AotPE : On the Pleasure of Hating

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

I feel so rushed with these posts... I hope I'm making sense... 

I feel that the titled of literature are important. An essay entitled, “On the Pleasure of Hating” is much more interesting sounding than say, “Laughter”. While “On the Pleasure of Hating” sounds like an essays where there is humor involved, “Laughter” sounds like the opposite-a serious contemplation of a person who’s old. (I can’t be sure, however, as I’ve never read “Laughter”.)

When I looked at The List (a piece of paper that demands in serious words and threatening tones what I have to read) that my next essay was “On the Pleasure of Hating”, I felt a surge of energy that rejuvenated my mind. I felt a sort of familiarity towards William Hazlitt, a person whom I’ve never heard of before. I was a hateful child in my middle school years, as I hate more things than I liked things. (I was quite cynical during that time, too. But, I’ve mellowed out, and gained more things to like.) I wanted to read about the thinking of a like-minded person. (As I am writing this, however, I wonder if Hazlitt was some kind of masochist. After all, hating takes a lot of energy and brainpower. Hating isn’t very pleasurable, either… It’s too stressful… [But, I just said I was like-minded. Does that mean I’m a masochist?! Correction: I was once like-minded. Not so much anymore.])

I started reading “On the Pleasure of Hating” with the expectations of an essay filled with angst and anger, but I was met with a more pleasing version. After all, a pubescent teenager did not write “On the Pleasure of Hating”; a man who’s well versed in essay writing wrote it.

Hazlitt starts with the description of a spider walking on a mat. Hazlitt goes on to talk about how he lets the spider go instead of crushing the revolting thing, and how it will take “another hundred years of fine writing and hard thinking to cure use of the prejudice, and make us feel towards this ill-omened tribe [spiders] with something of the milk of human kindness.” (Nearly two hundred years have passed and humans are still very much the same. We want to squash bugs, but some have decided not to.)

Hazlitt proceeds to describe why people hate and how. He writes, “The pleasure of hating, like a poisonous mineral, eats into the heart of religion, and turns it into a rankling spleen and bigotry… Does the love of virtue demote any wish to discover or amend our own faults? No, but it atones for an obstinate adherence to our own vices by the most virulent intolerance to human frailties.” The paragraph ends with “We hate old friends: We hate old books: We hate old opinions; and at the last we come to hate ourselves.” This is how the following paragraphs proceed.

Hazlitt ends the essay, more impassioned than he started out. In my opinion, it makes the essays a little easier to read. My only problem with “On the Pleasure of hating” is the length of the paragraphs. The paragraphs are usually around a page (!) in length, but one paragraph takes up nearly two pages and a half. I’d like to think I have a long attention span, but even I was losing interest in the long paragraphs. However, “On the Pleasure of hating” is still remarkably easy to understand, full of insight and language. 


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