Determination is an attitude. It is the motivating force behind persistence and perseverance; the will to succeed, undaunted by difficult obstacles.
Her life has been a series of attempts to do whatever other people do, and to do it as well. Her success has been complete, for in trying to be like other people she has come most fully to be herself. Her unwillingness to be beaten has developed her courage. Where another can go, she can go. Her respect for physical bravery is like Stevenson's–the boy's contempt for the fellow who cries, with a touch of young bravado in it. She takes tramps in the woods, plunging through the underbrush, where she is scratched and bruised; yet you could not get her to admit that she is hurt, and you certainly could not persuade her to stay at home next time.
So when people try experiments with her, she displays sportsmanlike determination to win in any test, however unreasonable, that one may wish to put her to.
If she does not know the answer to a question, she guesses with mischievous assurance. Ask her the colour of your coat (no blind person can tell colour), she will feel it and say "black." If it happens to be blue, and you tell her so triumphantly, she is likely to answer, "Thank you. I am glad you know. Why did you ask me?" [John Macy, A Supplementary Account of Helen Keller’s Life and Education, Chapter II, Personality.]
Other true narratives:
Documentary and Educational Films
- Frida Kahlo, Tree of Hope, Remain Strong (1946)
Film and Stage
- Cool Hand Luke: not high-level morality but a study in sticking to your guns just the same
- The Pianist: survival in a Warsaw ghetto under the Nazis
- Sahara: survival against many obstacles in World War II
- All Is Lost, only it wasn’t. A man adrift at sea struggles, comes near death but survives.
- True Grit (see also the 1969 original) a Western about revenge but also determination; the remake arguably is better than the original
- Not One Less: a thirteen-year-old girl is enlisted as a substitute teacher in a rural Chinese school. Initially disinterested and disengaged from her students, she becomes their champion, and their teacher.
- The Martian: an astronaut stranded on Mars finds ways to survive.
Music: Composers, artists, and major works
Anton Bruckner intended his Symphony No. 9 in D minor, WAB 109, as his farewell to life. “At the height of his power, he spent his final years in a desperate struggle to craft a final masterpiece that would both epitomize his ideals and extend his art into a new realm, but died in 1896 unable to achieve it.” He was unable to complete it, leaving the fourth movement unfinished at his death. However, he made it clear that he would not go quietly into death. Not only was he determined to complete the symphony; he was determined that it should express his will to live. “Bruckner’s Ninth Symphony is on a monumental scale: its relentless spiritual searching invites comparison with epic literature such as Milton’s Paradise Lost, and in music, Beethoven’s Ninth, with which it shares a home key of D minor. But if Beethoven's work is a public affirmation of faith in humanity . . .” “. . . mostly, the freedom’s the thing: Bruckner’s freedom from the received models of composition; the feeling that his symphonies, especially the Ninth, have the freedom he enjoyed at the organ, where he was renowned for his playing and improvising. The Symphony No. 9 sounds like an extended improvisation, with discrete ideas discovered and arrayed in time.” Great performances are conducted by Furtwängler in 1944, Wand in 1987, Giulini in 1988, Asahina in 1991, Celibadeche in 1995, Skrowaczewski in 1998, Blomstedt in 1999, Luisi in 2003, Haitink in 2013 (mvt 1; mvt 2; mvt 3), Abbado conducting the Lucerne Festival Orchestra in 2013, and Honeck in 2019. “(A)t least a dozen hands” have “completed” the symphony, after Bruckner’s sketches. Simon Rattle conducted the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra in a four-movement version in 2010.)
- Liszt, Piano Sonata in B minor, S178 (1853) (performances by Argerich, Richter, Vanden Enyden, Pogorelich, Ullman and Grosvenor)
- Liszt, Rhapsodie Espagnole, S. 254 (1863)
- Paul Hindemith’s Viola Sonatas display an unwavering seriousness of purpose: Op. 11, No. 4; Op. 25, No. 1.
- Prokofiev, Sinfonia Concertante in E Minor for Cello & Orchestra, Op. 125 (1952) (performances by Starker, Rostropovich and Shafran)
- Bax, String Quartet No. 2 in A Minor (1925)
- Whettam, Sinfonia Intrepida (1976): “inspired” by bombing of various European cities during World War II, the symphony is an extended statement about the human spirit being immovable and indestructible.
- Yi, Dragon Rhyme (2010): 1. Mysteriously-Harmoniously; 2. Energetically.
- Wolf-Ferrari, Violin Sonata No. 3 in E Major, Op. 27
- Jarrell, Émergenges-Résurgences
- Zygmunt Stojowski, Piano Concerto No. 2 in A-flat Major, Op. 32 (1910): this concerto, with an unusual structure of prologue, scherzo and variations, drives forward relentlessly.
- Alvin Singleton, String Quartet No. 3, “Somehow We Can” (1994)
- Naomi Novik, Spinning Silver: A Novel (Del Rey, 2018): “This book is about the determination and quiet competence of women doing remarkable things without knowing first that they can do them.”
- Asha Lemmie, Fifty Words for Rain: A Novel (Dutton, 2020): “Nori always feels slightly out of reach, as if Lemmie never allows you to look her straight in the eye; that’s part of the allure here. The other part is the satisfaction of watching a determined person make her way to the top of a mountain alone.”
We will not march back to what was, but move to what shall be: a country that is bruised but whole, benevolent but bold, fierce and free.