Community: the Loyalty and Honor that Binds Us Together

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Community is defined as a group of individuals who share common interests such as customs, values, and religion, that link them altogether. Communities are important because they allow people to socialize, develop trustworthy relationships, and create unity. Honor and loyalty are common themes among all four novels. In this essay we will take a look at how Beowulf, Hamlet, Things Fall Apart, and The Things They Carried all relate to each other in terms of community.

The middle ages in Beowulf were a difficult time for people to live and succeed without the help of others. Hrothgar was a powerful king who built a mead-hall in Herot to celebrate the many won battles. An essential aspect of a community is having a central place to gather. The communities in Beowulf had a common foe, Grendel, which brought them together in a time of need to defeat the monster. Beowulf saved Herot from Grendel’s wrath. Because of his success and the love of Hrothgar, it was not hard for Beowulf to climb to the top.

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Trivial issues that may have existed did not matter anymore to the people of Herot. Chapter IX in Beowulf states, “But I will show him soon enough the strength and courage of the Geats in war. Afterwards, let him who will go bravely to mead, when the morning light of a new day, the sun clothed in glory, shines from the south on the sons of men” (Lines 601-606). The Geats are a group so loyal and devoted to their community that they are willing to defend it at all costs. After the downfall of Grendel, the community came together and agreed on the loyalty they felt for Beowulf, who eventually reigned over their society.

Like Beowulf, Hamlet is also a tragic hero. In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, community was one of love, deception, honor, and loyalty. Great passion was demonstrated by Hamlet towards family, friends, and his great love throughout the play. Shakespeare described Hamlet’s worlds as “bleak and cold because almost no one and nothing can be trusted” (Shakespeare xiv). This non-existed trust may be related to Hamlet’s madness. Hamlet honors his father by investigating who is responsible for his murder and looking for revenge. The prince feels his honor is at stake and must have justification for his actions. The same goes for Laertes if he does not seek payback for Hamlet killing his father.

Okonkwo, in Things Fall Apart, holds his honor to a high standard like Hamlet. Unlike Hamlet, Okonkwo does not have any honor towards his father, Unoka. Tribesmen, like Okonkwo, need to know that they can trust their fellow tribesmen. Loyalty and trust are what helps the villagers in Okonkwo’s tribe function. Okonkwo recalled his feelings during murder of his adopted son, “Dazed with fear, Okonkwo drew his machete and cut him down. He was afraid of being thought weak” (Achebe 61). Unfortunately, Okonkwo’s honor sought him to do unspeakable things like killing Ikemefuna.

Tim O’Brien honored his fellow war buddies, his childhood friends, and himself by telling their stories. Things They Carried gives a great understanding of individualism, community, and patriotism. O’Brien emphasizes that he wanted his readers to feel what he felt. He states that “story-truth is truer sometimes than happening-truth” (O’Brien 171). O’Brien wanted to show the power and liberation that storytelling can bring.

Villages, tribes, royal families, and militaries make up various forms of communities. A society requires a connection and one connection is loyalty. Loyalty and honor are important in the relationships between people. These two qualities bring societies together for the greater good. The traits of honor and loyalty existed in communities since the beginning of time and will continue to exist as the years goes on. No matter how different the stories of this semester’s novels were, I learned of the same qualities from each one. Loyalty and honor are about being true to ourselves and to our values. 

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