IS THE PARADOX OF HEDONISM THE CENTRAL THEME OF THE NOVEL?

Use this forum to discuss the May 2018 Book of the Month, "The Sword Swallower and a Chico Kid" by Gary Robinson
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Jeyasivananth
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IS THE PARADOX OF HEDONISM THE CENTRAL THEME OF THE NOVEL?

Post by Jeyasivananth » 07 May 2018, 09:27

The paradox of hedonism claims the pursuit of pleasure can be self-defeating. Constant pleasure-seeking may not yield lasting pleasure or happiness in the long run. In other words, in order to be happy, we must aim at things other than one’s own happiness probably seek out to help others in need. This is justified in the character of Gary Robinson whose hedonistic lifestyle only begets misery and depression.

Do you think this is the message of the author to the readers?

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Post by Kendra M Parker » 08 May 2018, 12:00

No, I think that the author's message is really about finding out who you truly are and coming to terms with that. Alcohol and hedonism are simply ways that we try to hide from ourselves, and sometimes it requires a significant event to help that person hiding in hedonism truly examine himself.

Duke was lost in alcohol until he wound up in prison. While in prison, he examined himself, his choices and his life and found peace within himself. He made changes to his life and never again went back to alcohol. He was unapologetic, but he knew himself.

I think this is reinforced in the finale of the book when Gary has his near-death experience. He is forced to look deeper within himself and discover what it is that pushed him to make the choices he made. From there, he emerges as a new person, and he is able to live with confidence from that point forward, making amends and fixing his life.

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Post by Jeyasivananth » 09 May 2018, 14:18

Kendra M Parker wrote:
08 May 2018, 12:00
No, I think that the author's message is really about finding out who you truly are and coming to terms with that. Alcohol and hedonism are simply ways that we try to hide from ourselves, and sometimes it requires a significant event to help that person hiding in hedonism truly examine himself.

Duke was lost in alcohol until he wound up in prison. While in prison, he examined himself, his choices and his life and found peace within himself. He made changes to his life and never again went back to alcohol. He was unapologetic, but he knew himself.

I think this is reinforced in the finale of the book when Gary has his near-death experience. He is forced to look deeper within himself and discover what it is that pushed him to make the choices he made. From there, he emerges as a new person, and he is able to live with confidence from that point forward, making amends and fixing his life.
Well observed and validated. Yes the book, in the end, is ablur self-discovery and making peace with oneself.

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Post by gen_g » 10 May 2018, 08:34

Kendra M Parker wrote:
08 May 2018, 12:00
No, I think that the author's message is really about finding out who you truly are and coming to terms with that. Alcohol and hedonism are simply ways that we try to hide from ourselves, and sometimes it requires a significant event to help that person hiding in hedonism truly examine himself.

Duke was lost in alcohol until he wound up in prison. While in prison, he examined himself, his choices and his life and found peace within himself. He made changes to his life and never again went back to alcohol. He was unapologetic, but he knew himself.

I think this is reinforced in the finale of the book when Gary has his near-death experience. He is forced to look deeper within himself and discover what it is that pushed him to make the choices he made. From there, he emerges as a new person, and he is able to live with confidence from that point forward, making amends and fixing his life.
Well said, I think this novel is about the need for introspection, and to find the courage to acknowledge the fact that there are changes that one needs to make in order to become a better person, and finally, to take said changes.

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Post by desantismt_17 » 12 May 2018, 12:33

I think hedonism is a theme in the book, but I wouldn't call it the central theme. At its core, this book is about figuring out who you are and learning to like that person, whether that requires admiting truths you dislike or battering away the layers of drugs and alcohol to get to the broken shell beneath. That said, I do agree that too much pleasure begets sorrow. If you force yourself into pleasure, anything else will seem like misery.
You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

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Post by Espie » 13 May 2018, 20:44

Jeyasivananth wrote:
07 May 2018, 09:27
The paradox of hedonism claims the pursuit of pleasure can be self-defeating. Constant pleasure-seeking may not yield lasting pleasure or happiness in the long run. In other words, in order to be happy, we must aim at things other than one’s own happiness probably seek out to help others in need. This is justified in the character of Gary Robinson whose hedonistic lifestyle only begets misery and depression.

Do you think this is the message of the author to the readers?
As what Gary said in his letter posted in this forum (viewtopic.php?f=81&t=67002), his focus was more on the journey of "redemption" from the mistakes of the past towards betterment and achievement of feats after those failures or defeats. After all, we're all human beings who fail or commit a mistake or two in our own lifetimes. I believe that what matters is that we ultimately find the reason and have the willpower to start moving on (whether up, forward, standing still against the storm, or just simply "standing" back up from the fall depending on the individual's uniqueness, circumstances and other choices).
"Life has many different chapters for us. One bad chapter doesn't mean it's the end of the book."-Unknown
"To err is human; to forgive, divine."-Alexander Pope
"Put GOD first; He'll bless your efforts with success."-Proverbs

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Post by holsam_87 » 17 May 2018, 00:16

More focus on self-discovery and redemption than anything.
Samantha Holtsclaw

“We’ve all got both light and dark inside us. What matters is the part we choose to act on. That’s who we really are.”

—J. K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

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Post by gkgurley » 18 May 2018, 16:39

I had not considered the idea of Hedonism. I would not consider Gary a Hedonist, and he certainly would not consider himself such. I think he's an addict and alcoholic who feels neglected by God and is searching for a spiritual connection. I would not call hedonism a theme by any means because I do not think Duke is hedonist, either, and the pursuit of pleasure isn't necessarily what addiction is. Yes, both men make selfish choices, but their motives are to discover who they are and feel secure in their separate ideas of spirituality. In their conversations, they talk about living in the moment. That's more reflective of mindfulness in religions like Hinduism and Buddhism. The choices these men make and their troublesome behavior is not a hedonist paradox but the trap of alcoholism and addiction, which are fueled more by insecurity and the need to cope than a constant pursuit of pleasure.

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Post by ValBookReviews » 25 May 2018, 13:57

Huh? I can't even grasp the question, let alone answer it. But, if I must, I do not think this is the message of the author to the readers, which has anything to with the "paradox of hedonism" being the premise of the story.
"And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life". (Revelation 20:12 (NKJV) :reading-7:

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Post by lavellan » 26 May 2018, 23:33

I would definitely agree with your point. Often, people seek out hedonistic lifestyles to fill a void. However, material pleasures usually can't fix emotional trauma or a desire for affection.

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Post by bootsie0126+ » 28 May 2018, 18:06

I do not believe so. It is my understanding that hedonism is based upon the belief that people are motivated by creation of pleasure and happiness and the avoidance of pain. A person choses things that will only bring about true pleasure and happiness. The steer clear of unpleasant or painful things in life. These things could be either pleasant or unpleasant experiences, state, things, properties, events and even people. They value worth based upon pleasure and pain is worthless.


This is not the case for either Duke or Gary. Although Duke found pleasure in getting tattoos, if the hedonism system was the center of the theme of the novel, Duke would never have considered the option of getting a tattoo. Options are weighed based on optimal pleasure without worthless pain. Many of the other things that both characters did would not have been possible if this notion of hedonism was the focus of the book.

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Post by bootsie0126+ » 28 May 2018, 18:14

gkgurley wrote:
18 May 2018, 16:39
I had not considered the idea of Hedonism. I would not consider Gary a Hedonist, and he certainly would not consider himself such. I think he's an addict and alcoholic who feels neglected by God and is searching for a spiritual connection. I would not call hedonism a theme by any means because I do not think Duke is hedonist, either, and the pursuit of pleasure isn't necessarily what addiction is. Yes, both men make selfish choices, but their motives are to discover who they are and feel secure in their separate ideas of spirituality. In their conversations, they talk about living in the moment. That's more reflective of mindfulness in religions like Hinduism and Buddhism. The choices these men make and their troublesome behavior is not a hedonist paradox but the trap of alcoholism and addiction, which are fueled more by insecurity and the need to cope than a constant pursuit of pleasure.
So true, so true! Their choices were based on their addictions to drugs and alcohol and the need to dull the pain of past events and circumstances by self-medicating with substance abuse. Hedonism is based on total pleasure and happiness, what these men chose was self-gratification to a situation at the time. Addiction is a coping mechanism to something in a person's life, it is not the pursuit of happiness. Most people who are addicted to some type of substance knows that they can achieve what they think is pleasure, they understand that it is simply a means of coping.

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Post by Jeyasivananth » 29 May 2018, 10:50

Espie wrote:
13 May 2018, 20:44
Jeyasivananth wrote:
07 May 2018, 09:27
The paradox of hedonism claims the pursuit of pleasure can be self-defeating. Constant pleasure-seeking may not yield lasting pleasure or happiness in the long run. In other words, in order to be happy, we must aim at things other than one’s own happiness probably seek out to help others in need. This is justified in the character of Gary Robinson whose hedonistic lifestyle only begets misery and depression.

Do you think this is the message of the author to the readers?
As what Gary said in his letter posted in this forum (viewtopic.php?f=81&t=67002), his focus was more on the journey of "redemption" from the mistakes of the past towards betterment and achievement of feats after those failures or defeats. After all, we're all human beings who fail or commit a mistake or two in our own lifetimes. I believe that what matters is that we ultimately find the reason and have the willpower to start moving on (whether up, forward, standing still against the storm, or just simply "standing" back up from the fall depending on the individual's uniqueness, circumstances and other choices).
Well said!! Considering the autobiographical elements in the book may be the author hoped that his life errors and experiences would enrich others.

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Post by Espie » 29 May 2018, 16:16

Jeyasivananth wrote:
29 May 2018, 10:50
Espie wrote:
13 May 2018, 20:44
Jeyasivananth wrote:
07 May 2018, 09:27
The paradox of hedonism claims the pursuit of pleasure can be self-defeating. Constant pleasure-seeking may not yield lasting pleasure or happiness in the long run. In other words, in order to be happy, we must aim at things other than one’s own happiness probably seek out to help others in need. This is justified in the character of Gary Robinson whose hedonistic lifestyle only begets misery and depression.

Do you think this is the message of the author to the readers?
As what Gary said in his letter posted in this forum (viewtopic.php?f=81&t=67002), his focus was more on the journey of "redemption" from the mistakes of the past towards betterment and achievement of feats after those failures or defeats. After all, we're all human beings who fail or commit a mistake or two in our own lifetimes. I believe that what matters is that we ultimately find the reason and have the willpower to start moving on (whether up, forward, standing still against the storm, or just simply "standing" back up from the fall depending on the individual's uniqueness, circumstances and other choices).
Well said!! Considering the autobiographical elements in the book may be the author hoped that his life errors and experiences would enrich others.
That's a possibility, indeed. Turning life's lemons into pies is ideal.
"Life has many different chapters for us. One bad chapter doesn't mean it's the end of the book."-Unknown
"To err is human; to forgive, divine."-Alexander Pope
"Put GOD first; He'll bless your efforts with success."-Proverbs

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Post by lesler » 31 May 2018, 18:44

No, I think the book glorified this type of living, and gave the average reader some unrealistic entertainment. Lots of people use books to escape, myself included. This book was almost a fantasy to me.

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