The movie The Emperor’s Club is an inspiring film about the quest for purpose and happiness. All men strive to become better persons, lead meaningful lives and make a difference in other people’s lives. The film has a number of characters that mirrors the central ethics of character, virtue, practical wisdom and flourishing. The story revolves around Professor Hundert, a classics professor who is passionate about his work and has made it a mission to effect change in his students’ lives. Hundert finds inspiration in helping students become better persons by teaching them to be with integrity, honesty and academic excellence. Hundert has often been confronted with situations that test his honesty, like when he learned that a student was cheating in his famous Mr. Julius Caesar competition. He kept it a secret for 25 years until the same group of students was reunited for another round of Mr. Julius Caesar.
Again, the same student was cheating and Hundert gave a difficult question to throw-off the cheating student. Hundert confronts the student and the student tells him that everybody cheats. Hundert was a man of integrity; he knew that cheaters did not deserve to win as they undermine ethical character. Hundert also has practical wisdom; he has learned through experience that life does not always go smoothly and that the effort he may have given to his students may not be enough to form their character.
At the end of the story, Hundert realizes his flourishing in his student Blythe, Blythe was one of his best students but sadly was not given the chance to shine in his class. Blythe has become successful in his life and have always credited Hundert for his teachings and guidance. Blythe now sends his son to the same school and is also in Hundert’s class. One’s flourishing is evident in how he/she has influenced other people through his/her willingness to serve a greater purpose in life. Hundert had tremendous influence as a teacher and is in the position to train young men to form ethical characters. Although Hundert felt he failed as a teacher and to feel stagnant in his work since he was turned down to be the new school administrator. After the reunion with his former students, Hundert realizes that his life’s work as a teacher had not been in vain, he may not be successful in terms of finances and career, but he has formed students to lead lives with integrity, honesty and fairness.
In contrast, one of Hundert’s students, Bell depicted the kind of character that destroys the moral fabric of our society. Bell was wealthy, powerful and successful; he was also a cheater, obsessed with winning and craved for more popularity, attention and authority in the cloak of public service and political ambition. Hundert had taken to Bell, because he saw an opportunity to become an agent of change, to teach Bell to become morally upright. Sadly, Bell’s devious nature had long been formed before Hundert came along. Bell was dishonest; he tried to take advantage when he has the opportunity to do so. After the class reunion, Bell announced his political ambition and it was evident he used the reunion to further his personal ambitions.
Bell also had poor practical wisdom, when Hundert confronted him about his cheating; Bell simply replied it does not matter because all people cheated. This frame of thought is irrational and does not justify his actions, although cheating really has no justification. In terms of flourishing, Bell may have led a successful life with wealth and power, but he has a poor life in the sense that he expends his energy to amass wealth and power without giving much thought to his character and soul.
To answer, the question “what person should I be?” I will definitely say that I will be like Blythe, accepting of one’s weaknesses but strives to become the best in terms of one’s talents and abilities. I would be like Blythe who had not been consumed by material wealth and to live a more ethical existence and to acknowledge how other people has contributed to my growth and formation as a person.
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