I recently received a review of Big Slick that mentions a moral compass. More specifically, it says: "In reading this novel I finally understand what it means to lose one's moral compass. I could accept [it] if only the protagonist had lost his way, but unfortunately the author's moral compass is also askew."
It was an interesting comment and made me think about moral compasses (personally, I prefer the moral sextant and the moral astrolabe, but I digress...)
To me, a moral compass is a set of rules we impose upon ourselves about what behavior is right and what behavior is wrong. It's an intangible and somewhat subjective thing. Each person creates a set of rules they can live by and then tries their best to adhere to those rules. Some people use a moral compass recommended to them through a particular religion. Others use a moral compass they learned through their family or their culture. For a society to function well, I think it's important these compasses have a lot of overlap. However, I also think people have variations in their moral compasses. It's likely we would all agree that it is immoral to kill. However, I suspect there might be some disagreement amongst us over whether it is immoral to steal food to feed a starving baby.
I disagree that my moral compass is askew (if you've read Big Slick please let me know; if you haven't, why haven't you?), but the comment brings up interesting questions:
- In fiction, is it the author's responsibility to set his or her moral compass to adhere to society's moral compass?
- Is it more important for a novel to espouse certain values or is it okay to leave things in a vague moral place to offer leaping-off points for discussion?
- To whose moral compass should we all synchronize our own moral compasses?
- Is the plot of a novel indicative of an author's moral values? Should it be?
I won't go any further because I'd love to hear your opinions on this matter. Whether you've read Big Slick or not. Whether you use Big Slick as an example or not. Let me know your thoughts. One caveat: if you post something that might spoil the ending of a book for someone who has not read it, please make it clear by entitling your post SPOILER!!!!