Experience Envy and Sloth at the Library

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Thursday October 27, 2011

Even if you missed Pride, Anger, Gluttony, and Lust, you can still encounter the wickedness of Envy and Sloth at the South Burlington Community Library. On November 16th   at 7 p.m., the library’s three-part discussion series on “The 7 Deadly Sins” concludes with a focus on short stories that highlight jealousy and indolence.

Edith Wharton’s “Roman Fever” and Tobias Wolff’s “Smokers” emphasize the lethal nature of envy. Wharton’s story portrays “two ladies,” each of whom visualizes the other “through the wrong end of her little telescope.” The women’s romantic rivalry and devious deceptions lead to a powerful climax. In Wolff’s story, the narrator resents the relationship between two other first-year Choate students. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

“Envy,” declared the economist Adam Smith, “is that passion which views with malignant dislike the superiority of those who are really entitled to all the superiority they possess.”

Anton Chekhov’s “The House With the Mezzanine” and Bobbie Ann Mason’s “Shiloh” underscore the deadliness of sloth. Chekhov’s story is about an artist who believes that he is “condemned by fate to permanent idleness…doing decidedly nothing.” His attitude toward life is challenged by an industrious woman who believes that “the least perfect of all little libraries and first-aid kits” should be placed above all the landscape paintings in the world. Mason’s “Shiloh” concerns a truck driver trying to cope with a life-changing accident, the deterioration of his marriage, and encroaching urbanization.

According to writer Dorothy Sayers, “[Sloth] is the sin that believes in nothing, cares for nothing, seeks to know nothing, interferes with nothing, enjoys nothing, hates nothing, finds purpose in nothing, lives for nothing, and remains alive because there is nothing for which it will die.”

You can borrow “The 7 Deadly Sins Sampler” from the library to prepare for the November 16th discussion.  Scholar Merilyn Burrington will lead the conversation.

Did you count only six deadly sins above? Since the discussion group was scheduled to meet three times, and four stories seemed the maximum number for each session, one sin had to be eliminated. Ironically, that sin was Greed.

SOURCE: Bill Wargo, Correspondent