Killing is OK

7 May

This is a rant. I warned you there’d be some of these.

Picture this:

You and the girl you’re kinda into (except-let’s-keep-it-in-the-subtext) are running across the planet in a bid to find safety. The crazy, murderous preacher who’s tried to kill you both before is coming after you. In a climactic moment, he catches up with you and tries, yet again, to kill you. Somehow you get the upper hand. You don’t kill him. Instead you keep running.

Rinse and repeat three (or is it four?) times. The Knife of Never Letting Go Patrick Ness

That’s pretty much the plot of Chaos Walking, a trilogy by Patrick Ness.

Chaos Walking actually has an interesting premise: In the future when Earth is inevitably ruined by careless, violent humans, other humans seek a new life on other planets. One group lands on New World, a planet where the natives (Spackle) communicate telepathically. Pretty soon, the newly-arrived men find that, like the Spackle, their thoughts are being transmitted aloud for all to hear. They call this “Noise.” Women, for some reason, aren’t affected.

Like I said, it’s an interesting and original idea. Leaves lots of room for discussion.

However. There were multiples times when I wanted to reach into those pages and shake the characters till their teeth rattled in their imbecilic heads.

Namely, whenever Todd, the protagonist, was in a fight-to-the-death (which happened a lot).

He never killed his opponent, whether it was the aforementioned crazy preacher or the insane Mayor who sought world domination. It wasn’t because they weren’t evil, because they were. And it wasn’t because Todd didn’t realize just how evil they were, because he did. And it wasn’t even because he was sure they wouldn’t continue to hunt him down and do horrible things to everyone on the planet, because he knew they would.

So why didn’t Todd kill them?

Two reasons come to mind:

1) This was a plot device.

By which I mean if Patrick Ness had allowed Todd to kill the crazy preacher in the beginning of the book (or in the middle or end of the book), he wouldn’t have had a trilogy to work with. If he had allowed Todd to kill any of the other utterly insane and equally murderous men that inhabit New World, there wouldn’t have been a story.

I’ll accept this as a plausible excuse, but I think it’s lazy.

2) Ness is attempting to teach a moral lesson that killing is bad.

It’s this reason that really irks me.

Yes, killing is generally not a great hobby to pursue. But there’s a time and a place for everything, including killing. For example, killing in self-defense is OKAY.

Let me repeat that. IF SOMEONE IS COMING AFTER YOU WITH A MACHETE AND A MURDEROUS LOOK IN HIS EYES AND HE’S SWINGING THAT DEADLY OBJECT AT YOU, YOU STOP HIM BY ANY MEANS NECESSARY WHICH MIGHT MEAN KILLING HIM.

I’m not saying you should jump for joy at the opportunity to kill someone. And you might need to see a lot more of your therapist after. But you do it because if you don’t, you usually end up dead.

What’s more, as the story chugs along with Todd refusing to kill those murderous villains who keep coming after him and his girlfriend, he ends up causing the death of his dog, stabbing to death an innocent Spackle, and taking part in the torture and (what he believed to be) genocide of the Spackle, as well as branding and torturing human women, and generally aiding Mayor Prentiss in his quest to subjugate the entire planet.

There’s a Jewish concept: “He who is compassionate to the cruel, will ultimately become cruel to the compassionate.”

Todd proves that to be true.

He should have killed the preacher on page six.

***

What do you think? Is killing ok?

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