Title: He Escaped in the End
Subject: One of Tolkien's themes is to present his characters with an opportunity to turn from the path they are following and choose a different, better way. How did Boromir respond to such an opportunity when it presented itself?
Word Count: 1,119
He Escaped in the End
Boromir was undeniably a proud man who was accustomed to being in charge, who knew the joy of having a powerful position and who had never before considered he might lose that position to another. He also saw the Ring as the weapon he needed in order to deal with Sauron once and for all, and perhaps thereby strengthen his beloved country and his own position at the head of it.
There are plenty of hints to his pride in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, not only in what others have to say about Boromir, but also in his own words and manner and how he is described by the author himself. Many would be tempted to take this portrayal at face value and write Boromir off as a Man who is flawed with pride, and therefore not to be trusted or considered heroic. In spite of his pride, however, Boromir is one who has in him the capacity to a hero; when confronted with the stark reality of the lengths to which he was willing to go in order to achieve his ends, he was horrified -- enough so that he might have been honorable and valiant enough to change his ways and turn from his habit of pride. In spite of the impression many readers have of him of being proud with no other redeeming qualities, he is also presented in the books as being honorable, valiant and noble, whatever actions he eventually takes in opposition to that. He is strong and valorous, but strength and valor are not always limited to the physical. There is room within the way Boromir is portrayed in the books, room within Tolkien without even looking towards the film version of Boromir, to have a Boromir who could change; a Boromir who would not remain as he always had been, the way everyone remembered him as they spoke of him later in the books; a Boromir who might have at least seen the beginning of a different way of walking through life, a more humble way. It would not be easy for him for him to change, because of his life-long habit of pride, but it would not be impossible.
This is one of the themes in Tolkien's works: the opportunity given to anyone who will take it, to change and take another road -- to turn from evil or pride to follow a better way. Gollum, Saruman, and Denethor were all presented with such opportunities, and they did not take them; Bilbo and Théoden, on the other hand, did make the choice to change, and much good came of it in their lives. Even Gríma Wormtongue considered turning back when offered the chance, though he was in the end prevented by Saruman. How did Boromir respond to such an opportunity, to turn away from pride and choose a different path?
It is not clear in the text of the book what Boromir decides, unfortunately, for after his confrontation with Frodo, we only have a few more moments with him. There is some indication that he has at least begun the journey towards humility and change, however. He weeps as he realizes his madness, he grieves when he sees that Frodo has not returned to the Company, he acknowledges his failure to Aragorn, and asks him to save his people. There is not much support here for a "new" Boromir, perhaps, but it does not rule out the possibility, either. There continues to be much mention of Boromir afterwards in the books, as the members of the Fellowship continue their journey and meet people along the way who knew him well; all that we learn of Boromir then is what these people knew of him before his journey away from Gondor, and in many cases, he is spoken of with respect and with sorrow that he is gone.
It is interesting to consider what might have been, if Boromir's fate had been other than death. Would a more humble outlook on life have been sufficient to remove from his heart any further desire for the Ring? Would a change of heart and focus been enough to bring a surviving Boromir to a point where he could even acknowledge Aragorn as king? Boromir could not have been totally oblivious or impervious to Aragorn's royalty during their long journey together from Rivendell. The discussion at the Council of Elrond was perhaps the first time in Boromir's life that his opinion had been opposed, and yet he took it fairly well, at least on the surface. It may or may not have caused him to ponder his own prideful ways; yet at the very least, it must have served to make Boromir watch Aragorn even more closely throughout their journey, looking for justification for Aragorn's claim to Boromir's position, the position of power Boromir had expected to come to before long. But if there had not been at least some learning of respect for Aragorn, it seems certain there would have been an attempt to take the Ring sooner, or at least more arguments between the members of the Company as they vied for power. This does not happen. Instead, even while consistently reminding everyone of the option of going to Minas Tirith with the Ring, Boromir never seems to lose his temper in the books, until the very end when he falls to the lure of the Ring. We cannot know for certain, unfortunately, because Tolkien never says much about what Boromir is actually thinking.
There is further support for the idea that Boromir did begin to change, and it comes from none other than Gandalf. All that is said and believed about Boromir in the books is summed up by a statement that Gandalf makes in The Two Towers, when the three hunters meet him again as Gandalf the White: "Poor Boromir! I could not see what happened to him. It was a sore trial for such a man: a warrior, and a lord of men. Galadriel told me that he was in peril. But he escaped in the end. I am glad. It was not in vain that the young hobbits came with us, if only for Boromir's sake."
It seems certain that Boromir did escape in the end -- escaped more than just the lure of the Ring. The whole experience of falling to the lure of the Ring, and the eye-opening he would have received afterwards, could have been more than enough to change his mind as well as his heart, and eventually change the direction of his life. Alas that there was no opportunity to find out the direction his life might have taken had he lived!