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 piece 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 us”’ (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 could 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 that 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 he has for something more. The magician Valdes tells 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...
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