The Pillars of the Earth  (The Pillars of the Earth, #1) The Pillars of the Earth question


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Who Else Wanted Alfred to Be GOOD?
deleted member Jul 01, 2012 02:48AM
Alfred is Tom's only parented son and he was introduced in the novel's first chapter. In the first quarter we grew up with him but more and more Ken Follet wants us to think he's bad. When he was a child, he was a bully. That's forgivable. When he grew up, he became a sex crazed and misogynistic pig. Seeing that he was Tom's only son (with the exception of the abandoned baby), I want him to be good because Tom was a really good father. I was heartbroken by how bad Alfred turned out. Anyone else concur?



I have to agree with you, Uncommon Sellsword. While I can appreciate that Follet wanted to use Alfred to create sympathy for Jack, it still never really made sense that Alfred didn't turn out to be a good guy. After all, both his parents were good characters. Tom is one of the most virtuous characters in the book. You would think that since he was raised by good people, he would follow their example and be a decent guy. There really is no reason why he's such a jerk. (I say jerk, because he's not truly evil like William, or some of the other characters, but he's certainly not a nice guy either.)

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Jessica sometimes bad kids come from good parents! simple as that.
Jul 10, 2012 08:23AM
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Karla Goodhouse Yeah, I guess that's about the only explanation out there. Sometimes people are just jerks. And I know Follet used him as a foil for Jack. But I was s ...more
Jul 14, 2012 10:07PM

Yes, I was disappointed in Alfred. I kept thinking that he was going to reform. I did find it surprising that such an upstanding citizen type as Tom Builder was, would have such a delinquent son. But Alfred did lose his mother tragically. Fathers don't usually provide their children with the tender loving care that a mother can offer. Jack had Ellen who was, despite her idiosyncrasies, a very caring mother.


I am a big fan of this novel (I wasn't really a fan DURING the reading, but now that I'm done I found I rather enjoyed it). Although Alfred does warrant a bit of sympathy, I respect his purpose as a character. Follet created Alfred to juxtapose Jack, and to emphasize all of the good qualities Jack had but Alfred lacked. While Jack was shown as caring, gentle, meticulous, thoughtful, and intelligent, Alfred was always a rough, callous, angry, bullying, "bovine", and impotent person who allowed us to sympathize more with Jack. If Alfred had been good, we as readers could have said, "Oh, his family life was good, of course he turned out as a good person!" This way we are much more admiring of the fact that Jack is a good person in spite of, rather than because of, his family life. As for carrying on Tom's caring and thoughtful nature, I think Martha more than makes up for Alfred.


Yeah, I was a bit disappointed by that as well. But, I thought that perhaps the evolution of his character was to demonstrate that someone can turn out bad despite being surrounded by decent parents and community.

Someone like William Hamleigh, for instance- we expected him to be evil, b/c he was raised that way. However, there isn't such an easy explanation for Alfred's evil.

I also think he may have been used to create more sympathy for Jack's character. He was so cocky and reckless that he could have easily become unlikable. His torments at the hands of Alfred may have made him a little more relateable.


I understand your disappointment Uncommon Sellsword (by the way, nice name). I was so very disappointed when Noelle was shown as a villain at the end of The other side of midnight. But here, the change was rather soon, and also Alfred was shown to be a stupid person when he kept fighting with those two or three people when the other person ran away with the pig. Well, that isn't hint enough to expect he'll turn out to be bad but still. And also I was occupied by so many other matters in the Novel, well, that helped me in not getting disappointed by Alfred turning out to be a very bad person.

So, I wasn't really that disappointed when Alfred turned out to be bad later in the Novel. But still, I understand how disappointed you can be.


For Tom's sake, I also wanted him to be good. However, this book was great. It is one of my top 10 favorites.


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