Mr. Hundert and didn’t take school earnestly. Mr.
Hundert saw great potential in Sedgewick and began to take a personal interest in trying to motivate and develop him into becoming a better student. His personal interest in helping Sedgewick begins to backfire throughout the movie; several times he goes against his better judgment and does what he feels is right, instead of acting upon what he knows is right. There are many interesting points that are highlighted in this movie. In the beginning, the Dean of the school welcomes all the incoming students with a speech that sets the main theme for the whole movie.
His speech concluded with the quote, “The end depends upon the beginning. ” This theme was elaborated when Mr. Hundert gave his first lesson to his students. He used the example of the plaque that was hanging over his classroom door. The plague described a king, Shutruk-Nahunte, who was the destroyer Sippar. This particular king who ruled and conquered was utterly forgotten in history. Why? “Because great ambition and conquest without contribution is without significance. ” The point the Mr. Hundert was making to his students was what you contribute to society will determine how you lived your life.
There are those who may rule and conquer but without a positive contribution that will surpass your own lifetime, your “end” becomes meaningless and forgotten. But to accomplish great deeds one would have to be a good leader with followers that share the same ideas and values. As a good leader, they will be able to inspire confidence and support among the people who are needed to achieve the goals. Sedgewick character develops in the movie by being testing and disrespectful towards Mr. Hundert. This causes Mr. Hundert to arrange a meet with his father, a Senator. The reaction Mr. Hundert gets from Sedgewick father eiterates the behavior of his son in school. Sedgewick’s father seemed to care less about what’s going on with Sedgewick. Sedgwick was already considered a failure and that Mr. Hundert was just wasting his time. This can be seen when his father keeps changing the subject of the meeting and was more involved in finding a match for his Cuban cigar. The offering of the cigar was significant because it was a considered a friendly gesture to Mr. Hundert, more of a bribe to shut him up about the situation of his son. It made Mr. Hundert feel uncomfortable and uncertain as to what to do.
This just shows the kind of character his father really was and how his actions affect Sedgewick’s life. Sedgewick throughout the movie was looking for approval and acceptance from a father figure. Whenever he got an approval or an acknowledgement from his teacher he began to do better. Mr. Hundert’s moral point of view begins to be tested when he visits Sedgewick, outside of class, and loans him his old history book. Mr. Hundert actions in allowing Sedgewick to use his own book are somewhat an unethical decision. Moral point of view requires impartiality. Even though, Mr.
Hundert was trying to encourage Sedgewick to learn and apply himself, he did not make that book available to the other students in the class. It may appear he was showing favoritism to Sedgewick by giving him an advantage over the other students. He did not take into consideration the interest of everyone as expressed in the slogan, “What’s fair for one is fair for all”. Mr. Hundert does this because he believes Sedgewick has the potential to win the Mr. Julius Caesar contest. He wanted to empower Sedgewick with the knowledge to be successful. After the meeting with his father, Mr.
Hundert felt sorry for Sedgewick and began to understand his rebellious nature. Sedgewick father did not pay any attention to him and had already written him off as a failure. Sedgewick starts reading the book Mr. Hundert gave him and begins to show great improvement in his studies. Mr. Hundert involvement turned Sedgewick around and he began participating and doing well on his essay exams. Sedgewick received a C- on his first exam and Mr. Hundert was very pleased with his efforts. The school each year participates in a Mr. Julius Caesar contest that awarded the top three students an opportunity to compete with one another to ee who knew more about Roman history. The three contestants were Sedgewick, Deepak and Louis. Sedgewick was not one of the three students that were supposed to be in the contest. Mr. Hundert had manipulated Sedgewick’s essay exam grade from an A- to and A+. This put him above another student to become the top three students in the class. This was an unethical decision. Manipulation shows a lack of respect for the essential humanity of others, in this case Sedgewick’s classmates. Mr. Hundert believed Sedgewick could win and gave him that opportunity. As a teacher, Mr. Hundert should have never changed Sedgewick’s grade.
The moment he decided to change it, Mr. Hundert compromised his integrity as a teacher, because he indirectly helped Sedgewick cheat. It was not fair to the other student who respectfully earned that opportunity to participate to become Mr. Julius Caesar. Teachers should never allow their personal emotions affect the way they treat students. The night before the Mr. Julius Caesar contest, Sedgewick goes to the library at night and tries to check out the reference book. Sedgewick was trying to obtain the reference book over the night so he could use it to study before the contest.
The problem for Sedgewick was the reference book was not allowed to be checked out of the library. The reference book was suppose to stay in the library so all students have the opportunity to use it when they need it. The library denied Sedgewick the book and he proceeded to con the librarian to let him check it out. Mr. Hundert from down the hall over hears what Sedgewick was doing and comes to aide him. Mr. Hundert told the librarian, Sedgewick was one of his best students and vouched for his good character. He told her that Sedgewick would bring the book back first thing in the morning like he promised.
The librarian with the approval from Mr. Hundert allows Sedgewick to take the book. Both the librarian and Mr. Hundert again, make an unethical decision. The librarian works for the school and has an obligation to uphold the school’s policies and riles. She should have stayed firm and denied Sedgewick the book even with Mr. Hundert’s approval. The librarian compromised her integrity by allowing this to happen. She should have known it was an unfair advantage the book would give Sedgewick. Mr. Hundert role in aiding Sedgewick to obtain the reference book in ways again approved cheating.
He also knew reference books were not allowed to be checked out. He knew it would give Sedgewick an advantage over the other contestant. The Mr. Julius Caesar took place the following day. All three of the contestants were stationed on stage in front of all their colleagues, teachers and family. Mr. Hundert headed the contest by asking each contestant a question about Roman history. After each round, the person that did not miss a question would be allowed to continue to the next round. Louis was the first to miss a question and was eliminated. The last two contestants survived several rounds.
Deepak answered each question correctly and so did Sedgewick. Mr. Hundert observed Sedgewick’s behavior while answering each question and discovered he was cheating. Shocked by what he discovered, he decided sits down next to the headmaster and advised him that Sedgewick was cheating. The headmaster dismisses Mr. Hundert’s discovery and advises him to continue on. There are several reasons why the headmaster decided to ignore this situation. St. Benedict’s School for Boys reputation would be in jeopardy if cheating was revealed. He did it for the good of the school.
The school was built on the foundation of having the best and brightest boys. If cheating was exposed it would hurt the creditability of its students. The Senator was also in attendance for Sedgewick’s contest. The head master did not want to embarrass the Senator and expose his sons cheating. Such exposure may ruin the Senator status with Washington and in return may have great consequences on the school. The headmaster’s actions reflected those of a classical utilitarianism. An action is right if only if it produces the greatest balance of pleasure over pain for everyone. Even though, Mr.
Hundert did not expose Sedgewick’s cheating, he decides to rectify the situation by asking a question that he knew Sedgewick would not know the answer to. Sedgewick of course, misses the question and loses the Mr. Julius Caesar to Depaak. At this point, Mr. Hundert knew he had made a mistake with Sedgewick. He realized he had just thrown away someone else’s opportunity to be Mr. Julius Caesar to Sedgewick. Mr. Hundert had misplaced his good judgment on Sedgewick. Twenty years later, Sedgewick decides to re-enact the Mr. Julius Caesar contest and invites Mr. Hundert to host the game.
Sedgewick at this time again wanted to prove to everyone he was the best and to Mr. Hundert he was not a cheater. Mr. Hundert accepts his invitation and to his dismay discovers Sedgewick was cheating once again. Right there, Mr. Hundert knew Sedgewick would never change. His character has developed to the point where he lost all sense of integrity and honesty. Later in the evening, Mr. Hundert confronts Sedgewick in the bathroom and told him that he knew he was cheating. He tells Sedgewick, “All of us at some point are forced to look at ourselves in the mirror and see who we really are. ” Again, Sedgewick did not care and told Mr.
Hundert he would do anything to get to the top and if lying and cheating was what he had to do to get there then he would do it. Sedgewick did not realize his son was also in the bathroom with them. He had overheard the whole conversation and walks out of the bathroom sadden by his father’s character. At that moment, Sedgewick finally realizes that he had become who he despised the most, his own father. “A man’s character is his fate”, is a quote said by a Greek philosopher Heraclites. This was the motto of St. Benedict’s School for Boys and was a concept Mr. Hundert tried to instill in his students.
The word for character in ancient Greek was “ethos”, from which we get our word “ethics’. In this movie, each character faces issue in regarding to ethics and morality. Whether is was Mr. Hundert, Sedgewick, Senator Bell or the Librarian they all were put to the test on doing what they thought was right or wrong. A person’s character can be determined by their values and morals. By a person’s good values they tend to have a positive affect on others and even on society. They go about surrounding themselves with positive things and commit themselves to knowing what’s right and wrong, but more importantly acting upon it.
A fate of a man’s character is not determined by a single failure or a solitary success, but by how he lived his life. The role of ethics according to Aristotle is to enable us to lead successful, rewarding lives-the kinds of lives that we would call “the good life. ” Bibliography Boatright, John R. Ethics and the Conduct of Business. 5th ed. New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall, 2007. Dubrin, Andrew J. Leadership Research Findings, Practice, and Skills. 4th ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004.