Mass Murder

How Do You ACCIDENTALLY Commit Mass Murder?

This is an essay I wrote for my Brittish Lit BEFORE 1800 class. It’s talking about the idea of the anti-hero from Malory’s time persisting through to present day.
Balin is an ex-convict. Balin was “delivered out of prison, for he was a good man named of his body” (Malory 16), and he returned to being a knight among King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. However, Balin was not seen as a pure and just man, shown when “the damsel” told Balin “Sir, it needeth not you to put me to no more pain, for it seemeth not you to speed thereas all these other knights have failed” (Malory 17), meaning that she took a look at him and assumed that there was no way that he could even be considered pure enough to pull the sword from her sheathe, because only “a knight, [who is] a passing good man of his hands and of his deeds, and [is] without villainy other treachery, and without reason” (Malory 16), may draw the sword. However, Balin proves able to draw the sword, and after doing so, proceeds to go on a sort of “rampage” through Camelot, leaving a trail of angrily murdered and accidentally murdered bodies in his wake, and eventually leading to his own death and that of his brother. This concept of an “Anti-Hero,” a hero who rides the line of evil, or even crosses it throughout his career, is a concept that has endured through the times, and is still popular today (but why?). This idea of an anti-hero continues to persist because of several reasons: first, it is relatable; second, it is different; and third, it makes for less predictable stories, as the reader (or viewer) has little clue as to what the anti-hero might do next, opening up a broader list of possibilities, both comedic and dramatic. A good comparison to the story of Balin could be the adult cartoon, Archer; more specifically, the episode entitled “Placebo Effect.”
In “Placebo Effect,” Sterling (Archer) goes on a rampage throughout the city, leaving a trail of bodies in his wake. Like Balin, Archer is an anti-hero, as he goes on a “heroic adventure,” but conducts himself in a very questionable way, (ie, murdering about a dozen people in horrible [sometimes accidental] ways). However, his cause is a good one, as he discovers that someone (the Irish Mafia, or “potato heads”) has been switching out cancer medicine for placebos, and selling it at ridiculously high prices, to himself and others, including a little old lady named Ruth whom he has built up a relationship with during his time spent fighting cancer.
The story of Balin has the same style as Archer, in the sense that Balin goes on an adventure to prove himself to King Arthur by performing heroic deeds (a good thing), but ends up accidentally murdering: 1. A Knight (whose lover then kills herself in front of him), 2. A damsel (different from the aforementioned), 3. Everyone in King Pellam’s Castle (due to the castle crumbling on down when he struck King Pellam with “the spear”). The blood of these people is all on his hands, which he does seem to acknowledge at one point after he kills the knight and his lover kills herself and he says, “Alas! Me repenteth sore the death of this knight for the love of this damsel for there was much true love betwixt them” (Malory 22-23). This satisfies the various reasons for which we enjoy the Anti-Hero archetype. First, it is relatable (we have all made some pretty big mistakes in trying to do something right), second, it is different (a better man would have been able to spare both the knight and his lover), third, it is dramatic (think Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet), and fourth, it leads to a slightly comedic situation when, after accidentally murdering these two people, everyone and their mother shows up and confronts him about the bodies (when they are practically in the middle of nowhere).
The scene when Balin accidentally brings down the castle could easily relate to the scene in “Placebo Effect” when archer accidentally blows up the back-room of the building where the mafia men were playing poker, by putting a fragmentation grenade in the guy’s ass instead of a smoke grenade, as he intended to do. Balin does something similar when he strikes down King Pellam. It goes like this:
So when Balin saw the spear he got it in his hand and turned to King Pellam and felled him and smote him passingly sore with that spear, that King Pellam fell down in a swough. And earth. And Balin fell down and might not stir hand nor foot, and for the most party of the castle was dead through the Dolorous Stroke. (Malory 32)
Balin, in the midst of his rampage, ends up accidentally bringing down the house (castle) around them, killing some number of people. This is another perfect example of the purpose of an anti-hero, as no true hero would be capable of doing something like this. The plot takes a totally unexpected turn when the hero accidentally commits mass murder. This serves the purposes of the anti-hero, perfectly. It is relatable, though on a larger scale. It is different, since no one expects the hero to accidentally murder a bunch of people. It is dramatic and comedic: our hero fails yet again and loses the woman whom he was questing with and also has to deal with the internal and external consequences of committing mass murder; but it is also comedic because “How the hell do you ACCIDENTALLY commit mass murder!?”
So while the anti-hero is not a very efficient hero, they do prove to be an effective and entertaining hero. As we see in Balin and in Archer, heroes are people too. They have good intentions just like we do and they screw up just like we do. The only difference is that when they do it, it is usually on a grander scale (ie, blowing up buildings). The reason that the concept of the anti-hero has persisted through the years is because it fulfills several functions in literature that make it enjoyable; the anti-hero story is relatable and funny/dramatic, and does it in a way that is vastly different from the traditional hero-story.

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