The operation of Schopenhauerian ethics is perhaps nowhere more painstakingly expounded in McCarthy's oeuvre than in The Sunset Limited. When set within Schopenhauer's ethical system, the respective positions of Black and White readily yield to evaluation. On the one hand, White, who appears to be a classic embodiment of Schopenhauer's pessimism, is lacking according to Schopenhauer's standard of ethical excellence. White's egoistic standpoint on the world is devoid of substance and credibility and his disdain for and willful isolation from others betrays an unhealthy, narcissistic, and other-denying egoism. On the other hand, Black's ethical conduct not only satisfies the criteria of Schopenhauer's virtuous man, his way of life is also depicted as making significant progress on the path toward Schopenhauerian sainthood. Once an egoist himself and now a devoted altruist, Black has awoken from his “beggar's dream” to recognize a human fellowship of pain, the presence of his “innermost self” in all others, and the need to obey a moral imperative to be compassionate. Considered against the backdrop of Schopenhauer's ethical framework, The Sunset Limited plays out a fierce opposition between the troubled egoism of White, “a professor of darkness,” and the saintly altruism of Black, “an emissary of Jesus.”

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