In The Well of Ascension, book two of the Mistborn Trilogy, by Brandon Sanderson, Vin, the primary protagonist of the novel, is trying to discover which of her friends was replaced with an impostor. She suspects Dockson, as she thinks his behaviour has been unusual. Both her and Dockson are Skaa, the extremely-discriminated-against lower class used as slaves by the noblemen before the Skaa rebellion. While Vin has spent her life retaliating via relatively harmless thievery, Dockson has spent his helping his friend Kelsier plan and carry out much more ambitious and impactful scams, which often involve the murder of several noblemen.
Dockson’s hatred for noblemen runs deep, and so he is not very friendly towards Elend, the man Vin loves, and also one of the highest ranking nobles. Vin questions why Dockson dislikes him so much. When she states that even Kelsier accepted Elend, saving his life during a hectic skirmish, Dockson has a difficult time believing her, as Kelsier had an even stronger dislike for noblemen than he did. He suggests that perhaps Kelsier didn’t realize Elend was noble-blooded when he saved him.
Vin shook her head. “He knew who Elend was, and knew that I loved him. In the end, Kelsier was willing to admit that a good man was worth protecting, no matter who his parents were.”
“I find that hard to accept, Vin.”
Dockson met her eyes. “Because if I accept that Elend bears no guilt for what his people did to mine, then I must admit to being a monster for the things that I did to them.” (p. 389)
During this scene, Dockson reveals that, even though he may know that not all noblemen are evil, he thinks he needs to maintain the black and white mindset to prevent himself from being overcome with guilt for his actions.
This whole series is about the struggle between the Skaa and the upper class, and one of the most interesting things to me is to think about how each one views the other. In my opinion, most problems in the Final Empire arise because both sides see each other as just groups, instead of individuals. The noblemen generalize all Skaa into one category: slaves who are unintelligent and inferior. The Skaa do the exact same thing, holding the belief that noblemen are cruel and unjust. In reality, of course, the two races inherently have no real significant biological difference. This is demonstrated by the numerous times Skaa impersonate noblemen, or vice versa, throughout the book. In addition, the claims about the cruelty of noblemen and the unintelligence of Skaa are of equally little merit. It may be true that many noblemen are cruel, but there are just as many Skaa that are cruel. Likewise, many of the noblemen are far more dull-witted than the Skaa.
I believe the subject of societal expectations and contentions is interesting. It seems to me to often be the case that there is no inherent reasoning behind many of them. We tend to view things in extremes– for instance, when we think about the differences between men and women. We would say that men have broader shoulders, shorter hair, more body hair and facial hair, are taller and more muscular, etc. However, there are plenty of men that lack broad shoulders, have long hair, don’t naturally grow facial hair, or are shorter. Likewise, there are plenty of women with many of those “masculine” traits. Almost everything is on a scale. It is pointless to arbitrarily try to categorize every person as if they are one-dimensional. Life is diverse, and our need to divide and label everything in ultimately useless and, furthermore, harmful.