mimesis

For Aristotle, mimesis describes a process involving the use by different art forms of different means of representation, different manners of communicating that illustration to an audience, and different levels of moral and ethical behavior as objects of the artistic demonstration. Thus Aristotle distinguishes between tragedy and comedy essentially on the basis of the fact that tragedy represents “noble” or “morally good” agents, while comedy portrays “ignoble” or “morally defective” characters. All forms of mimesis, however, including tragedy and comedy, come into existence because of a primary intellectual impulse felt by all human beings.

Art is an imitation of life, but it’s not life, the better the verisimilitude and the possibility between art and life the better the quality derives beauty. Death Sentence is a crime-action-drama film based on the 1975 novel of the same name by Brian Garfield, the film is directed by James Wan. It tells the story of Nick Hume; a mild-mannered executive with a perfect life, until one gruesome night he witnesses something that changes him forever, when his son falls a victim to a vicious attack committed as a gang initiation ritual.

Transformed by grief, Hume eventually comes to the disturbing conclusion that no length is too great when protecting his family, protecting what is his. Aristotle’s main focus in the Poetics is on the genre of tragedy, but he also makes important comments on comedy and epic. His original theoretical stipulations about the essential nature of mimesis must apply to all genres of literature (tragedy, comedy, epic, etc. ) and all other forms of mimesis (music, dance, painting, sculpture, etc. ).

These basic stipulations are that mimesis is fundamental to our nature as human beings, that human beings are the most imitative of all creatures, that first learning experiences take place through mimesis, and that all human beings take pleasure in mimesis because all find “learning and inference” essentially pleasant. Since the focus of the Poetics is mainly on literary mimesis, it is necessary for us to concentrate on Aristotle’s understanding of the way this aspect of mimetic activity leads to the intellectual pleasure he assigns to art.

The better the verisimilitude between art and life the better the quality derives beauty, the more pleasant it was in the readers’ eyes as it would be closer to reality. For example in “Death Sentence” at the beginning of the movie, the Hume family seems as just any ordinary family, with Nick Hume driving Brendan (his son) back home from a hockey game, which Brendan won. However when they make a quick stop at the gas station, things start to change when gang members arrive to the place with one member slashing Brendan’s throat in order to prove himself man enough to join the gang.

Such an event can happen, and did happen in reality, and that allows the reader to be drawn to the movie in order to see what happens next, to see how things will settle from this point. In Auerbach’s “Odysseus’ Scar”, we come familiar with two different ways in imitation reality, thus means two kinds of mimesis: Mirroring meaning representation and reflection of life, which results in a connection between art and sight, what is seen and what cannot be seen, in Death Sentence we see this in the character Bones, who happens to be Billy’s father, but we do not know this until the end of the movie, when Bones is shot by this own son.

We do not see that Bones is Billy’s father, clearly by his action; the way he acts towards Billy does not give away the thought that Billy is Bones blood. Second is how mimesis resembles life but does not identify it, it’s the visual aspect: it always provokes the drive. Our drive is activated when we imagine what we read – images and fantasies are activated. This kind of art – visual (even via words) – has the same structure as fantasy (dreams).

There is pleasure and derive in what we can imagine and what we can feel, which is in this case is much easier since the novel “Death Sentence” has been made into a movie which makes it much easier for the reader to imagine things as they happened. For instance, it is pleasurable and thrilling to try and imagine the several shooting scenes in the novel, to have some sort of images running through your mind of what the images of the scenes might be about.

Aristotle tells us that mimesis is by nature a part of human experience from childhood on, that it is the basis of our first learning experiences, and that all human beings derive pleasure from it. This pleasure does not derive from the nature of the object represented in the mimesis, for as Aristotle says, we take pleasure in imitated objects such as “despised wild animals and corpses,” which would cause us pain if we saw them in reality. For Aristotle, the pleasure arising from mimesis is the pleasure of learning and inference, which “is not only most pleasant to philosophers” but pleasant to all others as well, though in a more limited ay. Aristotle further supports the cognitive nature and goals of mimesis when he attributes to poetry in chapter 9 a philosophical dimension arising from its capacity to express universals rather than particulars. In chapter 14 (1453b8-14) he tells us that “it is necessary for the poet to provide pleasure from pity and fear through mimesis” and so once again calls attention to the cognitive function of mimesis, whose essential pleasure we know to be “learning and inference. ” Aristotle focuses both on the artist, the effects the art work has on the artist, and on the spectator (the receiver).

For the artist: there is pleasure in the sharing of the art work – pleasure is a condition of representation. There are two aspects in the effect of art on the recipient:

  1. Learning – art can teach, it has an educative, didactic value. The recipient can gain information and an ability to criticize (realistic theater teaches what’s going on in the world so the viewer can go out and change it).
  2. Pleasure – art is enjoyable, has a pleasurable way of presenting things (un-aesthetic – un-sense – putting the senses to sleep – art has sensual effects).

Aristotle says that art imitates not what is but what could be, what we desire, what we want to happen, this is effectively shown in Death Sentence, towards the end Nick Hume goes to take revenge for his family, after Billy Darley and his gang have take the life of his wife and wounded his son Lucas, who is everything Nick has after he lost everyone else. He pays a visit to where the gang members normally located; at The Office, a shootout begins which results in Nick killing several gang members, at the end he succeeds in shooting Billy and eventually killing him, thus winning payback for his family.

In real life it is not always we find justice being served, normally a criminal who has taken someone’s life is either fled or evidence are not enough to keep him into custody, however in Death Sentence we see that justice is actually served by Nick Hume himself, in a real world this might have not had happened, and the case soon would have been forgotten with time, but as mentioned art imitates what we want to happen, the way things should actually take place according to our wishes.

The characters in Death Sentence are easily identified with, they somehow are easy to find in our consentience reality, a reality Auerbach says about it: ” is a powerful enough in itself, it ensnares us, weaving its web around us” (13). Those characters are mimetic; it is simple to find the grieving father, the gang lord, the golden boy, anywhere. Especially with the needs that can be found in human nature, those characters can be signs to anyone; can imitate anyone that do exist in reality.

Which can be a reason of why the reader might be drawn to the characters, as the reader sees the character so close to reality; realism creates pleasure in the readers’ eyes. The fact that the events and characters could be so close to out reality, it somehow makes the reader to carry on reading, it adds more suspense to the plot and makes it more believable, in which, resulting in giving the audience more pleasure for the fact that it actually can happen in real life.

Art imitates the material world, for Aristotle reality is the physical world, thus art imitates reality. Literature imitates life, since our world is an imitation to the ideal world, this way it means that art is an imitation to an imitation – the shadow of a shadow. Thus it is understandable that “Death Sentence” can be considered a simulation as well, since it is itself an imitation of reality.

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