Famous Quotes Explained: « We do good; evil is Fortune; We are always right, destiny is always wrong, » « The Ingratitude and Injustice of Men towards Fortune, » , Fables, Book VII, La Fontaine, 1678.
Jean de La Fontaine (1621-1695) was a famous French poet known for his fables, a literary genre in which he excelled. His fables are short stories often featuring anthropomorphic animals, with each fable conveying a moral lesson or an observation about human nature. The fable « The Ingratitude and Injustice of Men towards Fortune » portrays a merchant who initially amasses wealth but later loses his ships and their cargoes, ending up in a difficult situation.
The quote We do good; evil is Fortune; We are always right, destiny is always wrong represents the moral lesson of this fable.
Firstly, La Fontaine emphasizes that both good and evil actions are the result of human choices, not Fortune or destiny. Individuals are responsible for their choices and actions, whether they are good or bad. This reinforces the idea that virtue and vice are human characteristics, and Fortune is merely an external force.
La Fontaine portrays Fortune as an unpredictable and often unjust force that governs human life. It distributes its favors randomly, without regard for merit or morality. This depiction of Fortune reflects the notion that life can be arbitrary and unfair. It is further highlighted by the parallel construction in the quote (We do good/ We are always right; and evil is Fortune/ destiny is always wrong), creating a balancing effect.
The quote suggests that people tend to absolve themselves of responsibility by attributing their successes to their own goodness and their failures to bad luck or Fortune. It is an observation about the human tendency to seek excuses and avoid taking responsibility for their actions. The fabulist warns against ingratitude towards Fortune and the injustice of blaming destiny for one’s misfortunes. He instead encourages taking responsibility and acknowledging that our choices and actions influence our fate.
In summary, this quote highlights the dichotomy between individual responsibility and the role of chance or Fortune in our lives. It underscores the need for discernment and the acceptance of responsibility for our actions, rather than attributing all our successes or failures to external forces. This reflection aligns with the tradition of La Fontaine’s fables, which are both entertaining and rich in teachings about human nature.
We do good; evil is Fortune; We are always right, destiny is always wrong
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