On Fear by A.G. Gardiner
In On Fear by A.G. Gardiner we have the theme of fear, bravery, temptation, perception and control. Taken from his Leaves in the Wind collection the reader realises from the beginning of the essay that Gardiner may be exploring the theme of fear and bravery. For Gardiner the man who overcomes his fear is a hero. The very fact that an individual is not crippled by their fear but rather challenges it and succeeds is something that in Gardiner’s eyes takes a high degree of bravery. Even if a man is born timid and nervous they are still brave once they overcome their fears. Allowing themselves the opportunity to beat what has hindered or delayed them. A real hero is someone who has fought fear and won rather than allowing for fear to control them and as such determine the direction of their life. Gardiner also delves into the theme of temptation. Rather than perceiving temptation as being the problem Gardiner suggests that a strong person is the one who though tempted to lie chooses not to. The individual not succumbing to the easier of options but rather having the morality to do and say the right thing. Regardless of the difficulties that may bring upon the individual.
The introduction of Nelson is also interesting as on paper Nelson appears to have done a foolish thing when leaving his ship to dictate his terms. However if anything for one moment Nelson appears to be fearless and in control of his emotions. Though some critics might suggest that Nelson has been reckless. To labour his point on the issue of controlling one’s fears Gardiner also considers the main protagonist in de Maupassant’s A Coward. The protagonist is so overwhelmed by the duel he has to partake in that he loses complete control of his emotions and fear sets in. Resulting in the protagonist’s death at his own hands. Whereas the reader is left to wonder what may have happened the protagonist should he have overcome his fear. He may have died but his death may have been considered by some to be more honourable. Though it might be important to remember that some critics of de Maupassant might suggest that the protagonist took the only real option open to him considering the situation he found himself in. He feared he would be killed by a better man.
The incident with young Swinburne climbing the Culver Cliff also gives the reader an insight into how an individual may think. Part of Swinburne’s concern with regard to climbing the cliff was the perception that others might have had of him with regard to his bravery. Swinburne by climbing the cliff proves that he is brave. Yet nobody had considered that he wasn’t. Which may be the point that Gardiner is attempting to make. He may be suggesting that an individual may take risks that are not necessary in order to overcome their perception of fear and how others might see them. Though it is true that Swinburne also wanted to master his fear. He had nothing to prove to others. However Swinburne’s exercise does have its valid points. One of which is that despite the fear he felt. Swinburne like others has overcome it. He remains in control and does not allow for fear to dictate the course of his life. Unlike the protagonist in A Coward who paid a heavy price for not overcoming his fear.
Gardiner also argues that it is those who are imaginative who suffer the most from fear. This may very well be true as an individual who thinks of things more than somebody else may also race to conclusions about fear that are unreasonable. An over active mind can be problematic for a person due to the fact that they do not allow for reason or logic to come to the forefront. It is for this reason that Gardiner suggests that it is better to be born ‘a little dull and unimaginative.’ Life will be easier to control as the problems that come with an over active mind will not hinder the individual. It is also important for the individual to have somebody who is reasonable by their side. Gardiner using Sancho Panza as an example. If it were not for Sancho Panza, Don Quixote may have led himself into more trouble than it was worth. In reality Gardiner is suggesting that some people will be able to control their fear and progress in life while at the same time others will be forever hindered by fear. It takes a brave man to overcome his fears but it also takes a reasonable man to understand them too. To not allow them to impinge into one’s life and to progress in a forward direction through life.