Literature and Society essay

The Stonemason is a five-act play written by Cormac McCarthy. The storyline of the play actually focuses on the misfortunes that befell the Telfair family over a three year period. This paper would first like to give a brief summary of the play, The Stonemason in order to make the analysis on the character of Ben clearer. The main character of this play is Ben. Although his family was a successful middle-class Black family, he gave up his university study in Psychology to become a stonemason like his grandfather.

The reason behind this is because he loved his grandfather so much and was so attached to his grandfather, who is 100 years old, that he wanted to follow his grandfather’s footsteps. Aside from this, Ben also wants to instill all the family values his grandfather taught him into his life. These values include honesty, integrity, and hard work. He lived a peaceful life, contented with the woman he married even if his wife was somewhat not contented with their life because she badly wanted to become a lawyer.

Ben’s mother is the typical kind of mother in a sense that she took good care of her family and was always by their side whenever they had problems. However, tragedy struck the family one by one. First, there was the failed marriage of Ben’s sister; followed by Ben’s nephew becoming involved in crimes and eventually becoming an addict; he died of drug-related causes. These problems were partly due to the negligence of Ben’s sister. Lastly, there was the suicide of Ben’s father, lovingly referred to in the play as Big Ben, due to financial problems that he had encountered in his masonry business.

Based on this, this student finds Ben’s beliefs to be that of a traditional, old-schooled but very righteous man. This is due to fact that he wanted to instill all the values he had learned from his grandfather into his life. Black men at that time were oftentimes discriminated in the society and were thought of as the “bad lot”. This means that Blacks were frequently associated with crimes like robbery, burglary, and others. This goes to show that the Blacks at that time do not entirely have the right breeding and attitude. They were also uneducated and as such, they were deemed stupid.

Because of this, they are unable to find decent work and earn enough money so they tend to resolve to criminal offenses in order to survive daily living. However, Ben was apparently not one of these usual bad guys. Instead, he chose to live a decent and dignified life in accordance to what he has learned and seen from his grandfather. This is one evidence or proof that Ben is an old-fashioned, traditional, and righteous man. Another reason why this student says that Ben is a traditional and righteous man is because he shunned away modernity and instead chose to stay in the laid-back lifestyle that he had seen in his grandfather.

One good example of this was Ben’s decision to leave the university and to turn his back on a degree in psychology in favor of stonemasonry. Stonemasonry, as is common knowledge, is an old and a traditional profession highly associated with Blacks or African-Americans. Ben’s beliefs may be traditional and old-fashioned but they definitely demonstrate his strong and unwavering principles in life. With his family background at the start of the story as well as the opportunity accorded to him to study in the university, Ben could have chosen an easy life but his principles won and took over him.

One of his profound principles is that there is no substitute for hard work. Perhaps this is the main reason why he chose to live a simple life and to work as stonemasonry. One thing that is not entirely clear or that seems to be weird in the story is Ben’s belief and his actions. As one proceeds in reading the play, it is very evident that there are disparities between the actions of Ben and his beliefs in life. For one, his beliefs are somewhat old-fashioned and patterned after those of his grandfather’s but his actions or decisions in life are not entirely in coordination with these beliefs.

One good example to illustrate this is his choice of wife. Ben is traditional and old-fashioned but the wife he had chosen epitomizes modern-day sentiments of women. For one, she badly wanted to become a lawyer. This is something that is not old and traditional because if it were, then Ben’s wife would not have aspired for something so high or far-fetched. Traditional women would have been more domesticated, opting to stay home and take care of the family rather than be liberated and aspire for occupations that are highly associated with males.

Ben is not naive. This is clearly evident with his way of thinking and his decisions and actions. He may appear naive at first because he advocates old school ideas and is very upright when it comes to values and principles. However, his actions and decisions were not entirely those of naivety. Also, Ben is not naive; he just wanted a simple and laidback lifestyle that is similar to those of his forefathers. The reason for this is because he probably did not want any complications that could bring about more problems to the family.

Ben’s belief that the values of honesty, integrity, and others can still strive in today’s world is not naivety but is actually a hope: a hope that he will be able to contribute some improvement into this world by imparting these values to other people. Ben is not living in the past. For one, if he is indeed living in the past then he would have chosen a wife who is not as modern and as liberated. Ben is struggling to live his life in the same manner as the previous generations did because for him, this brings less complexities and problems. Bibliography McCarthy, C. (1994). The Stonemason: A Play in Five Acts. USA: Ecco Press.