To create a policy and establish it, which suits the best interest of all people is a trying task. Like anything else, subjectivity is a central issue. Even with an honest intention, different people of the authority may have a multitude of opinions and views of a ‘best policy’. However, it has become a sort of cliche to regard honesty, above all, as the best policy, especially in an age when it is least valued and encouraged.
In a social structure of a prominent hierarchy, whereby a certain group of people have the authority and privileges of governing a society and making necessary decisions for the populace of the society, it becomes increasingly necessary to define and characterize ‘honesty’ in terms of the ruling class; especially if one is to survive and flourish in such a society. Individual views rather become insignificant and thus following the rules of the society becomes more important than being ‘honest’.
In the novel, ‘The Stranger’, the protagonist is seen to be a character of candid nature. However, the candid expression of his true and fair views seemed to contradict and displease the people around him. Instances when he did not shed tears on his mother’s funeral, or the fact that he kept his mother at an old home, created a rather unpleasant picture of him in other people’s minds. Even during his trial he was convicted as ‘guilty’ as his true nature, and its expression, was regarded as that synonymous of a ‘criminal’. Thus in this case honesty did not become the best policy, despite the fact that Mersault accepted his fate.
In the novel, ‘The Misanthrope’, the protagonist, Alceste, is seen to be a man with a candid and frank expression of thoughts. He criticizes the high class society and their typical behavior and condemns such as fake and pretentious. However, his candid nature leads him to trouble as he loses a lawsuit, for his conflict with a man who claims to be in good contact with the individuals of the authority. He loses his lover, who is of a nature contradictory to that of Alceste. In the end he realizes that to renounce everything and escape from all atrocities and injustice of the human kind is the only way. In the novel, ‘Death of a Salesman’, we find the protagonist, Willy Loman, to live in a land of dreams, which he creates to hide from his tragic reality. He starts to grow a false impression of his life, thereby deceiving and being dishonest with himself. This leads to the growth of frustration and depression which eventually leads to his demise.
In the novel, “Animal Farm”, we see the pigs, along with their leader, Napoleon, being dishonest and changing and modifying their constitutional laws in order to suit their desires and motives, leaving the lower classes of the hierarchy to work hard without any rights to contribute any opinion in their society. Thus, in this case, dishonesty leads to the degradation of morals and ethics of a society.
Thus, honesty can best be described as the ‘best policy’, in context to the situation and circumstances. In most cases, it can be seen as a constructive pillar in establishing a society of harmony and equity. However, when individual forms of ‘honesty’ gets in conflict with the socially accepted form, it can rather lead to a dilemma for the individual.