ESSAY: The Use of an Original Sin
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.