Analysis: Animorphs

     Tragic Heroism in the Protagonists 
All of the Animorphs can be considered tragic heroes. They are all deeply flawed individuals, and those flaws led to their eventual downfalls. This can be seen through Jake and the fear he had of leading; Marco and his fear of failure; Rachel and her bloodlust; Cassie and her fear of immorality; Tobias and his fear of loss; and Ax and his pride in his species.

Jake is the most obvious of all the Animorphs as the tragic hero because it was he that fell the furthest. In the beginning, the only reason that he signed on to fight was to save his brother, Tom. That was it. It was this determination to save Tom that kept him going through the years of the war. It was a childish, naive hope, but Jake was a child, and having that hope gave him something to focus on.

Throughout the series, Jake made increasingly hard decisions. He went from a child to a war general, and one of the only things linking him to the boy he once was was his need to save Tom. In the end, his development into a harder, more ruthless character resulted in him deciding Tom was better off dead than a slave for a day longer. He crossed his Despair Event Horizon once he lost both Tom and Rachel, his brother and his cousin, because of his order. This, combined with all the other ruthless decisions he made in the end - sacrificing the Auxiliary Animorphs, the draining of the Yeerk Pool - as well as the decisions he made over the years that he regretted led to Jake experiencing PTSD and depression for years after the war, growing apart from his friends and the people that he loved most. In the end, it was Jake's sense of duty and his guilt that made him a Tragic Hero.

Marco is a far less obvious example, but he still does count. He felt responsible for his parents and for his friends, and he was terrified of failing them. Marco always put his family first, and initially didn't want to be an Animorph because his father wouldn't be able to cope with losing Marco after having lost Eva. This mentality put a huge amount of stress on Marco. His role as The Lancer was just as important as Jake's role as The Leader. Marco needed to be smart and tactical. There was no room for emotional decisions, and that changed him from a regular kid who wanted regular things to an entirely different, more serious and ruthless adult. This attitude made it impossible for Marco to enjoy having everything he had always wanted after the war. He was bored out of his mind with the wealth and fame, even admitting that much to Jake as well as saying that he'd have killed Jake had he left without him. His fear of failure led to his boredom with wealth, which in turn led to his agreeing to go along with Jake on a Suicide Mission.

Rachel's love of violence meant that fighting the war changed her in a way that it didn't change any of the others. Everyone else was horrified, and she was too, but she also loved it and derived a sick pleasure from it. She went from a regular girl - smart, beautiful, talented - to a brutal warrior, a killer that did whatever dirty work had to be done. She terrified herself as much as she terrified her friends. But what distinguishes Rachel as a tragic hero isn't that she was bloodthirsty - it's the effect of that viciousness on the person she once was.

Rachel was pretty, Rachel was popular, and Rachel initially only wanted to do good. Rachel didn't become an Animorph because she enjoyed violence - she did it because it was the right thing to do. She didn't know how much she loved violence until she started fighting for the cause. Rachel pre-war was the quintessential Ace. The horrors of war brought out a whole different side of her - a side that was ruthless, reckless, violent, harsh. Rachel didn't even really consider herself a hero at a lot of points. But she was always sympathetic, because she tried to do good, and she loved so deeply.

To me, Rachel's last words were some of the most poignant in the series. I love you. This was Rachel, the unstable, aggressive, rage filled one. And her last words were expressing to Tobias that she loved him. Rachel and Tobias are very different characters. In general, Tobias is a much gentler person, much more in control of his emotions. Rachel's loud and brash and emotional. But when it comes to Tobias, Rachel has always been softer and more sensitive. It was sometimes similar with Cassie, like when Cassie was trapped as a caterpillar and Rachel didn't kill Aftran and Karen because that would have made Cassie's sacrifice meaningless. Cassie and Tobias, Rachel's best friend and the only love she ever really had, brought out the best in Rachel. They kept her from crossing the line into Anti-Villain territory, and that is why her death had so much impact.

Cassie's fear of doing the wrong thing and losing her morality stemmed from her understanding of people. Cassie was highly empathetic and perceptive. Those traits were where she got her morality from and why she was so good at manipulating people. Her hatred of violence, something that in most cases is a heroic trait, is what led Cassie to make increasingly morally grey decisions. I'd make the argument that Cassie is both the scariest and most dangerous Animorph, because of what she considers a better fate than death. She was willing to trap someone as a rat forever because she refused to kill him, regular prison wasn't an option for multiple reasons, and he was too dangerous to be left alone.

This empathy, this perceptiveness, was why Cassie became so much harder and more cynical over the years. Yes, in the end, she still made idealistic decisions and hoped and believed in people. But naive, sweet, trusting Cassie died a long time before the end of the series. It's why she told Jake that she couldn't marry him in The Answer - because she knew that no matter how much he loved her, and how much she loved him, they had both changed, and it was the war that was keeping them together. She knew that they needed to find out who they were outside of that war.

Tobias, at one point or another, lost nearly everything or everyone he cared about. He never had a real family, or real friends. Not until they met Elfangor. He lost his human body. The one person that kept him from completely forgetting who he was was Rachel. And despite everything, he still fought the Yeerks. He was the first to point out that they had a moral obligation to do so. No one lost more than Tobias did, and yet he never gave up. He was always determined to do the right thing, no matter what that involved sacrificing. Always the first one to volunteer for a Suicide Mission. And he could do all of that without blinking because he was only risking his own life.

Tobias was so scared of losing anyone else. He was delighted to have friends in the beginning of the series, so glad that people could like him. He didn't want to lose that. One of the biggest tragedies of the series - and there are a lot of those - is how disillusioned Tobias got with Jake. At first, he admired Jake, liked him. But as Jake grew more and more hardened, Tobias grew more and more cynical. And the straw that broke the camel's back was Rachel's death.

Rachel died and Tobias broke. How could he be around Jake any more? Jake got the girl he loved killed. And Rachel was so much more to Tobias than the girl he loved - she was the one person that reminded him of his humanity. The one person he wanted to be human for. And despite all that pain and suffering, Tobias was still a hero because no matter what, he would always be loyal to his friends. The second he knew that Ax needed him, he teamed up with Jake again.

And finally, Ax. For a long time, he wasn't Ax, the Animorph - he was Ax, the Andalite. He was the Sixth Ranger. He didn't quite fit in, and that was because he didn't want to. His loyalty was to his people, not to the Animorphs - he called Jake his Prince and he obeyed Jake's commands, but if it came down to a choice between humans and Andalites, Andalites were going to win every time. But his loyalties grew more and more divided over time, and he grew more and more conflicted as to what the right thing to do was.

Ax found a family in the Animorphs, and he spent years fighting alongside them. He became Aximili of Earth. A war hero, a Prince, but not the loyal Andalite cadet he'd been when he first arrived. In order to become that Prince, he had to challenge his superior officers and side with humans. His unflappable faith and pride in his species crumbled over the course of the series.
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