Supporting Item #6: The True Ethics of Tony

Dustin Lantz

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The True Ethics of Tony

Tony has a shifting attitude and ethical view of his turbulent situation throughout Return to Paradise. Though he appears for a relatively small amount of time in the early parts of the movie, his actions and goals would seem at first to describe a Virtue Ethics stance regarding Lewis’ situation. He appeals to Sheriff at first to act as their virtuous friend Lewis would, claiming that, “Lewis woulda gone back for either of us, you know that,” implying that because the virtuous Lewis would return to save them, the ethically responsible thing to do is to act like him and return to take the blame. When Sheriff does not seem willing to go at all, Tony again steps up and claims that he will endure the full six year sentence. Up to this point, Tony seems wholly motivated by an ethical expectation that he do the responsible thing and return for his friend. At a second glance though, there are points in the earlier parts of the movie where Tony describes the situation in a far more utilitarian way. He appeals to Sheriff using the results of their actions, claiming that if ”... Lewis hangs, you don’t think this is gonna be like headline news? Sheriff, this is gonna follow you around for the rest of your life.” Tony expects the consequences of Lewis’ death to be of far more consequence to Sheriff than Lewis’ life itself, perhaps betraying his own inner calculations of the situation. As the movie nears its climax and the characters near the day of the trial, Tony learns more and more of what it is like within the Malaysian prison, and the scales of his hedonistic calculus lean ever more in favor of leaving Lewis to his fate. He questions Sheriff extensively about what the interior of the prison and Lewis were like, attempting to accurately picture himself in that situation and calculate just what the results would be. As he hears more and more, he grows increasingly concerned over what kind of state they would be in after three years, considering the kind of state Lewis sounds like he’s in after only two. While he never explicitly explains that his own potential suffering outweighs saving Lewis’ life, he does verbally weigh the possible outcomes of his situation in the hotel while talking to Sheriff. The uncertainty of the situation makes his calculations difficult, but he concludes that, “if we stay maybe we hang. But if we leave we live; that’s the one thing I know for sure right now.” To Tony, the certain outcome of living outweighs the possibility of both Sheriff and himself dying to save Lewis. Tony has weighed the scales and found that the risks are not worth the pain it would save one man, even if that man is his friend; a utilitarian sentiment to be sure. He even is unable to comprehend Sheriff’s decisions to stay just as they are preparing to board a plane for home and leave all of their problems behind them. He intends to follow through on his plan and leave Lewis, with or without Sheriff, because he has looked at the alternative and decided that the price is too high. The risks within that prison are too great, and Tony refutes Sheriff’s decision, claiming that he shouldn’t, “... leave your life to fate this is stupid” and boards the plane bound for home. Tony, and by extension his fiance, will not suffer for this. Sheriff and Lewis will be the ones to suffer, and by Tony’s calculations their suffering will be justified and the lesser of two evils. In the end Tony’s actions are almost unimportant, considering the skewed results of the trial thanks to the inflammatory journalism. Though his utilitarian ethics almost sway Sheriff, in the end Tony’s view of the results and suffering affect only his own life.