Sunday, July 13, 2008

Brief as Amicus Curiae

[Noting that some people might be overwhelmed by the long-form ten-page essay ("A Most Moral, Mighty, Magnificent Mouse") below, my friend Shylock the Squirrel, formerly a moneylender and now a respected attorney, filed a redacted version with the court.]

Reepicheep's Sanity: In Brief

In determining sanity, the major questions are these:

  1. Does he understand right and wrong?

  2. Does he suffer from mental impairment, like dementia, depression, etc? If so, to what degree?

  3. Can he predict the consequences of his actions?

  4. Does he have the capacity to understand and to commit himself to legal agreements?

  5. Is he a functioning adult in his society and/or environment?

  6. Does he exercise good judgment?

The defense lawyer's arguments address each of the above in detail. The scope of this brief concerns number 6: Does the defendant exercise good judgment? The burden of proof should lie with the prosecution. Still, I will point out a few points in his favor.

The prosecution claims, “Reepicheep acknowledges no reason to avoid danger in any instance.” And yet, how often do you see Reepicheep actually challenge someone to a duel? He hints about it, but actually does so only once: in the aftermath of the unfortunate tail-swinging incident.

For our valorous vermin, violence, swordplay, and recklessness are not always the solution.

Surrounded by invisible enemies (on the Dufflepud's island), he counsels against fighting, arguing that they would die defending the Queen, but they would still die—and so would she.

Encountering the Sea Serpent, he alone stays rational, shouting, “Don't fight—push!” When the men follow his advice they escape (but do not defeat) the serpent.

True, he seems foolhardy about the dragon. He begins, “With your Majesty's leave—“ but Caspian interrupts. “No, Reepicheep,” the King says very firmly, “you are not to attempt a single combat with it.” If he intended single combat, especially if he thought he could kill a dragon single-pawed, that would be questionable indeed. But he never finishes his sentence. More likely the mouse intended to request leading the group charge. There is no direct evidence to the contrary; I defy the prosecution to prove otherwise.

When they land on Ramandu's island, Reepicheep guesses that the banquet table contains poisoned food—and does not test that hypothesis. Like any sensible person, he errs on the side of caution.

True, he seeks glory and adventure. In “The Dark Island” chapter, he bullies the others into entering the foreboding Darkness. Yet he bullies them not physically, but by his superior moral strength. Eventually, Caspian agrees, knowing that Reepicheep is right.

Later, when the company are debating whether to sail east to the end of the world, the sailors begin mutinous mutterings. Reepicheep, without disparaging others' choices, states that he will continue the quest, alone, and by any means possible, until he either attains his goal or dies honorably.

“Hear, hear” says a sailor, adding “I'm not going to be outdone by a mouse.”

He is the gadly, the conscience, the custodian of the company's honor. In Christ, the merest mouse is mightier than men.

As Reepicheep prepares to sail, alone, over the world's edge, he removes his sword and flings it away, announcing, “I shall need it no more.” He goes boldly (but humbly) to his last adventure, confident that the tool he used to right wrongs in an imperfect world will be unnecessary in a perfect paradise.

To some, it may seem that Reepicheep always rushes into danger, but an astute scholar sees differently. He is free to take risks and seek glory. We may doubt his priorities, but his sanity is safe.

Reepicheep has his foibles and imperfections, but he checks them. His behavior is neither erratic nor uncontrolled. He is a functioning adult mouse: lucid, intelligent, moral, responsible, emotionally stable, legally competent, capable of reason, and possessing good judgment.

Based on this evidence, I find it highly unlikely that the Court would choose to sign commitment papers—unless the prosecution attempted bribery, which, like Reepicheep, they are too honorable to do. (And the Court is doubtless too honest to accept.)


Jon said...

Just what exactly are the requirements for commitment according to Narnian law? You've only covered the requirements for his commitment here, not in Narnia. Seeing how he's more likely to just be poisoned or fed to a cat here than committed, I think it would be relevant to include more detail about the Narnian health care system and the laws that govern it.

Carrie said...

I must admit, this in brief section does indeed make a strong case that while Reepicheep is indeed daring, he is not --actually-- foolhardy. I will need to reread the books in order to make a more educated decision.

I also think that Jon's points are valid. The first rule of political science is that you can't apply one set of institutional rules to another country. Here, the very fact that Reapicheep is literate would be enough to get him committed. Don't forget that.

Gail said...

No; the fact that Reepicheep is literate would be enough to get the court-appointed psychologist committed. As I imply in my longer essay.

Krenn said...

I maintain that Reepicheep IS foolhardy, but that being foolhardy is not a sign of insanity, and Reepicheep is perfectly entitled to choose death before the slightes hint of dishonor.

Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

Good point, though sometimes it's hard to arrive to definite conclusions