Post a New Question

English I

posted by .

Respond to the question presented by the poet.
"..if there were a fire in a museum which would you save, a Rembrandt painting or an old woman who hadn't many years left anyhow?" Explain your answer.
"Ethics"
In ethics class so many years ago

our teacher asked this question every fall:

If there were a fire in a museum

which would you save, a Rembrandt painting

or an old woman who hadn't many

years left anyhow? Restless on hard chairs

caring little for pictures or old age

we'd opt one year for life, the next for art

and always half-heartedly. Sometimes

the woman borrowed my grandmother's face

leaving her usual kitchen to wander

some drafty, half imagined museum.

One year, feeling clever, I replied

why not let the woman decide herself?

Linda, the teacher would report, eschews

the burdens of responsibility.

This fall in a real museum I stand

before a real Rembrandt, old woman,

or nearly so, myself. The colors

within this frame are darker than autumn,

darker even than winter—the browns of earth,

though earth's most radiant elements burn

through the canvas. I know now that woman

and painting and season are almost one

and all beyond saving by children.



My answer is that I would save the old woman because just because she may not have many years to live, the painting could be painting again and have it look the same. Do you think my answer is good enough? Which one whould you choose?

  • English I -

    I would clarify your reasoning by saying that the old woman is a living being and therefore more worth saving than an inanimate object.

  • English I -

    I think I would rescue the painting. It will last for centuries, an infinite gift and learning for generations. The old lady is finite and although human and may still be able to be a gift, will not last.

Respond to this Question

First Name
School Subject
Your Answer

Similar Questions

More Related Questions

Post a New Question