Study Guide

Artemis Fowl Morality (or Moral Ambiguity)

By Eoin Colfer

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Morality (or Moral Ambiguity)

"Holy water! You have murdered me, human."

"True," admitted Artemis. "It should start to burn any minute now." (1.92-93)

Apart from the fact that there's no real explanation for why holy water burns fairies (isn't that a demon thing?), can we tell what kind of tone exists for Artemis here? Does he regret murdering her at all, or is he merely reluctant to admit it?

The [foil-lined] blind was ingenious in design and interest had already been expressed in the manufacturing rights—mostly by military representatives—but Artemis had resolved to sell the patent to a sporting goods multinational. (4.55)

For a kid who cavalierly describes the crazy weapons his butler carries, Artemis is weirdly picky about who gets to use his inventions, like he doesn't want the military to be too well outfitted.

This was no ordinary dart rifle. It had been specially tooled for a Kenyan ivory hunter […]. Butler had picked it up for a song from a government official after the ivory poacher's execution. (4.66)

Okay, yes, ivory hunting is bad and evidently punishable by death, but isn't government corruption also bad? Maybe they shouldn't be giving away intense weaponry to civilians.

He hadn't expected the fairy to appear so… human. Until now, they had merely been quarry. Animals to be hunted. But now, seeing one like this, in obvious discomfort—it changed things. (6.3)

Artemis says it changes things that fairies look so familiar, but we're not convinced, since it doesn't change how he manipulates Holly, crushes her spirit, or has Butler attack the LEP.

Better to let the hostage believe that she had betrayed her own people. It would lower her morale, make her more susceptible to his mind games. Still, the ruse disturbed him. It was undeniably cruel. (6.87)

It's interesting that though Artemis is disturbed by his own actions, he follows through with them anyway.

There was a time when Retrieval blasted first and answered questions never. But not anymore. Now there was always some do-gooder civilian banging on about civil rights. Even for humans, if you can believe it. (6.259)

This is a classic problem in law enforcement—is it possible to fight crime and protect the interests of the people (or the People) while also treating criminals and victims as though they are themselves people?

He spared a moment to check on his mother. Sometimes it bothered him having a camera in her room; it seemed almost like spying. But it was for her own good. (6.325)

It appears that Angeline Fowl is usually doped up on sleeping pills, and there's no evidence to suggest she will hurt herself, so we're not sure how having a camera in her room is for her own good. It seems equally like it's there to spare Artemis from having to make a trip upstairs.  

A dubious individual, even by Artemis Fowl's standards. As if this account didn't already suffer from an overdose of amoral individuals. (7.1)

In one of the more ambiguous examples of moral voice in the book, <em>someone</em> speaks up here about the large number of criminals in the story. Is this supposed to be representing our feelings?

"This is all politics to you, Cudgeon. A nice feather in your cap on the way to a Council seat. You make me sick." (8.105)

Cudgeon ends up being obviously the least likable character in the book because he pretends to do things out of morality but is really just self-interested. At least Artemis is open about who he is.  

The fairy had saved both their lives and yet he insisted on holding her to ransom. To a man of honor like Butler, this was almost more than he could bear. (9.40)

Why does Butler go along with Artemis's schemes if he finds them morally repugnant? While it's true he takes orders from him, Artemis couldn't actually do anything without Butler's help.

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