The Princess Bride

by William Goldman

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The two central characters in The Princess Bride are the princess, who starts out as an unrefined and unkempt beauty named Buttercup — ironically, her father raises cows — and Westley, also known as Farm Boy and Dread Pirate Roberts.

Buttercup is spoiled by her parents and allowed to run wild and to malign Westley at every opportunity. She calls him stupid and orders him around in a manner that indicates that she is a princess even before she becomes engaged to the prince. At some point, Buttercup realizes that she loves Westley. When he hears of her love, he admits that he loves her too and says that he has decided to go to America and find a wife there. Soon after his departure, Buttercup learns that Westley has died at sea. She continues to love him even though she promises to wed Prince Humperdinck, a brute known for his hunting skills. Humperdinck has little real interest in Buttercup, and absolutely no interest in love. Buttercup suffers kidnapping, a rescue by the Dread Pirate Roberts, who turns out to be Westley, a forced marriage to Humperdinck, and another rescue by Westley, who has undergone tremendous ordeals.

Westley, who has cleaned stables for most of his young life, is an unlikely hero. Quite by accident he is captured on his trip to America by the Dread Pirate Roberts. With his always admirable behavior Westley soon becomes the Dread Pirate, since the title is handed down from pirate to pirate when one Dread Pirate wished to retire. In this guise, Westley rescues Buttercup from the hunchbacked Sicilian genius Vizzini and his gang, which consists of a giant Turk, Fezzik, and a scarred Spaniard, Inigo Montoya. Westley knocks out Fezzik and Inigo, kills Vizzini in a clever game of poisoned wine, and rescues Buttercup. Prince Humperdinck and the six-fingered Count Rugen pursue. They finally capture Buttercup and Westley after they have survived the perilous Fire Swamp.

Buttercup is forced to marry the Prince. Meanwhile, Westley is tortured and killed by the count, only to be resurrected by Fezzik and Inigo, who are in desperate need of a leader after Vizzini's death. Of course, despite the evil, violence, and pain, the lovers are reunited, and they live happily ever after (perhaps).

Each of the characters contributes directly to the theme by, at some point, interfering with Westley and Buttercup's being together. Each character becomes a barrier to love. Ultimately though, they come to accept the reality of Buttercup and Westley's love, and because supporting Westley serves their own ends, they aid in the eventual reunion of the lovers.

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