Marvel’s Jessica Jones has been correctly if exhaustively interpreted as a critique of abusive relationships and rape culture. It also lends itself to more general readings. The clash between David Tennant‘s Kilgrave and Krysten Ritter’s Jessica Jones highlights the importance human beings attach to the idea of functional agency. Many of the show’s characters seem to believe that free will is a definite concept, only capable of being eroded through a grandiosity like mind control. This perception is so powerful that many characters appear to view their actions as the basis of their very identity. However, the show’s depiction of addiction, social relations and moral constructs subverts this interpretation, suggesting that “free choice” is a misnomer, disturbingly indicative of nothing.
I. “Sobriety Blows” – Substance Abuse in Jessica Jones
“Sobriety blows,” Jessica Jones says midway through the series, as she stumbles off an elevator after a bender. As a viewer it’s hard to argue with her. Throughout the series we watch as the character conflates her choices with her worth, tearing herself up for actions she took while under Kilgrave’s mind control. One of these is something that occurs prior to the show’s events. It involved Jessica killing the wife of Mike Colter’s Luke Cage. This act fully explains why Jessica nurses her prodigious drinking habit, utilizing it to dull the memories of her manipulated behavior and the devastation of her sense of self.
Wil Traval’s war veteran Will Simpson (known in the comics as Daredevil villain Nuke) contends with a similar situation throughout Jessica Jones. After he also falls under the control of Kilgrave early in the season, his sense-of-self is left comparably scarred. Being a military man with a rigid self-perception, Will spends the remainder of the season desperately attempting to reestablish his idea of his personal identity. He attempts to do this, primarily, by asserting his agency and killing Kilgrave. This eventually culminates with him becoming addicted to combat enhancing pills, which turn him into a killing machine capable of going toe-to-toe with the super powered Jessica.
The depiction of Jones’s and Simpson’s addictions illustrates the correlation humans draw between decision-making and identity-building. It also suggests that a perceived loss of control ineluctably leads to at least a reevaluation of one’s sense of self. Intriguingly, this reaction is rarely provoked, indicating that we labor under the assumption that our thoughts and actions are entirely our own, and can be controlled if necessary. Through its depiction of addiction, Jessica Jones seems intent on exploding this conception.
The show repeatedly draws a correlation between substance abuse and mind control through language. One example is an off-the-cuff remark by Luke Cage, who says at one point to a liquored up assailant, “You’re drunk. Your mind’s not right.” Later, the character of Hope (Erin Moriarty) explains her experience with Kilgrave’s mind control with greater depth. “All I could feel was this need,” she says during an interview with Rachel Taylor’s Trish Walker, “[Kilgrave’s] words were in my head, but way in the back, like a tiny echo.” When asked if she was aware that she was being controlled she says, “Not at first, but then I’d get these glimpses of myself. And I’d try to hold on to them, but I wasn’t strong enough.”
The description given by Hope of her time being controlled by Kilgrave possesses a remarkable similarity to the way that addiction is typified. Literature on the topic seems to often highlight the conniving, progressive nature of the disease. The Big Book itself characterizes alcohol as “cunning, baffling, powerful.” Like Kilgrave’s mind control, the influence of a chemical substance often slowly envelopes a user, subtly manipulating the mental and emotional faculties in ways that are not immediately apparent. Certainly this seems to be the case with Jessica and Will. Both characters don’t even comment on their own usage, or seem willing to acknowledge their human susceptibility to exterior influences aside from Kilgrave’s supernatural powers.
There is one addict in the show who is able to recognize and accept his own vulnerability, and ironically it’s the physically weakest character. Eka Darville’s Malcolm is a man who Kilgrave gets hooked on heroin in addition to placing him under mind control prior to the show’s events. Malcolm’s downward spiral is broken in episode five, when Jessica becomes aware of Kilgrave’s influence and helps Malcolm become clean and sober. His initial reaction to Jessica’s intervention, though, is not what one could call zen-like. During the withdrawal stage he refutes Jessica’s assertion that he wasn’t in control when he was following Kilgrave’s orders, exclaiming, “Sometimes I did it just for the drugs. I’m telling you I had a choice!” This exclamation reflects commonly held sentiments about addiction, which stigmatize addicts on the erroneous notion that human beings possess strong control over their decision-making faculties, and that those who don’t are defective in their character or will. It is also consistent with the attitudes Jessica and Will maintain towards their experience with addiction, where neither seem to view it as powerful loss of agency or disintegration of self.
In episode six, Malcom breaks from this thinking. He chooses to not shun discussion about the interrelationship between trauma, loss of agency, and identity construction, and finds catharsis through participating in a support group composed of people who’ve survived Kilgrave’s influence. At the end of episode six, there is a scene that focuses on this group during one of its meetings. At one point Malcolm says, “It’s not just the things he made me do. It’s the question of who I am. He turned me into an addict, a liar, a thief. He did that. But I don’t know if it was in me to begin with. Or if it’s a part of who I am now.” This indicates that not only has Malcolm decided to incorporate the dual traumas he experienced at the hands of Kilgrave, but that he has also accepted the fact that total autonomy is a fallacy. He has channeled, more or less, what is the first step of recovery, noting that there are some things that he is powerless over. He recognizes that his exposure to Kilgrave’s influence played a role, although he also expresses uncertainty about whether he had the internal capacity for addictive and destructive behavior in the first place. Much of the show reflects this ambiguity, showing that our actions are most plausibly governed by a combination of both.
II. “It’s Better, Being Alone. Safer” – On the Problematic Necessity of Relationships
The dynamics of interpersonal relationships is another dominant theme of Jessica Jones, specifically how they can pose a threat to one’s autonomy. Additionally, the show explores how within interpersonal relationships the link between agency and identity is hardly linear or cohesive. And while the actual characters populating the show’s episodes appear marginally more cognizant of these issues (at least compared with how the characters relate to addiction), the lack of control human beings have in their various relationships is rarely, if ever, verbalized.
Jessica Jones’s persona in the show’s first few episodes encapsulates some of these themes. When audiences first meet her, she has forsaken all close relationships. This is because she has actually recognized that such connections compromise her both physically and emotionally. Yet, despite her best efforts to protect her autonomy, Jessica cannot remain entirely out of the fray of the human experience. Due to sheer financial necessity, she maintains certain business associates, such as Carrie Anne Moss’s litigator, Jeri Hogarth. These two women share an intense relationship, marked by acerbic banter and acrimonious loathing. Despite this, both mutually recognize that they need each other. Jeri looks at Jessica as a super-powered asset, capable of carrying out her dirty work, while Jessica looks at Jeri as a valuable financial and legal resource.
This pairing sets the mold for the show’s wide-ranging examination of human relationships, not to mention the various forces and systems of exchange that precipitate their development or initiate their decline. One of these forces is financial. Jessica Jones excellently explores this by playing with audiences’ expectations. The show often makes it initially ambiguous regarding whether certain characters are under Kilgrave’s control, eventually revealing that their behavior is motivated by the simple fiscal necessities that govern us all.
One such character is a member of Kilgrave’s security detail. After Jessica, Will and Jessica’s best friend Trish (Rachael Taylor) capture one member of the detail, it takes several minutes for them to believe their prisoner’s fervent claims that he only acted due to the lure of a substantial paycheck. Kilgrave did not mess with his mind, but the truth is that he never needed to, a fact arguably more disturbing than any mind control. “I go where I’m told to go!” the man screams when Will threatens him with torture, making the dominant, coercive power of money explicitly obvious.
Relationships built around love, affection and sexual interest are also deconstructed, and what becomes quickly apparent is that human agency and control in such contexts is highly dubious. Take the show’s primary female characters, Jessica and Trish, who are united in their attempt to regulate their exposure to romantic involvement. This is personified in the show’s fixation on the doors of each woman’s living space – which are repeatedly breached or shattered, often by men. The show’s use of this motif strikes a similar cord to its analysis of business and financial relations, in that they are almost impossible to avoid.
For Jessica, this is explored through her relationship with Colter’s hunky Luke Cage, a troubled bar owner who becomes romantically involved with her. Their relationship underlines the disconnect between one’s rational thinking and irrational, instinctual will. Both characters repeatedly recognize that their interactions may be more trouble than they’re worth, yet both appear incapable of making a clean break from one another. The words “romantic chemistry,” often used flippantly, have rarely seemed more thematically resonant than when one examines their relationship. Both characters seem irresistibly drawn to one another, with any attempt at self-regulation being little more than a meaningless stall.
Each character attempts to parse their peculiar connection in their own way. Jessica spends many of the show’s initial episodes oscillating between drawing firm boundaries for their relationship and throwing herself in with reckless abandon. Considering the secrets that she harbors regarding the death of Luke’s wife, their relationship unsurprisingly experiences some intense rockiness. When Jessica is forced to atone for her part in their conflicts, she is often unable to give voice to her behavior, croaking out a variation on, “I didn’t mean for that to happen.” Unfortunately, the show doesn’t adequately explore what Jessica did intend to happen. This is an egregious misstep on the part of the show, especially considering the severity of Jessica’s decision to interject herself into Luke’s life under false pretenses. Yet, her obvious inner-turmoil about this decision is the relevant point. Jessica cannot fully reconcile the schism in her thoughts and actions: between what she thinks she should do and what she wants to do.
To be fair, Colter’s Luke Cage doesn’t seem to be in any more control when it concerns the relationship he has with Ritter’s character. Luke habitually describes himself as someone who “[doesn’t] do drama,” which makes his attachment to Jessica – maybe the most dramatic person in New York outside of the Avengers – all the more peculiar. His description is not simply an outline of types of behavior in which he engages, it’s a statement about how he views himself as a person. This self-analysis is also not confined to mere romantic relationships. Early in the season, Luke describes how he chooses to use his powers to Jessica, bluntly stating, “I protect myself and what’s mine.”
One can only conclude then that Jessica is compelling enough to Luke to negate the drama she infuses into his life. It’s not hard to guess why this is. To Luke, Jessica represents a perfect match, a partner who “won’t break” as easily as his deceased wife. In fact, one might surmise that Luke views Jessica as not his equal but his better. This is inferred through their conversations about Jessica’s attempts at heroism. Despite the fact that Luke largely desires to eschew heroism, describing it as something that “[puts] a target on your back,” he gives off the faint impression that he is in awe of Jessica. She represents his ego-ideal, the version of himself that he would like to be. This is true at least until it isn’t. In a mid-season climax of sorts, the bewildering nature of their romantic and sexual pairing comes to the forefront. Both characters must grapple with the harsh reality that they have very little control, and that what exactly your relationships say about you is quite nebulous indeed.
“You made me think I could get past it!” Luke hollers during the climactic moment of episode six, after Jessica reveals her responsibility for the death of his wife. Of course, the reality is that Jessica didn’t make him do anything, at least not in the blatant way that Kilgrave’s mind control functions. His statement can also not be completely discounted, however, as it provokes important questions about the way that human relationships work. The element of truth in Cage’s words is this: Much of one’s connection to another person is built around projection, often to such an extent that “love” becomes largely about self-love, or, in other words, immense egotism. Luke was the one who wanted to think that he could get past the death of his wife; Jessica did not create that impulse in him. Luke’s horrified reaction to Jessica has to be interpreted as actually having little to do with her and everything to do with how Luke views himself. While it is true that Jessica lied to Luke, his reaction is one primarily of self-loathing, a visceral revulsion provoked by his interpretation of the world and his interpretation of himself becoming disrupted. Jessica Jones carries this idea throughout its storyline. It illustrates that what brings us repeatedly into relationships – and then governs our behavior while we are in them – is not “who we are” but who we’d like to be. This feels like one of the ways to explain why people’s vague red lines – like Luke’s unwillingness to “do drama” – fall apart when they encounter powerful potential partners who speak to them in other ways.
Two other situations in the show reinforce this claim, both of which involving Carrie-Anne Moss’s character Jeri. The first is the subplot that focuses on Jeri’s attempts to divorce her wife Wendy (Robin Weigert). During a mediation scene at Jeri’s firm, Wendy bitterly spits out that none of her friends could understand why she wanted to be with Jeri prior to their marriage. In response, an exasperated Jeri inquires as to why Wendy ended up proceeding with their engagement. “Because you were kind to me. You were a bastard to everyone else, and you were kind to me. I was special,” is her response.
This situation is reversed an episode later, where Jeri is the one who is having her sense-of-self solidified by another. In this scene, her secretary and new girlfriend Pam (Susie Abromeit) comes into the room and chastises Jeri for allowing Wendy to have ammunition that could cause problems for them both. In an attempt to motivate Jeri to action, Pam begins to feed her ego, stating, “The first time I saw you in court I could feel your power. The way you dismantled the ADA’s argument… held that jury in your hand.” As she is saying this, she slowly takes Jeri’s hand and guides it between her legs, which ties together the concepts of sexual intimacy, love and ego. It establishes how building a romantic relationship is heavily motivated by the need to ensure that one’s self-perspective stays stable, and that the self-perspective of one’s partner does as well.
Between these scenes and the relationship between Luke and Jessica, the show makes a strong case that the relationship between choice, action and identity is not overly linear in the context of interpersonal relations. People’s actions in relationships reflect not necessarily who they are, but the story they have told themselves about themselves. Or, they may reflect nothing about one’s identity and can be boiled down to little more than economic, pragmatic or libidinal needs.
III. “I Was Never the Hero You Wanted Me to Be” – On the Controlling and Inconsistent Nature of Social Morals
The last way that Jessica Jones explores the dubious nature of agency, and its even more dubious relationship to identity, is through cultural and moral expectations. This construct hangs over the arc of the show’s central character, prompting her repeatedly into action. In fact, the very first episode of the show deals directly with this issue, following Jessica as she oscillates between a fear of Kilgrave and a nagging sense of responsibility that she is the only one capable of challenging his power.
The scene in question occurs approximately forty minutes into the episode AKA Ladies Night. It concerns Jessica – who has just recently discovered that Kilgrave has returned – riding in a taxi and preparing to flee Manhattan. As she looks out at adjacent pedestrians, we hear the voice-over comments of Hope’s parents, who had sought out Jessica earlier in the episode and hired her to look for their daughter. Their statements are deeply sympathetic, filled with agony over their child’s disappearance. As Jessica reflects on them, her self-absorbed resolve to abscond from the city weakens. Instead of heading for her original destination (the airport) she directs her driver to a hotel where she believes Hope is being held against her will.
Jessica’s change of heart is not something that happens by accident. Instead, it is the organic product of her immediate culture, which slowly erodes her commitment to self-interest and even self-preservation. In the scene directly before the taxi ride described above, Jessica engages in a spirited conversation with Trish. This exchange begins when she asks Trish for financial help so she can leave the city, and its intensity grows when Trish states, “I know one thing. You’re far better equipped to deal with that animal than some innocent girl from Omaha.”
Trish’s statement is an intriguing one. It seems to imply that individuals are moral if they choose to do what they can for others with the abilities or resources they have at their disposal. There is of course an innate contradiction in this perspective, as it is difficult to tell whether this is actually a real choice or a false one imposed by one’s culture.
Significantly later in the show’s storyline – after Jessica comes back into contact with Kilgrave – this ambiguity comes to the forefront, particularly when she attempts to convert Kilgrave and harness his mind control for altruistic purposes. The duo saves a family during the episode AKA WWJD largely due to this power. And later, in the aftermath of this intervention, Kilgrave comments pose a question about whether acting congruently with mainstream moral codes definitively establishes individual moral worth. “The look on that woman’s face,” Kilgrave says, reflecting on the experience a woman and her children from her distressed, gun-wielding spouse, “the genuine awe and gratitude, for me. Is that why you do the whole superhero thing?” After Jessica responds that she doesn’t know, Kilgrave continues, “How many more lives do you think I’d have to save to get back to zero?”
Kilgrave’s interpretation, his “moral math” as he calls it, brings up the same notion explored in other sections: that one’s actions cleanly and simply constitute one’s identity. The show quickly complicates this interpretation. Jessica viscerally denies Kilgrave’s moral math comments, exclaiming that it “doesn’t work like that,” and that “Saving someone doesn’t mean unkilling someone else.” Yet, earlier episodes are littered with contradictory statements made by her and her friends. In episode three (AKA It’s Called Whiskey) Luke Cage states to Jessica that she “got points for doing well,” when she attempted to use her powers and become an official superhero. She responds to this compliment by saying that whatever good she did was “Not nearly enough to cancel out the bad.” Also in episode six (AKA You’re a Winner) Jessica comments through voice-over that choosing to help Luke find his nephew Antoine (who disappears at the episode’s beginning) was “supposed to make up for the pain” she had caused him by killing his wife.
There are other statements corroborating Kilgrave’s assertion that adhering to mainstream morality helps imbue personal moral worth. One of the recurring mantras of Jessica Jones asserts that the act of killing someone is a decision that can only be made by certain types of people. In episode seven for instance, titled AKA Top Shelf Perverts, Trish and Simpson are discussing their plans for Kilgrave. After Simpson explicitly remarks that Kilgrave needs to be killed for what he has done to other people, Trish rebuts him, stating, “We don’t get to decide that. Killers decide that. That’s what makes them killers.” This is echoed almost verbatim by Jessica in episode eight, AKA WWJD. Immediately after her and Kilgrave save the family in the scene discussed above, Kilgrave orders the disturbed man who was threatening his family to blow himself away with his own shotgun. Jessica intervenes at this moment, admonishing Kilgrave by saying that whether or not the man should die for his actions is “not for [Kilgrave] to decide.”
Her statement again cements the notion that what you do constitutes who you are. This dismisses other significant factors behind one’s actions, like context, motivation and the general wish for societal acceptance. It isn’t coincidental for instance that Trish is speaking to Simpson, a war veteran whose very employment was predicated on his ability and willingness to kill people, but who is not perceived to be a killer. This makes the show’s point perfectly clear: Identity cannot be solely based on how well our actions align with mainstream morality. More specifically, identity cannot be based on this when society’s judgment of killing, and those who perpetrate it, is enormously inconsistent. Violence of the institutionalized form, like that engaged in by the military and the police force, is judged to be permissible if not laudable. It is also not generally seen as a reflection of the moral worth of those who fundamentally contribute to those institutions.
Of course, as we’ve all seen in recent acts of real world police violence, it’s hardly that simple. Killing is an act that, given the right circumstances, many, many people can do or will do. Whether or not they belong to an institution, or their violence has been codified by law, is irrelevant in regards to if they are truly moral, decent or good. That’s a question that exists outside of institutions like judicial systems or the moral codes on which they are predicated. It can only begin to be answered by taking each person on a case by case basis. Each individual must be analyzed comprehensively to discern the full scope of what they do, and, more importantly, what they believe.
IV. Conclusion – On Suicide and Self-forgiveness in Jessica Jones
Jessica Jones is a show that plunges deeply into the question of free will. It parses (in numerous ways) not only its overall dubious nature, but the sketchy way people conflate action with identity. First, the show tackles the subject of addiction, portraying many of its characters wrestling with it in some form or another. Jessica Jones elucidates the interrelationship between trauma and substance abuse, and how the experience of being under the influence of normal, real world drugs (like alcohol) have a mind-warping power akin to Kilgrave’s abilities. Most significantly perhaps, is that the show’s treatment of addiction unearths how deeply human beings attach themselves to the idea of functional agency. This is painfully evident with characters like Jessica and Will Simpson, who are either incapable or unwilling to acknowledge that their substance abuse has literally eroded their ability to make strong, free choices. Ironically, the character of Malcolm is the one able to understand himself most fully. While he initially prescribes to human agency, and that action unequivocally reflects character, he grows to see himself holistically as affected by a mixture of inner and outer forces.
Secondly, Jessica Jones tackles the issue of relationships. Through this theme, the show again outlines how free will is inherently shaky, and how choices emanating from that will cannot truly reveal who you are. The show examines this through depicting a myriad of unique relationships. Some of which – particularly those built around money and occupation – are easy examples of how one’s will is often not one’s own in interpersonal relationships. However, when it comes to other relationship types, such as the one between Luke Cage and Jessica Jones, the process is more complex. Pairings like this reinforce the notion that the ability to control one’s behavior is not absolute, as both Luke and Jessica cannot seem to stay away from one another despite being semi-dysfunctional. These types of relationships also reveal that love may be little more than self-love. Thus, initiating and then engaging in a romantic relationship is at least partially motivated by a desire to confirm who you think you are.
Lastly, when we look at the way social expectation and mainstream morality relates to human agency and identity, there are results similar to the previous sections. The onerous expectations of society are explored in the very first episode of Jessica Jones and act as a catalyst for its titular character to leap into action despite massive misgivings. The show spectacularly explores the paradox of individual behavior and collective attitudes, where simply aligning your actions with mainstream morality does not ensure your status as a moral person.
Throughout these investigations, the show makes it abundantly clear that the loss of control – whether it be over your life or your identity – is a possibility that we view as immensely disturbing, a fate perhaps even worse than death. Therefore, it is unsurprising that the theme of suicide runs like a refrain throughout the entirety of Jessica Jones. This idea first emerges shortly after Hope becomes incarcerated in episode two (AKA Crush Syndrome) and coldly says to Jessica that she should kill herself if she truly wants to remain free from Kilgrave’s power and the loss of control it represents. Later in that same episode, Jessica tracks down the EMT driver who went AWOL after delivering Kilgrave to a hospital (following an injury). Turns out, Kilgrave used his powers to force the driver to donate critical organs Kilgrave needed for a life-saving surgery. The result of this is the driver’s complete incapacitation and need to move back in with his mother due to his incapability of caring for himself.
When Jessica comes across him, the driver asks her through writing (as he is incapable of speech) if she will kill him and put him out of his misery. After she refuses, the driver becomes distressed, moaning to himself and gesturing (with his limited mobility) to the sorrowful state his life has become. This exchange sets the tone for how the characters deal with anxiety over the possibility of losing control. Even their jokes are filled with a type of nervous energy. In episode five (AKA The Sandwich Saved Me) for instance, directly before Jessica, Trish and Will assault Kilgrave and attempt to kidnap him, Jessica says to Will, “If Kilgrave gets me…” before being interrupted by his response: “I’ll take you out.” Jessica then says, “I was going to say dart gun me, but sure, shoot me in the head,” to which he concurs with a “Same here.” This scene is played somewhat for laughs. However, one can’t solely dismiss it as comedic chit chat, particularly when the show has made a major point of showing how truly shaken both Will and Jessica were following their brushes with Kilgrave’s mind control.
The show’s various flirtations with suicide and self-destruction finally come to a head in episode ten, AKA 1,000 Cuts. In this episode, Hope again falls into the wiry clutches of Kilgrave, who uses her as a bargaining chip to keep Jessica at bay. Hope the. decides to take herself out of the equation. After Jessica hesitates to kill Kilgrave – who also has other friends and acquaintances of Jessica’s poised and ready to kill themselves if she attacks – Hope stabs herself in the jugular vein. This act of violent self-destruction obliterates the potentiality of her losing claim to her own agency. Additionally, the erasure of her consciousness removes the various ways that it can inhibit Jessica’s behavior. This shows that perhaps the only way to be free from powerful exterior influences (and not become one yourself) is to end your own existence.
Now, this may be a somewhat hyperbolic statement. Hope decided to commit suicide due to Kilgrave, not due to the common, everyday experiences that influence human behavior. Yet, the fact that human beings have only partial control over their actions, lives and identities remains something that can’t really be resolved without a cataclysmic level of self-destruction. But this is hardly an answer. Instead, the most successful and functional characters in Jessica Jones preserve themselves through the slower, agonizing process of self-forgiveness. One can see this in the character of Malcolm. He finds that he can accept his innate vulnerability through the work he does and the solidarity he finds through his support group.
Thankfully, this is also found in the character arc of Jessica Jones, who throughout the series embraces her potential, albeit reluctantly. What this involves is not only her acceptance of a heroic role – despite massive misgivings – but also the grim acceptance that a truly autonomous life is a complete fallacy. By the show’s final two episodes, we see Jessica become at least somewhat reconciled to the fact that she can’t keep people entirely out of her life, employing Trish and Malcolm in her fight against Kilgrave. In the final scene of the final episode these ideas coalesce, with Malcolm picking up her phone to help her field the calls of numerous other people who need her help. However, they also coalesce much earlier, in the show’s very first episode in fact.
In the scene directly following Hope’s murder of her parents, Jessica stumbles out onto the street, horrified and shocked at the seemingly omnipotent and unstoppable power of Kilgrave. But before she enters a taxi cab, ostensibly to flee the city forever, she hesitates. As she does this we hear her through voice-over, remarking that “Knowing it’s real means you’ve gotta make a decision. One, keep denying it. Or two, do something about it.” With those words she turns back and reenters the scene of carnage. Her words and her return indicates her commitment to not only confront Kilgrave, but also to contend with a world full of people and experiences, of which she has to accept that she has very little control. And in doing so she becomes heroic, a status confirmed of course in her willingness to battle Kilgrave’s extraordinary abilities, but also the confounding, constricting and compromising nature of an ordinary human life.