Study Guide

Arcadia Fate and Free Will

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Fate and Free Will

Arcadia takes on the age-old fate vs. free will argument from a scientific standpoint: if we can take a system and use the laws of physics to predict exactly what will happen in that system, why can't we do the same for our brains? And if the atoms in our brains are mindlessly knocking against each other like a bunch of Newtonian billiard balls, then where do we get off thinking we have free will? Of course, things get very complicated very quickly when the human brain is involved – but Arcadia is not a play to shy away from complication.

Questions About Fate and Free Will

  1. What are some of the ways the play defines "fate" and "free will"? In what kinds of situations do these terms come into play?
  2. If the characters could figure out their own personal version of Thomasina's future-foretelling equation, do you think any of them would want to do it? Which ones would want to know their future, and why or why not?
  3. How does the play portray free will as shaped by fate, or vice versa?

Chew on This

Arcadia portrays science as an attempt to figure out fate, while literature rebels against the idea of predetermination.

Arcadiarepresents "will" that is not "free": the characters' choices are always determined by their personalities and their historical situations.

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