Study Guide

Benjamin Löwenthal—Gemini in The Luminaries

By Eleanor Catton

Benjamin Löwenthal—Gemini

Ben Löwenthal is the editor of the West Coast Times, the local paper in Hokitika, and associated with the astrological sign Gemini. He is part of council of twelve men who meet at the Crown the night the book opens.

Ben seems to have a strong sense of right and wrong and tries to hold himself to certain high standards of behavior. Even when he breaks the rules of his own religion (Judaism), he's thinking about the morals behind his decision and justifying himself:

He often broke his Shabbat vows in small ways, and did not chastise himself for it—for he was sensible of the difference between duty that is dreaded, and duty that comes from love; he believed in the acuity of his own perception, and felt that whenever he broke the rules, he broke them for reasons that were right. (I.6.227)

Hmm…by that logic, can we make up our own traffic rules according to what we think is "right" and hope that the cops see things the same way? Yeah, that probably wouldn't work out so well, but we're glad Ben's system is working out for him…

All joking aside, Ben does seem pretty thoughtful about morality and committed to making moral choices (by his definition, of course) in dealing with other people and making sense of the world around him. As a result, he operates according to "a strict personal code of categorical imperatives, as a protective measure against what he perceived to be a world of discrepancy and flux" (I.6.257). Given that tendency, he probably isn't inclined to put up with bad behavior or people who don't have a good sense of how to act right.

Perhaps that's why Ben goes absolutely ballistic on Frank Carver when he comes into Ben's office after the horse injured Anna. Thinking that Carver purposely beat her up, Ben really lets him have it (of course, Carver eggs him on, too, by being really impolite and dropping the F-bomb on him). Carver is none too pleased with Ben's outburst, but we certainly enjoyed it.

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