The purpose of this assignment is description. Addressing the points listed below, your task is to describe Ellison’s story in terms of utilitarianism.



The purpose of this assignment is description. Addressing the points listed below, your task is to describe Ellison’s story in terms of utilitarianism.

Please title your assignment “Repent, Harlequin: Utilitarianism.”  Be sure to put your own name in the header of the paper. (After all, everybody else's paper will have the exact same title.)

This assignment should be 1.5-3 pages typed, double spaced, 12 pt font, 1-inch margins. No bullshit, please. The length range is wide enough that you can go in-depth where you choose, or be concise. If you are struggling to come up with a few more lines of text to get you to the minimum, it’s because you haven’t thought hard enough about the story and how to analyze it. Don’t just come up with some filler sentences: go back, reread the questions, and make sure you’re actually answering them.

Be sure to incorporate all of the following questions/prompts in your response. You are absolutely not required to address them in bullet-point fashion, or even in order – just make sure you hit all of them.

1)       Using the concepts and worldview of Utilitarianism, give a 3-4 sentence summary of the story’s central problem. Here are some questions to think about that may help you approach this task (you don’t have to answer these, but they may help you get started):

o    The Harlequin clearly disagrees with the values of the society that he lives in. What are the things he values? How are they in tension with broader values of his society?

o    What are the costs and benefits associated with each of the values systems on display in the story?

o    Why might it be difficult, from a utilitarian perspective, to determine the merits of what the Harlequin is doing?

2)       What are the kinds of changes that the Harlequin brings about, or attempts to bring about, through his disruptive actions? What are the costs of those actions – how severe are they, and who bears them? What are the benefits of those actions – how significant are they, and who bears them? Be sure to use specific details from the story. 

3)       What do we learn about the minor/unnamed characters in the story (for example, in the crowd scenes) who make up most of the members of society?  How do their experiences help us understand the Harlequin’s actions, or the Ticktockman?

4)       Choose a (named) character to focus on. What is the nature of the problems they confront? What options do they have, in choosing how to respond? How can each of those choices be understood as a good thing to do?


You will bring this assignment with you to class on the day it is due: Thursday, September 19th. (You are welcome to make notes on them, over the course of discussion, for your own edification, since ultimately you will get to keep them.)  You will turn them into me at the end of class, and I will return them, with a grade and comments, by the next class.

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