Kath: I was never subtle, Mr Sloane... If you do go with Eddie, I’ll tell the police.
Sloane: If I stay here he’ll do the same.
Ed[die]: It’s what is called a dilemma, boy. You are on the horns of it.
Joe Orton (1963)
Dichotomies surround us. Everywhere we lay them like templates onto our experiences: “Shall we eat in or out?” “Do you smoke or not?” Maybe most famously that exemplar in law: “Have you stopped beating your wife?” Onto our
Our experiences appear to be of an totally interconnected web.
experiences we force
Onto the interconnected web we force our human boundaries.
and paramount amongst examples of boundaries are surely dichotomies. In such dilemmas we force two alternatives denying the interlocutor the choice of: not being hungry, occasionally smoking, or not having a wife. Interestingly this denial echoes the case of
So important in helping understanding, yet often so subtly misleading.
Just as a prestidigitator diverts our attention, so analogies, by pinpointing one parallel, inevitably divert us away from another; dichotomies go further attempting to completely nullify important contextual aspects of their two terms. Seeing where the lure of these linguistic devices lies is also revealing. For surely it comes from our deep wish to attribute to daily experiences structures found, not in those experiences, but rather drawn purely from within ourselves; from the abstract languages
We are extraordinarily faithful to some logical principles. Why?
and arithmetic. We seek to impose numbers on many aspects of life.
The quote comes from near the end of that delicious, and curiously unfashionable, black comedy, Entertaining Mr. Sloane. The brother and sister (Ed and Kath) carve up Mr Sloane’s ability to give them both pleasure in return for not reporting his murder of their father to the police. Mr Sloane is offered a dichotomy. From p. 145 of Orton: The Complete Plays (1976), published by Methuen Drama.
This Highland ‘coo’ was posing for photographers in the north west of Mull, in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland.
Above, hovering on blue introduces a link: click to go, move away to stay.