In Literature Evil Often Triumphs but Never Conquers

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In classical as well as modern literature, the battle of good versus evil is a recurring theme. It was once said, “In literature evil often triumphs but never conquers. ” This statement is correct. Despite the winning streak dark forces often hold over the plot of the story, their success is only temporary because by the end of the story, good always overcomes the obstacles in its path to reign victorious. This concept is well demonstrated in the works Macbeth by William Shakespeare and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

In both works of literature, wickedness holds a provisional sway over the story’s outcome, but loses its title when the forces of good snatch victory from the fangs of defeat. Despite the odds conjured by ambition in Macbeth, goodness prevails and proves to be the true champion. The main theme portrayed in this play was the corruptive powers of unchecked ambition. The destruction brought by ambition that goes unchecked by moral restraints is well demonstrated in the play’s protagonists, Macbeth and Lady Macbeth.

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Macbeth was a courageous Scottish general who was not naturally inclined to committing evil deeds, yet he deeply desired power. After receiving a rather promising fortune from 3 witches and much persuasion from his wife, he kills Duncan against his better judgment. This cloud in his judgment eventually dooms him. He is forced to pay the consequences of his actions through intense feelings of guilt, paranoia, and regret. As Macbeth’s craving for power grew, the more he furthered himself from his morality.

To appease the hungry demon within him he went on a massive killing spree that murdered numerous individuals he felt threatened his position as king. In spite of this victory at achieving power, the loss of his righteousness leads him to his utter destruction. In the final battle of good versus evil, Macbeth stands alone with nothing but his name and the forces of good surrounding him. It was there that he met his demise and was beheaded by the mighty Macduff. A similar set of repercussions had befallen Lady Macbeth. Despite her feminine physique, she is stronger, more ruthless, and more ambitious than her husband.

She proves to be the true culprit behind Duncan’s murder. Understanding the authority that would be achieved by killing the king, she manipulates her husband into overriding his objections and finally committing the murder. Although the murder gave her the power she craved, it immediately corrupted the balance of the kingdom as well as awakened a devouring sense of guilt in her subconscious. She becomes so guilt-ridden that not a moment goes by when she is not scrubbing away the imaginary stains of Duncan’s blood from her hands.

It comes to the point where she can no longer cope with her sin and commits suicide. In both cases, ambition had ensured the protagonists the power they had longed for. However, their momentary satisfaction goes unrealized when their guilt and paranoia lead them down the path to their demise and the restoration of morality within the kingdom. Evil’s ability to be triumphant over good proves to be a short lived in To Kill a Mockingbird, when goodness and morality are not consumed by the negative influential factors around them.

In this novel, the antagonist, Bob Ewell is motivated by ignorance and prejudice and therefore embodies one of the evil forces in this story. In contrast there is our protagonist, Atticus Finch a man that comes to symbolize morality and goodness within the town. The fact that both these characters manage to thrive in Maycomb just contributes to the reality that both good and evil coexist in our daily lives. When Mayella Ewell accuses Tom Robinson – a black man- of rape, everyone believes it due to the theme – the existence of social inequality.

However, there was one open minded individual who chose to find justice and see past the barriers of ignorance and prejudice. Despite the racial profiling and stereotypes, Atticus takes on the responsibility of defending Tom in court. Atticus’ defense was spot on and there was no doubt that Tom was innocent. However, the verdict turned out guilty. The ignorant and prejudice people in Maycomb such as Bob and Mayella Ewell have triumphed over the good and innocent people such as Atticus and Tom.

The presence of an overcomplicated social hierarchy in Maycomb and the narrow minded views of guilt by mere association prove to be successful in trying to destroy the faith people have in humanity. In spite of all that had occurred, Atticus and his children’s goodness remain intact. Throughout the novel he serves as a teacher and role model to his children by lecturing them about life. By doing so he restores the lost faith they have in humanity. He wants people to realize that it is essential for good and evil to coexist in everyone.

Sometimes the evil may triumph over the good but we must not let it falter our faith. He wants his children to believe that most people are basically good, even with the existence of people like Bob Ewell. This is well demonstrated in the children’s changing attitude toward Boo Radley. As they transition from childish superstitions to obtain a more grown up perspective, the children come to understand the good that exists within us all. In spite of the corrupted hierarchy and social prejudice that ruined Tom Robinson, the book ends on a good note when Scout’s faith in humanity remains unaltered.

Someone once said that “In literature evil often triumphs, but never conquers. ” There is a sense of truth behind these words that is illustrated by the authors, William Shakespeare and Harper Lee in their narratives Macbeth and To Kill a Mockingbird. In both works there is a struggle between good and evil. Although evil seems to be winning for most of the battle, good never gives up and continues to fight. In the end all their hard works pays off when they defeat evil and come out of the clash as the victor.

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In Literature Evil Often Triumphs but Never Conquers. (2017, Jan 24). Retrieved from

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