Right and So Wrong

 

“By doing one wrong thing, I thought I could make everything right.”
― Scott Smith, A Simple Plan

Spoken early in the novel by the narrator, this is perhaps the best summary of the story of this book and it’s a rapid downward spiral. A Simple Plan was first published in 1993, and later was adapted as a screenplay into a film by Sam Raimi, but that film pulls some of the punches of the book.

Three men, Hank, Lou, and Jacob discover a downed plane and in it is a dead man and several million in cash. Since it’s easy to guess it’s illicit, Hank concocts a plan. They hide the money, wait six months, and if no one is looking for it they’ll split it three ways; otherwise, they’ll burn the money and no one will know they were going to take it. With rather alarming rapidity, things quickly seem to spiral out of control and Hank puts himself into situations where he makes one terrible choice after another seemingly for the protection of his brother Jacob, and his family. All the while he rationalizes that this is what he must do to protect his own.

It’s a very dark tale, but a very human one. How often do we do something wrong with the justification that, in the end, we’ll see everything turn out right? Hank’s parents died years ago in a traffic accident. He admits never being terribly close to his brother. He has little connection with the people in his small town. You rarely see him interact with his coworkers. He only attends a church during funerals. He is a man who is rudderless. There is little guiding him away from the wrong thing, and anyone close to him who could guide him is weak at best — they sometimes encourage him to the wrong thing and are ineffective when attempting to guide him away from wrong. Once Hank sets on the path of self-destruction, he only has his own sense of right and wrong, which are horribly skewed.

“There is a way which seems right to a man;
but its end is the way of death.”
–Proverbs 14:12

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There are 10 comments.

  1. Arahant Member

    You mean he did the wrong things for what he thought were the right reasons, and it turned out that he was just doing wrong?

    • #1
    • June 19, 2019, at 8:34 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  2. C. U. Douglas Thatcher
    C. U. Douglas Post author

    Arahant (View Comment):

    You mean he did the wrong things for what he thought were the right reasons, and it turned out that he was just doing wrong?

    Except it’s fairly clear from the start that he doesn’t entirely believe they are the right reasons. Rather he thinks somehow he can make this whole mess right if he just keeps going strong on the current path he’s on.

    • #2
    • June 19, 2019, at 8:40 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  3. Vectorman Thatcher

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    • #3
    • June 19, 2019, at 2:08 PM PDT
    • Like
  4. Larry3435 Member

    C. U. Douglas: “There is a way which seems right to a man;
    but its end is the way of death.”
    –Proverbs 14:12

    Ummm, is there a way whose end isn’t death? That would be helpful to know about.

    • #4
    • June 19, 2019, at 2:38 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  5. Franco Member

    I loved that movie. I saw it without any foreknowledge, which is often the best way to see a film. The performances were great and the story superb.

    Step by step we saw the plan erode from human weakness.

    But I don’t see Hank as different, or “rudderless”. I see him as an Everyman who is actually a “ better” person than most. Certainly all the characters in the film, including his wife, who pressures him as well, probably the deciding factor.

    I encourage everyone to rent this film.

    Billy Bob Thornton is great.

    • #5
    • June 19, 2019, at 3:35 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  6. Eustace C. Scrubb Member

    Two Lefts Don’t Make a Right…but Three Do

     

    • #6
    • June 19, 2019, at 4:39 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  7. Franco Member

    “There is little guiding him away from the wrong thing, and anyone close to him who could guide him is weak at best — they sometimes encourage him to the wrong thing and are ineffective when attempting to guide him away from wrong.”

    I don’t quite understand. It’s a secret, and everyone who knows it stands to gain.

     

    Are you saying that if he went to church regularly and was a religious man, this wouldn’t have happened?

    Of course, this is fiction, so I take it as such. Maybe if the character was more religious it would have been harder to believe? I’m not so sure myself.

     The theme is anyone is capable of anything. I don’t want to give out spoilers, but if you start at the end, how would you craft a story where someone did that?

    • #7
    • June 19, 2019, at 5:58 PM PDT
    • Like
  8. C. U. Douglas Thatcher
    C. U. Douglas Post author

    Franco (View Comment):

    “There is little guiding him away from the wrong thing, and anyone close to him who could guide him is weak at best — they sometimes encourage him to the wrong thing and are ineffective when attempting to guide him away from wrong.”

    I don’t quite understand. It’s a secret, and everyone who knows it stands to gain.

     

    Are you saying that if he went to church regularly and was a religious man, this wouldn’t have happened?

    Of course, this is fiction, so I take it as such. Maybe if the character was more religious it would have been harder to believe? I’m not so sure myself.

    The theme is anyone is capable of anything. I don’t want to give out spoilers, but if you start at the end, how would you craft a story where someone did that?

    There are points in the story where those immediately around him find Hank’s actions going too far and try to encourage him otherwise or protest what he’s done. But of course as they’re all in on this secret and all hope to gain, their influence is therefore weak. Moreover, at least in the book, it’s noted that Hank is by no means close to his brother. Prior to the events of the book they’d only meet once a year at their father’s grave. Lou is just a friend of Jacob’s and one Hank doesn’t care for. Sarah, his wife, is close but she gets involved quickly and also hopes to gain. I found it notable that there was no one else close to Hank and Sarah in any regard. Thus, all weak influences in regards to this matter. They can’t encourage Hank from his path because they are on it as well with no real desire to leave it.

    So no, I’m not saying that church would have kept him from this at all. Only that, again at least in the novel, it’s notable that Hank has no good influences throughout this. There’s just the money, his friends, and his own judgment which is accepting his own actions despite how much worse he gets with each passing day.

    It’s also interesting that with several of the acts, there are beats where Hank can turn away, where he can step off the path he’s on and stop his personal decline. In each case he decides he must continue. Again, there’s no guide rail — no connection to any community or close friends or anything where he lives — save his own judgment which we see is failing. Would the story be impossible with those things? Not necessarily. But it would most likely be different or involve a larger set of deceptions.

    • #8
    • June 20, 2019, at 6:49 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  9. C. U. Douglas Thatcher
    C. U. Douglas Post author

    Franco (View Comment):

    I loved that movie. I saw it without any foreknowledge, which is often the best way to see a film. The performances were great and the story superb.

    Step by step we saw the plan erode from human weakness.

    But I don’t see Hank as different, or “rudderless”. I see him as an Everyman who is actually a “ better” person than most. Certainly all the characters in the film, including his wife, who pressures him as well, probably the deciding factor.

    I encourage everyone to rent this film.

    Billy Bob Thornton is great.

    The movie is good as well. Like I said, the movie pulls a lot of punches that the novel brings, and the ending is significantly different if similar. Andrew Klavan likes to talk about his novel True Crime and how it was presented in the movies and how they changed a character from white to black that vastly changed the story Klavan wrote.

    In A Simple Plan the movie makes some of Hank’s actions less deliberate and more a reaction. Jacob’s part in the story changed quite a bit, as well as a major scene of Hank’s last atrocities. It’s a good movie, but in the end different than the novel. The Hank at the end of the movie is different than the Hank at the end of the novel.

    • #9
    • June 20, 2019, at 6:55 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  10. C. U. Douglas Thatcher
    C. U. Douglas Post author

    Larry3435 (View Comment):

    C. U. Douglas: “There is a way which seems right to a man;
    but its end is the way of death.”
    –Proverbs 14:12

    Ummm, is there a way whose end isn’t death? That would be helpful to know about.

    “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”
    –John 3:16 

    In short, yes.

    In long, think of the first passage as not merely personal death which we all face, but as causing death and destruction to that around you. Let’s take a practical example. We probably know a lot of well-meaning people who think Socialism is going to fix all our ills and make the world better, when in fact what we’ll get is more like Venezuela. In the context of the novel, Hank believes if he can soldier through all this, just do one more wrong thing, then they’ll have the money and things will be okay. Instead what he gets is more death and destruction around him.

    • #10
    • June 20, 2019, at 7:05 AM PDT
    • Like