Study Guide

Artemis Fowl Violence

By Eoin Colfer

Violence

"I am unarmed. But Butler here, my… ah… butler, has a Sig Sauer in his shoulder holster, two shrike-throwing knives in his boots, a derringer two-shot up his sleeve, garrotte wire in his watch, and three stun grenades concealed in various pockets. [...] Butler could kill you a hundred different ways without the use of his weapons." (1.20-26)

Listen to how neutral Artemis's tone is while he runs down the list of things Butler could use to kill their contact in Ho Chi Minh City. It's unsettling to encounter such lack of emotion in a twelve year old as they nonchalantly describe murder. 

"The sprite. Why didn't we simply keep the Book and leave her to die?"

"A corpse is evidence, Butler." (1.134-135)

Here we get a little bit of foreshadowing, since a corpse <em>is</em> evidence, and exactly the kind of evidence the People don't find when they bio-bomb Artemis's house. The fairies seem creepily less concerned with leaving corpses around than Artemis is, though.

She couldn't kill the troll under any circumstances. Not to save humans. (3.203)

Watch the language here—the suggestion is that there are circumstances where she could kill the troll, but multiple human lives are actually valued lower than the life of a murderous beast that frequently threatens the fairy population as well. Fairies have complicated rules when it comes to violence.

He would have preferred to take these gentlemen out from five hundred feet with a dart rifle. Failing that, if contact was absolutely necessary, a series of thumb jabs to the nerve cluster at the base of the neck would be his chosen modus operandi—quiet as a whisper. (5.134)

Butler doesn't like to engage in physical contact with the folks he's fighting—instead he prefers to wage violence from a dehumanizing distance. 

Beside the red light, green symbols began to click through a routine. Root recognized them from his human studies class back in the Academy. [...] A countdown! (5.294)

There are a thousand non-violent things about human society, but it's a safe bet that the human studies class given to fairies as police training is all about the potential threats—but why does it take a class for them to recognize a bomb when they have their own?

Artemis didn't flinch. Why would he? Butler always intervened before punches landed. (8.157)

Think about the implications here: violence has a different effect depending on your social class, since anyone not rich enough to have a personal bodyguard has to defend themselves.

They had sent in a primal hunter. A creature with no interest in magic or rules. A thing that would simply kill anything in its way, regardless of species (8.236).

In a way this is one of the most violent acts in the book, far more violent than anything the troll actually does. For all the "simplicity" of the bio-bomb that cleanly targets a small area, the fairies choose to first send in something that will slaughter everyone in the most brutal, visceral way.

Holly could only watch helplessly as the human took careful aim and delivered a series of crippling blows to the stricken creature. [...] The unfortunate troll fought back pathetically, even managing to land a few glancing blows. (8.333)

Why does Holly find it acceptable to do a last-ditch, reckless attack on the troll but suddenly has a problem with the ruthless precision of Butler's fighting style? Maybe the issue is that the troll is essentially a wild animal, and doesn't have the capacity to choose not to maim and kill, unlike Butler. 

It really was a remarkable piece of equipment. Because its main weapon was light, the fallout could be focused to an exact radius […] Murder made easy. (9.264)

Note the way the bio-bomb is described: it <em>has</em> weapons, but it is itself just a "piece of equipment." Why do the fairies stay away from calling the bio-bomb a weapon when it clearly is?

The idea of a Bouncing Betty anti-personnel mine exploding at head height was enough to dispel any nonchalance in the troops. No one built weapons of cruelty like the Mud Men. (9.284)

The fairies tend to conveniently distinguish between cruel acts of violence and whatever it is they do, even though the end result is exactly the same. 

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