When Sophie Gets Angry--Really, Really Angry...
By Molly Bang
Sophie is playing with a toy gorilla when her sister takes it from her for her turn. Sophie gets really angry and she is ready to explode, but instead she cries, climbs a tree and tries to calm herself.
Guidelines for Philosophical Discussion
By Zuha Shaikh
When Sophie Gets Angry-Really, Really Angry... raises a few interesting questions about the nature of anger. When Sophie gets angry, she not only looks a certain way but also is ready to “smash the world to smithereens.” Powerful depictions like this raise questions about what anger is, its appearance and what the appropriate course of action in response to anger is. This discussion on anger could also lead into a discussion on expression of anger and political violence based on individual and/or collective anger.
First, this book probes us to question what exactly is anger is.The first impulse that Sophie experiences when she feels angry, is the desire to take her anger out on the world. Is anger then some form of madness that destroys the ability to think? Some philosophers present the opinion that anger is often accompanied by an impulse to achieve a degree of revenge in an unjustified fashion. In other words, people do not express anger at the right people. The idea of getting angry with the right person implies that the person has done or intended to do something that can incite anger. In return, the angry man expects a certain degree of satisfaction or even pleasure in seeking his revenge. However, Sophie wants to tear the world apart and she does not aim to avenge her misery from people who angered her, namely her sister and mother. Thus, sometimes anger seeks revenge on the appropriate person, but at other times, it may not.
We also see that Sophie starts crying after she goes through a phase of anger. This brings us to the question on how anger is connected to pain. Most philosophers would agree that anger is often accompanied by pain. However, there may be three different mechanisms in which both of these emotions are externalized. In the first mechanism, anger follows pain for example, people who are suffering from poverty, sickness and have gone through painful times in life, might reach a point of pain where they express anger because they are experiencing pain and suffering alone. This might be the case when lower class citizens might engage in violent demonstrations because others show a certain disregard of their pain or suffering. Another mechanism of expression is when both anger and pain are expressed together for example, when someone dies, what one expresses is the pain of loss and anger at his circumstances simultaneously. Finally, a third potential mechanism may be when the phase of being hurt comes after the stage when anger is expressed. In this case, a person expresses anger till he has vented it all out, he is left with a much more long lasting feeling of being hurt by someone. So we can discuss how Sophie expressed her pain and anger together or separately, and if so, in what order. Maybe Sophie adopted the third mechanism. Initially she was angry for not being allowed to play the gorilla. Or maybe she was hurt because her mother scolded her.
Once we identify what impulses are or are not a part of anger, we get to the question, why do people get angry? Some philosophers might say that Sophie had unrealistic expectations, namely that her sister would not use the Gorilla when it was her turn to play with it. Essentially, Sophie should not have gotten angry when her sister did take it away for her turn. This opinion holds that a reasonable person can reason with himself and will never call for unrealistic expectations like a driver who expects the car in front of him to move forward in a traffic jam and gets angry because it doesn't. Therefore, destructive emotions like anger result from errors in judgment, and that a person who has perfect moral values and the ability to reason would be wise enough to not let such emotions develop in the first place. Other philosophers may argue that anger is inescapable and everyone, regardless of their morals and intellect, will get angry sometimes. So while some people may appear unreasonable in the act of getting angry, other people might be perfectly justified in being angry. However, even people who have a valid reason to be angry, might not seem perfectly reasonable in how they express their anger and vice versa. Thus, when Sophie was bursting with the desire to explode with anger, many people might refer to her as unreasonable for not allowing her sister her fair turn. But when Sophie's anger did not get her the toy, she tried to calm herself. Does that mean that people can prove to be more reasonable in how they deal with their anger even if they seem to be unreasonable in the act of getting angry?
This bring us to the issue of the expression of anger. We see that Sophie manages to control her anger. That might be because she realized her mistake. Or that might be because she didn't think that further expression of anger would have been useful for her. But even when we know that the expression of anger isn't useful, can we always control our anger? Some philosophers argue that anger is bound to get out of control so that the expression of anger is never beneficial. Others claim that there are times when the expression of anger is necessary, for example in politics and warfare. In the present world, we see that anger is expressed all around in the shape of targeted killings, violent demonstrations, etc. While some philosophers argue that there is nothing that cannot be achieved by reason, this idea is not always applied in the world today. The children might have noticed that when their teacher gets angry at them, they usually do what she is asking them to do and thus, her expression of anger gets her what she wants. Hence, if we don't express our anger, can we achieve the same things in life? Alternatively, if we realize that the expression of our anger at a person or at a situation will not give us anything, what should we do with our anger?
Questions for Philosophical Discussion
The Nature of Anger
Oh, is Sophie ever angry now!
“Yes!” said her mother. “It IS her turn now, Sophie”
Appearances of Anger
She roars a red, red roar.
Then, for a little while she cries...Sophie feels better now.
And Sophie isn't angry anymore.