The unreliable care-giver in early childhood and mid-childhood is the determinant of his personality. Guts’ drive is then to find someone worthy enough to be faithful to. Work hard to be liked by a particular person, to be liked so much that he would not be abandoned ever again. People like Guts try hard to grow worthy due to the false but persistent belief they were abandoned because they are unworthy. People like Guts do not want to gather numbers of “fans”, not even friends in a large network of support. Numbers do not matter. If numbers mattered, fans would be replaceable, those who come could be replaced by those who go. But for people like Guts a fan going can not be replaced by a new fan. For people like Guts losses accumulate, or deepen an existing wound. People like Guts want one person to be gained once and for all, to redeem all that left in the past. People like Guts want commitment and are ready to commit all for it.
That losses accumulate means regeneration is hard. Loss must be compensated with raw strength, which can grow through training. People like Guts are dependent-prone personalities at bottom, and if they grow strong, they do so because they develop a strong mask. At first their struggle is selfless. But in the process they realize they become their own care-givers.
They could become their own reliable care-givers in two ways: 1. accumulated losses also show that others are unworthy (morally unworthy for instance). By comparison they start hating themselves less. 2. They learn that they are not physically needy. Guts says: on the battlefield it doesn’t matter whether someone else cares about you. You are the only one who can take care of yourself. On the one hand, while on the battlefield, he feels less tormented. There, he can go berserk. But that’s only while in the midst of battle. On a deeper level though, his reason for stepping into battle is gaining the redeeming reliable caregiver. The means is showing that he is worthy, so worthy that he can do it all by himself, so worthy that he does not need to be cared for. His dream, or his meaning of life in Alfred Adler’s sense, is still finding a reliable care-giver.
Can he change his meaning, his reason to live? Guts does not fully succeed in changing it. However, Guts manages to see that his old meaning must be abandoned. That is what his struggle becomes after being marked on the neck by Griffith’s demons: wresting away from the old meaning. His struggle is now to negate his own predicament.
Why doesn’t he change the object of desire but keep the same predicament / logic? That is, why doesn’t he move from Griffith to someone else? To some extent Guts does move to another object of desire, Casca. The relationship could work, possibly within the same old logic, possibly within a better logic. But moving is not easy, because it is in the nature of losses to accumulate. It’s hard to accept, “oh Griffith doesn’t want me, I’ll move on” because accepting it would be unconsciously absorbing a new reinforcement of his unworthiness. Accepting one’s unworthiness as a prerequisite to moving on to someone who proves worthiness makes no psychological sense because the unconscious seems to operate with an intrinsic or objective theory of worth.
Of course, people like Griffith have their own drama. They suffer too, as Guts acknowledges when killing the demon in the first episode.
People like Griffith need others too, and they need them in a logic that makes them feel proud. The logic of that relationship is poisoning them though since they can’t keep others close while at the same time being open they want the relationship to be asymmetric.
An error common to Griffith and Guts:
Each of them falsely believe that it is just more strength that they need in order to achieve their goal. Guts: become stronger and worthier of Griffith’s love. Griffith: become strong enough to justify the asymmetric character of the relationship with Guts. On that dimension however, strength, they are both good. What they need in order to be more stably happy is something else. A change in the meanings of their lives. And if that is not possible, then we simply witness, and live, tragedies.
To me, the central theme is interplay between „dream” and „relationships/love”.
Griffith was not able to integrate these two aspects.
He was not able to accept his dependency, the fact that he needs others. He denied, repressed and mis-represented this.
What did not allow him to keep important others? Not lack of strength. But his ‘logic’ AND misrepresentation of his needs. How so?
First, what keeps others away is the fact that he would recognize only an „equal” as friend. And the way he characterizes the equal/friend shows that they are totally independent, totally free. But then this is again a denial of dependency, of attachment. And is that relationship a friendship? Well, it is a form of friendship, but one where there is a significant distance. But it evidently does not satisfy Griffith’s emotional needs. And even if he speaks of such friendship with some longing, it looks more like an intellectual idea, than a desire. The only other option for Griffith is to treat important others as „HIS THING”. He is so obviously emotional and so unclear when he says this. The useful people are more than just tools – he wants to respect their freedom. But it is not clear what they are then… They just need to be around, under his control (despite the fact that he always says they follow him of their own free will)
– So in the end, he has no formula for relationship with Guts. He is not able to recognize him as equal, and to respect his freedom, because of his possessive desire (and this shows that distanced ‘friendship’ is not what he needs and desires). Then he feels he became ‘controlled’ by Guts. He is just being kept torn by emotions, and in the end concludes that „only you made me forget that dream” – and in order to protect this dream, he sacrifices Guts.
Another connected problem for Griffith is how to deal with „sacrifices” entailed by his dream. I would say again: he REPRESSES and denies feelings of guilt. And that in the end leads him to a fatal error. He succumbs to demons’ lies.
It is NOT true that throughout his life he sacrificed the people who followed him. What he fails to see – and what Guts see clearly – is that these people follow their dreams. They are just too weak to do it alone, so they gather around a bigger „fire”. They also make compromises (as Judeau and Corkus point out). So in fact Griffith WAS objectively giving them a fair deal – they could follow him of their own free will; they risked their lives doing so, but in return they had a chance to realize their dreams – maybe with some limitations, but maybe even more wonderful than they expected. This is why Band of the Hawks survived Griffith’s capture.
Griffith does not see it for a variety of reasons. First, he is egocentric – he thinks people follow him and die for his dream, when in fact their dreams overlap with his (with the possible exception of Caska and Guts. But Caska too starts to realize her dream is to be with Griffith, not just serve him; and Guts realizes he is buried and then leaves). Second, because his feeling of guilt is so crushing, he denies it hastily, and so he never thinks through this. Thirdly, because he never spent much thought on how people depend on one another.
A few more words on demon’s deceptions. The first was to equivocate on „sacrifice”. Yes, Griffith’s dream caused deaths, but as I said – it was a fair deal. There are also circumstances peculiar to Griffith. He hasn’t started the war; he entered a war that was already going on for a century – so most of his people would die in war anyway… Griffith is so much less guilty than the kings who start wars and force the people to fight. Leading people to risk their lives voluntarily for a common (/overlapping) dream is totally different from condemning them to die for one’s dream. The second lie was „this is you, so you need to keep doing it”. That actually played nicely on Griffith’s desire to be „authentic” and to „discover his destiny”. But here at least the existentialists are right – we are what we choose. We can say no to our past or our ‘nature’.
Parenthetically, not every dream entails the risk of negative consequences for others.
So, to conclude with the meaning of life. You said „What they need in order to be more stably happy is something else. A change in the meanings of their lives. And if that is not possible, then we simply witness, and live, tragedies.” Well, not a total change. Make it more complex; integrate various desires; integrate others into it in a logic beyond the master-slave logic. „Castle in the sky” – this is so poor, and empty, and childish. By the way, in his inner world, Griffith remains a child.
Indeed, the theme is the interplay between dream / meaning and relationship. While Griffith was not able to integrate them, Guts’s dream / meaning — and Casca’s too — is that it is ITSELF the development of a relationship between deeply co-attached equals. The dream itself is the relationship.
In Griffith’s eyes that is a mark of inferiority, because officially, his own dream does not require other people, or if it does, it requires others to be in positions of inferiority, with himself in a position of detached superiority.
Actually though, you observe, while living together with people like Casca and Guts, Griffith develops a new meaning in his life, one similar to the one that Casca and Guts have: the fulfillment brought by the mutually reinforcing attachment in a relationship. This meaning grows along the old one in Griffith. Unfortunately Griffith is only able to conceptualize it as a compromise to his older dream which, in his flawed view, is supposed to be necessarily unique and overarching. And in the end he decides it’s an unacceptable compromise. Your suggestion would be for Griffith to accept this new meaning / dream as legitimate, as worth pursuing along the old dream, and to try to integrate the two.
And if Griffith took your suggestion, I add, then maybe after a while, after attachments are secure, Guts could develop a new dream / meaning alongside the old, a dream that would not require new deep attachments, a dream less “in need” of others. In this scenario of honest reflection and patience, the differences between Guts and Casca on the one hand, and Griffith on the other could completely tone down and simply reduce to “timing”. Guts can have the “attachment” dream first, alongside which he could develop the “independent” dream, Griffith can have the “independent” dream first, alongside which he could subsequently develop the “attachment” dream.