Raksha The Demon
20 Apr 05 12:22 AM
Reply To: 40456
While I don't think Denethor was a horrible
person, I think he could been an emotionally/verbally abusive person - he verbally pounds on Faramir with great ease, and no one suggests that Denethor never said such things before or didn't have a sharp, cutting tongue. Denethor was not a villain, but I don't think of him as a great hero either, he was something in between, worthy of sympathy and respect.
One of the biggest tragedies in Denethor's downfall is the degree to which he is responsible for it. Denethor decided to look in the Palantir and look into it frequently, despite knowing the force of the much-more-than-human malevolent Power at the other end - he dared to regularly challenge that Power. He never deputized anyone else to look into it - which might have confused Sauron slightly, and at least given Denethor a respite; and he's been doing it since he first became Steward, long before there was an overt threat. Why couldn't Denethor have asked Imrahil to look into the palantir, or Boromir when Boromir grew up, or even Mithrandir on one of his visits? He couldn't trust anyone else to - he wouldn't
trust anyone else.
Denethor chose, or at least had significant input into the decision of which son was going to Imladris, despite Faramir's having had the dream. If Boromir had stayed in Minas Tirith, there's a good chance he would have lived, at least until a few days past the point at which Gandalf and Pippin arrived. And it's Denethor who prods, then orders Faramir into going out on a mission almost certainly doomed. Denethor also chose to send Faramir out with not even a word of kindness, much less a farewell from a commander-in-chief to a captain. I think these elements, the horror of knowing his own responsibility in his sons' fall, must have really helped break down the last walls of his sanity after Faramir returns apparently mortally wounded. That's the point where I have the most sympathy for him, and where he had to have been playing the 'what-if' game in a destructive loop in his head...
If you look at Denethor's words during the PYRE chapter (possibly the SIEGE chapter as well, I don't have the text in front of me at the moment), he agonizes as much, if not more, about his own feelings than he does his sons' and his City's destruction - there's a lot of 'me-me-me' and 'mine-mine-mine' - and I don't think that comes from the palantir; I think it's essential Denethor, and essential Denethor wants to keep all his toys to himself and doesn't like sharing. He may not have been that way always, or at least, while Finduilas and even Boromir lived, he might have kept the grabby egoist inside him under tighter control.
Denethor's tragedy, to me, is so heartbreaking because Denethor is also a man gifted with considerable talent, intelligence, strength of will and courage. Gandalf might not always like him or get along with him, but it's obvious that Gandalf respects him, as do many others. But unfortunately, Denethor's pride and desire for sole control over all that is important to him, seems to become uppermost in his personality to the point of finally taking over...
To some extent, Denethor functions as a mirror to Aragorn - they are both exemplary men, stern and proud and capable, and Ecthelion is a father-figure to both. And, when Denethor falls, it is Aragorn who comes to rescue and renew both Denethor's City and Denethor's son. Denethor is a mirror to Theoden as well; to a lesser extent, since they are not alike in character. They lose their sons on the same day; and Denethor and Theoden die on the same day as well a few weeks later. Also, Denethor is indirectly responsible for Theoden's death - because Denethor is determined to burn himself and Faramir alive, Gandalf rides to Rath Dinen instead of the Pelennor after the Witch-King flies off to attack the just-arrived Rohirrim - Gandalf had a good chance of preventing the Witch-King from killing Theoden, but without Gandalf on the field to hold the Black Captain in check, countless others fell to the Witch-King's power...
The problem with cutting Denethor slack because his realm was under siege and his son had died was that he took great pride in being Steward of the House of Anarion, and a Steward, unlike lesser men, was supposed to be a bulwark of strength to his people in their darkest hour, not hide in the dark and then light a match to oneself and one's son. He probably wasn't the only one who had lost a son, or who knows that things are really bad and going to get worse. Faramir fights on in Ithilien knowing that they have very little hope, even while mourning for his brother. Theoden, who has lost his only child and probably knows he screwed up royally by letting Wormtongue gain such ascendancy, doesn't sit back and cry about the Fall of the Sons of Eorl, he gets out and fights, even if the odds are against them. Eowyn, who is very depressed, finds herself on the battlefield facing the Lord of the Nazgul over her uncle's wounded body - she is terrified, and weeping, but she doesn't back down, and, with Merry's help, pulls off one heckuva Great Deed.
I think Denethor and Finduilas were at least fairly happy
in their marriage - he did love her. Perhaps the last year or two of her life was more painful, if he realized that he was going to lose her, the pain would have been excruciating.
Roh wyn - would Finduilas' post-partum depression have lasted five years? I'm assuming that you're speaking of post-partum depression over Faramir's birth...
RAKSHA THE DEMON, who is apparently a member of the Society of Pessimistic Denethor Interpreters, but who is neither a Denethor Apologist nor a card-carrying member of the Denethor's A Pervy Wife-Beater Society.