The Tragic Flaw
I recently saw The Northman in theaters with a good Cornell friend. It wasn’t the typical movie that kind of just blasts the audience with non-stop action. There was some nuance to the film, that makes you reflect and think about the nature of the human condition.
The protagonist, Amleth, is a fairly fearless warrior. He’s tall, muscular, handsome, and gets the girl in the movie. All in all, he has a perfect life. Except for his all-consuming rage for the murder of his dad when he was still a young boy. Throughout the film, he dedicates his life towards getting revenge on his father’s killer, which was his uncle. It’s the typical story based off Shakespeare’s Hamlet.
There was one pivotal scene in the movie where Amleth escapes from his uncle with his love interest and finds out that she is pregnant with his kids. He is ecstatic about the news and foresees his children having great lives. However, when faced with the decision to leave his past behind and let go of his hate to start a new life with the mother of his children, he chose to swim back to shore and continue to pursue his hateful goal of exacting revenge for his father’s death.
As you may have guessed it, he ultimately achieves his goal and murders his uncle, but at the cost of his own life as well. The end.
This movie, I feel, exposes the concept of “the tragic flaw” in human beings. In Amleth’s case, he seems to have it all under control. His one flaw is his inability to let go of his past and move on towards the future. His inability to let go of his all-consuming rage for getting revenge. And it cost him dearly.
The tragic flaw is a concept in most tragedies – particularly in Shakespearean plays. Some other flaws out there include being over-protected, being self-sacrificial, having too much ambition, being cowardly, or being too addicted to pleasure. These are all parts of the human condition. What makes them “tragic” is for the inability of the protagonist to get over these challenges in the end, which inevitably costs them dearly.
I guess we human beings all have flaws of our own. There is no one perfect individual. We can all be overprotective at times. We all have times when we are fearful and even cowardly. We could have ambitions that run wild with trying to take over the world. It’s a balancing act. There is no right or wrong ingredient in this case.
I think this movie teaches us to be more aware of our personality and our tendencies. And to kind of learn to let go of things that don’t serve us well in the end. In Amleth’s case, he was indoctrinated at a young age to be warrior. To fight for his family. And to die a glorious death in the battlefield. And that indoctrination ultimately served to be his demise.
He wasn’t able to let go of the tendencies that may have served him well growing up, but not so much when he is trying to start his own family as a mature adult. It’s this inability to let go that cost him living a peaceful and fulfilling life with his future family.
We all have our demons. We all sometimes attach too much to material experiences or to certain loved ones, and sometimes we wonder how we can go at it on our own. Sometimes, it’s hard to let go. It’s hard to just be willing to leave the past behind. Especially when it comes to romantic relationships. I’m no different. And I have my periods of struggle here and there.
Over the years, I’ve let go of certain tendencies that don’t serve me well anymore. And as a result, my personality and identity has become fluid and changed as well. For the better, I hope. In general, I’m not enamored anymore with trying to further my own gains. And I try to look more towards the well-being of the community.
In high school, I was all about furthering my own intentions. About getting good grades. Being as perfect and as cool as possible. And what high schooler wasn’t like that? But after years of humbling experiences, I’ve learned to realize that the world simply doesn’t revolve around me. And quite frankly, I’m not as “good” as I thought myself out to be during the high school years. And that’s okay.
I’ve begun to accept my flaws and my misgivings for what they are. As human nature. Sometimes, I’ll have good days. And other times, I’ll have bad ones. Just like everyone else. From the movie, I will learn to identify mental tendencies that may hinder me for the future and trying to adapt accordingly. I will try to identify some of my possible flaws, and make sure that they don’t become the “tragic” case.
Although, it’s hard to determine what is a tragedy in different people’s eyes. But in general, just keep a look out for possible character flaws that could take you away from the straight and narrow. Look for possible tendencies that you could improve upon. And put in the investment to improve. To grow little by little into a more complete individual.
Nobody is perfect. You don’t have to be. Just take it one step at a time to better yourself and to live in a way that doesn’t harm any other human being. Come to accept your flawed self and be at peace with whom you ultimately are.