26 September 2022
The idea of good faith and bad faith are used to describe the different interactions among peoples. Acting in good faith can be seen as honesty and trust in commitment. On the other hand, acting in bad faith can look like deceptive behavior and dishonesty. Although good and bad faith have semi-distinct guidelines on what behavior equates to either good or bad faith, it is often hard to determine whether someone is precisely acting in one way or another. What I am trying to figure out is the connection between good and bad faith actors in connection to the apocalyptic setting and experience. More specifically, how do some of these characters, whether acting in good or bad faith, actually help produce an apocalyptic setting, intentionally or not. The novels, Wild Seed, and American Desert, both have their distinct apocalyptic settings and are riddled with their unique good and bad faith actors. Although more reading throughout the semester will help me form a meaningful connection between good and bad faith actors and the apocalyptic setting, Wild Seed and American Desert will help provide the basis moving forward.
The main antagonist in Wild Seed, Doro, is often portrayed as someone who constantly acts in bad faith. He is first introduced as slave trader, looking to bring people to North America for his own benefit. Doro is portrayed as arrogant and charming, and at first glance is seemingly acting in good faith but at a deeper level it becomes more complicated. When looking to convince Anyanwu to come with him to the new world he says, “You belong with me, the people I’m gathering” and “we are people you can be a part of (Butler 23). It is true that Doro is more like Anyanwu than most of the people in Anyanwu’s community, but that does not mean she is destined to be a part of his life. We find out further in the book that Doro’s intentions are focused on using Anyanwu as a vessel to grow his kin and through that, his power. It is also known that Doro has been finding people to send to North American and all over for a very long time now. Due to this, it is not easy to write off Doro in this scene as someone purely acting in bad faith. This lifestyle may be all Doro knows and is now comfortable with. Doro may deep down not truly believe that he is doing something wrong and thus it is harder to say he is a bad faith actor.
An apocalyptic setting can be generally touted as a hellish environment, with little or no hope. The opposite of an apocalyptic setting for Anyanwu was a life where she could “settle with a tribe around her and stay within the tribe for as long as she could” (Butler 210). This life that Anyanwu wanted was turned upside down by the death of her most beloved family members, that she feels is due to Doro’s meddling. By the end of Book Two, Anyanwu’s daughter, Nweke, and her husband, Isaac, had died (Butler 208). Anyanwu is incredibly distraught and notes that she “found virtue in nothing that had to do with him”, referring to Doro (Butler 211). Anyanwu evidently feels as if Doro is to blame for all of the death and he has caused her to be at her lowest point. I believe in this situation Doro is not clearly the bad faith actor. We see that he is not okay at all with what has happened and is looking for closure. Isaac had requested that Doro and Anyanwu make peace as he was lying on his deathbed, and when Anyanwu brought this up, Doro said, “we’ll have peace” (Butler 209). As well, Anyanwu noted that Nweke and Isaac should have a funeral and Doro responded by nodding (Butler 208). This shows a conflicting set of emotions among the accused and perpetrator.
The death of Anyanwu’s family and aftermath was hard for me to navigate for several reasons. One reason was the conflict in my mind between whether Doro was acting in good faith or bad faith, and second reason being how this connects to the apocalyptic setting. It reads as if Doro is genuinely trying to help Anyanwu and help amend the situation. If he is trying to amend the situation, then it means he knows he was acting in bad faith but is now choosing to act in good faith. If Doro is just trying to help, then he doesn’t believe he was acting in bad faith. It is tricky because this whole conflict takes place at the end of Book Two and we dive deep into the emotions and views of Anyanwu. There is not much dialogue towards the end from Doro that help clears up his current stance. We get the view from Anyanwu that she needs to escape his grasps when its said, “how long would she have to hide in the sea before Doro stops hunting her” (Butler 209). In connection to the apocalyptic setting, this conflict shows how good and bad faith actors might not truly know the hellish life they have created for others. As I stated, it is clear that Doro feels some type of remorse for what has happened, but it is not clear that he truly knows the life he has imposed on Anyanwu. This brings up the idea that it is hard to stop someone like Doro, as he might not know he is creating an apocalyptic hellscape in the first place.
The connection between an apocalyptic setting and good and bad faith is something that can be deeply investigated in American Desert, especially through the character Big Daddy. Big Daddy, a cliché for alt-right Christian cultist leader, reminds me of Doro in terms of some of the questions I had previously posed. Bid Daddy as a child was ridiculed and beat by his father and classmates on a daily basis for much of his early life and was taught that God never loved him (Everett 130). This led Big Daddy to take an extreme stance on God and form a cultist like group out in the hot desert. What’s interesting about Bid Daddy is that he believes everything he does is for God and that he is a soldier of God (Everett 132). Whether Bid Daddy knows it or not, this assumes responsibility for some of the very questionable things he is doing. An example of this is when he makes the point that he does not have sex for pleasure, but he has sex because it will “comfort his frightened sheep” (Everett 132). This makes it very hard to pinpoint whether he is acting in good or bad faith. From his perspective he is acting in the best of faith, literally and figuratively, so he doesn’t actually realize the craziness that he is ensuing. As with Doro, it made me think that a bad faith actor is extremely dangerous if they believe they are acting in good faith. This is important because Doro and Big Daddy both created dangerous apocalyptic environments and I question whether they even know.
The characters of Doro and Bid Daddy present a question that will force me to look at every new book I read throughout the semester and compare these actors accordingly. The question presented and something I’m trying to figure out is the complexity of labeling someone as a good and bad faith actor. From my perspective it is simpler to label a character as a good or bad faith actor, but it’s whether the character themselves are able to accurately understand what kind of actor they are. This disillusionment, I believe, is what led Doro and Bid Daddy to surround themselves in an apocalyptic environment at the expense of others. The dispute between me and character is, so far, at the forefront of the apocalyptic fiction I have read and will be something in my mind as I continue reading.