Friday, August 23, 2013

The Noble Sacrifice

       Of all the great plot devices, one of the greatest of them all is the noble sacrifice. I'm sure we've all seen it before, when a person gives up his safety and wellbeing to protect those of another. A man pushes a child out of the path of a speeding bus and is hit himself. A Secret Service agent takes a bullet in defense of the President. An infantryman jumps on a grenade to shield his friends from the explosion. It's one of the most powerful demonstrations of love and self-denial that there is.

     I was surprised, then, when I happened upon a few "sacrifices" that didn't appeal to me. They didn't seem like they were true noble sacrifices. After mulling it over for a while, I finally came up with a group of reasons why I felt so, and a few guidelines as to what a noble sacrifice really is.

     1.) The surrender of health and wellbeing must be intentional. An accidental death which benefits the hero is obviously not a sacrifice.

      2.) All other options must be exhausted. There's no point in dying to save your friends when you can just push a button and do it.

     3.) Since the loss of life is involved, the sacrifice must do something, it must have a purpose. It is certainly not powerful if a hero, say, jumps off a cliff after someone he cares about. If nothing else, it provokes an immense sadness at the hero's premature demise and his stupidity in bringing it about.

     4.) The sacrifice must be effective in securing its purpose. It's pointless to give up one's life without the certainty that it will save your friends. It's almost like going to the altar or the volcano in the hope that you'll appease the gods and keep them from destroying your village. In some settings that might be effective, but there's no way to know.

     The noble sacrifice is a great plot device. It contains immense emotional and spiritual power when used and crafted properly. There's no greater love than that which lays down itself for its friends

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