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The Issue of Morality in Pan's Labyrinth and The Dialogue of The Dogs

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Pan’s Labyrinth by Guillermo del Toro and The Dialogue of the Dogs by Miguel del Cervantes are two works of art that detail the need for disobedience when behaving ethically. The rejection of authority, resulting in the preferred moral choice is the central theme explored in these works. The pageantry of ethics is made by personal decisions of the characters. Ofelia of Pan’s Labyrinth has tasks that require her to embrace moral disobedience, such as refusing to trust the fawn’s authority and disobeying the instructions given to her. All the while Ofelia’s father, a military captain, is power hungry and blood thirsty, kills anyone who questions him. This contrast in character is necessary to achieve a display of uneven distribution of power. 

Berganza and Scipio of The Dialogue of the Dogs are portrayed as philosophers that postulate the morality of those around them, as well as themselves. The jobs that Berganza had acquired through his life also present the cruelty and unbalance of power in the world. From violent butchers to corrupt police officers, it is the dog’s job to deduce the goodness of these people and whether or not the moral actions of the dog is justified. In the movie Pan’s Labyrinth, Ofelia relies on different caretakers at different times, much like Berganza jumping from master to master. These parental figures and masters are what drive the disobedience from those beneath them and allow the underdogs to explore their own morality. The dog’s perceived goodness relied on his ability to execute a task correctly, whether it was moral did not matter to the masters as it had to be beneficial to these humans. Berganza’s trust for his shepherd masters makes him follow their commands and accepts the repercussions given. They taking care of him they see him as useful. It is not only until he is exposed to the real intentions of the shepherds that Berganza realizes this type of social structure exists. The dogs try to find a way to expose such systems. Thus the survival of Ofelia and her brother contrasts this blind following by the need to disobey masters, the moral high ground was the path needed to escape the fascist regime. The captain is presented as an authoritarian and patriarchal man for the entirety of the movie, his harsh indifference is expressed with multiple visual cues. His military uniform and a damaged pocket watch from his late father, smashed so his son would know the hour of his death in combat, display this. The captain tells his officers that death in battle is the only way for a real man to die, he displays this by storming assertively into an onslaught of enemy bullets. The maid Mercedes from Pan’s Labyrinth was secretly assisting the rebels through the act of disobedience. She obtained a key for the storage and brought the rebels weapons, food, and other supplies. The power of Ofelia’s mother’s authority has passed onto the authority of Ofelia’s fantasy once they arrive to the dark forest. The doctor also disobeys, and humanely euthanizes a fellow suffering rebel against the captain’s wishes. This suggests that the correct parental role models for Ofelia are instead the disobedient rather than the obedient. One theme I believe to be overlooked in these arts is the power parenthood and childhood. The witch Camacha was Montiela’s midwife, and changed her children into dogs, adding a prophecy of the dogs returning to their “natural form.” In this case, Camacha holds the power of parenthood and forever changes the childhood. The Captain in Pan’s Labyrinth also holds power over the parenting of his unborn son, insisting his wife use a wheelchair and confiding in the doctor that the life of his son is more important than that of his wife. Ofelia’s mother is stripped of her power and becomes a mere vessel for childbirth. In doing so, the captain is aspiring to take over as the only parental figure, thus claiming power to the nurture aspect of the child’s upbringing. Mercedes’ reply to the captain’s request that his son be told the time and place of his death is: “He will never even know your name.” In the end, the Captain is not only killed; his entire mission is slain. Mercedes’s takes power over the childhood of this newborn by doing so.Ofelia realizes that power doesn’t just lie in one place, such as with the military or her caretakers, but it also lies within her. For her final task the faun instructs her to bring her baby brother to the center of the labyrinth and to use a knife to draw a few drops of blood from her only family, but she refuses.

Ophelia must create her own power to lead her to her kingdom, since she spilled her own blood by following her own authority. Ofelia empowers herself through the escape of fantasy, it offers an out from her stepfathers daily domination. The captain used the excuse of fascism to dominate within the family home. The dog Berganza on the other hand, finds empowerment through his many jobs. Berganza is empowered when he thinks he does “good”, an example being biting the maid for sneaking out or taking great care of his masters children, although unprompted. Unlike Ofelia who knows her place as a child, Berganza struggles to know where he is in the social hierarchy of the time. Berganza learns that the butcher is as capable of killing a man as he is of slaughtering a cow, that the shepherds act as wolves and kill their own sheep at the owner’s expense, and the magistrate works with prostitutes to catch and extort bribes from foreigners. The captain executes his power through blatant corruption. By keeping rations for himself and adjusting bread rations, this gives him the likeliness of the corrupt church, hiding behind the “goodness” of daily communion. These works address the basis on which power is founded, and more often than not, it is corruption.

I believe that that both of these pieces present compelling arguments on what it is to be moral, and the relation of power to morality. Berganza points out the numerous faults of his owners, and Scipio tries to enlighten him by saying “I’ll let you snipe — a little. But shed light, not blood. What I mean is, just make your point and don’t kill anyone while you’re at it…. snipe if you have to, even sting a little, but then move on. Keep your nose clean, even if your mouth gets a little dirty.” These characters have proven to themselves that they hold a higher standard of ethics and morality than their human counterparts, so much so that they do not wish to speak ill of them. In Pan’s Labyrinth disobedience is a virtue and morality lies with the self-sacrifices people are willing to make. These works complement each other by presenting moral underdogs, and by contrasting the execution of these low-social standing beings. Berganza is a representation of Cervantes, they are both victims of a society that did not care for them, this culminates a deep conflict about the dogs own identity and origins. Ofelia on the other hand brought hope for opposing the fascist regime. My verdict on morality, based on these two pieces, is that authority must be rejected, reconstructed and redistributed. 

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