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13 March 2005 @ 01:31 pm
[essay] Pride or Envy?  
So. I don’t think a lot of people appreciate how profound Ed’s words to Rose at the end of "Body of the Sanctioned" are. This series has such a surfeit of profound moments that one such as this, which makes no statement for greater humanity, is easily dismissed, where its like in other series might be so important as to be the whole purpose, as in Now and Then, Here and There. For those who don’t remember, at the end of this arc, Ed tells a despairing Rose that “[she] has two good legs; get up and walk.” Discussion of this statement is rarely seen in the fandom, except in passing mention in such fics as kalikamaxwell’s. I think this is a great shame – so much could be made of this statement, its philosophical consequences, its salience in relation to personal tragedy. Unfortunately, it is also not the point of this essay.

ESSAY: The Use of an Original Sin
AUTHOR: emptybackpack
FANDOM: Fullmetal Alchemist
NOTES: For harukami, expressing sentiment of thanks for drabble.
SUMMARY: Which sin is taken as most heinous in Fullmetal Alchemist: Pride or Envy? Why, and implications.
And a further warning, to those of you who missed it the first time: this is, religiously, highly controversial for anybody who cares about or ascribes to any of the Judeo-Christian religions.

Much as I dislike the character of Envy, his use in the anime storyline is extremely symbolic.

In traditional Christian teachings, pride is viewed as the originating, most heinous sin. British English literature references this repeatedly, as seen in three of its widest-read works. In Chaucer’s “Parson’s Tale” the Parson states that the sin of “Pride is the worst of them, for the other sins, Ire, Envy, Sloth, Avarice, Gluttony and Lechery, stem from Pride.” In his Paradise Lost, John Milton pins the fall of mankind on “th’ infernal serpent; he it was . . . what time his pride had cast him out from Heaven,” blaming the whole of human history on Lucifer’s first and greatest sin of pride. Jonathan Swift’s caustic satire novel “Gulliver’s Travels” makes repeated references to the prevalence in society of the vice of pride, but his most significant statement about pride is when Gulliver says that, through his misanthropic tendencies, though he has become immune to revulsion at such things as traitors, pimps, gamblers, thieves, and all sorts of other professions of societal ill, “when [he beholds] a lump of deformity and diseases, in both body and mind, smitten with pride, it immediately breaks all the measures of [his] patience.” Yet in Fullmetal Alchemist, Pride, although ruler of a country, ends up being of little importance to the moral and sociological aspects of the overall plot. He exists, helps out, dies, and does little else.

In Christian mythology, however, it can be extrapolated that Envy is the sin that caused all others. The story of the fall of Morningstar goes that Lucifer became jealous of humanity. He saw that God had infinite patience and forgiveness for those imperfect creatures, humans, who did not appreciate God’s love and repeatedly defied Him, while God was harshly unforgiving toward any straying of those perfect beings He had first created, whom Lucifer felt had a greater right to God’s favor. Lucifer’s envy of humanity drove him to resentment and rebellion, setting in motion the whole course of war between good and evil on a cosmic scale. This view is presented again in the anime version of Fullmetal Alchemist. Envy, rather than pride, develops into the most vindictive and problematic of all the sins. He was also the first created among the sins whom Dante is responsible for. Envy is the last remaining sin left to deal with, and follows Edward to earth in continuance of his troublemaking, further cementing his supremacy in the plot.

It is not clear whether the writers was referencing this aspect of Christian religion in their placement of Envy in the overall plot, although if this were the case, it would be in keeping with other references to modern society that are made throughout the series. It repeatedly parodies some of the follies of society. “Satire is a sort of glass, wherein beholders do generally discover everybody’s face but their own.” As Swift stated three centuries prior, satire and parody are, in their own way, a gentle attempt to prod society into doing the right thing. Perhaps this series’s deeper comparisons to society will, in some small way, change for the better how a few people view the world.

The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
Summary and Modern English translation of Parson’s Tale available here.
Paradise Lost by John Milton
Referenced from Language of Literature, The: British Literature. “Excerpts from Paradise Lost” (480-492).
Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
Quotation from Chapter XII of “A Voyage to the Houyhnhnms” (311, Signet Classic).
Murder Mysteries by Neil Gaiman and P. Craig Russel
This book is out of print, and my only copy is three hundred miles away, so the best I can do is a link to it on Amazon.com, for those of you who are interested. Aside from the heavily implied heterosexual oral sex and the pseudo-homosexual love affair, it’s brilliant.
Apologies to kalikamaxwell, whose fic journal is down, thusly making it impossible for me to figure out which one of her fics I was referencing.

[Edit]: I'm an idiot with insufficient references. Arakawa mentions fixed.
Current Mood: accomplishedaccomplished
(Deleted comment)
emptybackpackemptybackpack on March 13th, 2005 12:47 pm (UTC)
. . . thanks. The pile of reference books is actually making me feel rather uncomfortable and productive, right now.
Marikaitou_marina on March 13th, 2005 12:46 pm (UTC)
For the first part of your post, yeah, it is a real shame that that theme isn't discussed very much, especially since it comes up repeatedly during the series. Rose says it again in episode 14 to the soldiers invading Lior, again to get Ed up when he's frozen in horror at the sight of Sloth, and lastly after Ed's been restored and is about to bring back Al. It's a very important theme in the series, I think, and it's something that should be brought up every once in a while.

As for the second part of your post, in reference to Arakawa, you forget that the anime storyline and the manga storyline are different. In the manga, it appears that Pride is most likely going to be a big problem when we find out what he/she/it is. The other homunculi are VERY afraid of Pride and snap to attention, etc. when we see it talk in one chapter (I can't remember which one, who wants to help me? <3). Plus, the manga more closely follows the traditional Christian teachings about the Sins and the symbolism of the Sins, mostly reflected in how they die in the manga, etc. The anime writers decided to do something completely different with the Sins in the anime and while, according to your essay, it still makes sense symbolism-wise, it has little bearing on what Arakawa herself wanted to do with the Sins.
emptybackpackemptybackpack on March 13th, 2005 12:51 pm (UTC)
. . . Damn. Thanks. All of my copies of both the anime and the manga are out on loan, and I had no way to pull reference on them, this being an extremely slow computer. I'll go see if I can edit that. Major headdesk.
emptybackpackemptybackpack on March 13th, 2005 12:56 pm (UTC)
Fixed. Thanks so much - it really irks me when I get information wrong, and I appreciate being given enough heads-up to remedy it.
Marikaitou_marina on March 13th, 2005 01:09 pm (UTC)
It's no problem at all. ^___^ I forget stuff from the manga all the time because I've only read through it once and don't have easy access to it.

Your comments are very insightful and intelligent, and it's a positive relief to see something like this, I really appreciated it <3
emptybackpackemptybackpack on March 13th, 2005 01:13 pm (UTC)
Wow. Uh, thanks. I feel very honored. I wasn't really expecting this to come out coherently enough to make any sort of salient point. Fandom essays are one of my bad habits, really. Much thanks.
Procrastination Queen: L has an ORAL fixationforever_slash on March 13th, 2005 01:41 pm (UTC)
“[she] has two good legs; get up and walk.”
I really loved that line. All the meaning in it that could and should have been described in more detail in the show. It hit me really hard at the part where Roze yells it at frozen-Ed. :P

As for the essay itself, very interesting. Mmmmm... brain food. *munches*
emptybackpackemptybackpack on March 13th, 2005 05:21 pm (UTC)
Wow. It's nice to see so many other people who had that same sentiment.
fortexd: specialfortexd on March 13th, 2005 01:45 pm (UTC)
Before I venture on to the essay, I just want to comment on your icon. It just made me grin! *Yeah toast!*
Feria: [Hagaren] SD Landwithout_reason on March 13th, 2005 01:53 pm (UTC)
emptybackpackemptybackpack on March 13th, 2005 05:20 pm (UTC)
Man, I'm sorry to say, it isn't mine. Ganked it from my wonderful lesbian rolemodel, rex_dart. She is boss.
I watched the stars crash in the sea.tsukitaichou on March 13th, 2005 02:11 pm (UTC)
I think this is a great shame – so much could be made of this statement, its philosophical consequences, its salience in relation to personal tragedy. Unfortunately, it is also not the point of this essay.

I TOTALLY agree with you - I haven't seen any real references to it, and it's kind of like, "Um WTF?"
I think it's a SERIOUSLY important point in the show.

I'm just sorry I don't have time to read that essay right now. ^^;
emptybackpackemptybackpack on March 13th, 2005 05:24 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I've always wished that somebody would just take it and run with it - it has the potential to support an entire series, and has more depth than can be given in just its few references, although they do fit in well.

Ah, that's okay. Many hanks for commenting, though.
I watched the stars crash in the sea.tsukitaichou on March 13th, 2005 11:05 pm (UTC)
Thank you! I've always wished that somebody would just take it and run with it - it has the potential to support an entire series, and has more depth than can be given in just its few references, although they do fit in well.

It's like - they even re-iterate it once, and sort of hint at it a couple other times.
I think it's a serious foundation of the series, and it's just sort of....IGNORED by the fandom sometimes.

I have AIM if you wanna talk about this.

And you're welcome. ^^
rianaxrianax on March 13th, 2005 03:56 pm (UTC)
Lovely to see some thought but into FMA through all lust steamed RoyEd fics.
emptybackpackemptybackpack on March 13th, 2005 05:26 pm (UTC)
I have to giggle a bit at that, because my first introduction to the show was from someone pimping those "lust-steamed Roy/Ed fics" at me. But that's alright. Thanks for appreciating the effort! I really have a penchant for sitting down and thinking about the deep, philospophical questions of any series. It's why I like FMA so much - such a plethora of ethical and societal issues to contemplate.
an indelible stamp of lowly origins: anti-Bush is anti-ignorancebabbled on March 14th, 2005 09:51 am (UTC)
Very well-written. :)
Although, I think, it would have been interesting to see your musings on Lust and her role.
emptybackpackemptybackpack on March 14th, 2005 02:03 pm (UTC)
. . . I love Lust. Unfortunately, Lust isn't really all that important, no matter where you're looking. Character-wise, she's one of the more dynamic of the sin-named homunculus. I suppose, were I to stretch it, I could point out that perhaps her eventual determination of her own path and her change throughout the storyline permit that the sin of lust is less definitively bad than all the others. It's the last sin traditionally derived, and thus the least grevious of all seven, but at the same time, it is one of the sins most harshly punished. In such books as Leviticus, it can be seen that the laws regarding sins of lust were never lenient, and the languaged used in regard to them is very harsh - such phrases as "their blood shall be upon their own heads" and other wonderfully disturbing imagery. Also, the character of Lust is slightly redeemed as the series goes on when it is shown that her namesake sin is counteracted, to some degree, by the cleaner love that both Scar and his brother held for her. Any symbolism attached to her is a bit hard for me personally to pin down - the best association I can think of is that perhaps, maybe, lust isn't always a bad thing.
Hope this suits.

Plus, she has huge tracts of land. And nice icon to you.
emptybackpackemptybackpack on March 14th, 2005 02:07 pm (UTC)
Make that "homunculi," because I'm terminally stupid. And thanks much for the comment.
Kallielkalliel on June 20th, 2006 11:47 pm (UTC)
Oh, wow. Yes, I realise that this was written well over a year ago. I really am that slow at reading things, apparently. O_o Apologies if it was disconcerting to recieve a comment from something so far in the past. Your discussion hit many excellent points, and hearts to your references. (I recognized a few of them, and I was all"OMG! I never thought of connecting that to that, etc. etc. etc.)

I was wondering if you would allow me to archive this on my (yet unconstructed) website. Full credits would be given to you as the author, obviously.

Feel free to withold your answer until the website is up and running, so that you may see what type of environment your article would be presented in. We would love to have you.

Thank you for your time!
emptybackpack: toastemptybackpack on October 7th, 2006 09:47 pm (UTC)
Sorry it took me so long to get back to you. I don't actually get comments in email, and so I only discovered your new comment just now as I was sifting through my memories. I'd be perfectly happy to see this essay go to a good home. Feel free to do as you like. &hearts I'm glad you enjoyed it so much.