Beware, SPOILERS Below.
“Quite often good things have hurtful consequences. There are instances of men who have been ruined by their money or killed by their courage” ~ Aristotle
Red Dead Redemption 2 is set during the end of the Western era, 1899. The frontier is disappearing as railroads and cities are being developed over the land that has been home to Native Americans long before America was discovered; as a result, opportunities the land provide outlaws are also dwindling in the dust as the last of the outlaw gangs are arrested, killed, or forced to change identities and directions. It is difficult to survive as an outlaw, moreover, to live on the frontier while being hunted by federal agents and having an ongoing conflict with rival gangs. This is the situation of the Van der Linde gang run by Dutch Van der Linde, who the story follows from the protagonist’s perspective, Arthur Morgan. Arthur’s arc goes from being detached from reasoning with his friend’s, Dutch’s, decisions to critically thinking about his friend’s and mentor’s actions and the dangerous path he is leading them. The gang/family start to separate, some leaving due to concern for their safety, others killed. It might be Dutch’s greed for control that ultimately brings Arthur to realize his friend is bringing more danger to the gang, therefore starts his redemption by fixing things that have broken him as a person over the years.
Revaluating his actions and Dutch’s decisions leads to Arthur’s betrayal and abandonment, as he begins a journey of self-examination and redemption by doing what good he can in his final days.
Dutch feels like Arthur is deviating from the plans he has for the gang and for their future, when in fact, Arthur is seeing who Dutch truly is. As a result of Arthur’s change, he is seen as betraying his friend and the others, which leads to his abandonment by those remaining loyal to Dutch. Robbing a bank and a train as the federal agents near, which jeopardizes the lives of the whole gang.
This is a Western-style action-adventure game and the prequel to Red Dead Redemption. It is an open world begging to be explored and experimented with. At the heart of the story is the protagonist, Arthur Morgan. He is Dutch’s righthand man and the one he trusts the most. The careful attention to developing each character gives players characters to empathize with, outside the gunslinging and being an outlaw. Some of the people have been forced to run with the gang, due to relationships with members.
Dutch notices Arthur’s change as “doubting” him. Those blindly loyal to Dutch would take his side. There was a scene where Arthur is pinned. At this point in the story, he is already sick with tuberculosis and weakened. Dutch walks away instead of helping Arthur, as Arthur has a blade aim aimed at his chest. Playing through this part, its clear Arthur survives.
One enters a broken world and leaves a broken world; one enters with friends but leaves alone and with dreams half-fulfilled, yet leaves a legacy and influence on the ones who mattered. This can be said about Arthur. The change one makes impacts a group for better or worse, and vice versa. “Betrayal can cause mental contamination, and the betrayer commonly becomes a source of contamination” (Rachman, 2010). Arthur contaminates the gang with his change; whether it is because he realizes his time is limited and he wants to make amends while he is in this life that helps him see clearly, or simply realizes Dutch thinks of himself and his plan more than the gang. Some of the gang is either too naive to see this, or believe Dutch’s plan outweighs the safety of the gang. In this example, contamination’s meaning is expanded on – the word contamination is not attached to a negative or positive persona. Contaminating the gang and being abandoned is a consequence of his decision to save others from Dutch’s delusional ways, and to try to set things as right as possible. Arthur’s change kept him fewer but loyal friends at the end.
Despite the change one takes, it will impact the people closest to him/her. This may change the relationship that had been established, one way or another. There are many rememberable quotes from the game. The following is from, the character, Hosea: “I wish I had acquired wisdom at less of a price”(Rock Star Games, 2018). Knowledge of the change needed could come at a price already. Having knowledge of himself can provide a clearer insight on his life and the events occurring around him.
Returning to Aristotle’s quote at the beginning, it could be correct to think Dutch’s trust is questioned by his greed for more money, while Arthur is killed because because of his courage to save his friends and to make amends. Though, Arthur was dying from tuberculosis, Dutch was still in a way the cause if his death but also the cause if his ultimate rise. Its roo bad he could not continue to rise and become the person he probably could have been. There’s something that comes into people’s lives that can steer them away from any bond they’ve formed. For Dutch, his something was to rob and steal more, despite lives taken. His fall from sanity leads to Arthur’s chance for redemption.
Rachman, S. (2010). Betrayal: A psychological analysis. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 48(4), 304-311.
Rock Star Games 2018, Red Dead Redemption 2, video game, Playstation 4.