Wit States SA Theme: The Need for Balance In “Men’s Hearts”

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“True Wit is Nature to advantage dress’d

What oft was thought, but ne’er so well expressed”


[ASIDE: In the Spirit of Sanderson, I thought I’d begin with an epigraph of my own, this one from Essay on Criticism, the 1709 poem by Alexander Pope. Unlike our Wit, Pope was a hunch-backed asthmatic dwarf. But, like Wit, Pope was the leading satirist of his time. His jibes earned him the enmity of many. Tupac and the Notorious B.I.G. were not the original “gangstas”; when Pope wandered the London streets at night, he took with him two loaded pistols and his two Great Danes (what an image!)


You’ve all heard many of the lines from Essay on Criticism, but might not have known their source. Here are a few: “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread”; “A little learning is a dangerous thing”; “To err is human, to forgive, divine.” ASIDE OVER – thanks for reading this far!]


On WoR’s last page, Wit says to Jasnah, “You’ll find God in the same place you’re going to find salvation from this mess…Inside the hearts of men.”


Of similar import is this phrase from the epigraph to Chapter 71, from the Second Letter: “[Rayse] bears the weight of God’s own divine hatred, separated from the virtues that gave it context.” [Second aside: Does that mean the Second Letter writer considers Adonalsium to be God?]


I believe these statements capture the theme of The Stormlight Archives, and perhaps all of the Cosmere novels: the importance of balance. Not necessarily of “harmony,” which assumes perfect equilibrium, but of balance, offsetting characteristics that temper the edges of each. The shattering of Adonalsium upset the balance of the Cosmere by giving primacy to specific aspects of Godhood: Honor, Hatred, Growth, Ruin, Preservation, etc. Maybe it’s the imbalance of each Shard holder that causes them to lose their humanity, since each Shardic Intent operates within them unopposed.


I think Wit’s statement to Jasnah means that to defeat Odium, men’s hearts must return to honor – doing what’s right and not only what’s legal. That doesn’t mean that people won’t hate, but that hate cannot be allowed to dominate them – balance is necessary. Sadeas and Nalan appear to be character devices to illustrate what happens when imbalance captures the heart. Adolin may end up showing us balance despite his lapse.


As I’ve said in other posts, Honor binds, Odium divides – centripetal and centrifugal forces. To find the place in the middle, they must be combined – not the harmony of Mistborn, but a complementary tension.


I think the Battle of Champions in Book 5 will be fought by Kaladin and Eshonai (not Szeth, who is clearly unbalanced in every meaning of that word and will likely continue his story into the second five books). Halfway through her bonding with the stormspren, Eshonai tried to halt the process. This may have caused an imperfect bonding and may explain why the rhythms of peace still try to assert themselves within her.


I predict that during the Battle of Champions, her desire for peace will defeat her desire for destruction. Eshonai and Kaladin together will form that unity, that bonding of honor, that will enable them to halt Odium’s gains – the Everstorm may or may not continue at that point, but Odium will be temporarily thwarted.


In the second five books, he will seek another approach: hatred among men. Odium is already a long way towards reaching that goal (see Jah Keved and the wars in the West).


One last observation: before WoR was released, I speculated on another post what Odium gains by the Desolations and the Everstorm. Based on the Second Letter, epigraph to Chapter 69, we now know that Odium is bound to the Rosharian planetary system:


“Rayse is captive. He cannot leave the system he now inhabits. His destructive potential is, therefore, inhibited.”


The natural inference is that he seeks to destroy Roshar to free himself from his bonds. The Second Letter writer further states (in the epigraph to Chapter 70) that this binding might have been by “Tanavast’s design.” One can envision that either the Oathpact or Tanavast’s splintering might have had the effect of causing Odium to be so bound.


How interesting, then, that Hoid/Wit, who has “never been a force for equilibrium” and who “tow chaos behind [him] like a corpse dragged by one leg through the snow” (epigraph to Chapter 74) should be the one who seeks to re-establish equilibrium by focusing on “men’s hearts.” He may be (reluctantly) content to destroy humankind on Roshar if necessary to triumph over Odium, he tells Dalinar. But if humankind is to save itself, it must find balance within its own hearts.


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'Balance' is a strong theme in all cosmere novels, and 'Balance within a Person' is specifically a Stormlight Archive theme. As far as Honor binds, Odium divides, well, we have a WoB that no other forces are in direct opposition the way Ruin and Preservation are. Another strong supporting point is the Rosharan obsession with symmetry. Symmetry is indeed a form of balance, and is another important theme of the Stormlight Archive specifically.


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