The Arabian Nights Curiosity, Fate, And Free Will On The Limitations Of Humanity

1714 words - 7 pages

Producing both beneficial and harmful outcomes, curiosity seems both a vice and virtue in The Arabian Nights, specifically in "The Third Dervish's Tale". Its effects are contradictory, which produces an ambiguity around the nature of curiosity. This ambiguity reflects the theme of Fate versus free will by creating situations that lead to questions, specifically, "How much of one's life is controlled by destiny and how much is controlled by choice?" but this question is answered by more ambiguity. Even though the answer is indeterminate, its implication is significant: humanity is incapable of understanding greater forces like Fate, free will, and curiosity. Thus, curiosity develops the theme of Fate versus free will, which in turn, expounds upon the larger theme of human limitations. In the first episode of the third dervish's tale, curiosity dictates his actions, which portray the powers of free will and Fate. Initially, his curiosity to explore the islands leads to simple pleasure: "One day I decided to go on an excursion to the islands, and I...went there, enjoyed myself, and came back" (114). The narrator states "I decided," suggesting that the dervish was in full control of his actions and consciously chose to explore, which is an example of his free will. Furthermore, since his city stands "on the shore of a vast sea that contained many islands" (114), his curiosity takes the form of a keen awareness of his surroundings, which is good because a king should be aware of his kingdom; thus, initially, his healthy curiosity allows him to gain more knowledge about his kingdom. However, his curiosity expands into desire, and "driven by a desire to give [himself] to the sea," (114) he leaves his kingdom. The wording of his motivation, "a desire" instead of "his desire" suggests that he does not take responsibility for his actions; it is not his desire that motivated him, and therefore, they are not his actions. He implies that a different force, Fate, coerced him to leave his comfortable living and to search for more. However, this type of curiosity, tainted with a desire for more than a kingdom, leads to a shipwreck. Therefore, within the same situation of sea voyaging, the unpredictable effects of curiosity and the inexplicable powers of Fate and free will are portrayed. When curiosity is controlled by free will, it yields simple pleasures, but when it takes the form of an unknown desire, it results in misfortune. However, it is difficult to determine when exactly curiosity changed its form from mere interest to a mysterious desire, and thus, it is impossible to establish precisely when the dervish's will was overwhelmed by Fate. The fact that the dervish cannot decisively pinpoint when the situation fell out of his control indicates man's limited ability to define the line between the influences of Fate and free will. Even though he can attribute a situation to Fate, it may not necessarily be true, and the situation may simply be a result...

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