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28 September 2004 @ 09:34 pm
"Redemption Revoked"  
I graduated college last year with my BA in English Literature and haven't done a thing with it since, so I figured I may as well see if my brain's still working and write a little "paper" on the themes and contextual concepts of FMA. I've also been working on an anime music video for the series in which I'm trying to show what I see as the main themes of the show, so that's helping as well. ^^ I'm waiting for the last episode before I finish the AMV, I'll post again with a link once it's done, or you can just come to AnimeBoston 2005 and see it there. XD I'll put the paper behind an Lj-cut...
Redemption Revoked
One of the things that never ceases to amaze me about Fullmetal Alchemist is the veritable wellspring of depth and emotion behind the characters, their actions, and motivations. Each character has clearly defined (if not always correct) reasons for what they do, and their essential humanity is expressed in each and every decision they make. There is also something to be said for the archetypal themes and contexts presented by the show, most of which lie beneath the surface and can be difficult to explain or to understand.
-Edward Elric and Redemption of a Dream-
Edward Elric is the archetypical hero on a quest. Just as any other hero (Beowulf, Odysseus and even Hamlet), he has a journey to undertake and several hurdles to overcome before he reaches his goal. Of the three characters mentioned I would associate him most closely with Hamlet, mainly because, like Hamlet, Edward feels responsible for the terrible events which have occured in his life and feels that only he can right the wrongs. Hamlet attempts to kill his step-father in revenge for the murder of his real father. Edward attempts to regain his brother's body, lost through their own childish mistake. Each hero has something they feel they must accomplish, whether their reasons are for revenge or redemption, and the road is never easy. The interesting thing about Edward is the path he seems to be taking later in the series. While most heroes will undergo a period of questioning (such as Hamlet's famous "To die; or not to die" soliloquy in which he considers suicide), and then continue towards their goal, Edward Elric appears to be giving up on his goal of redemption. When Roy asks him if there is something more important than his dreams, Ed replies that there are always things like that. If Ed is referring to the fact that the Philosopher's Stone is an evil which must be removed from the world so the wrong kind of people (like Dante) won't be able to use it for their own selfish purposes, then he can only be considering one thing-
Destroying it. And killing his little brother in the process. If I'm right about Ed's motivations and subsequent actions, this will mark his growth into a mature adult. Putting aside his own dreams for the sake of innocent people he's never met is the ultimate act of selflessness, and Edward's sacrifice will elevate him above the level of mere hero to martyr. This may not solve all their problems - in fact, the world will most definately continue to have problems whether the stone is present or not - but at least Ed is taking a step in the right direction. Ed had already proven that he can move beyond his dreams and do what must be done by killing Sloth, who bore the face of his mother. He even went so far as to dig up her grave in order to destroy the homonculus. I believe that the destruction of his own sin precedes the destruction of sin incarnate, which is manifested by the Philosopher's Stone. Death, War and Vengence create the stone and hence the stone is sin itself. It is fitting that manifestations of Dante's seven deadly sins are its caretakers and guardians.
-The Seven Deadly Sins and Dante-
Which brings me to the sins themselves. In Dante's Inferno, damned souls are judged according to their actions and relegated to the level of Hell appropiate to their crime. Circle 3 is for the lustful; Circle 4 the gluttons (I don't think it a coincidence that Hagaren's Lust and Gluttony share such a close a bond; in Hell they would have been neighbors); Circle 5 the avaricious (or envious); Circle 6 the wrathful; Circle 7 the violent; Circle 8 the hypocrites, makers of discord, theives, etc; Circle 9, the treacherous. The very lowest level is reserved for Satan. It is not unfounded to say that Hagaren's personifications of the Sins possess abilities proportionate to their manifestation, as has already been explained by another member of this community. Dante could be interpreted as both the creator of the sins (as Dante Alighieri, author of The Divine Comedy), or as Satan, he (or she) who controls them.
-The Gate and the Circle of Creation-
The Gate and the recurring theme of equivalent trade are intriguing concepts in and of themselves, but combined with the alternate reality (OUR reality) which can be found on the other side of the gate, they become more than intriguing - they become essential to understanding all the underlying themes of the series. The lives of those who die in war on our side of the gate are transferred to energy to fuel Alchemic transmutations in Ed and Al's world... This begs the question, what about the energy of the lives taken on their side of the gate? With no Alchemy, are their lives perhaps used to further our own scientific and mechanical advances? In this way, is our mutual destruction also a force of creation? By destroying lives on our side of the Gate we allow creation to occur on the other, and perhaps vice versa. If this is the case, then all creativity and creation is spawned by death and destruction in a never-ending cycle. Is this the root of mankind's inclination to destroy? Without destruction there can be no creation. This law of nature has already been proven scientifically in the case of the life-cycle. Upon death our bodies are broken down and re-used to nurture life in the form of plants, the animals which eat them, and so on. The theory of an alternate dimension which acts as the polar opposite of our own - creation for destruction, destruction for creation - becomes much more plausible in light of these observations.
(end part one, because it's making my head hurt. ^^ More to come... Roy's motivations, the uselessness of vengence, and conclusion)
Current Mood: contemplativecontemplative
Current Music: Lorenna McKennit - Mummer's Dance
josefphe on September 28th, 2004 07:57 pm (UTC)
Woot ^^ I go to AB every year. I'll be sure to see it!!
Lyndseykiarrens on September 29th, 2004 07:32 am (UTC)
LMAO! I love your icon! XD
blueminderblueminder on September 28th, 2004 08:27 pm (UTC)
Very nice essay, places Ed's role in perspective in the show.
I look forward to your next one.
angsty lemon ukewabisuke on September 28th, 2004 08:52 pm (UTC)
Nice mini-essay. Very nice. I'm glad I'm not the only one who has compaired Edward to Beowulf and Hamlet (doesn't he consider suicide in the "to be or not to be" monologue, or is that the one you're refering to?). I can sort of see Odysseus but I'm too tired to make much connection right now. Blargh.
Lyndseykiarrens on September 29th, 2004 07:30 am (UTC)
Yes, you're right. LOL I think my brain may have been a little overworked last night... *hits forehead* God, I misquoted! My professors would have killed me!
angsty lemon ukewabisuke on September 29th, 2004 09:40 am (UTC)
lol. don't be too hard on yourself. I found a few very minor mistakes in grammar but I was like "no! I'm not in AP English anymore! Stupid brain!!11oneone". In any case, I got the idea fairly easily so YAY! ::skitters away:: XD
(Anonymous) on September 28th, 2004 09:03 pm (UTC)
I, too, heart your analysis of Edward. However, I don't think he's really been giving up on his goal of redemption, just that he's shifted his perspective as to what redemption means. He begins the series seeking the restoration of his and his brother's physical bodies. A not unworthy goal, to be sure, but "redemption" as a concept lies very firmly within the realm of the spiritual. From a more spiritual perspective, his quest to restore their bodies is not really seeking redemption at all because it's not seeking to correct their mistake, only the consequences of their mistake. Edward begins the series regretting the decision he made due to its consequences, not due to the inherent wrongness of messing with human life. I think, though, that he's really demonstrated his maturation recently in several ways. One is that he is apparently totally unconcerned these days with restoring his arm and leg. Another is, as you mentioned, his guilt-free confrontation with Sloth, the most physical manifestation of his sin possible. Third is that he really seems to understand on a visceral level the finality of death, something that neither he nor Al really grasped as children. (And boy do I hope the anime doesn't cop out on this one...) In short, this maturation and understanding has become his redemption rather than the retrieval of body parts. But then again, I could be heavily smoking crack.
One more bitty comment: I'm sure you know a lot more about this than me, but I figured that the position of Lust and Gluttony in Purgatorio is more relevant to their anime incarnations' relationship than the Inferno levels. Both in terms the terraces of being situated right next to each other and in terms of being the two "lesser" sins (at least by the not-infrequent classification of the worst being first on the mountain=closest to Hell and farthest from Heaven). Maybe possibly kinda sorta? Ramble ramble ramble I ramble, yes, now I scurry away.
Lyndseykiarrens on September 29th, 2004 07:28 am (UTC)
I agree on all points. ^^ I've also noticed that Ed's ceased trying to restore his arm and leg, and for a time had been completely focused on fixing Al...
Also, there's another story from early britain that more clearly describes the Sins but for the love of god I couldn't remember what it was. O.o It's been more than 3 years since my Brit Lit I course, and while I went pawing through my Norton Anthologies of Literature I just couldn't find it. I think it may have been Paradise Lost... Ah well. Purgatario does portray the cardinal sins more acurately, but.... hey, come to think of it, there were cardinal virtues that corresponded to them! I'll have to dig those up for my next one of these and see how many we can contribute to Ed and Al, and possibly Roy. ^^ If I ramble any further today though I'm gonna be late for work. hehe
Cynthia: Edwardcsakuras on September 28th, 2004 09:55 pm (UTC)
I am so loving all of this. :D Way to go!