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What is evil? A question boasted by Anne Rice's novel, The Wolf Gift

Updated on March 5, 2013

Anne Rice is commonly referred to as the queen of Gothic novels, forcing all of us to fall in love with the dark side. After a period of, I guess we could call it "lighter" writing, she's back to her original supernatural tricks, creating a new idea or vision of the term 'werewolf' in her novel The Wolf Gift.

I'm almost halfway through this highly anticipated book, so I can't really say much in regards to what I think of it as a whole, but I did come across something that made me stop and whip out my journal. If you've ever read Anne Rice, you know she enjoys raising intense philosophical questions through the trials and experiences of her supernatural characters, especially when it comes to asking: What is evil?

We see plenty of what can be called evil in Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles, most of which is either instinctual or conscious, but in The Wolf Gift we read a different explanation...

'What had Phil said about evil? "It's blunders, people making blunders, whether it's raiding a village and killing all the inhabitants, or killing a child in a fit of rage. Mistakes. Everything is simply a matter of mistakes."'

Mistakes, huh? Is it really that simple? I don't think so...

What is a mistake afterall? It can officially be defined as:

  • an error in action caused by ignorance or carelessness

Does that sound like evil or more like the entirety of being human? The definition of evil isn't as basic as simply making a mistake. Evil is defined as:

  • immoral, harmful, wicked ~ basically every synonym for 'bad' you can think of

Evil is a conscious decision. Evil is when a person chooses to do wrong, having no ignorance of what would be considered right, and enjoys the consequences of their harmful actions.

Now I know that this quote doesn't reflect events in the book; in fact, it'll probably turn out to be an ironic statement. But the more I thought about Phil's statement and tried to see his point of view, the more awkward his idea felt positioned in my thoughts. If 'everything is simply a matter of mistakes,' then can everything be forgiven and altered to be good? I'm not so sure.

By Phil's definition, an evil person is simply a person that makes a lot of mistakes. That just doesn't sound right, does it? It makes light of the person... almost makes them sound clumsy or absent-minded... someone you could smile and shake your head at and forgive for almost anything. Doesn't fit too well in my mind...

I find it hard to believe that the core of a person can change, and if a person contains a central element of evil, meaning they enjoy inflicting pain and taking at other's expenses, how can you define their actions as 'blunders' or 'mistakes'? A blunder, in my opinion, would be printing a typo or accidentally buying low-fat ice cream when you really meant to grab the good stuff. I don't think those mistakes would ever be considered evil...

So what do you think?

What is 'evil' essentially?

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    • keelymahaffey profile image

      Keely Mahaffey 4 years ago from Maine

      No, I don't think a person defending themselves would be considered evil. It's a good point you make, and I guess it all depends on each special set of circumstances. There is no black and white definition when determining what makes a person "evil."

      I think Siberian Huskies are innocent. It's in their instincts, just like any animal. They aren't wild animals, but they come as close as any domestic dog can, in my opinion.

      With that said, I guess one could argue that killing is in a serial killer's instincts, so the fact that they kill can't be helped. The difference is that the person is killing maliciously for the simple thrill of power in taking another's life. They know what they do, and despite their motives, they know it will be viewed in society as "evil," or else they wouldn't cover their tracks. When my husky surprises me with a dead rabbit, she's usually eating it happily, putting the kill to a basic purpose.

      Looking for your question now ~ Can't wait to see what others have to say :)

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 4 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      Killing a child in a fit of rage is hard to justify as a mistake. But killing a spouse? What if the person was physically abusive and you just "snapped"? Would you be evil to defend yourself from that person?

      Your article made me think of Siberian Huskies too. They kill all the time. Is it evil, are they innocent, or are they just making a mistake? (I just posted this question to listen to some other responses from Hubbers.)

    • keelymahaffey profile image

      Keely Mahaffey 4 years ago from Maine

      I can agree with that ~ There are those that make mistakes, "mess" up (and I know what word you're talking about lol ~ it suits) and the consequences that result are catastrophic. They don't intend to hurt anyone, they just lose focus or become selfish or... well, there's a number of things that could happen to a person to cause them to "act out" and unintentionally hurt others.

      I don't know if I'd call "killing a child in a fit of rage" a mistake or not. It's a fine line. There are definitely consequences to be faced, but I guess the true test of whether this person is evil or not would be if they felt remorse for their actions. If they regret what they've done. Then, maybe it can be called a mistake. Otherwise, it's pure evil.

    • DrMark1961 profile image

      Dr Mark 4 years ago from The Atlantic Rain Forest, Brazil

      I think there are two sorts of evil. Sociopaths, who commit evil on purpose, sort of like you are suggesting; for a sociopath an act of evil is a concious decision.

      The second type of evil are those "mistakes". The vast majority of evil-doers I have met in my life don´t really do things on purpose, they just "mess" up. (There is another word, much more appropriate, but it would affect your Google Adsense account!)

      But is everything a matter of mistakes? I think not. We should ask Ted Bundy, but since we can´t I am sure there are plenty of his ilk that would be glad to spout off their philosophy.