Study Guide

The Demon's Lexicon Morality and Ethics

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Morality and Ethics

Ever hear of the Trolley Problem? Here's the gist of it: you're a train yard operator and you see a train coming that's going to mow down five people. They don't have time to move, but you have time to flip a switch that will route the train to a different track—a track where there's only one person in the way. So what do you do? Do you flip the switch and send one person to his death, or do you do nothing and let the original five targets perish?

There are a lot of different variations of this problem, and most of them remind us of situations faced by the characters in The Demon's Lexicon, who are constantly questioning whose needs—and whose lives—come first.

Questions About Morality and Ethics

  1. Are there any situations in which killing someone is okay? Explain. 
  2. If you were faced with the Trolley Problem described in the introduction to this theme, what would you do? Would you flip the switch to send the train barreling toward one person instead of five? How might your answer change if instead of flipping a switch you had to actually push one person in front of the train to save the other five people? 
  3. Do you think Alan makes a good decision when he:
    • gives his talisman to Nick when they are children (3.19)?
    • gives his talisman to Mae in Chapter 2 (2.165-166)?
    • takes on one of Jamie's marks so that they both have second tier marks (5.129)?
    • chooses to keep Nick's true identity secret from Nick?
    • chooses to keep Nick's true identity secret from the people at the Goblin Market?
    • takes Nick, Mae, and Jamie to the House of Mezentius (Chapter 10)?
    • frees Hnikkar/Nick (16.122)?
  4. Which of the characters in The Demon's Lexicon are willing to risk their lives for someone else? Explain. 
  5. Nick is willing to sacrifice Mum for Alan, but he would never do the reverse. What do you think about that? Is he justified in feeling the way he does? Does that make it right?
  6. For whom, if anyone, would you put your life on the line? Who do you think would do the same for you? 

Chew on This

Alan often seems to question Nick's morality, but in many ways Nick is one of the most moral characters in the book.

Morality is subjective. There are no absolutes when it comes to right and wrong because there are exceptions to every rule.

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