Saturday, April 23, 2011

Morality Conflict

In King Arthur, moral conflicts are prevalent. Sir Lancelot, for example, must fight Sir Gawain, his friend. Lancelot also disguises himself as one of another nation just to fight the men of the Round Table.
King Arthur must wage war against Sir Lancelot after "finding out" (like he didn't know before) that Sir Lancelot was dishonorable with Arthur's wife. Sure Lancelot was dishonorable and even denied it at later times, but I still think there were moral issues involved. Arthur and Lancelot were, afterall, friends and very respectable to each other (or maybe more than friends?).

On the contrary, Tolkien tries his best to avoid these moral conflicts in his works. Even from the beginning, Tolkien drew the line of Good versus Evil (Manwe versus Melkor). Moreover, most battles are distinctly separated between the good (elves, men, dwarves, hobbits) and the evil (trolls, orcs, balrogs, etc). Even when men are evil, Tolkien makes it a point to confirm that they are corrupted in some way.

Tolkien includes even more epic battles in his works, yet he still is able to omit this morality conflict (something he, personally, did not like as a veteran). To Tolkien, is this morality omission yet another correction to King Arthur (King Arthur as it should have been)? Also, do you think such an omission makes LOTR (and Tolkien's other works or just works in general) better or worse?


Luthien said...

I have to admit that in Tolkien's works, I would have liked to have seen just a little bit more of the gray area when it came to moral conflict. But, I also have to admit that sometimes it's really great to read a story where Good and Bad are so clear-cut, and where Good eventually comes out on top, such as in LOTR. :)

Theodred said...

I would venture to say that this clear-cut version of morality and omission of any gray area is indeed one of the corrections made that Tolkien feels is how King Arthur should have been. Such an omission makes LOTR better because it allows for readers to get a better idea of characters. Hobbits and elves are seen as good, and do good things, while goblins and orcs are bad and do bad things. Imagine if Tolkien included a moral gray area. What if Sam or one of the other members of the Fellowship struggled with the moral dilemma of taking the ring for themselves, and struggled with killing Frodo for it (blasphemy, I know)? I realize that Boromir did struggle with the dilemma of taking the ring, but he never had to deal with the issue of possibly killing Frodo for it. He was still morally good, and redeemed himself in the end. Adding a moral gray area would take away from the value and respectability of some of Tolkien's characters.