Final Essay

“Koestler, Havel, and You:  Debating a life within the truth chez McAdams”


Arthur Koestler
Arthur Koestler

I read the news today, oh boy…

Koestler and Havel have come back to life.  As their ultimate fan, I hasten to invite both thinkers, as well as you, to my home for the ultimate dinner-table debate.  My European guests begin dinner by complaining about the NFL draft.  But I quickly run out of patience and demand high intellectual compensation for my generous repas.  At first, they are shocked by my rude intervention.  But then, not being strangers to rude behavior, they leap at the opportunity to exchange verbal blows.

HAVEL:  Well, McAdams, if you insist.  I have been rereading Darkness at Noon, and I have come to a momentous conclusion.  I am convinced that my theory of “living in the truth” is so powerful that even Gletkin could be persuaded that it is better to live in the truth than to live in a lie.

KOESTLER:  Nonsense.  Can’t you see that Gletkin would never fit into your ideal world? He has plenty of good reasons for remaining exactly the Neanderthal that he is.

MCADAMS (relieved to get beyond capitalism and sports):  Well, finally the two of you have come up with a compelling topic.  Let’s ask our quiet dinner partner from Notre Dame to decide which of you is right about Gletkin.

At this point, the three of us turn to you (Koestler and Havel have faintly menacing looks in their eyes).

MCADAMS:  Okay, so which of these gentlemen is right?  And don’t think you can please both of these great thinkers at the same time.  I, too, want a clear answer!  And while you’re at it, here’s a related question:  What are the implications of taking one position over the other for Havel’s argument about the attraction of living within the truth?


Vaclav Havel
Vaclav Havel

Please write an essay of no more than five (5), double-spaced, typed pages in which you take a firm stand on these questions.  Note:  you will need to explore both speakers’ underlying assumptions about life under a communist dictatorship.  You will also need to address what it means to live in the truth.

This question is designed to encourage you to “get into the heads” of these writers.  Analyze their arguments, but also feel free to use your imagination.  Use your readings and films.  Choose a strong title for your essay.

Remember:  My expectations are not unreasonable.  I merely expect you to write the best paper you have ever written.

Please send me your essay no later than noon next Thursday, May 5.  Of course, please feel free to turn in your essay earlier.  My address is:

Think deeply, write hard!