Once again, I’ve been having some thoughts after the latest chapter of Shingeki no Kyojin. If you’re also following along with this manga, I hope you may find this interesting. If you’re not, that’s okay too. One of the great things about SnK in my opinion is how simply human it is, so I don’t think you as a human reading this need a lot of context to understand.
Sometimes, or maybe often times, we strive for what we think we want, not quite allowing ourselves to fight for what we truly want. The things we truly want are usually the most challenging to achieve, and we fail along the way more often than not. So these happy things tend to end up intertwined with a feeling of fear, doubt and excruciating vulnerability. Striving for what we truly want is the hard way to choose to live. It’s a life of pain and suffering. Also of passion, heart and that ecstatic feeling that even the smallest of victories and precious of moments can bring about.
But we can only take so much. At some point our will to fight for the things most important to us is challenged by the overwhelming amount of suffering that comes with it. We lose hope. And so we stop fighting for these things.
That said, humans (as all living beings do) need to fight. The instinct to strive forward, in whatever direction that may be, can only be extinguished by not existing anymore. With that in heart, we find new goals. Usually these goals are derived from what we truly want. We use the same words for them, just using these words in twisted ways.
In the case of Eren, the main character of SnK, this goal is freedom. The way I see it, at first, the word freedom stood for a freedom to dream and be what you want to be. What that means is for there to be a mental sort of space for you in the world to exist and not be put in a cage of whatever construct. Not to be caged by hatred, other beliefs, a social construct, a societal construct. Instead having the freedom to be in whatever way you may be. It means for you to be worthy enough of being allowed that space. To be cared about, loved enough to be worthy of living in this world.
Freedom essentially is space to exist, as a result of being worthy and therefore being loved.
Eren didn’t feel he had that freedom. So he strived forward to take it back (being alive means having been giving space to exist, so we are all born free). But things became complicated for Eren, and at some point doubt and the seeming impossibility of ever achieving the kind of freedom he strove for got the better of him. The world was never going to give him and the people he cared about the space to exist. He came to doubt his own worth, whether the people around him even really loved for who he was, or out of some form of duty (Mikasa, for anyone reading the manga). If even that love isn’t real, not being given to him for who he is and therefore not really making him feel worthy as he is, then how can you go on believing that it’s possible to achieve that kind of freedom? If no one, not even those you hoped loved you, could give you that worth, that space, that freedom?
It is only natural that Eren gave up on freedom through love, care and worth. I think, if we’re really honest with ourselves, we all doubt whether our inherent worth is going to help us achieve our goals. Life isn’t fair. Even though we’re all allowed to exist initially (we are all worthy of existing as we are), that isn’t to say that we are automatically given the freedom to be ourselves and achieve our dreams.
Maybe that’s what’s wrong with the world… but I won’t go too deep into this topic.
Eren has a very strong will to move forward. So, naturally, not giving up on freedom completely, he twisted the meaning of freedom in his brain to make it achievable. To give himself hope again. Freedom now means physical freedom. In other words: the destruction of the world, of the entire construct that’s putting him in this cage, not allowing him to exist.
He has forgotten about what existing truly means to him. That being allowed to exist means to be worthy of love. And that from that love we are given space to be ourselves. He has made existing about being alive, when really, being alive is empty when you are not being loved enough to be given space to live.
I get his anger. Sometimes I too feel capable of destroying the entire world that I feel has rejected me. It’s not right. I was born here too, I had space too, I was worthy too, I was supposed to be loved too. What did I do wrong? Just because I’m not ‘normal’, because I don’t fit into my family’s construct, society’s construct, does that mean I lose my worth? Does that mean I don’t get to be anymore? How’s that fair, to be given something and then for it to be taken from you for no apparent reason?
We should consider ourselves lucky that, unlike Eren, I don’t possess the kind of power to actually act on these feelings. And we should be especially careful not to let people who struggle believing in love get their hands on anything of the sort. I don’t think Eren is a bad person, I don’t think I’m a bad person, I don’t think anyone is inherently a bad person. I don’t even think it takes a specific type of person to get to this point. Everyone and anyone is capable of whatever they are being driven to do. We all suffer, don’t get me wrong, but some suffering is capable of driving anyone, even the most loving people in the world, to give up on love as a means to achieve the freedom to live.
And let’s be real: isn’t living what we were born to do?