How Far Will You Go?

Two Words:
Breaking Bad

Behind the actions of the dynamic characters in the Breaking Bad series are the personal philosophies, morals, and ethics of what drives the characters to do the things they do.

The driving force behind Walter White's shift from a mild-mannered chemistry teacher into a mad-minded meth cook is his family and his desire to provide for them.

Thus, the underlying question I find being presented by this hypothetical scenario is: How far will you go for family?

Pretend for a moment you are Walter White

You just turned 50 years old. Fifty; half a century; about 25 to 26 years away from the average age of death for white males.

You are a full-time high school chemistry teacher who supplements his $43,000 yearly salary by working at a car wash part-time, where your students who drive luxury automobiles take pictures of you washing wheels on your hands and knees on your 50th birthday (watch unedited version for this scene that was taken out of AMC's latest airing).

You have a wife approximately 10 years younger than you and she is pregnant with your second child that you did not anticipate.

Your first child is 15 years old and has cerebral palsy, a handicap that you did not anticipate.

Your wife has control of the checkbook even though she does not work and you have nothing to show but debt.

Your wife orders you to be home on time for your 50th birthday party after you work all day as a teacher plus a shift at the part-time car wash job, and when you are late she makes you feel guilty for it while other family members give you back-handed compliments.

Your hot water heater is on the fritz and it leaks, and you have no extra money to fix it.

You walked away from a billion-dollar corporation before it made billions when you were younger and the resentment eats at you as an overqualified, underpaid public school educator.

You find out you have lung cancer soon after your 50th birthday when you are not a smoker and medical professionals can't explain how you ended up with cancer.

You are told by medical professionals that you have an undetermined amount of time to live, anywhere from weeks to months, and a couple years if you are lucky.

You are in shock to be suddenly faced with your own mortality years earlier than you anticipated.

You realize that when you soon die you will have nothing to leave your family after an onslaught of cancer-related medical bills that will only leave you dead and your family bankrupt without a provider.

Take all of that into consideration
for a moment of pretending you are Walter White.
Now, how far will you go for your family?

1. Would you do whatever you personally deemed ethical and moral as a way to make money and support your family?

2. Would your impending mortality and family's survival overshadow the War on Drugs, or any other arbitrary regulations that you personally believe stand in your way of providing for your family?

3. Would you harm anyone who stopped you from providing for your family or who was a threat to your family, when you expect to be dead within two years?

Three legitimate questions worthy of hypothetically pondering, all of which may not have legitimate answers, making them all the better!

It is easy to repeat politically correct mantras about how breaking arbitrary laws is never the answer, period, end of boxed-in discussion. Instead of parroting that automatic response, I challenge readers to take a moment, to think and to sincerely question what you would do in such a scenario as Walter White found himself.

I am not saying that Walt's extreme answer was correct, and I am not saying that any answer is correct, and I am not saying that I want to know your answer (trust me, I don't). All I am asking is for readers to think:

What would your solution be for you,
and how far will you go for your family?
Stickers by Eve @ Zazzle.com/ProseAndPix

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1 comment:

Enbrethiliel said...


I like the way that you summed up Walter's situation at the start of the series. At that point, he must feel that there's no way he can sink any lower. (In that case, boy, does he prove himself wrong! =P)

But as he admits in the very last episode, he didn't do all the things he did for his family, but for himself. And this is precisely why the first episode is so exhilarating: Walt finally feels alive again and we feel alive with him. The family is there as an excuse, so that he (and again, we) don't feel too guilty about exactly what he is doing to get that high. If he had really been doing it for them, he could have quit at several points and they would have been comfortable even after his death.

I'm sorry that I can't answer your questions, especially since I liked your post so much and you've given me a chance to talk about a show that I loved. My own "What would you do . . . ?" question while I was watching it had to do with the cancer. If you had Walt's crappy life, would you also refuse to seek treatment? (Notice that he uses his family's welfare as an excuse for both his initial decision not to undergo chemotherapy and his greater decision to cook meth!) And everyone who has heard the details of Walt's life has said that they'd just want to die, too!

Sometimes I ask a follow-up question: would you cook meth? Nearly all of them say yes as well. What have they got to lose?