Serendip is an independent site partnering with faculty at multiple colleges and universities around the world. Happy exploring!

Plagiarism = hipocrisy

Ayla's picture

I felt that the idea of plagiarism is presented as a hipocrasy in "The ecstasy of influence: A plagiarism" by Jonathon Lethem.  Lethem expresses that  it doesn't make sense that artists have come to resent those who plagiarize - those who love the author's work enough to adopt it, maybe change it and bring it into their own work.  His reference to the Velveteen Rabbit makes a good analogy.  The rabbit in the story is told that when a child REALLY loves him, he will become Real.  A horse tells the rabbit, "Generally by the time you become Real, your hair has worn off and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby.” Then Lethem comments, "Seen from the perspective of the toymaker, the Velveteen Rabbit's loose joints and missing eyes represent vandalism, signs of misuse and rough treatment; for others, these are marks of its loving use" (Lethem 16).  The rabbit is clearly the piece of writing and the toymaker is the author.  The point is that it is the toymaker's job to build toys for enjoyment, right?  What child sits a toy on his shelf to look at for pleasure?  None. The child plays with the toy every day, takes the toy to sleepovers, restaurants, the movies, misplaces it and makes his father turn the house upside down looking for it, cries when his mom wants to wash it, and never wants to give the toy up even long after he has outgrown it.  Isn't that what authors are supposed to want for their piece of writing?  There is a certain hipocrisy here between the role of author and the idea of plagiarism.  The idea that the author deserves credit everytime someone loves their writing by quoting them.  Everytime the child wants to share his toy with his friend, does he tell him that it was made by Plastico?  No, he just lets his friend enjoy the toy in peace.