Honor Before Reason

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Jump to: navigation, search
"Shepherd Book always said, 'If you can't do something smart, do something right.'"
Jayne Cobb, Serenity

Being a good and honorable person is anything but easy; it requires personal sacrifice that most "normal" people aren't willing to make, either out of self-interest, self-preservation, selfishness or any other number of reasons.

Heroes who abide by this trope more often than not act in a manner that, while morally sound and honorable, is far from the most practical solution. Quite often this kind of decent, chivalric behavior will come at a great cost to the hero's happiness, kill him outright, or similarly leave him a destroyed human being. A villain aware of such a gallant hero is bound to use Flaw Exploitation against him as well.

In stories on the idealistic end of the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism, the more the insistence of honorable behavior seems impractical, or even insane, the greater the chance that it becomes the thing that turns a hopeless situation into victory. As a result, the honorable hero is vindicated and the cynics are left completely stunned at what happened.

In stories on the cynical end... well, not so much.

An especially poignant situation is Turn the Other Cheek. Often, and perhaps running counter to the theme of honor besting all, the hero has to be aided by Big Damn Villains, who are able to cross that final line that his integrity would not allow.

When done well and/or consistently, such acts of almost illogical decency fan the flickering flames of idealism in the viewers' hearts; they make them cheer even harder for the hero and inspire a desire to be just as pure and honorable. When done poorly... well, the term "Lawful Stupid" comes to mind, as does Martyr Without a Cause.

Often features in I Gave My Word, In Its Hour of Need, Rebellious Rebel; the Proud Warrior Race Guy typically follows the rule, as well. What You Are in the Dark always reveals the same character as when they are seen. When a character does this to the point that it angers their more corrupt superiors, expect them to become The Last DJ. The McCoy is the personification of this trope. More Hero Than Thou disputes are sometimes this, when only one character is really suitable for the sacrifice. Can lead to the hero being prone to fall to things like the False Innocence Trick. See also Victorious Loser.

Shoot the Dog is this trope's opposite: Reason Before Honor. Usually not a trait of a Combat Pragmatist due to their approach to fighting.

See also Incorruptible Pure Pureness, Good Is Old-Fashioned, Martyrdom Culture, Revenge Before Reason. Contrast No-Nonsense Nemesis.

No real life examples, please; when real human lives are on the line, honor and reason are not so clear-cut.

Examples of Honor Before Reason include: