Good and Evil in Lord of the Rings

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Intentionally Wicked: Thoughts on The Lord of the Rings and Our Motivation in Committing Evil Acts

The Main Point:

The following analysis deals with the nature and source of evil and whether, given our innate motives and moral obligation, we willingly choose to succumb to our desires or are slaves of our passion. From this argument, I intend to show that our human nature requires that we play into our desires in order to affirm our free will. This is not to say that our desires are necessarily evil, but quite the opposite. In some sense, whatever people actually want has some relative value to them, and that all wanted things contain some good. But given that there are so many such goods and a whole spectrum of varying arrangements among them, that there is no way we can conceive anything as embodying an overall good just because it is to some degree wanted by one or a group of persons. In this light, there arises conflict which can only be resolved by a priority system defined by a code, maybe of moral foundations, which allows us to analyze the complexities of human motivation. I do not intend to set down the boundaries of such a notion, nor do I want to answer whether it benefits one to lead a morally good life, but rather want to find out how the constructs of good and evil affect our freedom to choose.

The Starting Point:

Free will can be wholly responsible for my motivation to write this paper. I was really hoping for Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy to come out in time to be used as the film for analysis, but to my disappointment, it opened in theaters the day this paper was due. So, I chose to write instead on The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. The films, though not really about our freedom to choose, inspired me to look into the topic of whether it is in our nature to willingly choose the path of evil to gain personal fulfillment. Our motives are not as clear cut as the archetypes portraying good and evil are in the film, but part of me thinks their embodiment in such fantastical creatures as elves, hobbits, orcs, and demons say something about the human desire to approach our weaknesses with understanding and strengths with humility. For if we learn from our mistakes we may grow stronger, while withdrawing from our arrogance, might we refrain from ruling out perfectly possible and desirable changes as impossible. This is the essence of our freedom.

The Assumptions:

My assumptions are few and hopefully essential. Firstly, the sciences do not attack our freedom in their efforts to administer predictability in a world where events are causally determined, random, or at the will of a higher, unknown power. Secondly, our actions are no more than effects of our prior desires, and changes result from some pre-existing motives, thus preserving continuity in our personal identity. Thirdly, we cannot live without some kind of morality, and every human culture functions with one. And fourthly, every subject brought up by fantasy stems from reality.

The Argument:

Lord of the Rings conveys the longstanding struggle between good and evil and delves into its relationship to the power of personal free choice. The novel by J.R.R. Tolkien has been brought to life by the magic of computerized special effects as almost every element of the author's vision is recreated in the film. Although Tolkien intended his reader to imagine through his words the fantasy in which Lord of the Rings takes place, film allows us to hear and see more vividly the story, and more importantly, "gives us the freedom to choose, to select one detail over another." As such, whereas words are always the same in Tolkien's novel, the image on the screen changes continually as we redirect our attention to different images each time we watch the film. Although, the film can never be a substitute of the rich and complete experience of the novel, it complements it in ways that we've anticipated for some time, and for...
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