E.M. Forster makes a bold statement when he declares that he would rather betray his country than betray his friend. Forster takes a very moral stand on the issue and states that a friendship is often more important than a government’s actions or society’s beliefs. His opinion regarding the value of friendship is a common theme shared by many authors throughout history, including Mark Twain, and Alexandre Dumas.
Mark Twain’s classic novel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, describes a young boy torn between what he feels his country and society expect of him and what his heart tells him is right. Society believes that slaves should be treated as property; Huck, who had befriended a runaway slave, sees Jim as a person, not property. In the end, Huck Finn decides that he would rather disobey society’s teachings about slavery, than betray his friend by returning him to his previous condition of servitude.
Further reiterating Forster’s conception of the proper order of one’s loyalty is a product of English folklore, Robin Hood. According to legend, Robin Hood robbed from the rich and gave to the poor in an effort to bring happiness to the peasants of Nottingham in an otherwise dreary time under the tyrannical rule of Prince John. A childhood friend of Robin, Maid Marion places her friendship with Robin Hood above loyalty to the crown. She has numerous opportunities to betray Robin Hood, but she does not. She sees the good he is doing for the land and the lone resistance he and his band of Merry Men provide against the evil Sheriff. Had she been loyal to her country, Robin Hood would have never been successful against the Sheriff of Nottingham and the citizens of her kingdom would have had to endure even greater injustices.
Sharing many of the same principles Robin Hood embodies is Alexandre Dumas’s The Three Musketeers. The famous trio of noblemen battle against the villainy of the Court of King Louis XIII. D’Artagnan, Athos, Porthos and Aramis fight to preserve the honor of their Queen, Anne of Austria, against the Cardinal Richelieu. Their famous motto ” All for one and one for all!” illustrates the value they place on their friendship. Efforts to maintain their close ties of friendship help them in resisting an immoral government. Had they chosen to remain in adherence to the Cardinal’s oppressive rule, they would have been unsuccessful in effecting change.
The value of friendship has been a prevalent theme throughout both literature and history. Authors representing several eras have addressed the moral dilemma of friendship versus loyalty to one’s country. Governmental leaders and their policies are transient; friendships last a lifetime.