I think that generally Tolkien attempted to make his characters good, but human. Everyone has weaknesses of some kind, and characters without weaknesses are rarely interesting. This was well reflected in the case of Boromir, who was generally a very good and valiant man. However his rashness and his desparation for his people's deliverance made him weak, and the ring exploited that weakness.
I believe the closest to "pure" good that you will find in LotR is in Tolkien's general presentation of Hobbits, and in the simple hobbitish virtues that the hobbit characters each exhibit at times where others may have been tempted or taken the wrong course. I think it's fair to say that this is because the hobbits were something of a metaphor for the small-town English lifestyle he had experienced earlier in his life, and which had slowly faded away as the countryside filled with buildings and machines.
I have always thought of Thorin's quote just before his death as something of a love letter to the Oxford and the England of his youth:
"There is more in you of good than you know, child of the kindly West. Some courage and some wisdom, blended in measure. If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world."
(I admit I still get a little misty eyed when I read that passage, no matter how many times I've read it before.)
From: Austin, TX. Home of awesome. | Registered: Aug 2002
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I always thought much along the same lines of what was just stated. But, I also would like to add that even Tolkien did have characters that were not just good or just evil.
I believe it was Gandalf that said nothing started out evil. They became it over time. I think Smeagol/Gollum is the perfect example of a person trying that was evil, and yet the good would surface occasionally.
From: Ririe, Idaho | Registered: Oct 2005
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What about someone like, say, Bill Ferny? Was he pure evil, he didn't wear a dark helmet, or a black mace, nor did he have any plans to subject the world to his will, but he did seem a nasty piece of work, and he seemed to do this all by his own! He seemed a general little piece of unpleasentness!
I don't either think there is pure evil or pure good, and it is hard to judge people on a scale from good to evil, as someone said above, a lot depends on you choices in life.
To me, Bill Ferny has appeared to be really embittered by life, and his way to deal with this was making as much as trouble he could for the people around him (that he probably felt had had much more luck than him in life or that he blamed for his own unluckiness). And then he easily became a useful tool for the evil powers, all they had to do was to make him fell more important than the people around him. I don't think he was any near pure evil before the dark powers (the riders) found him and forced him to help them, just very very bitter and captured by his own behaviour (making trouble --> people loathing him more --> him feeling even more bitter and doing more harm to the people around him, and so on).
Maybe could he have helped on the good side or just been neutral if the "good" people had bothered with helping him out of bitterness (although this would of course have been much much harder since he already had found the pleasure of harming others).
From: Sweden | Registered: Feb 2001
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