Pride and Free Will Cause Tragedy Pride is one of the Seven Deadly Sins that most every human being struggles with at one point or another during the course of a lifetime. It is not always a negative trait, but if it is allowed to consume an individual’s life, it can have dire consequences; an overabundance of pride in one’s life can quickly turn a fairytale into a tragedy. Such disastrous consequences of pride are portrayed in many different pieces of literature, including the play Doctor Faustus by Christopher Marlowe as well as the novel Lord Jim by Joseph Conrad.
Both pieces are heart-wrenching tragedies about men who suffer from an overwhelming sense of pride that results in their tragic, fatal ends. In Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus, the best explanation for Faustus’s fall is a direct result of pride derived from the desire to rival and potentially exceed God’s power, while in Conrad’s Lord Jim, the main character’s tragic fate is a consequence of pride rooting from an unfortunately strong sense of romanticism; in both pieces the characters utilize their God-given right of free will in the choices they make leading up to their tragic misfortunes.
There are many explanations for Faustus’s fall at the end of the play, but the most convincing argument for his debacle is that his end was caused by an extreme sense of pride as well as the consequential need for him to make all possible attempts to rival and exceed the powers of God. It is also evident throughout the reading that the devil is a very convincing creature, that Faustus has an obsession with pleasure, and that fate may play a role in his fall, but these arguments are not as well- supported in the text as is the latter.
There are countless examples throughout the iece in which the role of pride plays a significant part in Faustus’s decisions that inevitably leads to his downfall. The first signs of Faustus’s desire at an attempt to rival God’s powers can be seen throughout scene one of the play. Faustus states that “The reward of sin is death’ and that “If we say that we have no sin we deceive ourselves, and there’s no truth in usm (Marlowe, 4). Here Faustus articulates his belief that all humans are damned to Hell because it is a part of human nature to sin.
It is therefore silly to live an unadulterated life when the devilish practice of black magic ould bring fame and fortune to an individual during the brief period of mortal life on Earth. His argues that all humans are going to die so it would be logical to take advantage of what little time there is left. Faustus discusses how the practice of black magic could make him all-powerful and that “a sound magician is a mighty god” (Marlowe, 5). He is clearly admitting that in his attempts to learn black magic he is hoping that the skill will make him like God.
This want and need to rival God is most definitely a result of his uneasiness regarding death combined with his hope hat being godly could give him a more pleasurable life on Earth and possibly even save him from his inevitable fate of eternal damnation. Faustus seems to crave ultimate control over his human life because he realizes that God dominates heaven and therefore has the final say on who will be granted eternal life in His kingdom. Faustus’s pride causes him to feel an unhealthy need for others to praise him and recognize his greatness.
This pride is the reason why he is unable to settle for normal knowledge and the desire ne nas tor something more. The magician Valdes ells Faustus that if he learns and masters black magic that he will be able to achieve a renowned greatness that will be recognized around the globe, even going so far as to say that the skill will cause “all nations to canonize” them (Marlowe, 7). This is an interesting word choice seeing that selling one’s soul to the devil in order to obtain this skill does not seem to be proper grounds for sainthood in the eyes of the church.
In any case, Faustus’s ego is fed by the praise he receives in light of his powers. All in all, Faustus’s downfall is largely a result of his overbearing sense of pride that stems rom both his fear of death as well as feelings of inferiority that together fuel his fatal need to become all-powerful. Throughout the plotline, Faustus is faced with a series of choices that are most definitely a result of God’s gift of free will to mankind.
At the beginning of the story, Mephistophilis, being an eternal servant to Lucifer himself tries to convince Faustus to change his mind about selling his soul to the devil, but Faustus’s pride and need for power cause him to turn a blind eye to this voice of reason; he Justifies his decision by claiming that it is his belief that “hell’s a fable” (Marlowe, 22). Faustus is warned and well informed of the awful fate he will endure subsequent to a deal with Lucifer but still refuses to waver due to his extreme thirst for power.
In addition, the clash of input from the good and evil angels clearly illustrates the internal struggles Faustus experiences during the course of his final last twenty-four years of his life. Even after selling his soul, the good angel informs Faustus that God will still be empathetic towards him if he chooses to repent for his sins (Marlowe, 25). He is given the promise of a second chance yet still makes the conscious decision of eclining this offer and maintains his loyalty to Luflcer; Faustus is again given the choice of eternal life with God and declines so he can continue practicing black magic.
It is quite apparent that Faustus is fully aware and in control of the poor decisions he chooses to make throughout the play. If Faustus’s internal struggles throughout the play are not enough to prove that he is clearly acting out of free will, his realizations and thoughts prior to his downfall surely confirm this idea. Faustus admits to his scholar friends that God did indeed forbid him from selling his soul to the devil, but that he still decided to trade an ternal life in heaven in exchange for a mere twenty-four years off,’ain pleasure” (Marlowe, 54).
He realizes that he made an error in Judgment and that it was own his choice to disobey God’s will; he has no one to blame but himself for the tragic fate he must endure. Even though at one point Faustus is threatened by the devil for seriously considering repenting to God, he still makes the awful decision time and time again to sell his soul to Lucifer and maintain their agreement. If all of this evidence put together is not proof of Faustus’s free will throughout his Journey, hen it is quite possible that no human being has been given the gift of free will.
Although Joseph Conrad’s Lord Jim is a tragedy that also stems from pride, the main character’s struggle with this issue is much more admirable than that of Faustus. As opposed to Faustus’s power-based pride, Jim’s pride appears to derive from his somewhat youthful and naive ideals about romanticism. In the novel, it is mentioned several times that Jim often daydreamed about committing heroic deeds; Jim had fantasies where he pictured himself “saving people from sinking ships” or “cutting way masts in a hurricane” (Conrad, 3 Jim’s dreams portray his role as a hopeless romantic who wants nothing but to be a hero and save the day.
For Jim, a sense of pride comes from playing the hero and in turn helping others. Although Jim appears to be an honest man, his beliefs about himself are somewhat exaggerated and skewed. Whenever he is able to find a way he can portray himself as a hero, and hence impress others, he takes advantage because this is the only way he can feel a sense of pride. For example, he compares how he fell in love with Jewel and freed er from her abusive father as analogous to finding “somebody drowning in a dark place” (Conrad, 231).
The way in which he talks about his relationship with Jewel makes him sound like a hero to others and therefore gives him that sense of pride he so desperately longs for. Jim’s devotion to romanticism and his complete and utter sense of failure when he realizes his goal is unattainable contributes to his eventual death. Shortly before his death He convinces the people of Patusan to let Brown and his men leave peacefully, thinking that his decision would continue to portray him as hero to the community (Conrad, 300).
When this decision makes things worse for the people of Patusan, ending in death and destruction, Jim comes to the realization that his hero days are over for good. He turns himself over to Doramin, fully aware of the death sentence he will face when they meet (Conrad, 314). In a sense Jim commits suicide by romanticism; he is unable to live without the ideals of romanticism and would rather face death than have to continue on in such a world.
However, Jim’s pride is similar to Faustus’s in that they both hold roots in the need to lease and impress others; both Faustus and Jim focus a bit excessively on how they are perceived in the eyes of their peers. In Jim’s case, he becomes so obsessed with being a hero and having a good reputation that it leads to his eventual downfall. His obsession explains why he feels so upset when he misses the opportunity to be the hero during a collision involving the boat he was working on (Conrad, 5).
This is the first example that demonstrates Jim’s inability to feel a sense of self-pride if his actions are not valiant enough to make others proud of him. He was so extremely ough on himself after the Patna incident that he could not hold a steady Job and “with black ingratitude he would throw up the Job suddenly and depart;” whenever someone made a connection between him and the Patna he would completely uproot his life and flee from toa new town (Conrad, 2).
Here, Jim is acting quite childish and self-centered in his assumption that everyone is focused on him and his shortcomings. He also refuses to take any responsibility for his actions nor will he let his peers know that he is indeed human and makes mistakes. His failed sense of ride becomes unreasonably intense at the thought of anyone knowing that he had not acted like a hero. Jim’s inability to let anyone think lesser of him is one of his biggest weaknesses. Similar to Doctor Faustus, Jim is also in control of his own destiny.
Although his strong sense of pride definitely plays a large role in the decisions he makes and his ultimate fate, the decisions are entirely his to make. First of all, Jim has an opportunity prior to the verdict of his trial to “clear out” Just as “the skipper did,” but he refuses to do so; he would have felt like a coward if he had taken he easy way out (Marlowe, 59). Jim could have run away and escaped his fate at that point in time, but instead he used his own free will to make the decision to stay based on his sense of pride and romanticism.
At the very end of the novel, Jim is taced witn yet another choice that would determine his tate. He coul d nave escaped from Patusan after the death of Dain Warts, but instead he decides that it is “time to finish this’ and he subsequently surrenders himself to Doramin (Conrad, 314). Again, Jim has to choice to save himself, but by God’s gift of free will, he decides not to run. He instead accepts his death with grace having realized that there was no hope left for him to fulfill his romanticism ideals; Jim’s pride diminishes when he is no longer capable of being a hero.
Free will and pride are the two most prevalent factors contributing to the tragic fate of both Doctor Faustus and Jim. Although the two pieces of literature convey vastly different messages to the reader, they both show the struggles a man faces when dealing with death and tragedy.