Loyalty leads to punishment; betrayal leads to survival. Is this correct?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is sometimes correct, but certainly not always. For, if one is on the winning side, loyalty is usually rewarded as evidenced in myth and legends, as well as in history, such as when soldiers receive medals and promotions, and when men were given dukedoms or made rulers. Unfortunately, in contemporary times, those who betray others by bearing false witness or fabricating events or conditions are also often rewarded by promotions in business or by elections or appointments to public office, thus proving the statement above to be true.

One example of how betrayal leads to survival involves the judicial system of America. It is beneficial today in the justice system of the U.S. to "roll over" on others in order to mitigate one's own punishment. Such a betrayal was exemplified by Sammy "the Bull" Gravano, suspected of at least nineteen murders, who bore witness against his crime boss John Gotti; as a consequence, he received a sentence of only a few years, rather than a possible death sentence and was given government protection and "relocated." While Gotti, too, was a criminal, this damaging testimony may be mitigated by some as not a betrayal, but simply giving testimony. Nonetheless, it does exemplify betrayal because there is a strong code in the Italian underworld even if activities are illegal.

A more noble example that supports the statement "Loyalty leads to punishment; betrayal leads to survival" is that of Sir Thomas More who initially gained the favor of King Henry VIII in 1532 and was made Speaker of the House of Commons as well as Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster shortly thereafter. However, More refused to betray the principles of his Roman Catholic faith by condoning Henry VIII's plan to divorce Katherine of Aragon in 1527. Although he refused, More was, nevertheless, appointed to the position of Lord Chancellor. But, when he later refused to attend the coronation of Anne Boleyn after Henry divorced Katherine and separated from the Catholic Church because the Pope refused to annul his marriage to Katherine, Sir Thomas More lost the favor of the king.

Finally, in 1534, after Sir Thomas refused to swear to the Act of Succession and the Oath of Supremacy, he was sent to the Tower of London. More's family urged him to simply sign the papers so he could live, but Sir Thomas refused to compromise his principles and remained loyal to his Catholic faith. When he was on the scaffold, More declared himself, "The King's good servant, but God's First." For this great act of faith and loyalty, Thomas More was executed, In 1935, he was canonized by the Catholic Church and made a saint by Pope Plus XI.

Wiggin42 | Student

That is certainly a pessimistic way of looking at life. But if one has to be a traitor to survive; is it worth surviving? 

For instance, "Help will always be given in Hogwarts to those who ask for it." (JK Rowling, Harry Potter). Help is always given to those loyal to Dumbledore. And although it may seem at times that Dumbledore has forsaken those loyal to him (such as in Book 2 when Harry is facing Voldemort in the Chamber of Secrets), he always finds a way to aide his faithful friends and followers (Fawkes brings Harry the sword of Gryffindor). This evident time and time again in Book 7 where even after Dumbledore's death; Harry, Ron, and Hermione receive help through the objects bequeathed to them. The whole series shows how loyalty and faith has its own rewards.

For an example of betrayals gone awry; think of Peter Petigrew. Yes, he survived to an extent--Voldemort didn't kill him. But he lost his friends and is forced to lead a life of paltry existence. Is that worth living? 

kath555554444 | Student

Based on persobal experience,  it is true. But it really is different fir everyone. People can say it is a coincidence or fate. 

It can also depend on the person.  Whether the other character is rude or the person receiving the action is rude the outcome of what is wanted or expectes is different.