Technology, Power and Ignorance: The sources of corruption in J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings
Brun Sánchez, Marc
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Since the first Industrial Revolution and up to our current days, there has been an exponential growth in the power of technology over nature and over humanity. Simultaneously, the concern about the negative impact that an excessive use of technology may have on people has equally increased, and it still does. These concerns have taken many expressions in Western society for some centuries now, which show the universality and importance of the topic. Literature is one of the major instruments of these expressions, especially fantasy, and J. R. R. Tolkien was one of the main exponents of the 20th Century in this field. Particularly in The Lord of the Rings, he projected his ideas regarding this highly relevant issue, motivated greatly by his experience of the terrors of World War I. The industrial transformation of Isengard has typically been analysed by scholars as the principal reference to this issue in the novel, but another important example is the One Ring. It is presented as a device which provides utter and destructive power, corrupting practically every individual that interacts with it. However, is it only from the Ring that the characters’ corruption emerges, or does it have another source? The aim of this paper is to prove that corruption is not a single-source phenomenon, but that it has two sides: one external and other internal to the individual, and that the latter is most important. For this purpose, I will first look at Tolkien’s views regarding technology, evil and corruption. Then I will show how the Ring is presented as a device that brings corruption to individuals, and I will analyse a spectrum of those characters and their interaction with the Ring in order to determine the true source of their corruption and its implications.