Study Guide

Eragon Good vs. Evil

By Christopher Paolini

Good vs. Evil

"As they fought, Galbatorix kicked Vrael in the fork of his legs. With that underhanded blow, he gained dominance over Vrael and removed his head with a blazing sword." (3.109)

Argh! NOT COOL. Here Brom tells us about this King Galbatorix fellow, and how he rose to power. Crotch-kicking is not exactly the most noble way to win a throne. This dude's cheating character sets him up as a total villain—perfect ruler of the evil side.

"Who could have done…" He could not force out the words.

[…] "Those who love the pain and suffering of others." (18.32-33)

Here at Yazuac, Eragon asks Brom what possible reason anyone could have for slaughtering a whole village. Brom's response is that some folks (like the Shade and his Urgal pals) are just plain evil. How else would you describe it?

"That is Helgrind .It's the reason Dras-Leona was originally built . […] it's an unhealthy and malevolent thing." (32.14)

Brom says here that a place (the Helgrind mountains) can itself be evil (malevolent). What do you think about this idea? Can places be evil in and of themselves? We mean, other than the DMV? (We kid, we kid. We love you DMV. Any chance we can get a bye to the front of the line?)

Stained-glass windows depicting scenes of anger, hate, and remorse pierced the walls. (34.14)

Hey, a church! And it's got lovely stained glass… with terrible things shown on it. At Dras-Leona, everything seems upside down. The locals worship evil, the way most folks worship good. Still, Eragon goes in and kneels at an altar "out of respect" (34.17). Can it be a good thing if you treat an evil thing with respect?

Why would he commit such an atrocity on his own subjects?

Because he is evil, stated Saphira flatly. (42.25)

When they learn that King Galbatorix is the one who set the Urgals loose on their killing spree, Saphira explains it all to Eragon simply by pointing to the king's evil nature. There's nothing more complicated at work here. Evil is the simple, straightforward explanation for the atrocities committed. With that, we see those who oppose this dude as simply good.

He had witnessed too many wrongs committed in Galbatorix's name, from murder to slavery, to turn his back on the Empire. (46.4)

There are times when Eragon longs for the isolation and simplicity of his upbringing in Carvahall. The evil he faces, though, inspires him to oppose the Empire, not to tuck his head into the sand. Paradoxically, evil inspires goodness here.

"You must be willing to protect yourself and what you cherish, no matter what the cost."

Eragon slammed Zar'roc back into its sheath, shaking his head savagely. "You can justify any atrocity with that reasoning." (47.38-39)

Murtagh's beheading of the slaver Torkenbrand is the most morally challenging part of the book. Usually it's pure evil Urgal versus pure good Eragon and friends. But, when Murtagh cuts the head off a defenseless slaver (which, by the way, is pretty much the most evil profession there is), Eragon is furious. Does the slaver's evil excuse Murtagh's deed? Or has Murtagh himself done something evil here?

I don't know what's right! admitted Eragon, distressed. There aren't any answers that make sense. (48.6)

Murtagh's beheading of the slaver Torkenbrand throws Eragon's whole moral universe out of whack. Still, maybe that's not such a bad thing. Shouldn't we be forced to reflect on why we assign the label "good" to some deeds, and "evil" to others? How might that reflection help hone our own, inner moral compass?

The monsters howled in pain, arms flailing. A torch was thrown […] greasy flames roared up in the opening, engulfing the Urgals in an inferno. (58.5)

Ew. Roast Urgal. We can make that joke because they're "monsters," right? Otherwise, this would be a pretty horrific thing to do to another human being. Do you think that the Varden would have tarred and torched the invaders if they were the human army of the Empire? If so, would that have been evil, or justified?

Think of what you have done and rejoice, for you have rid the land of a great evil. (59.13)

Eragon's triumph is really the triumph of good over evil, just as the Cripple Who is Whole points out here. Isn't that what makes this tale so epic? The battles are not just between monsters and humans, but between elemental forces of the universe.