The Loss of Moral Centers in The Walking Dead

The characters of AMC’s TV series The Walking Dead are often faced with exceptional moral dilemmas. The following are just a few of the moral questions brought up in the past seasons of The Walking Dead:

Is it ever acceptable to kill living people? Is it ever acceptable to leave someone behind, or sacrifice someone in order to save the group? Is it better to lead with an iron fist, or allow everything to work democratically? Is revenge worth the potential cost to everyone around you? Should strangers be integrated into an existing group or left to their own devices? Should you help everyone you come across, or help only yourself or your own group?

walkingdeadmoralsSome of these questions are never quite resolved in the show. Much like real life, they are stuck in a morally grey area, where “I can see why it’s right, but also why it’s wrong” is the status quo. Sometimes, however, the moral quandaries faced by the characters put them on a fence between humanity—and instinctual survival.

In the show’s second season, the disappearance of Carol’s daughter led not only to tension amidst the group, but a question of morality and humanity. Dale, the eldest member of the existing group, was what most people would consider its moral center. His philosophy was to retain his humanity by behaving as he thought people in a civilized and sympathetic society would. This meant not leaving people behind, caring for people’s wounds when necessary, looking for the lost Sophia—and so on. Dale reminded everyone that they were all still people, still friends, still family—and that being kind and human in such a brutal world was the only way that they could retain their humanity.

The death of Dale was the show’s first experience with the loss of a moral center. Without Dale’s objections to more morally questionable actions or decisions by the group, there was no one to raise their voice when the humanity of the group began to slip into survival mode.

Hershel, who essentially came into Dale’s former role as the voice of human reason among the group, also advocated caring for one another, helping strangers, and holding onto morals and empathy for fellow living people. The recent loss of Hershel leaves the show without a character to remind everyone of the difference between the living and the dead. Keep up with the drama of The Walking Dead on Dish Network Satellite TV.