Prophets and Martyrs, Revisited.

Back in “The Whole Truth” (which seems like ages now), before we knew Ben’s name or much about his true identity, he read a quote from The Brothers Karamazov, a classic Dostoevsky novel about redemption:

GALE: “Men reject their prophets and slay them, but they love their martyrs and honor those whom they have slain.” So, what’s the difference between a martyr and a prophet?

JACK: Either way, it sounds like you end up dead.

GALE: That’s the spirit.

It’s been a while, but I think this topic deserves revisiting. Ben was obviously trying to hint at something ironic in his usual sly way. I believe he was saying that people do not often want to hear the real truth.

Clairvoyance, prescience and prophets have emerged as a major theme in LOST:

  • Richard Malkin, the ‘psychic’, seemed to know what was to happen to Claire, but then claimed to be a fraud… or was he?
  • Claire had several prophetic dreams while on the island, dreaming of Aaron being at risk, and the Oceanic mobile later seen in the Staff Station, and her dreams of the Black Rock in her diary.
  • Boone had a vision of Shannon being killed after Locke applied a mysterious paste to his wound.
  • Charlie had religious dreams of Aaron in danger.
  • Walt appeared to have clairvoyant abilities, and predicted something would happen to the raft.
  • Shannon had visions of Walt before she knew he was missing (and Walt in those visions appeared to try to warn her).
  • Hurley had a dream in which Walt was seen on the milk carton as a “Missing Person”, before he heard news he was missing.
  • Locke had several prophetic dreams, including the one of the finding of the Beechcraft/Boone dying, one where he was led to the location of the “?”, and the one self-induced drug trance (dreaming of Boone and the airport) which led him to find injured Eko.
  • Eko dreamt of Ana-Lucia shot, before he had news of her death.
  • Desmond most recently appears to have gained powers of precognition, as he predicts both Locke’s speech and lightening striking the area of Claire’s tent.
  • By “martyrs”, that could be anyone’s guess. The person that comes to my mind (besides Ben refering to himself willing to die for his cause) is Boone, who Locke said was a “sacrifice for the island”.

    How do you interpret the Karamazov quote, and what Ben meant by using it?

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    7 Responses to Prophets and Martyrs, Revisited.

    1. patience says:

      yeah maybe sylvia brown is in the flame station, trying to beat radzinsky and ben linus’s high score in galaga. the flame is just a arcade game station, if i remember correctly galaga was very popular in the early eighties. lol

    2. Martin says:

      ‘yeah maybe sylvia brown is in the flame station, trying to beat radzinsky and ben linus’s high score in galaga. the flame is just a arcade game station, if i remember correctly galaga was very popular in the early eighties. lol’

      lol i dont care what anyone says im sticking with that one. Sounds possible. 🙂

    3. Andreas says:

      I think Ben is referring to himself and The Others as martyrs (like you wrote) because they are willing to die for their cause.

      What I find more interesting is the prophets part since it clearly plays into the free will vs. fate theme of Lost. If the future can be predicted, does free will exist?

      The real David Hume (as in Desmond David Hume) thought that determinism and free will could co-exist. This is from Wikipedia

      Just about everyone has noticed the apparent conflict between free will and determinism – if your actions were determined to happen billions of years ago, then how can they be up to you? But Hume noted another conflict, one that turned the problem of free will into a full-fledged dilemma: free will is incompatible with indeterminism. Imagine that your actions are not determined by what events came before. Then your actions are, it seems, completely random. Moreover, and most importantly for Hume, they are not determined by your character – your desires, your preferences, your values, etc. How can we hold someone responsible for an action that did not result from his character? How can we hold someone responsible for an action that randomly occurred? Free will seems to require determinism, because otherwise, the agent and the action wouldn’t be connected in the way required of freely chosen actions. So now, nearly everyone believes in free will, free will seems inconsistent with determinism, and free will seems to require determinism. Hume’s view is that human behavior, like everything else, is caused, and therefore holding people responsible for their actions should focus on rewarding them or punishing them in such a way that they will try to do what is morally desirable and will try to avoid doing what is morally reprehensible.

      The obvious question when it comes to the ‘prophets’ on Lost would be – are the clairvoyant characters connected or have such a large number of people with extraordinary powers wound up at the same place by chance? Maybe the island is giving them these powers or is enhancing powers which they didn’t know they had?

    4. KillerR says:

      I think the others are martyrs; not through death but by devoting thier lives entirly to this purpose we haven’t really seen yet. As we get closer and closer to whatever end there may be for Lost we’ll realize that they dont have “free will”(whatever thats supposed to mean anyway), but that they are on a predetermined path only they have realized. Slaves to a predetermined fate that makes them seem like “villians”.
      Our “heros” have been selected by these others and by “the island” and maybe even the universe for their abilities and character (flaws and all)and belief in “free will”.
      The Losties are our prophets. But just not any ol’ prophets, no, they are prophets who will walk away from the path unafraid and make a new one. Prophets who can see whats going to happen and have the courage to change it. Prophets that see lightning hit a shelter in the near future and set up a lightning rod to divert the strike. Prophets who will give thier all to save a patient even if they know theres a false hope at bes that they will survive, thus changing the course of events from then on by creating a new path. In turn changing the values of an equation that predict the end of mankind.

    5. Tina says:

      I wonder about the use of the term “martyr” in this episode. For Dostoevsky, a troubled existentialist writer dealing primarily with the rift between sprituality and modernity the term martyr applied to his characters in a specifically religious way. Martyrs, by definition are people who are either a) put to death for what they believe, b) seek and/or cause their own death because of their convictions, c) or most recently attention seeking people who desire sympathy for some perceived deprivation. Bearing this in mind, Boone’s death could not really be considered a martyrdom, but rather a sacrifice or perhaps even an unfortunate and neccesary accident. Now, had Locke himself died in his pursuit of the hatch, i.e. his extreme and unwavering belief in the powers of the island, then he could be classified as a martyr, having subjected himself to death in pursuit of his convictions and beliefs.

      I find it interesting that Ben should draw on a novel such as the Brother’s K where the the patricide committed finds each son complicit. In addition Dostoevsky was influenced heavily by Russian Christian existentialist philosopher Nikolai Fyodorovich Fyodorov advocated a form of Christianity in which human redemption and resurrection could occur on earth through sons redeeming the sins of their fathers to create human unity via a universal family. I think what is important to note is the theme of redemption in the novel itself more than just the quote Ben steals. Yes-there will be martyrs and obviously some people believe themselves to be prophets (Ben perhaps, Locke, Jack, Ecko) and I think that might be the point of the whole thing. Ben is asking Jack on some level, who will you choose to be, a prophet or a martyr…

      I don’t know for sure and I think this rant what the english major in me coming out, but I definitely think the redemption aspect of the novel is important to the understanding of why certain survivor’s seem to be “chosen” and kidnapped, why the children have been taken, why each character seems to be guilty of some sin against someone close to them. Jack for sure is guilty to some degree of patricide– maybe that’s what ben wants him to figure out. The only way to redemption on the island is to recognize the sins of the fathers and the sons and set them right…

      Who knows–but if Jack were a character in the Brother’s K–he’d definitely be Ivan and I think Locke would be Alyosha…

    6. KillerR says:

      Another interesting point is that St. Sebastian was martyred. Thats a clear correlatin that Jack is a martyr, too. Just like Ben and his group.
      Also, the way Jack insists on fixing everyone who is injured on the island and doesnt stop until kate drugs him is him trying to be a martyr.
      I think Ben sees him for what he could be than for what he is or does and wants to challenge him to see it both ways. That could be why he pushes Jack and Locke to butt heads the way he does. He wants to see which one will divert from their choosen path and see things both ways. Thats why he told Locke he went for him. Ben seemed to be testing them both. Challenging them to change their perspective. Maybe it doesnt matter if your a martyr or a prophet,because its like Jack said, “Either way, it seems like you end up dead.”

      Does anything really matter after that?

    7. KillerR says:

      Dude, Andreas, you were right on with that excerpt from David Hume. Thats pretty much what Eko said to fake Yemi in “The Cost of Living”. All his life Eko did what he had to do to survive weather he liked it or not. Awesome post. I think that philosophy will become more relivant in the second act of this season.

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