The Last Samurai, By Edward Zwick

1230 words - 5 pages

Human nature compels individuals to form personal paradigms and aspire to follow them; however, when personal paradigms conflict with social paradigms feelings of apathy and grievance will arise. In the film The Last Samurai, directed by Edward Zwick, Captain Nathan Algren experiences feelings of apathy and grievance caused by a conflict between personal and social paradigms. Algren’s conflicting paradigms spawn a transition from an apathetic demeanor to a man content with his personal paradigm and it’s relation to the predominant social paradigms. Algren begins his journey with alcoholism; his method of choice employed to numb merciless emotions of apathy and divergence caused by his misaligned paradigm. Algren continues the evolution within by clearing his mind of the past to discern the values of his self reflected by the samurai. Finally, Algren applies his re-found values to his life by demonstrating his personal paradigm and inspiring others to do the same. Overall, Algren experiences a series of phases all of which shape him into a self-actualized human being.
Firstly, Algren’s feelings of divergence and indifference sprout from a personal paradigm which dolefully conflicts with the social paradigm of his peers. The social paradigm in America assumes that all natives are savages and require annihilation. Conversely, Algren believes them to be innocent people who do not deserve to die because of their ethnicity. Algren’s personal paradigm concerning the natives disagrees with the predominant social paradigm; leading Algren to believe he has no choice but to conform. For instance, during the dinner meeting with Mr. Omura, Algren is asked to help train and lead the emperor’s army in Japan. Though Algren disagrees with the thought of killing more undeserving people he accepts anyways, stating “I have been hired to suppress the rebellion of yet another rebel leader. Apparently, this is the only job for which I am suited. I am beset by the ironies of life.” Algren’s ironies of life illustrate his opposition to senseless, unfair wars yet beleaguer him consistently to conform, generating emotions of loathe, apathy and dissent. To conclude, Algren’s chronic emotions are a result of his distressing conflict between paradigms.
Consequently, Algren adopts alcoholism as a method used to deaden the feelings of apathy and discrepancy he experiences caused by his conflicting paradigm. Murderous raids killing thousands of natives begin to mercilessly plague Algren’s mind and soul with emotions of guilt and apathy. While his social paradigm believes he must be proud of these innumerable murders, Algren cannot help but feel he has slaughtered countless innocent people. Uncertain of how to live with this misaligned paradigm, Algren implements alcoholism into his life to numb his pain. While on the ship over to Japan he reflects on this by saying “There is some comfort in the emptiness of the sea, no past, no future.” This proves that Algren feels astray...

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