Journal 4- The Characterization of Evil

We have discussed, at length, the ambiguity of evil. Every act labeled evil is not wholly evil; we must think of a character’s intentions when judging their actions. This is especially true in The Fellowship of the Ring. In Tolkien’s world there exists no pure evil. Lewis takes a more simplistic approach to the characterization of evil.


In The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe it would be difficult to find a redeeming quality in the witch or any of her monster minions. She is driven by greed and pride and ambition. Her negative qualities have overtaken her- if there were positive qualities to begin with. The monsters in this book are unlike those in Tolkien’s novel; they did not begin as a good creature. The orcs were first elves, mutilated and reborn as grotesque monsters. Whereas the dwarves, the wolves, etc. in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe did not begin their lives with good, they have always been corrupted.


Edmund’s betrayal, an evil act by a good person, complicates the essential duality in Lewis’s world. However, if you consider the Christian message behind the novel it becomes clearer. Edmund is a sinner, who in the end realizes his faults and is redeemed by the Christ figure, Aislan. The center of Christian theology is the idea of salvation and redemption. The bible teaches us that we are all sinners and only through love for God may we be redeemed. Edmund, unlike his siblings, serves as an example of the type of sinner Jesus especially cared for.


When looking at the characterization of evil in these two works it is necessary to consider the audience they were written for. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe was written for children, whereas The Fellowship of the Ring was written for an older audience. Bruno Bettelheim in The Uses of Enchantment explains that children enjoy fairy tales subconsciously. They solve the inner problems that children are unable to articulate and offer meaning to them. Bettelheim asserts that evil is omnipresent in fairytales. There is a duality in life as well as literature but in fairytales there is no ambiguity: characters are good or bad, there is no grey area. However, evil is not present just so the hero has something to fight against. Bettelheim assures us that evil characters are present to show children that bad actions do not yield rewards. Children do not learn morality when the villain is vanquished. They learn when they see that the hero is rewarded for his actions and the villain doesn’t get the throne.

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