Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Moral Clarity

Lol late. Have a freewrite!

I'm really fascinated with the fact that the main enemy our heroes have to balled are inhuman (ie: orcs). It's kind of a weird decision, since it certainly pulls away any potential shades of grey the battles could have. It's easy to fight against things that arent human, because you don't have to worry about things like motivation and morality. The orcs do these things because they are evil and that's all there really is to it. I think that's why the characters are so willing to fight the hopeless fight: it's easy to do the right thing when there's no moral ambiguity. They're right, the orcs are wrong, and that's all there is to it. I postulate that it would be more difficult for people to sacrifice themselves if there was more question about who was in the right. Simply because the cast of LOTR desperately wants to do the right thing. They make these sacrifices and have such "hopeless courage" because tehy know that in the end, they've done the right thing. Which would be much harder if their adversaries were human. Or if there were more moral ambiguity, which would be nice, really.

1 comment:

Belladonna Took said...

Just to add on this freewrite, some of the enemies are human. However, in the Two Towers, the men fighting for Saruman were corrupted. In the chapter The Road to Isengard for example, the narrator explains, “the men of Dundain were amazed; for Saruman had told them that the men of Rohan were cruel and burned their captives alive.” Because these men were corrupted, it lessens the moral component in fighting them because they are fighting for illegitimate reasons.

I also recall an instance when Sam sees a dead human enemy and contemplates what he feels in the chapter of Herbs and Stewed Rabbits (Two Towers): “It was Sam’s first view of a battle of Men against Men, and he did not like it much. …He wondered what the man’s [a Southron] name was and where he came from; and if he was really evil of heart, or what lies or threats had led him on the long march from his home.”
Here, Tolkien adds a hint of a moral component and then instantly minimizes it by bring up that the Southron is probably here because of lies and threats. This suggests that this Southron is corrupted and fights for the wrong reasons.

My point is that even when Tolkien fights the good guys against men, the men are always corrupted or it is as at least suggested that they are corrupted in some way. Tolkien minimizes moral ambiguity not only when the good guys fight orcs, but also when they fight men. I do agree that things would have been more interesting and controversial with more moral ambiguity, but I am not sure if I would have liked to see more of it. Many of the transformations of characters would not have seemed so just, honest, and significant with more moral ambiguity. For example, would we still view Aragorn the same way if he fought uncorrupted men who fight for legitimate and just reasons? Would his kingly transformation be just as inspiring?