A Double Edged Sword Cuts Both Ways
The phrase “a doubled edged sword cuts both ways” means that something has both beneficial and adverse outcomes. The comparison is made to a double-edged sword because it allowed the wielder of the sword to slash on the backswing without having to pivot the weapon in their hand, but it also allowed the wielder to cut themselves on the backswing. The actual origin of the phrase is unknown, but the earliest mentions of it can be found in the Bible. This phrase can be applied to literature, art, music, and society throughout history.
The phrase rang true in its Biblical inception and remains relevant in the media of today. Many facets of our society wield double-edged swords from our political issues to our everyday entertainment. I selected this phrase because the broadness of the quote allows it to apply to many subjects across the whole of time. “A double edged sword cuts both ways” demonstrates that every decision can have consequences and benefits, and it’s important to think before you act on impulse.
In the dramatic short story “The Tell-Tale Heart”, Edgar Allen Poe demonstrates that humans are not capable of enduring extreme guilt.
The story’s narrator lives with an old man and is constantly haunted by the old man’s eye. The narrator is mentally ill, and he decides that he can no longer endure seeing the eye anymore and resolves to kill the old man. After the murder, the narrator hallucinates that he can hear the old man’s heartbeat underneath the floorboards, and he turns himself in to the police to silence the sounds of his guilt. The biggest motif in this work is the concept of time. The amount of time spent with certain actions is never specified, only that it takes a long time to do so. Time is used to describe the heartbeat of the old man right before his murder and the hallucination of it afterwards. Time is what tortured the old man while he was awaiting his death, and time spent dealing with the old man’s eye is what made the narrator insane.
My quote is “a double edged sword cuts both ways”, and, in the context of this story, the truth cuts both ways. “Yet the sound increased …yet the officers heard it not. I talked more quickly —more vehemently; but the noise steadily increased. I arose and argued about trifles, in a high key and with violent gesticulations; but the noise steadily increased.” The narrator is hallucinating that he can hear the old man’s heartbeat. He believes that the officers can hear the heartbeat as well, so he tries to speak louder to cover up the sound. “Anything was more tolerable than this derision! I could bear those hypocritical smiles no longer! I felt that I must scream or die…’I admit the deed! —tear up the planks! Here, here! —It is the beating of his hideous heart!’” The narrator can no longer bear the sound of his hallucinations and admits to his murder to stop the heartbeat. This coincides with my quote because admitting the murder would obviously put him in jail, but it would free him of the hallucinations that he knows are going to push him further into insanity.
Admitting his murder is the narrator’s double-edged sword. In the poem “England in 1819”, Percy Shelley demonstrates that the government can be corrupt just as easily as it can be good. The poem tells of the rule of the dying king and his sons that take over the throne. The people are starving and dying, and the laws and army, which were implemented to protect the people, have turned against them and are now their oppressing force. A major metaphor in this work is the comparison of the government to unseeing, unknowing leeches that live for their own benefit while sucking life from others. This poem is related to my quote because it frames the law as a double-edged sword. “An army, which liberticide and prey/ Makes as a two-edged sword to all who wield.” This conveys that the army, a force meant to protect the people, has turned against them. “Golden and sanguine laws which tempt and slay” expresses that the supposedly perfect laws are the reason for the oppression in England.
This corresponds with my quote because the sovereignty of the government can create security or oppression depending on how the power of the government is used. In the science fiction movie The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Michel Gondry conveys that memories are the best and worst things people can have. The main characters of the movie, Joel and Clementine, meet at the beginning of the movie and quickly start dating. Their relationship takes a turn for the worst, and Clementine goes to a clinic to have all memory of Joel literally erased from her mind. Joel learns about her procedure and decides to do the same for himself. During the procedure, however, Joel becomes consciously aware of all the memories he’s losing and attempts to reverse the process.
The most prevalent theme throughout the film is the parallels of Joel and Clementine and Hermes and Aphrodite. Not just the personalities of the deities that are portrayed in the film through the characters, but there are multiple events in mythology between the couple that were cleverly re-enacted in the movie. This film connects to my quote because Joel’s memories are his double-edged sword. Keeping his memories of Clementine would be painful, especially since she had her memories of him erased, and getting them erased would make him forget that pain but at the cost of all of the wonderful times he had with Clementine. Regarding Joel’s consideration to forget the painful memories, he is told, “Blessed are the forgetful, for they get the better even of their blunders.” On the other side of his sword, Joel has his memory wiped and, after failing to reverse the process, says to Clementine, “Come back and make up a good-bye at least. Let’s pretend we had one.”
Through every step of the movie, before the procedure, during the procedure, after the procedure, and before he even knows the procedure exists, memories serve as a double-edged sword for Joel. In the vivid painting Death of Caesar, Vincenzo Camuccini portrays that misuse of power will have consequences that displace that power. This painting illustrates the stabbing of Julius Caesar by his subjects and fellow court members. The focal point of the painting is Caesar (rather dramatically and arrogantly, even as he’s being stabbed) falling to the ground with several men around him wielding knives. The most apparent symbolism in the painting is depicted with the coloration of Caesar and his attackers. Caesar is depicted in red and his attackers in white. Red is meant to symbolize evil or oppression and white cleanliness or purity.
Another man standing near Caesar is also depicted in red; this is believed to be Brutus because he and Caesar were friends, yet he was still the one that initiated the rebellion. Julius Caesar did many fantastic things politically and militarily for Rome, but, after assuming full control over the government, he became a dictator. His power-hungry oppression caused his fellow statesmen to plot against and murder him. The scene illustrated in the painting displays the anger ignited in the conspirators because of Caesar’s misuse of power. The painting is pertinent to my quote because power is displayed as a double-edged sword.
“A double edged sword cuts both ways” is a reminder that everything you do, even if it seems like a good decision at the time, can have consequences. It encompasses the human tendency to be indecisive, to fear the unknown, or to act on impulse to avoid that fear. This quote is woven throughout history, and it’s meaning is still pertinent today. This phrase reiterates the importance of taking the time to weigh out every option and truly understand the repercussions of your actions.
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