“All men are moral. Only their neighbors are not.”
John Steinbeck’s works overflow with wisdom. The quote above comes from The Winter of Our Discontent, which to my mind is a beautifully earthy, down-home rendition of a moral person (character) who is gravely tempted to stretch his morality beyond the point of breaking. I think Steinbeck is saying that people tend to see themselves as “better” than others, noting the flaws of others while being mostly blind to their own. Note that he uses the “all men are moral” as a set up for the punchline.
Writers, of course, can take advantage of this “truth,” to the extent that we “know” it. Our characters often become more engaging to the extent that they are blind to their own foibles. Of course, we writers are also human, and so are not immune in “real life” to our own, much less our characters’, short-comings.
(NOTE: Quotation marks are used herein “merely” to mark the words and phrases that are either satiric or a matter of opinion.)
Which of your favorite, or otherwise, contemporary writers—say, 1990 to the present—offer such moral gems that lead or push us to consider and weigh their truth? Or is that simply not the mode of contemporary fiction, as Norman Mailer says?