Two weeks ago, I wrote a post about Eragon’s disability during the events of the second book, Eldest, in the Inheritance Cycle series. Originally, I had been torn between writing about that, or writing about whether or not Eragon is a sociopath or a psychopath. While I do believe that Eragon displays many sociopathic and psychopathic tendencies, at the same time, he was also written to be a hero, and so his character becomes confused due to the fact that Paolini tends to tell one thing and show the opposite. As such, Eragon is left with many conflicting personality quirks that make it hard to understand his character.
For example, Eragon seems to have no trouble killing other human beings, to the extent that he rarely has any kind of emotional response to the people’s he’s killed, but as of Eldest, he becomes a vegetarian, because killing animals for food is wrong.
So while Eragon comes across as a horrible murderer sometimes, other times he can come across as a relatively decent guy. Relatively.
To start off, I have never been clear on the difference between sociopaths and psychopaths. According to one, who has written numerous articles on psychology, the difference is as such:
A sociopath is one who is affected with a personality disorder marked by antisocial behavior. A psychopath is a person with an antisocial personality disorder, manifested in aggressive, perverted, criminal, or amoral behavior without empathy or remorse.
While I can understand the difference between them from that, I don’t know enough about personality disorders to make a clear judgement call. The author of this piece, however, was very helpful in listing some of the traits that sociopaths and psychopaths have, and though Eragon does share many traits with psychopaths, he seems to have a lot more in common with sociopaths.
- Sociopaths feel that they are entitled to everything.
Eragon feels entitled plenty of times. For some reason, because he’s a Dragon Rider, he expects people to hand over essentials, instead of earning them himself. Granted, he doesn’t work for the Varden for any kind of monetary gain while still doing a lot for their cause, and as such must rely on Nasuada—the Varden’s leader—and others for food and clothing. However, he expects the same from people who are not responsible for him. Additionally, he rarely acts grateful for his gifts. Last post, I talked about how Eragon was magically healed from a crippling wound—and he was thankful for that—but he still acted as if he deserved what he had received, despite having done nothing to earn it.
- Sociopaths have no remorse, shame or guilt.
An example of this can be found in Brisingr. Eragon and Arya are headed back to the Varden camp alone together when a group of Empire soldiers happen upon them. Even though this encounter could have easily been avoided, it happens anyway, and Eragon and Arya end up fighting and killing all the soldiers. The last man to die is unarmed and pleading for mercy when Eragon snaps his neck for no reason other than convenience. I should point out that this man was in no possible way a danger to our characters. When Arya asks Eragon how he could kill that solider and not Sloan—another character who is Eragon’s “enemy”—this line happens:
Devoid of emotion, [Eragon] shrugged. “He was a threat. Sloan wasn’t. Isn’t that obvious?” (Brisingr, pg. 185)
I should also mention that this scene takes place in a chapter titled “Mercy, Dragon Rider.” Additionally, Eragon’s treatment of Sloan was one of the most evil and uncalled for acts I have ever seen. This article at Impishldea summarizes that better than I ever could.
- Sociopaths have lack of empathy hen (sic) their victims suffer pain that they have caused.
As the books progress, we learn that the evil Galbatorix has made all his soldiers swear oaths of loyalty in the Ancient Language—anything said in the Ancient Language is binding, and if a character goes back on his word, that character dies—so none of them can betray him. While this is a war, and thus I can understand the reasons why Eragon has to kill these soldiers, it does not change the fact that he takes pleasure in killing them.
You’re too late, thought Eragon with grim satisfaction. You should have left the Empire while you still had the chance. (Inheritance, pg. 4)
Additionally, even if these soldiers hadn’t sworn oaths, Eragon has still sided with a terrorist organization that has invaded the soldiers’ homeland, and he cannot bring himself to empathize with their cause in the least.
- Sociopaths believe that they are all mightier than thou, there is no concern on how their behavior impacts others.
This is a direct quote from Eragon:
“What else can a god offer me? With the Eldunarí, I have the strength to do most anything.” (Inheritance, pg. 807)
Eragon often has a mightier-than-thou attitude in regards to many things, constantly, throughout the entire series. However, to be fair, during the conversation where this quote takes place, Eragon decides that he and Saphira will leave Alagaësia so that he never takes over and dictates like Galbatorix did. So we can make the argument that he might be concerned how his behavior will affect others in this regard, or we can also make the argument that he’s doing it for himself—he’s going off to rebuild the Dragon Riders and become their new leader, after all. The Dragon Riders will probably end up being the most powerful force in their world.
- Sociopaths will never take blame for anything they have done to anyone no matter if it is family or friend.
There are literally so many passages I could reference here between Eragon and his brother Murtagh it’s ridiculous. Murtagh, like the soldiers, is forced to swear an oath to Galbatorix against his will, putting him behind enemy lines for the majority of the story. While I understand the gravity of this situation, since Murtagh is also a Dragon Rider and exceedingly powerful so the Varden might have to kill him, everyone—especially Eragon—acts as if Murtagh is to blame for essentially being mind-raped by the king. After Eragon first discovers what’s happened to Murtagh, he didn’t know that Murtagh was actually his brother at the time. However, Murtagh had been his best friend and like a brother to him.
Immediately, Eragon starts accusing Murtagh of betraying him and the Varden, to which Murtagh explains the situation and tells Eragon that he did not agree to join Galbatorix willingly. Murtagh also tells Eragon about how Galbatorix “punished” him for helping the Varden in the past freely, and about how Galbatorix mind-raped him. Eragon continues to accuse Murtagh, and when Murtagh continues to say that he didn’t have a choice, this line happens:
Pity and disgust welled inside of Eragon. “You have become your father.” (Eldest, pg. 647)
This was probably the worst, cruelest thing Eragon could have thought to say. Murtagh’s father, Morzan, served Galbatorix willingly and at one point threw a sword at Murtagh and nearly killed him when Murtagh was three. What we know about Morzan was that he was a cruel, irresponsible drunkard who used to abuse his son, and Murtagh has tried his whole life to escape his father’s shadow.
Sometime after this line, Murtagh tells Eragon that they’re brothers, and Eragon also comes up with something damaging to say about Murtagh’s scar from having a sword thrown at him.
I also cannot get over the fact that, after this moment, just about every scene involving Murtagh consists of Eragon complaining about how bad Eragon’s life is because Murtagh was raped by the king. And so Eragon takes his rage and frustration out on Murtagh and victim-blames him constantly.
All of these are just some of the reasons why I think Eragon’s a sociopath, but he wasn’t written with the intent of being one, so there are plenty of passages in the books to indicate otherwise. However, those do not excuse Eragon’s bad behavior, and sometimes it feels as if I’m reading about two different characters. What upsets me about Eragon is that I’m supposed to idolize a character that is clearly a terrible person. In many ways, because of Eragon’s actions, Galbatorix and the Empire come off as the most sympathetic side, instead of our supposed good guys.