Created By: TheHandle on April 26, 2012 Last Edited By: Arivne on April 25, 2013

Morally Weak

They don't live up to their own ideals, which they believe in, because they are weak and flawed

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I saw that many misuses (as of the article description) of Hypocrite actually mean this. Thus, if we are going to have Hypocrite and Straw Hypocrite, we should also have a page for this particular kind of cognitive dissonance. This is une of the if not the most important reason one may be Unfit for Greatness.

No Real Life Examples, Please!.



  • Corneille's tragedies are all about characters struggling with this.
  • As are some of William Shakespeare's: Macbeth fails at being a good guy, and asked his wife for help... but she only pushed him through the Moral Event Horizon. Hamlet really wants to avenge his father, but he doesn't have the guts to, and instead he just spends time torturing the women who love him, because they are easy and convenient outlets.

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Community Feedback Replies: 17
  • April 26, 2012
    This is the crucial trait of characters who are Unfit For Greatness.
  • April 27, 2012
    Borimir in Lord Of The Rings.
  • April 27, 2012
    Kinda needs a clearer title, Too Flawed For Idealism maybe. Also, I think most of these examples will still qualify as a Hypocrite. This is more of a Sub Trope.
  • April 28, 2012
    Also No Real Life Examples please. Or flak will start flying about how morally weak those (insert nation here) hypocrites are.
  • April 28, 2012
    The only people who would not qualify as a real life example would be those who have no desire to be good anyway.
  • April 28, 2012

    In Arms And The Man by George Bernard Shaw Major Sergius Saranoff has high, romantic ideals. Even so, his own moral failings and the failings he witnesses in others leave him cynical and unable to live up to his own ideals. To a lesser extent the same is true of his fiancee, Raina Petkoff.

    Sergius: Mockery, mockery everywhere: everything I think is mocked by everything I do.
  • March 4, 2013

    ^^^Does one qualify for hypocrisy when one is incapable of living up to the standards one preaches and believes in? They're not hiding behind a mask: it's more like they want plastic surgery but don't have the money... Or something like that.

    Too Flawed For Idealism is good, I guess.

    Boromir needs elaboration: "the Man wanted the Ring for his country, but found himself tempted by it beyond pragmatism and into barbarous, dishonourable behaviour", perhaps?
  • March 4, 2013
    This shouldn't be a character trope, because virtually all characters have it. It could be a plot trope, for events where a character knows the right thing to do, but does the wrong thing. (Although even that might be an Omnipresent Trope.) Should it include cases where a character successfully resists temptation, or only those where they fail?

    There are traditional sayings that could serve as titles. The Spirit Is Willing But The Flesh Is Weak, or preferably one that talks about the will or weakness rather than "flesh". Or Moral Weakness or Temptation.

    Related (subtrope?) to Moral Dilemma: this is when the conflict is not between two moral principles but between morality and other drives. May be depicted with Good Angel Bad Angel. Index: Internal Conflict Tropes.
  • March 5, 2013
    That's some serious WMG/Alternate Character Interpretation you've got going on Hamlet.
  • March 5, 2013
    ^It's what was in my school manual.

    ^^The Spirit Is Willing But The Flesh Is Weak was my initial choice, but we have this "no dialogue lines as titles" rule, and it seems to imply the characters are physically incapable of matching the tasks ahead of them (To caricature, think Scrappy Doo and his obsession with challenging opponents that would absolutely murder them). Willing Spirit Weak Will perhaps? "The characters clearly have a moral compass, but it points them towards a sheer cliff they are powerless to overcome." might be a phrase one could use in the description.

    The indexes are appropriate, thank you for suggesting them. Characters overcoming their other drives for the sake of doing what they think is right, they having that strength of will, is, in fiction, the rule, rather than the exception, much unlike in Real Life. So, only times in which there was failure or failure was imminent and narrowly averted should be accounted for.

    For example, in Bleach, the protagonist faces the strongest Reaper in Soul Society, and is terrified into submission, but, after a Battle In The Center Of The Mind, comes back stronger and narrowly defeats his fearsome foe. I'm pretty sure that's Not An Example, because there really was no question that he'd get over it and grow a Shounen Upgrade.

    In Harry Potter, Peter Pettigrew betrayed Harry's parents and was directly responsible for their death, not out of malice or ambition but purely out of terror. The one who inspired that terror was Voldemort himself, who was going to horrifically torture and kill him if he refused. Furthermore, every single evil or dastardly action he committed afterwards was inspired by cowardice; the man had zero initiative, and zero Villainous Valor. In fact, zero valor of any sort.

    Hm, that example could use some trimming.
  • March 5, 2013
    Description could be better.
  • April 24, 2013
    Would this character be a Mr Vice Guy?
  • April 24, 2013
    No... this would be someone who has strong morals and beliefs that are good, but basically isn't strong enough to maintain them when push comes to shove. A Mr Vice Guy is almost an inversion, he gives into his vices because he likes them, but is at the end of the day ultimately good.
  • April 24, 2013
    That's a nice way you put it then.
  • April 25, 2013
    Added Namespaces and italicization to OP work titles.

    I assume the OP meant the two live action Film versions of The Hunchback Of Notre Dame because he said "both versions".
  • April 25, 2013
    • This is a major theme/aesop of The First Law series, which frequently emphasizes that things are so crapsack and the characters do evil because they are too morally weak to learn from their mistakes and change their behavior:
      • This is a major part of the character arc of Jezazl in the original trilogy, who is a selfish man-about-town who has some positive qualities deep down and is set up to be The Chosen One with various experiences that bring some Character Development. At the end of the series, he becomes king and wants to do good, but the Big Bad cows him into being a figurehead.
      • This is also a big part of the characterization of the Lovable Rogue mercenary leader Cosca, a Jaded Washout and drunk who (supposedly) used to be a dashing man-about-town and Memetic Badass. Cosca is very self-deprecating about his failures and there is a poignant scene in Best Served Cold in which he gives the anti-heroine, his former protegee, a You Are Better Than You Think You Are speech and tells her he loves her because (unlike him) she can actually rise to her good impulses.
      • In the later book, Red Country, moral weakness is almost the salient trait of the protagonist Temple, who starts out as the Bastard Understudy of Cosca, who by this point has given up on trying to be good after further (self-inflicted) failures. Temple has good impulses and tries to be good, but his held back by his cowardice, and is torn between starting an honest life, and following in the footsteps of his Evil Mentor Cosca. He eventually realizes that Being Evil Sucks and remains a good guy.
  • April 25, 2013
    • Mr Krabs started off this way in Spongebob Squarepants, having some amount of scruples and meaning well, but his Money Fetish making him quick to sell his soul (or that of others', literally) for the sake of an extra buck. In later episodes he was Flanderized into more just an apathetic Jerk Ass.