Have you ever read a book and cringed, tempted to look but desperately wanting to skip the pages so you could avoid what you knew would come next? Human downfall, the loss of morale, of the main character that you have been rooting for until you find out that he is – human. The pain of disillusionment is made sharper by the talented hand that wrote the words your eyes are skimming in a vain attempt to look away from the imminent disgrace that will befall the once untarnished hero of the book.
Human Nature should not make us wince but when it is described in such potent details that make you descend to the dark cages of human weakness; one cannot help but shudder. Dante led us down a path of increasing monstrous characteristics that were made all the more unbearable as we recognized them to be human. Dostoyevsky makes your stomach churn as Raskolnikov wavers between the reality of his cold blooded crime and his conscience that gnaws at him until it shatters his remaining sanity.
As children we fear tales of dragons, of one-eyed monsters luring in the dark; or that red creature who has a serpent as a tail, a hoof for a leg and a cock’s claws for the other. But as we get older we learn that those are simply tales made up by parents long ago to keep our mischief at bay. The fear remains but it is replaced by another that we suppress for it proves too uncomfortable for us to express. One cannot run from the discomfort that we all carry the same human nature in varying degrees of evil measure. I do not claim that we are all murderers or capable of it but we certainly all share the ability to knowingly cause harm unto others: the conscious decision to do harm although it feels wrong and makes us guilt-ridden.
Whether it is a small lie or a simple insult to someone as we strive to prove our superiority – be it in intellect, appearance, or material possessions; we can relate to the act of knowingly causing harm. This is why when one reads about a character in a book who is about to commit something disgraceful, usually a moral flaw, that will cause a tragedy to befall him; we cringe and try to inch away from the words that the author has so deftly knitted around us. The sensation of your skin crawling seems to be the perfect analogy for your own feelings of self-reproach trying to bury deeper within your flesh lest it is exposed just as the hero’s flawed human nature is betrayed.