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E.M. Forster makes a bold statement when he declares that he would rather
betray his country than betray his friend. Forster takes a very moral
stand on the issue and states that a friendship is often more important
than a government’s actions or society’s beliefs. His opinion regarding
the value of friendship is a common theme shared by many authors throughout
history, including Mark Twain, and Alexandre Dumas.
Mark Twain’s classic novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, describes a
young boy torn between what he feels his country and society expect of him
and what his heart tells him is right. Society believes that slaves should
be treated as property; Huck, who had befriended a runaway slave, sees Jim
as a person, not property. In the end, Huck Finn decides that he would
rather disobey society’s teachings about slavery, than betray his friend by
returning him to his previous condition of servitude.
Further reiterating Forster’s conception of the proper order of one’s
loyalty is a product of English folklore, Robin Hood. According to legend,
Robin Hood robbed from the rich and gave to the poor in an effort to bring
happiness to the peasants of Nottingham in an otherwise dreary time under
the tyrannical rule of Prince John. A childhood friend of Robin, Maid
Marion places her friendship with Robin Hood above loyalty to the crown.
She has numerous opportunities to betray Robin Hood, but she does not. She
sees the good he is doing for the land and the lone resistance he and his
band of Merry Men provide against the evil Sheriff. Had she been loyal to
her country, Robin Hood would have never been successful against the
Sheriff of Nottingham and the citizens of her kingdom would have had to
endure even greater injustices.
Sharing many of the same principles Robin Hood embodies is Alexandre
Dumas’s The Three Musketeers. The famous trio of noblemen battle against
the villainy of the Court of King Louis XIII. D’Artagnan, Athos, Porthos
and Aramis fight to preserve the honor of their Queen, Anne of Austria,
against the Cardinal Richelieu. Their famous motto ” All for one and one
for all!” illustrates the value they place on their friendship. Efforts to
maintain their close ties of friendship help them in resisting an immoral
government. Had they chosen to remain in adherence to the Cardinal’s
oppressive rule, they would have been unsuccessful in effecting change.
The value of friendship has been a prevalent theme throughout both
literature and history. Authors representing several eras have addressed
the moral dilemma of friendship versus loyalty to one’s country.
Governmental leaders and their policies are transient; friendships last a
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