As Tris Prior, a prominent character in the award winning novel Allegiant by Veronica Roth, explains the strong connection between an individual’s moral character and devotion, she says, “I don’t belong to Abnegation, or Dauntless, or even the Divergent… I belong to the people I love, and they belong to me–they, and the love and loyalty I give them, form my identity far more than any word or group ever could” (Roth). When Tris emphasizes the contribution of loyalty on her own character, it becomes prominent that, in spite of the social rankings created by her society, obedience is formed by one’s righteous principles.
As depicted in multiple works of art and literature, loyalty is a universal theme that draws the line between moral and unethical behavior. The well known Old English epic, Beowulf, written by an unknown Anglo-Saxon in period spanning from 700 A.D. to 1000 A.D, incorporates faithfulness through the abundance of challenges that the superhuman Geat, Beowulf, must overcome with his fellow warriors.
On the contrary, “The Most Loyal Dog the World Has Ever Seen Reunites with Owner After Death”, a recent article composed by Jeremy Spiro-Winn, reflects a dog who remains loyal to his late owner, in spite of being separated through death. Likewise, in the painting, Last Connection 3-Loyalty, Ally Benbrook displays a dog remaining close to a homeless man despite his lack of stability and assets. With the use of this uniform theme in different literary works, the artist and authors successfully prove that loyalty is vital to the success of any relationship in both modern and ancient environments with the use of various literary devices.
Present in the Anglo-Saxon poem Beowulf, as well as the writings of Jeremy Spiro-Winn, the protagonists’ attitudes toward their authoritative figures effectively contribute to the coherent message of fidelity. In the epic, when initially meeting Beowulf, Hrothgar remembers the time he had spent with his father, Edgetho, when he says, “I bought the end of Edgetho’s/ Quarrel, sent ancient treasures through ocean’s/ Furrow to the Wulfings” (204-206). Being a key Anglo-Saxon principle, Beowulf feels a sense of indebtedness to be loyal to Hrothgar after he helped settle his father’s feud. Accordingly, this desire to serve leads Beowulf to Denmark where attempts to slay Grendel upon being notified of the Danish king’s distress. In the article, the family of the late owner reacts in a similar manner. After having Hachiko live with them and constantly run away, the owner’s family began to “give up any hope of preventing the Akita [Hachiko] from returning each day to wait for his late master” (Spiro-Winn). Through his persistence, Hachiko shows that no distance can keep him from maintaining that sense of commitment for his owner. Likewise, in Beowulf, the hero is prepared to travel great distances in order to prove his devotion to King Hrothgar. The dedication and determination of the characters remain prevalent despite having no sense of self-interest as the root of their actions.
Similar to the contribution of character on loyalty, through the use of complex language and vivid imagery, the concept of this Anglo-Saxon virtue is further expressed in Beowulf and the composition by Jeremy Spiro-Winn. In Beowulf, the Old English poet depicts detailed images of the perilous setting that the hero faces when Hrothgar talks to Beowulf about a possible venture into the unknown cave of Grendel’s mother. As the Danish king describes the horrors of the monster’s home, he says,“When the wind stirs/ And storms, waves splash toward the sky,/ As dark as the air, as black as the rain/ That the heavens weep. Our only help,/ Again lies with you. Grendel’s mother/ Is hidden in her terrible home, in a place/ You’ve not seen. Seek it if you dare! Save us,/ Once more” (440-446). Although already proving his loyalty to Hrothgar and repaying his father’s debt with the battle with Grendel, Beowulf continues to show his devotion for the Danish king when he agrees to risk his life once again with Grendel’s mother. Similarly, in the article, when describing how often the dog, Hachiko, goes to the train station, the author states, “Hachiko must have sensed something was wrong when his master didn’t show, but he continued on as he always had. The next day, he showed up right on time as usual. Then he showed up the day after that, then the day after that…” (Spiro-Winn). The repetition of the phrase, “the day after that, then the day after that…” serves as an effective literary device that emphasizes Hachiko’s desire to maintain a sense of allegiance even after continuously returning home without his owner. Both the epic and the article use composite language through literary devices such as repetition and imagery to prove fidelity among the main characters. Beowulf is not required to stay in Denmark and fight another monster just as Hachiko is not obligated continue to go to the train station. Underscored by the language of the works, loyalty does not end when a relationship ends, but it remains a crucial element for the span of the alliance.
Not only is this message prominent due to the use of the characters and language, but it is also consequent of the setting of Beowulf, as well as the city illustration by Benbrook. In fact, during the battle with the dragon in Geatland, Wiglaf tells his unloyal comrades, “And we must go to him, while angry/ Flames burn at his flesh help/ Our glorious king! By almighty God,/ I’d rather burn myself than see/ Flames swirling around my lord” (723-727). Given the treacherous conditions their aged king faces with “angry flames,” Wiglaf describes the deep sense of loyalty he believes the men should have for their lord, Beowulf. He uses himself as an example of someone with a notable amount of fidelity because he would “rather burn himself” in these horrendous conditions than see his king put in harm’s way. Wiglaf’s devotion conveys his will to sacrifice himself in order to save the man he is loyal to. In addition, setting is also vital to the interpretation of any artwork, such as the illustration by Benbrook. The foreground of the painting is a dog sitting alongside a homeless man wearing ragged clothing with a background of the painting showing an urban city with a building, crosswalk, and signs (See Appendix). The busy lifestyle of a typical city indicates there are many economically stable people populating the area, yet the dog shown in the painting remains beside the man who appears to lack the resources necessary for an ideal life in the city. In Beowulf, Wiglaf easily could have been threatened by the fire-ridden setting and ran away from the problem Beowulf faced, yet he stays by his side until the very end. Likewise, the painting shows that although circumstances are not ideal, such as being poor in an urban city, the loyal companion does not get tempted to run away to a more stable lifestyle and he remains devoted regardless. These works convey loyalty as being especially present when tested in nonideal circumstances.
As displayed in Beowulf, “The Most Loyal Dog the World Has Ever Seen Reunites with Owner After Death”, and Last Connection 3-Loyalty, allegiance is effectively shown to unify the partners of a group with the use of character, language, and ambiance. As seen in the Anglo-Saxon epic, the hero does not act in his own self-interest, for he is more concerned for the safety of the king. With comparable determination, in the article, Hachiko is persistent to continue venturing to the train station despite having no guarantee to reunite with his late owner. Additionally, both works display a sense of devotion to a superior power, which serves to show the strengthened relationship between the hero with the king and the dog with his owner. Authors and artists exemplify this prominent concept in both modern and ancient works through the vivid images used to depict the circumstances that question a being’s faithfulness. As Anglo-Saxon principles have become the basis of society’s fundamentals today, loyalty has become a recurring theme in a multitude of works of literature and art.