Reviews Comments: Eragon - Hero or Anti Hero?

Eragon - Hero or Anti Hero?
I'll start off this analysis by getting something off my chest. I am not a fan of this series; I hate these books with a passion. There. Now that I have established my disgust, I can put it to one side and discuss the morality of Eragon in these books.

One problem I have with fans and haters alike is their tendency to shove every character in the book into moral boxes, portraying the Inheritance Cycle in a very black-and-white fashion. Yes, Christopher Paolini wrote these books with Black And White Morality in mind; the noble Varden vs the evil Empire. But we the readers should not categorise characters into black and white just because C.P. did with his writing; we should be more discerning than that.

One thing that bothers me is the morality of the character Eragon. The problem with him is not that he is an amoral sociopath that don't give a **** about the suffering he causes, but that he shows often compassion or brutality at the wrong times and to the wrong people. In the first book, he pleads Murtagh (designated Anti Hero who doesn't do anything particularly anti-heroic other than brood and angst) to spare some slave traders who just tried to kill them, and who made dozens of lives miserable. This can come across as a rather Messianic thing to do, and C.P. is obviously trying (and failing) to show Eragon as a flawed but good-hearted young man. And he "dies three times" when he kills bunny rabbits for energy to fuel his magic. But these actions don't fit with the fact that Eragon remorselessly killed legions of soldiers just because they were on the wrong side.

And yet he rewards the archers on his side for nearly shooting him to death by accident in Eldest (it makes no sense at all), showing that he does care about his own men (how are they any different to Galbatorix's men?). He also sentenced Sloan to a Fate Worse Than Death, although he really did want to be just and fair to the man, but failed due to his naivety and rashness of youth. However, it doesn't help that the Elven Queen approved of his actions, showing that C.P. is forcing the reader accept that Eragon did the right thing.

At the end of the day, do we really have to shoehorn Eragon into "good" or "evil"? Why does he have to belong to one of those camps? Why can't he just do wrong things for the right reasons?


I would have explored the morality of Sloan as a morally grey character, but I hadn't the room to do so. He's almost as bad as Eragon in that people also try and wedge him into good and evil, rather than just accepting that sometimes people do terrible things for sympathetic reasons.

And it doesn't help that the morality comes off as a bit questionable as a result of Chris's shitty writing skills.
comment #9871 CrazyDawg 13th Sep 11
I think you've really struck upon a more fundamental problem in society than a problem with the book. The purpose of country and army is to convince someone that the life of someone else is worth so much less than your own and even worth less than a single order, simply because they were born in a different country, because they're foreign and signed up for the other team.

And the problem invades the whole of our society, it's why we get ridiculous tropes where a noble hero kills thousands of goons and then spares the bad guy. Why the paragon in Mass Effect kills a crudload of mercs and every-man Drake has several hundred lives to his name.

I'm not even saying it's wrong (although I think it is), there is certainly something a bit complex going on but I don't think you can make the case of an anti-hero in todays terms on the basis of such willing slaughter of soldiers. Soldiers just aren't people if they work for the other side
comment #9929 Tomwithnonumbers 14th Sep 11
You've nailed the problem perfectly. You are referring to the problem of Moral Dissonance, where moral lapses are justified or not called attention to if it happens to someone who is not on your side.

I think Black And White Morality was more frequent in the past, when countries would paint the other side as the "villains" and their own people as the "heroes" to promote patriotism, and this leaked into the literature of that time. Notice how classic literature tended to feature Black And White Morality more often? And Eragon was written in the vein of classic literature.

This is the inherent problem with patriotism, as promoting the whole we-are-better-than-them mentality allows the leaders and politicians of countries to control their populace by brainwashing them into thinking that everything their leaders do is right.

But now that we live in times where patriotism is less fervent, there's also a bit of a recession in the we-are-better-than-them Black And White Morality, and there's more modern literature that portrays opposing factions in a more equal light.

I think one problem readers have with Eragon that readers don't have with Lord OF The Rings is that the mooks are human, rather than Orcs. While the Orcs are Always Chaotic Evil, the humans are a different story. So J R R Tolkein was able to get away with having the heroes slaughter mountains of Orcs, but C.P. is loathed for having Eragon do the same to the human mooks. And Eragon is also badly written, and it doesn't help that C.P. shoves his ideas into our face. He is telling when he needs to show in his writing.
comment #9938 CrazyDawg 15th Sep 11
I think Lord of the Rings gets away with it because everything in LOTR is written at a higher level than most stories, not in terms of writing quality but just attitude. Tolkien wrote Lo TR like the Bible, as authority and his magic is much less about magic and more about the power invoked in a person and in the forces of his world. And so Sauron wasn't just evil or representing evil, he was the manifestation of evil itself. Eragon could never have done that regardless of whatever race the enemy were and as such, you're right, it needs to be made up for with more complex motivation.

Interestingly though, as an aside, Tolkien is probably (after Jane Austen) one of the greatest examples of tell, don't show in literature. He hardly showed anything, any inflection of emotion, backstory, history and character was written as it stands with very little of the detail that should accompany it. There is almost nothing left to the readers interpretation and the things he shows instead of tells are the things most people would feel doesn't matter, like the songs, the poems, bits of map and landscape. It's a nice reminder that there are no hard and fast rules to writing :D
comment #9992 Tomwithnonumbers 17th Sep 11
LOTR gets away with it probably for the same reasons Shakespeare gets away with what he does.

There's moral dissonance in a lot of fictional works. But it works because most people don't notice it.
comment #9997 eveil 17th Sep 11
Well most of the dissonance is justified beyond "Well thy weren't on my side" kind of thing. That or it's outright stated that said hero isn't perfect (hence why Rowling got away with it) or the character themselves feel terrible over it and try not to do it again (hence how the Avatar creators and Lemony Snicket got away with their protagonists doing crap to others).

But Eragon doesn't justify it enough or even act like it's a problem. Paolini uses Protagonist Centered Morality when it comes to Mooks.

I mean even Tolkien had more justification than that,and that's saying something
comment #10026 terlwyth 17th Sep 11
I agree. It's as though C.P. expects readers to side with Eragon just because he happens to be the protagonist.
comment #10028 CrazyDawg 17th Sep 11
I have to disagree. Poaline set up a very ridged morality system in his books, with little to no grey, and his characters should have to abide by it. If I am told a character is good, and all his actions are good, and the text is constantly reinforcing the goodness of his choices, yet despite this he is doing exactly the very same thing he is condeming the bad guy for, it becomes cognative disodience.
comment #10059 TheEmeraldDragon 18th Sep 11
But you are told a character is good. My point is that just because a text forces you to accept the Black And White Morality, it doesn't mean you have to follow along with it. This is were reader interpretation comes in.

For example; Sloan betrayed the village to The Empire to ensure the safety of his daughter, because he wanted to save his daughter from a Fate Worse Than Death. But his actions don't match his good intentions. There are huge debates over Slaon's morality because people are trying to put Sloan into "black" or "white". And although I believe Chrissy intended Sloan to be the villain, and intended the "heroic" Eragon to do something "noble" in sentencing Sloan to a Fate Worse Than Death, these characters are no better than each other. Yes, Eragon really did want to do the right thing, but he was misguided. Just like Sloan.

Eragon and Sloan are both men who did evil, horrific things to each other whilst believing they were in the right. And although Chris wrote their conflict with Black And White Morality in mind, the reader perceives this conflict as being closer to Grey And Gray Morality than anything else. Chrissy's problem is that most readers are not morons, and he forces his perspective down our throats.
comment #10061 CrazyDawg 18th Sep 11 (edited by: CrazyDawg)
Exactly my point,the Black And White Morality is very much based off the protagonist and its never truly justified that what the protagonist does is messed up as well.

And thats the dissonance really. And Paolini never justifies why Eragon does any of what he does past the whole "he's the hero" crap

comment #10062 terlwyth 18th Sep 11
Well actually I'd agree with Chrissy on the Sloan thing,Sloan definitely crossed the Moral Event Horizon when he sold everyone out just becuase he hated Roran.

However the Arya thing and how Eragon treats her is very much like Katniss and Peeta in The Hunger Games. Except the author pretty much implies what Katniss did was horrible and wrong,and from that Katniss Becomes The Mask and gets better. Whereas Paolini pretty much all the time writes Eragon's treatment of Arya as if its only misguided rather than abominable.
comment #10063 terlwyth 18th Sep 11
My point stands, a story must be consistant with itself. I'm not against B&W Morality, I've seen stories done well that use it. Poaline, however, does not.
comment #10070 TheEmeraldDragon 18th Sep 11
I agree, Emerald. Black And White Morality isn't necessarily a bad thing; it's been done a lot better in other books. And because of the bad writing, Eragon does very morally questionable things that are meant to be seen as wise and noble, not misguided.

My beef is that people call Eragon evil when he is clearly meant to be a good character. He's just badly written, that's all, and it's obvious that we are meant to view him as a Hero, not as a bad guy.
comment #10113 CrazyDawg 20th Sep 11
I had a professer that once said "only half the story is written in the book." That is to say, reader bring their own experiences and ideas to the story. No story exists outside this bubble, we each interperat a story differently. Yes, it would be nice if every person who read my work saw only what I wanted them to see and Fridge Logic never took hold. But it isn't going to happen, not to me or Poaline.
comment #10447 TheEmeraldDragon 2nd Oct 11
Exactly. Paolini tries to hard to make us accept what he wrote, and he forgets that the readers are discerning thinkers who interpret things the way they see them.

The real irony with Chrissy is that he receives a lot more Fridge Logic for trying to avoid Fridge Logic.
comment #10497 CrazyDawg 3rd Oct 11

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