Top-Down Processing: A Network Analysis of The Lord of the Rings as a Means of Defining Good and Evil

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Dennis John Werbicki

Abstract

This essay was written for Dr. Quamen’s ENGL 486 class on the Internet as Environment. Using network
theory, I seek to analyze the structural characteristics of power and authority in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The
Lord of the Rings. I then compare my findings with H.C. Mack’s parametric analysis of the texts, and
suggest that both structural methodologies serve to reinforce the idea that concepts of sight and
egotism play a key role in Tolkien’s binary portrayal of characters as being either good or evil. The
essay concludes with the suggestion that the configurations power and authority in LotR are deeply tied
to Tolkien’s portrayal of the nature of good and evil, and suggests further research into the question
of whether such power configurations may have since become mythic tropes in Western fantasy.

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Social Sciences & Humanities