An essay on the Lord of the Rings characters of Boromir and Faramir from my college class on the writings of Lewis and Tolkien (Lindenwood University, Fall Semester 2008, Professor Fetters)
Compare and Contrast Characters: Boromir and Faramir
by Joshua Hedlund
December 7, 2008
The sons of Denethor, Steward of Gondor, are the most memorable pair of brothers in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. They never appear together in the story (We are not introduced to Faramir until long after Boromir perishes), but an interesting connection unfolds as the story progresses.
The brothers are alike in many ways. Descendants of a noble race, they are important and mighty figures, renowned for valor and strength in battle. But when one disregards the inevitably identical influences of culture and family, the brothers are fascinatingly different.
As the steward, the brothers' father bears the inconvenient position of holding a higher position than anyone in Gondor without holding the highest position possible. Denethor is still under the king, yet there has been no king for a long time. The tension resulting from this collision of headship and submission is reflected in the differences between the steward's sons.
Boromir carries the aspirations to leadership and power. He is a mighty warrior who approaches the Council of Elrond with a mindset of gathering a force to repel Morder from Gondor. He has good intentions, but he does not understand the advice of wiser elders and makes his own path, leading to his eventual downfall as he succumbs to lust for the power of the Ring.
Faramir is as cautious as Boromir is ambitious. He does not view war as glorious in its own right, but only as a means of protecting the things that are glorious. He also plays a much more submissive role, most notably when he follows his father's foolish attempt to regain Osgiliath that nearly leads to his death. Even as the story closes, however, Faramir continues to fit into this role as he - at this point the only remaining member of the Steward line - gracefully secedes the rightful kingship to Aragorn. Coinciding with the lack of ambition, Faramir possesses the virtue that Boromir lacks. He is given a similar opportunity to possess the Ring but chooses to resist. His care for Eowyn as their relationship develops is similarly reflective of that virtue.
Both characters approach death. Boromir does not have Gandalf to save him, although in his death he somewhat redeems himself. He arguably even plays a part in eventually saving his brother's life, as he dies trying to protect Merry and Pippin. When Faramir is approaching death it is Pippin who races to bring Gandalf and rescue Faramir from the clutches of his mad father. More directly, Faramir's discovery of the nature of Boromir's downfall surely influences his own decision.
Born to a father caught between power and submission, Boromir and Faramir trace these separate paths - one leading to a death that ensures the other's life. The powerful contrast is only one example of the vivid characterization that makes The Lord of the Rings such a powerful story.