Taking the Reins
Be careful what you wish for because you just might get it! This is a famous expression which warns people against making choices when they really just haven’t thought through the consequences. This paper explores the connection between choices and consequences, and will use the classic myth Phaethon re-told by Bernard Evslin as well as an article written by Robert Davis entitled, “Is 16 too Young to Drive a Car?”, for supporting evidence. Both literary sources can be categorized under Man Vs. Self, as the decisions addressed in each deal with a person’s need to be self reflective when making decisions. Therefore, the thesis statement for this paper is that teenagers need to weigh the consequences of their choices before making a decision. “He was so stung by the words of his friend, and the boasting and lying he had been forced to do, that he traveled night and day, not stopping for food or rest, guiding himself by the morning star and the evening star, heading always east. Nor did he know the way...” (Evslin 2). Phaethon is the son of the sun god Apollo, even though Apollo doesn’t know it. Phaethon is goading into making a promise to a fellow classmate that he will guide Apollo’s sun chariot across the sky. Although he has no relationship with his father, he sets out to find him. This act of bravery impresses his father, and causes him to make an unwise promise, “Well, you’re my son, all right. Proud, rash, accepting no affront, refusing no adventure. I know the breed. Speak up, then. What is it you wish? I will do anything in my power to help you” (Evslin 4). Apollo’s oath to fulfill his son’s wish soon finds Phaethon in the chariot behind the giant fire-white horses. Initially, Phaethon believes he has everything under control “At first things went well. The great steeds trotted easily along their path across the high blue meadow of the sky. And Phaethon thought to himself, “ ‘I can’t understand why my father was making such a fuss. This is easy. For me, anyway. Perhaps I’m a natural-born coachman though . . .’ ” (Evslin 5). Soon, however, he loses control of the horses and chariot, and the people, as well as the Earth, suffer irrevocable damage because of it. “And since that day no one has been allowed to drive the chariot of the sun except the sun god himself. But there are still traces of Phaethon’s ride. The ends of the earth are still covered with icecaps. Mountains still rumble, trying to spit out the fire started in their bellies by the diving sun” (Evslin 7). The tale of Phaethon accurately illustrates the point that teenagers need to weigh the consequences of their choices before making a decision. Phaethon BELIEVED he could handle the task of driving his father’s chariot, but the truth is that he was too rash, young, and immature to handle such responsibility. Unfortunately, it cost him his life, and the lives of countless innocents. Before you think that the dire consequences caused by Phaethon’s poor self reflective practices could only be found in a Greek myth, consider the second literary source as evidence. In his article, “Is 16 too Young to Drive a Car?” Robert Davis explores a hot issue that is on the mind’s of parents and teens across the United States. The legal driving age. The driving age for Americans is 16, however many feel that teens are just too young to handle such responsibility. The data appears to support this concern; “Instead, most fatal crashes with 16-year-old drivers (77%) involved driver errors, especially the kind most common among novices. Examples: speeding, overcorrecting after veering off the road, and losing control when facing a roadway obstacle that a more mature driver would be more likely to handle safely. That’s the highest percentage of error for any age group” (Davis, 2005). Davis’ article does not bully young drivers as an act of prejudice against their age, but offers scientific findings that teens are literally unable
to fully fathom the consequences of their actions. “New findings from brain researchers at the National Institutes of Health explain for the first time why efforts to protect the youngest drivers usually fail. The weak link: what’s called “the executive branch” of the teen brain-the part that weighs risks, makes judgments, and controls behavior” (Davis, 2005). Whether it’s a matter of pride, as was with Phaethon, or a need for adventure, or just curiosity, teens are too young to be making mature decisions when there is too much at stake. Their brain’s are just not ready for it. “ ‘That’s the part of the brain that helps look farther ahead,’ he says. ‘In a sense increasing the time between impulse and decisions. It seems not to get as good as it’s going to get until age 25.’” (Davis, 2005) Teenagers need to weigh the consequences of their choices before making a decision. This is an internal issue, a conflict categorized as “Man Vs. Self”. Whether driving a father’s car, or his sun chariot, teens have an obligation to be self reflective and think through the possible consequences of their actions. It’s an obligation they owe themselves, and those around them, because there is a lot at stake. “ ‘It may not seem that fast to them’, Gledd says, ‘because they’re not weighing the same factors an adult might. They’re not asking themselves,’ he says, ‘Should I go fast or not? And dying is not really part of the equation.’ ” (Davis, 2005) Unfortunately, dying is quite often part of the consequence.
Works Cited Evslin, Bernard. The Greek Gods. New York: Scholastic Inc., 1996. Print Davis, Robert. “Is 16 Too Young to Drive a Car?” USA Today. 2 March 2005. Web. 15 April 2013.