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Good Is Not Soft / Literature

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  • Charlotte from Along The Winding Road. While she's optimistic and gives everyone the benefit of the doubt, that doesn't mean you can try to murder her friend/boyfriend and get off scot-free. Or even necessarily live.
  • Cassie from Animorphs is kind, the peacemaker of the group, willing to risk herself even for enemies...and once manipulated a guy into being trapped as a rat for the rest of his life, which he considered a Fate Worse than Death. On another occasion, the team made a deal not to harm a Yeerk when they were stalemated against; upon learning that he was a Serial Killer who killed humans and ate other Yeerks, Cassie actually demanded his immediate death.
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  • Clockpunk of "Clockpunk and the Vitalizer" goes off on The Vitalizer when making her escape.
    Dolores: Here's what we're going to do, Vitalizer. I’m going to keep beating you with my binds. It will be agonizing. The only way to lessen it up will be to get this pole from around me.
  • The Culture is a hedonistic post-scarcity society whose citizens mostly live to entertain, educate and enlighten themselves and their peers and spread their beneficial lifestyle to others, but at the edge of their ethics are apocalyptically powerful starships and agents who will do any kind of dirty business to protect and expand the Culture's interests, and anyone who tries to harm them learns a fatally hard lesson in why it was a bad idea.
    "You might call them soft, because they're very reluctant to kill, and they might agree with you, but they're soft the way the ocean is soft, and, well; ask any sea captain how harmless and puny the ocean can be."
    • Every few books it's mentioned that the key piece of advice among other societies regarding hostility toward the Culture is simply "Don't Fuck With The Culture". Inevitably this is ignored to personally horrific results.
  • The Felcraft family in Dance Of The Butterfly has many members who are cultured, polite, kind, etc., but they are very capable in conflicts ranging from diplomatic to physical violence. Lilja Perhonen is also very nice and polite, and she will hold her own in any fight.
  • This is a recurring trope in the Deryni novels:
    • In The King's Justice:
      • After Kelson's forces defeat Sicard MacArdry's Mearan rebels, Kelson denies Sicard's request for single combat, orders his archers to surround Sicard and his men, and calls for a bow:
        "But you—you can't just cut me down like a dog," Sicard said weakly.
        "Indeed?" Kelson said, calmly laying an arrow across the bowstring. "Sicard, I can and shall cut you down precisely like a dog, if I must. For, like a rabid dog, you have ravaged my lands and slain my people. Now, will you and your men surrender, or must I do what I would rather not?"
      • Kelson goes on to tell Sicard that his surviving son is dead, and when Sicard still refuses to surrender, Kelson puts an arrow through Sicard's eye.
      • After Kelson Truth-Reads Loris and Gorony, he orders his guards not to converse with them or answer any of their questions, saying "I want them to sweat a little, wondering what I have in store for them." A week later in the great hall at Laas, Archbishop Cardiel and Bishop McLain swiftly pronounce Loris and Gorony guilty of the charges against them and surrender them to secular judgement. Kelson immediately orders them hanged right there in the hall.
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    • In King Kelson's Bride:
      • Mátyás learns of his brothers' plan to kill Liam at his killijálay and comes up with his own plan: he has one of the four Moving Wards (magical guardians for the ceremony) murdered, making it look like a jealous husband was responsible, so Kelson can take his place.
      • Liam Mind Rips Mahael after the coup d'etat fails, then orders his guards to impale him and the corpse of a dead co-conspirator outside the family burial ground ("that his ancestors may witness his shame"), with the surviving Teymuraz to bear witness in person. Liam specifies that this be done before the ceremony is over and later commands the bodies be left in place the full three days and nights the law requires.
  • Discworld:
    • The page quote comes from Men at Arms. Later in the novel (and in other Discworld novels featuring the City Watch), recurring character Carrot Ironfoundersson proves that he fits the trope very well indeed. He's all niceness, idealism, and goodwill towards all, which means that when he has to mete out justice, he simply does it without gloating or qualm.
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    • See also Carrot's boss, Commander Samuel Vimes, who actively and relentlessly seeks to bring justice to a world where everyone is a bit of a bastard. He will also fight trolls, dwarves, vampires, golems, werewolves, and other supernatural monstrosities with nothing more than his bare fists and cunning.
    • Granny Weatherwax is similar to Vimes, only she has actual magic powers. She defeats vampires by infecting their blood with her own essence, but stops short of scattering their ashes into space, thus dooming them to millions of years of undeath before the possibility of reconstitution.
  • Four from Divergent. From not letting up in his training of Tris to begin with to shooting Eric, he's a good guy, but not particularly coddling.
  • In Dragon Bones, Ward is a genuinely nice guy who loves his siblings and protects everyone in need of protection. However, he has no problem with killing bandits, even if they're younger than he — as his aunt Stala always says, either you kill them, or they'll kill you. Neither does he have qualms about making his castle collapse over his enemies, by killing his friend Oreg. Oreg's death was a Heroic Sacrifice, but the enemies didn't see it coming, they were misled by the fact that Ward acted very kind towards them, as that's his default. Of course, as he's a good guy, the castle was evacuated before the enemies entered it.
  • Dragonriders of Pern:
    • Masterharper Robinton is one of the nicest people to those he likes. He is also a harsh critic and denounces the corruption and faults of those in power. His strongest example of this trope, though, comes when seeking to stop a corrupt lord, who is dying from what seems like stomach cancer, from dying without naming an heir. Such an action would plunge the area into civil war. Robinton gets Masterhealer Oldive to leave the chamber and no one is administering pain medication, while Robinton lists off all the heirs. He purposefully omits the one he wants only for another person to remind him. Other lords present continue the ruse, making the one they "forgot" or "dislike most" seem like the best one the dying lord can name to spite them. They continue for some time before the dying lord is tortured into screaming a name to stop them. With the task done, Robinton permits him to be tended to.
    • Masterhealer Oldive, a kind and patient man, is complicit in the darker actions Robinton takes in the above situation. Once Robinton is done, Oldive returns quickly to do what he can for the person.
  • The Dresden Files
    • The Knights of the Cross are modern-day paladins who will do their best to persuade the Denarians, Demonic Possession collaborators, and victims to escape the thrall of the Fallen Angel inside the human's head. If they do surrender, even if the Knights know the person is insincere, they cannot harm him anymore. If they refuse, though, the Knights have absolutely no compunction against killing them.
      Harry: [to a Denarian who just "surrendered"] People like you always mistake compassion for weakness. Michael and Sanya aren't weak. Fortunately for you, they are good men. Unfortunately for you, I'm not.
    • That moment is one of Harry's best Good Is Not Soft moments. He is the all-time champion of Chronic Hero Syndrome, putting his life on the line over and over against dark wizards and Eldritch Abominations. However, he will finish you off if he needs to and won't lose sleep over it. The leader of the Denarians learns this when Harry is strangling him to death. Michael, a Knight of the Cross, would have stopped the moment the leader is unconscious. Harry just pulls the rope harder.
    • Karrin Murphy. She tries to be a By-the-Book Cop, with varying degrees of success, has a strong sense of Justice. If someone or something threatens her friends, her family, or the citizens of Chicago, she does not care if the one doing the threatening is a human, wizard, troll, faerie, or fallen angel, she will utterly wreck their shit.
    • Thomas Raith is a Friendly Neighborhood Vampire who feeds on the emotional psyche of his victims, namely lust. He tries to be a good person and not destroy humans who he would frequently feed upon. However, once when a cultist for an ancient dark god tried using Harry to inadvertently spread the god's name, after her plot was stopped, Thomas tracked her down and killed her by feeding on her during sex.
    • Ebenezer McCoy is Harry's second mentor. He taught Harry after Harry killed his first evil mentor who was trying to brainwash him. He teaches Harry about life and the Laws of Magic. A good natured, if gruff man of principles. He will do what he believes is the morally right action. And as the sole Wizard with the power and authority to break the Laws of Magic without going insane from the magical taint, he has killed many with magic. He once took down an enemy fortress by dropping a satellite on top of it. With a single spell, he ripped the life force out of one hundred mercenaries, and a second swipe to claim the other hundred who were left.
    • Archangel Uriel and his fellow Angels of the Lord are all Good beings. However, they are not permitted to interfere with Freewill unless the mortal in question is directly interfering with their Duty.
      • Uriel is personally responsible for the final plague upon Egypt, killing all the firstborns.
      • In Skin Game Uriel after choosing to give his Grace of God to a retired Knight who chose to help Harry once again, Uriel is now mortal. He helps defend the Knight's home and kills one of the villain's mortal followers with a kitchen blade to his neck.
      • When Harry sees an Angel of Death waiting over a good man who might die, Harry thinks he can beat her into either helping the man or just leaving. The Angel makes it very clear by reciting his full name in the proper enunciation, she can stop any attack of his without trying. She then explains her job isn't to kill the mortal, but guard the soul as she would guide it to its final resting place.
    • Mouse, Harry's dog, is a Temple Dog, a sire between a mortal female dog and a powerful spirit. Standing at over 3ft tall and 200+lbs of mostly muscle, he is truly a Big, Friendly Dog, but he will kill to protect his humans. He snapped the neck of one warlock and ripped apart a White Court vampire. This is seen best in the short story "Zoo Day", which is partially narrated from Mouse's point of view. In it he faces one of his litter, who was corrupted by evil and is now causing problems. Mouse offers him one chance to leave and never return to Chicago or Mouse will kill him for returning, or Mouse kills him right then and there. Mouse, who is wounded by this point, notes he is weakened, yes. But if his brother goes after a human girl Mouse is fond of, Mouse will go at him with no fear of death. He will kill this threat even if it means he dies too. He would do it out of love for this girl. His evil brother decides to walk away, but not with one final warning from Mouse about the second part of the offer.
  • In The Fairy Chronicles, Mother Nature, while a benevolent being, is terrifying in some of her forms, such as quicksand or hurricanes.
  • Harry Potter:
    • From the last novel; innocent housewife Molly Weasley's cry of "NOT MY DAUGHTER, YOU BITCH!" right before she kills the powerful, insane sociopath threatening her daughter is an excellent example.
    • Hermione Granger as well. She's a generally nice and helpful girl, but she will not scruple to blackmail an amoral reporter, lure a sadistic teacher into a trap or disfigure (slightly) a traitorous teenage tattle-tale. She might also be quite vicious when scorned.
    • The desperate circumstances in Deathly Hallows drive several of the heroic characters to, among other things, resort to using the "Unforgivable" Imperius and Cruciatus Curses.
    • Neville Longbottom. He embodies the best traits of his house, is kind to everyone who will let him be, helps whenever he can, and doesn't seem to have the heart to hold a grudge. During the Battle of Hogwarts, he leads a group of students in throwing Mandrakes at the Death Eaters. Mandrakes, for the record, are plants with a massive "Instant Death" Radius. That's right, tick Neville off and he won't play around or try to punish you, he'll bring out a magic nuke and kill you dead.
  • Felicity Chambers of Heretical Edge just wants to stop genocide of non-humans and protect innocents. If you push her into a corner, or she decides you have to die to accomplish that? You die, probably in a very brutal way. Like getting a sandstorm stuffed into your lungs.
    • Then there's Headmistress Gaia Sinclaire. She wiped a state off the map to stop an otherwise unbeatable invasion. You know that stretch of ocean south of Alabama and west of Florida? It used to be the state of De Soto, then Gaia blew it up to stop the Fomorians.
  • A common trend throughout the Honor Harrington series. This becomes especially pronounced as the Star Empire of Manticore finds itself in conflict with the Solarian League. The League's the biggest baddest star nation around, and has been for centuries. However, their hardware is far behind Manticore and its contemporaries due to active warfare in that area for the past couple decades. The end result is that Manticore has been able to Curb Stomp Solarian forces even when horrifically outnumbered (which is what the League is best at). Nearly every engagement with Solly forces has thus followed a pattern:
    • When Manticorans and Solarians come into conflict, the Manticorans order the Solarian units to surrender. Solarian officers refuse with varying degrees of arrogance, prompting the Manticorans to recap their past total victories against Solarian forces, and (knowing how easily they can just destroy their enemies) do everything possible to make them surrender. Should the Solarian commander prove Too Dumb to Live, however, the Manticorans don't hesitate to blow the Sollies out of space. After Manticore and Haven sign a military alliance, the Havenites, who are no strangers to this trope, get in on the action.
    • Much like the page quote, Sir Aivars Terekhov summarizes this trope simply and concisely when faced with a Solarian gendarme brigadier who tries to use hostages groundside to prevent him from landing. The following quote comes shortly before Terekhov obliterates the brigadier and her ground base with an orbital kinetic strike, compliments of the Royal Manticoran Navy.
      Why do people like you always assume you're more ruthless than people like me?
  • Peeta Mellark from The Hunger Games is a kind, gentle young man whose signature hobbies are baking and painting. This does not mean he will not kill to protect himself or those he cares about.
  • Patroclus in The Iliad is this — he's definitely the wiser one of his friendship with Achilles, practical, compassionate enough to comfort Briseis, faithful, skilled at healing, and (at least compared to other warriors) seems to be remarkably well-balanced. He also has plenty of wrath of his own, and is brutally efficient in battle, even vaunting over the occasional fallen enemy. (Most modern readers are likely to see Hector as the most definite good guy in the work, along with maybe Priam, so he might qualify as well.)
  • The Jenkinsverse: A human interrogator tells an alien conspirator that the human race is not interested in killing trillions of sapient aliens in order to safeguard billions of humans. But they can, and they will if they have to.
  • True throughout The Leonard Regime. There are several characters who are entirely selfless, but regularly kill their enemies.
  • Frodo Baggins in The Lord of the Rings. Sam begins to despair of Frodo's constant mercy toward the (in Sam's eyes) explicitly untrustworthy Gollum — until Frodo explicitly and rather coldly threatens to kill Gollum if he betrays them.
    Sam looked at his master with approval, but also with surprise: there was a look on his face and a tone in his voice that he had not known before. It had always been a notion of his that the kindness of dear Mr. Frodo was of such a high degree that it must imply a fair measure of blindness.
  • In "Okuyyuki", protagonist Reilly has a fairly grounded modern military man's attitude as he takes on the Iraqi insurgents, which does not allow for excessive mercy. He is quite restrained, however, compared to his spirit companion Audrey, an ancient Japanese kami (i.e., god/spirit) of war.
  • Percy Jackson in Percy Jackson and the Olympians is a caring guy. However, he is perfectly capable of doing deeds that scare even Annabeth to protect his friends.
  • This can be considered the hat of the "ideal" Terran in Perry Rhodan, as usually exemplified by the eponymous protagonist, his more personal friends, and most anybody under his command. Especially earlier in the series when morality is a bit more black-and-white yet, humans as a species are traditionally almost always willing to get along peacefully or even be friends with just about anybody else — but they're also quite aware that they live in a universe where not everybody exactly likes them and so remain ready and willing to deal as decisively as necessary with obvious enemies as well. The Solar Empire didn't have one of the most respected war fleets (and some of the biggest battleships) in the entire galaxy for no reason and wasn't shy about using it in defense of itself and its allies either.
  • In Elmore Leonard's Pronto, Italian-born mafioso Tommy Bucks considers Americans to be soft and prides himself on being a hard man who can kill someone in cold blood without a second thought. US Marshal Raylan Givens is an honest American police officer and thus Tommy assumes that Raylan is ultimately soft. He holds unto this belief until the very end when he finally realizes that Raylan is quite willing and capable of just shooting Tommy dead in the middle of a crowded restaurant.
  • The team members of Rainbow Six are pretty decent people. It's noted that all of them are family men (though the video games with the expanded roster subverts this,) get along well with each other, are Reluctant Warriors and love a non violent solution if one presents itself. They are also the Foreign Legion, an international special forces Badass Crew who slaughter terrorists when needed, the Friendly Sniper team plan and execute a gut shot on one who murdered a sick girl, John and Ding torture, and get angry enough to threaten not to help the Swiss next time there's an incident when they won't help after the team was threatened.
  • In A Song of Ice and Fire, basically every character who is good and doesn't die the moment things get tough.
    • Ser Bonifer the Good, a famously uptight and religious knight, surprises Jaime by being this. After Bonifer rebukes Jaime for Jaime's vengeful urges towards the Brave Companions, (a rogue mercenary group who have been raping and murdering their way across the countryside and who cut off Jaime's sword hand) Jaime mockingly asks if Bonifer would forgive the men instead after catching them. Bonifer replies that if they showed true repentance for their crimes, he would indeed forgive them and pray with them — before sending them to be executed.
      Ser Bonifer: Sins may be forgiven. Crimes require punishment.
  • Pretty much a requirement of any Hero in Super Powereds and Corpies. The Training from Hell a prospective Hero must receive weeds out anyone, who lacks the determination to protect everyone else from supervillains. It also weeds out anyone far too aggressive for his or her own good, so only the most stable and worthy get to become Heroes. That said, most Heroes do their best to immobilize foes rather than kill them, unless there is no other choice. Even Titan, arguably the (physically) strongest person in the world, only uses a tiny fraction of his true strength during fights. Even then, back in the day, the name "Titan" would send villains running.
  • Marvin from The Tenets of Futilism. He's usually mild-mannered and friendly. However, when Sasha (the 'protagonist') orders her cult followers to commit female genital mutilation upon Marvin's sister for no logical reason, he isn't happy. At all. Marvin tries to get Sasha killed using his resources as a reporter. This actually ends up helping her, but it's the thought that counts.
  • Tortall Universe
    • Protector of the Small, Lady Knight:
      • Keladry orders her men to kill every member of an enemy scouting party because they're in enemy territory, so they can't hold prisoners and absolutely can't let anyone escape to sound the alarm. She's not happy about it, but she does it.
      • In the same book, Neal bespells an abusive man so that any strike hurts him, not the victim. Neal is normally a wisecracking healer, but as he's just had to heal a bruised and underfed servant of the man's, he wants to make sure it doesn't happen again.
    • Lady Sabine of Macayhill in Beka Cooper. Friendly and pleasant to Tunstall, Goodwin, and Beka, but she casually suggests that Beka kill Yates Noll, a violent man who beats his sister and tries to hit Beka for making conversation at the Nolls' bake stall. When Beka reminds her that this would be slightly illegal, Sabine's not even slightly abashed.
      Sabine: Oh, I forgot – I'm in Corus again. They care about things like that here.
  • Lissa Dragomir from Vampire Academy may be a gentle soul, but she will hurt you if you mess with the ones she loves. She once got Wade Voda to use a baseball bat to trash his own room and she was going to force him to further hurt himself. All he did was take advantage of a human feeder.
  • Vorkosigan Saga:
    • In Barrayar, Cordelia ends up leading a small team of people into the capital to save Miles' uterine replacator. This ends up going not quite to plan, and she winds up confronting Vidal Vordarian in his rooms. She tells him to stop the war. He declines... so she has him decapitated, carries his head away in a bag, and burns the Imperial residence down behind her. She explains the expedition to her husband and his would-be allies as "shopping" and offers to show them what she bought. They become very cooperative.
    • It should be noted that Cordelia had been thought by the natives to be incapable of such a thing ( the Big Bad's final words are an attempt to say "you can't do this," trunctated in midsentence to "you can't." ), due to her background as being an immigrant from an extremely logical and civilized culture. When she learns that she has earned the respect of Barrayar's ruling elite, she is enraged that her actions should be considered more heroic than the less violent but considerably more difficult, painful, and tortuous ordeals that two other women had gone through. Her husband Aral also gets points for repeatedly killing people without hesitation in order to accomplish such goals as ending the sexual and physical abuses of a P.O.W. camp. His virtues are recognized by Emperor Ezar when making Aral the Regent, "you are the one man who I know, by the far flung ashes of Mad Emperor Yuri, who does not want to be Emperor."
  • Dr. Tachyon from Wild Cards is a very good example of this trope. He is a genuinely good and compassionate person, fiercely loyal to his friends and generally very nice and caring. But was raised as a prince in an aristocratic alien culture with cutthroat politics, and if you happen to be his enemy, don't expect him to fight fair or show any mercy. Even cold-blooded murder is not averse to him if it is necessary and morally justifiable.


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