“In the end, no one except the Peeps would know what she did and how she did it, nor would the way she conducted herself mean a thing to anyone… except her. That was the crux of it.”
– from In Enemy Hands, by David Weber
Many times, in my commentaries, I have mentioned how storytellers need to let their characters hit rock bottom and actually feel the pain of the impact. In the saga of Honor Harrington, by David Weber, he repeatedly finds new, inventive ways to bring his heroes down, and then help them climb back up, better and stronger than they were before. That climb, however, must always necessarily begin in the same way: within oneself.
At this point in the story, the central protagonist (the saga’s titular Honor Harrington) has been captured by the enemy. Even worse, however, she has been seized on by the very worst and most despicable faction within the enemy’s ranks. For them, the idea of killing her, after tormenting and breaking her, is just the sort of treat that will make their day, and brag about for years to come. She is at the lowest point she has ever been at, and she’s barely keeping it together even as she’s slowly falling to pieces.
In an hour so dark as this, filled with indignity, abuse, pain, danger, and imminent death, the only choice left to her is how to conduct herself.
One might well ask why it would even matter. Anything inspiring in the example she might set would inevitably be suppressed. Even her strong sense of honor and duty to her monarch, her comrades, and the people of her nation could only carry her so far. These are external considerations, and thus ultimately void when everything external is stripped away.
Only the internal, springing from that most intimate and personal thing which we call, “self,” can remain when everything else is gone. So Honor learns, in her darkest hour yet, about who she really is, and intends to be, even if she is the only one who will ever know or care. What others think of her behavior is not so important. She has a duty to herself, first and foremost.
With nothing else left to her, she chooses to honor what she owes to herself: to be her very best, even until death.
It is the source of a new, powerful resolve, and a firm, unbreakable (though the enemy tries their hardest) strength of character.
It is a strength of self which is most pivotal to one’s disposition, and one who possesses it may endure… though not always survive… even the worst Hell that the world throws at them.
Indeed, one must often pass through said Hell to gain that strength in the first place.
How poetic it is, that one must often be broken in order to reform into something unbreakable.