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The Princess Bride, Research Paper Example

Pages: 1

Words: 1066

Research Paper

Does the End Justify the Means?

Violence is hard to justify in any situation. It breeds anger, adds negative energy to an already negative situation, and often causes more problems than it fixes.  However, it seems to be a part of human nature, and it sometimes seems to be the only answer to a difficult situation.  Throughout human history, people have used violence against one another to right wrongs and avenge victims of violent attacks.  In the case of governments, the people of tyrant dictatorships have often had to raise arms in order to free themselves from the oppressor, even if it went against their peaceful nature. In The Princess Bride, there are many wrongs that the characters try to right. Violence is sometimes used.  Westley has suffered greatly by the actions of Prince Humperdinck and it seems as though he has every right to justify killing, or at least greatly maiming, the evil Prince. Yet, in the end, Westley is unable to lay the finishing blow to his enemy. Westley’s choice to not use violence against Prince Humperdinck demonstrates a profound truth that human nature isn’t violent, and that good guys don’t have to use violence to win.

Prince Humperdinck represents the “bad guy” in history, the ones that have allowed envy, ambition, and greed to overpower their basic human nature.  These emotions overwhelm people, turning them into monsters.  The Prince does not really love Buttercup he only wants to use her in order to advance his plans. His desire is to take over the neighboring kingdom of Guilder and Buttercup is an integral part of that plan. When Buttercup and Westley escape into the Fire Swamp, the men ask the Prince if he wants to follow after them.  The Prince replies, “They’ll either live or die in there. If they die, I have no wish to join them.” (page 104)

It is true that in the past governments have used their people as pawns in a game, sacrificing their happiness and lives in selfish pursuits. The people are usually unaware at first, as is the case with Buttercup. She is a pawn in Prince Humperdinck’s game, as is Westley.  Buttercup believes that the Prince is a good man at heart, and that he is marrying her for the right reasons.  However, the Prince only wants to marry her in order to start a war with the neighboring kingdom of Guilder, so he can be justified in taking over the riches of that kingdom.  He tells Count Rugen, “I’ve got to decide how long the Five Hundredth Anniversary Parade is

going to be and where does it start and when does it start and which nobleman gets to march in front of which other nobleman so that everyone’s still speaking to me at the end of it, plus I’ve got a wife to murder and a country to frame for it, plus I’ve got to get the war going once that’s all happened, and all this is stuff I’ve got to do myself. (129)

Prince Humperdinck is a personification of evil. His actions are purely selfish, and he will sacrifice the lives and happiness of his kingdom in order to fulfill his desires.  His plan is to manipulate the people of his kingdom into going to war. He knows that they will not go to war just to take over Guilder. However, he knows that it is human nature to want to justify wrongs.  Buttercup is a woman of the people, and if the people believe that she has been murdered by the kingdom of Guilder, then they will go to war to avenge her death.  Most people view violence as an option when violence has been used against them.  They want to protect themselves, their families, and their countrymen.  However, it is a scam.

‘Life isn’t fair, Bill. We tell our children that it is, but it’s a terrible thing to do. It’s not only a lie, it’s a cruel lie. Life is not fair, and it never has been, and it’s never going to be.'(121) This is an unfortunate truth in our world. Often we act on a set of beliefs that are not true.  Violent actions can be justified if they are truly justified. Governments have often led their people into war under false pretenses. If the people were aware of the real reasons behind the war, such as the elite ruling class’s desire for power and money, they would probably not want to sacrifice their lives and happiness for the war.  However, if a government uses fear and propaganda, it can make people justify the violence and march happily into war.  In the case of World War II, Hitler used fear and mass propaganda to convince the German people to give up their freedoms and go to war against Europe. In the case of The Princess Bride, Prince Humperdinck marries a common woman to win the hearts of the people so they will be willing to follow him into war.

The mentality of Prince Humperdinck is such that he does not mind using violence to kill those he feels are below him. He will sacrifice Buttercup and Westley in order to further his agenda.  It is all a game to him. When Westley confronts him after the wedding, the Prince tells him, “I wasn’t afraid of you,” he said to Westley. “I dropped my sword because it will be so much more pleasure for me to hunt you down.” (179) To Westley and Buttercup, this is not a game this is their life, full of real emotions.  Westley seriously considers killing Humperdinck, or wounding him so that he will suffer all his life, but doesn’t. Unlike Humperdinck, Westley values human life, and even though Humperdinck may deserve to die for his actions, Westley does not see himself fit to judge.

Violence against other humans should be committed only after careful consideration of the repercussions, not only of a political nature, but also of a moral and ethical nature.  The story of The Princess Bride shows us how good and loyal human nature can be, and also how corrupt it can be when tainted by greed and power.  It shows how rulers can manipulate the good intentions of their citizens into committing violent acts.  Men like Humperdinck have no qualms about killing, while men like Westley do.  At the end of the day, Westley won, and he won without violence.

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