Morality of Rand's actions

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Morality of Rand's actions

Post  Eric Gaidin on Sun Aug 15, 2010 11:48 pm

***SPOILERS*** One of the biggest questions this book brought up was whether Rand is acting with an intact sense of morality. The destruction of an entire villa of people with the use of balefire surely signifies an immoral act, regardless of the fact that he killed a forsaken to do it. Those people were Compelled, sure, and therefore not under their own control, but they were still people. The U.S. government would call them casualties of war, or collateral damage, but that does not refute the fact that Rand massacred hundreds of people. I'm firmly of the belief that Rand is now evil.

The Dark One can only win if Rand, the Dragon Reborn, joins him. I believe that Rand is going down the dark path, unknowingly joining the Dark One by becoming an immoral and evil villain. Rand will no longer listen to those around him, and he will destroy his enemies no matter the cost. What Rand does not realize is that the cost of destroying these enemies will be the destruction of the world itself, because as the Dragon he must be the epitome of light and good in the world. That's what will destroy the Dark One; not massacring hundreds of people to destroy a person who the Dark One uses as a pawn.

Rand does not see the harm that he's causing to his own morality here. This is dangerous ground, and unless something or someone can get through to him, the Dark One will have turned Rand into a killing, destructive force, which is exactly what the Dark One wants. The Dark One will have won.


Last edited by Eric Gaidin on Sun Aug 15, 2010 11:49 pm; edited 1 time in total (Reason for editing : "spoiler" tag added)
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Re: Morality of Rand's actions

Post  Uncle Mart on Mon Aug 16, 2010 2:34 am

Ok, forgive me for any mistakes in what I'm about to say... it has been a while since I read the book. At one point Rand was leaving one of the major cities and a report reached him that the shipments of food were going bad. He cared. He felt bad for the people he knew he was leaving to starvation. Is that correct? If so, then I would say that he's not becoming immoral and evil. He's not apathetic. Resigned maybe? He knows there's nothing he can do about it, so he simply moves on. I think at some point Min, or maybe Nynaeve, was thinking sort of the same thing about Rand losing his hand. He doesn't even really acknowledge that it happened. He can't change it, so he simply moves on. The same would hold true for when he obliterated that whole estate full of people with balefire. He knew enough about the Forsaken he was going after to know that he would never catch her if he had to fight through all those servants. She would Travel away before he ever got close. He also knew that there was no way to free them from her Compelling and still leave their personalities intact. It's a catch 22. He could either kill them, or condemn them to life as a vegetable. If he killed them, he killed a Forsaken. If he condemned them, the Forsaken lives. I'm not sure which is the greater mercy. I don't know which option I would have taken in his place, but I don't think either option makes him evil. He was faced with a hard choice, and he made it. A lot of the people around him are worried at his lack of emotion. I think he still has emotions, he's just learned to turn them off. He suppresses those feelings to steel himself so he CAN make those choices. He's fighting a war. Any king, general or president throughout history could tell you that, in war, hesitation can kill you. The problem is that he's started to cross the line. It's not just about accepting losses anymore. He's started to use people as tools. Expendable resources. I think that's why Cadsuane is trying so hard to remind him that he's still human. I don't see the fact that Rand massacred those hundreds of people as an evil act. They were lost either way. I DO however think that sending that one guy in to be Compelled first just so he would have proof of the Forsaken's death was crossing that very dangerous line. Thoughts?


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Re: Morality of Rand's actions

Post  Eric Gaidin on Mon Aug 16, 2010 9:12 am

Yes Rand had an impossible choice to make. But what he didn't realize is that there's always another way. Rand needs more knowledge of the Power and of weaves. If he was able to transport himself into the estate directly, he would have been able to face the forsaken (I don't even remember who it was anymore). Regardless, had he listened to ANY of his advisers, he may have been able to come up with a plan.

If we look at this story as literature, we know that Rand is going to hit a traumatic low point before any type of salvation is reached. This low point, I would argue, is most likely going to be Rand's loss of morality. This is an ingenious method of the Dark One, and ultimately the way evil works. If you think of the Dark One's goal, the destruction of the Wheel of Time, then there are only two figures that matter the most in this struggle--the Dark One himself and the Dragon. If the Dark One is able to either persuade the Dragon to come over to the dark side, or kill him, the Dark One wins by destroying the Wheel and re-making the world in his own image (see my essay on the topic "On the Philosophies of the Light and the Shadow" http://www.blogsandbooks.net/wot/). Therefore, all other creatures are expendable and are thus a means to an end. This includes the Forsaken. The Dark One is using the Forsaken simply to either kill the Dragon or cause him to commit so many atrocious and immoral acts that redemption is no longer possible. Rand's fall from grace would be too great, thus turning him evil. This is a fantastic way to make Rand evil, by giving him seemingly impossible decisions to make. The farther the fall the greater--and tougher-- his redemption will be. We must note, however, that there is a point where redemption cannot be reached. What that point is is difficult to say, but what we can say for sure is that Rand has not yet past it.

On a related note, I've always thought that this was Darth Vader's problem in Star Wars; if you're evil, and you want to convert a goody goody like Luke, you can't simply hold out your hand and say, "Hey, this Dark Side stuff is cool and powerful; plus wouldn't it be neat to rule the galaxy with dear-old dad?" Evil--really effective, terribly intrusive, spirit-destroying evil--gets one from the inside. Look at the fall of Anakin Skywalker. He was allured to the dark side little by little. That's the way it works--the alluring and persuasive nature of evil is exactly so because it is also covert and patient. Darth would have been a little more successful had he recognized this.

Further, Shakespeare's play Macbeth is a phenomenal example of this. Macbeth murders his way to the crown and then continues to murder to keep it. It's only after he hires assassins to kill his friend Banquo that Macbeth realizes how far he has fallen: "I am in blood / Stepp'd in so far that, should I wade no more, / Returning were as tedious as go o'er" (III.iv). Macbeth's acknowledgment of the fact that he's at the crossroads of his own morality is a point that Rand has yet to come to. I only hope that when he comes to this point, he starts looking around at the wise councilors he has at hand and asks for some guidance.
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Re: Morality of Rand's actions

Post  Uncle Mart on Mon Aug 16, 2010 12:21 pm

I agree with you on all that. I just don't agree on the specific example of what makes me think he's falling/fallen from grace. Blasting a couple hundred innocents (who were lost either way, remember) in order to get at the Forsaken... simply casualties of war. Sending one man in to be Compelled so Rand would have proof of said Forsaken's death... now THAT was messed up lol.

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Re: Morality of Rand's actions

Post  Eric Gaidin on Wed Aug 18, 2010 10:51 am

You don't see the murder of hundreds of innocents as evil? By that argument Mart, you wouldn't have a problem with killing hundreds of invalids or those in comas--they're lost anyways. You're argument falls on a slippery slope here.
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Re: Morality of Rand's actions

Post  The_Dark_1 on Wed Aug 18, 2010 10:52 pm

I must say I agree with Uncle Mart. These people were already lost. Rand didn't kill them all for his own evil purposes, he killed them to stop a forsaken from killing countless others. What if he didn't kill them all and a week later she takes many more lives. That blood is on Rand. Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that Rand isn't going bat shit crazy. I see him turning evil more in the scene at the end with Tam. My heart was in my throat when I read that. I really thought Rand was going to balefire his ass. However if I had one chance to take out Hitler and he happened to be at the veggie ward at the hospital I would take him out. I think it's very important to look at the greater good. Is it a terribly sad thing? Yes but like Mart said if you are in charge those are the decisions you HAVE to make. That being said, lets hope that scene at the end of the book was him realizing his errors and now he can try to change. Either that or they are all in Big BIG trouble!
Sorry if that was babbling and nonsensical but I am tired. I'm a working man now lol.

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Re: Morality of Rand's actions

Post  Uncle Mart on Thu Aug 19, 2010 1:45 am

Eric, I don't see the slaughter of those innocents as evil when taken in the context of the book. Rand didn't just say "Hey, this could be fun!" and erase a few hundred random people from time. They were casualties of war. Insane or not, Rand killed those people for the greater good. You made a good point earlier. The Forsaken are simply tools... weapons being used by the Dark One. Well I say continue that logic further. How many thousands of lives does Rand save with each one of those very powerful weapons he takes away from the Dark One? How many soldiers could any one of those Forsaken kill if they are allowed to reach Tarmon Gai'don? The only evil I saw in that scene was Rand using that one dude as his own tool. That guy didn't have to be sent in. The blatant disregard Rand had for him was where I saw that slippery slope.


"One death is a tragedy; One million is a statistic." - Joseph Stalin

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Re: Morality of Rand's actions

Post  Eric Gaidin on Thu Aug 19, 2010 11:48 pm

I don't want to beat a dead horse here, because I've said my piece. However, what Rand has failed to do--and I really think this is where he seriously erred-- is to ask others for assistance and advice. He has tried to shoulder all of this himself. Because he couldn't come up with an alternative solution, hundreds of people died. If he had asked for counsel from any of the extremely wise and respectable people who surround him, I'm willing to bet an alternative solution could have been reached. Rand never even tried that; because he couldn't think of it, the solution didn't exist. That's asinine and truly illogical thinking. You want evil? How about being so arrogant that you believe you, and you alone, have the ability to decide the fate of hundreds of people. He's not only immoral, he's a jackass. Rand's perception of himself as the sole bearer of the world's fate is simply that--his perception; it's not truth. Rand is not fighting this war alone, yet he's acting like he is. There are thousands of people that have flocked to him and he's not asking a single one for their advice on how to deal with the situation. He needs to be knocked down a peg. I hope Semirhage did that for him (she's the one who actually collared him in book 12 right? My damn memory...).

The murder of all of those innocents because of his arrogance was the first firm step down the dark path.

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Re: Morality of Rand's actions

Post  Uncle Mart on Tue Sep 28, 2010 12:23 pm

I agree with you there, my friend. Rand needs advice. I think he's wrong in his belief that the fate of the world is his sole responsibility. He should be listening to Cadsuane and the Wise Ones. Cadsuane may be as manipulative as they come, but she's also one of the oldest and wisest Aes Sedai alive. The Wise Ones are a very powerful combination of wisdom and honor. The problem lies in how Cadsuane tried to manipulate Rand. She just ended up pushing him away. I understand this part of Rands character, because I have this particular trait in common with him. Stubbornness... plain and simple. There aren't many things I won't do for someone when asked nicely or when it's the right thing to do, but try to FORCE me to do anything and you've got a better chance of seeing God. Rand has been making himself harder and harder so that he can do what he feels needs to be done. He's learned to turn off his emotions so that his enemies can't use them as another means of control. Those emotions are what make us human. They're what give us our sense of right and wrong. In Rand's place I may have still wiped out those couple hundred people to take out the Forsaken, but I would have at least felt bad about it. I don't particularly think that Rand needs advice on how to deal with the Forsaken, but I do think he needs help to hold on to his humanity in the process.

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Re: Morality of Rand's actions

Post  Eric Gaidin on Tue Sep 28, 2010 10:07 pm

Uncle Mart wrote: I don't particularly think that Rand needs advice on how to deal with the Forsaken, but I do think he needs help to hold on to his humanity in the process.

Mart, I think you're getting to the heart of it here. It's precisely those people who have no humanistic thread in their body that we have labeled as evil, or at the very least fatally flawed. E.g. Hitler, Kim Jong-il, Henry VIII; in literature, Oedipus, King Claudius from Hamlet, Iago from Othello, etc. The common trait every one of those horribly flawed/evil characters is their lack of humanism and, maybe more importantly, they're hubris.

Rand's hubris is large enough to choke one of those monster catfish they're pulling out of those rivers in Asia. See this link: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/8404622/

If Rand gets any more arrogant, he's going to strut around calling himself the Creator. That hubris is a major component to his characterization as evil.
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Re: Morality of Rand's actions

Post  Uncle Mart on Wed Sep 29, 2010 12:15 am

I dunno, Eric. I think his reasoning may be flawed, but I still don't consider him evil. I agree with you that he's wrong in thinking that the fate of the world is his sole responsibility, but I wouldn't call it arrogance. He doesn't want the power. He doesn't want the responsibility. He never has. He takes no pleasure in people calling him Lord. He merely tolerates it. He has come to demand obedience from his followers because he's trying to effectively run the largest military force the world has ever seen. His flaw is that he's disconnecting his emotions. He's giving up his humanity because he thinks being harder is the same as being stronger. This is where he needs those people around him. I forget where I read it, but Cadsuane has even said "I will see that boy laugh again." She's trying to get him to remember that he is still human. He's flawed, but he's not evil.

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Re: Morality of Rand's actions

Post  Eric Gaidin on Fri Nov 05, 2010 9:07 am

Uncle Mart wrote: I forget where I read it, but Cadsuane has even said "I will see that boy laugh again." She's trying to get him to remember that he is still human. He's flawed, but he's not evil.

We're actually differing on our understanding of evil here. That flaw of his is so large that he is evil. Evil exists in so many varying degrees--it's not just the world usurper or the dictator and tyrant. Evil exists in all of us in the understanding that we all have the capacity to commit it. Rand is realizing that capacity, and that therefore is defining him as evil.
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