Eowyn Character Analysis
Eowyn's Situation: Eowyn has lost both her parents at a young age. She has watched and been able to do nothing as her king and uncle has fallen under the influence of Grima Wormtongue. Her cousin and foster brother has been slain. Her only remaining family, her brother, is rarely present and spends much of his time hunting orcs. Eowyn has no one of equal rank to turn to for help; she can not be seen to falter or show any weakness. She is forced to be strong alone. Because of her sex, she is also forced to be silent. Unlike her brother, she has no outlet for her frustration and terror, but must keep it bottled up inside.
As Gandalf says to Eomer, "My friend, you had horses, and deeds of arms, and the free fields; but she, born in the body of a maid, had a spirit and courage at least the match of yours. Yet she was doomed to wait upon an old man, whom she loved as a father, and watch him falling into a mean dishonoured dotage; and her part seem to her more ignoble than that of the staff that he leaned on." (The Return of the King, 'The Houses of Healing') Wormtongue's poison has undermined Eowyn's sense of self-worth, telling her that she has no value because, in a culture of warriors, she is useful only to 'wait upon an old man'. Gandalf continues, "...But who knows what she spoke to the darkness, alone, in the bitter watches of the night, when all her life seemed shrinking, and the walls of her bower closing in about her, a hutch to trammel some wild thing in?" ...all her life seemed shrinking. Eowyn is being slowly suffocated, and no one is doing anything about it.
Eowyn's reaction to these stresses is to build an emotional barrier. She withdraws in to herself, becoming outwardly cold and distant. Trapped by her rank and sex in a role to which she was unsuited, constantly exposed to the poison of Wormtongue, and in the absence of anyone in which she can truly confide, Eowyn becomes hard and bitter. "Slender and tall she was in her white robe girt with silver; but strong she seemed and stern as steel, a daughter of kings. Thus Aragorn for the first time in the full light of day beheld Eowyn, lady of Rohan, and thought her fair, fair and cold, like a morning of pale spring that is not yet come to womanhood." (The Two Towers, 'The King of the Golden Hall')
Eowyn's Desperation: Made to feel worthless, Eowyn responds by desiring greatness, honour, glory; to be valued. To do something of worth. She seeks freedom as well, freedom from the restrictions of her rank, freedom from doing what is 'expected' of her, from her role as 'the one who stays behind to tend the house. Eowyn feels that she will always be left behind and forgotten. As she says to Aragorn, "All you words are but to say: you are a woman, and your part is in the house. But when the men have died in battle and honour, you have leave to be burned in the house, for the men will need it no more. But I am of the House of Eorl and not a serving-woman. I can ride and wield blade, and I do not fear either pain or death." (The Return of the King, 'The Passing of the Grey Company'). She seeks the freedom to for once take control of her own destiny.
Trapped, alone, and made to feel helpless, Eowyn is drawn to Aragorn's greatness and nobility, seeing in him a symbol of freedom and honour. As Faramir puts it, "You desired the love of the Lord Aragorn. Because he was high and puissant, and you wished to have renown and glory and to be lifted far above the mean things that crawl on the earth. And as a great captain may seem to a young soldier he seemed to you admirable." (The Return of the King, 'The Houses of Healing'). Eowyn sees Aragorn as a way out, a path to the freedom she so desperately desires. Her love and admiration for him, though real in its own way, was not a truly 'romantic' love, as she believed it to be. She did not love Aragorn as a man, but rather she loved what he represented to her: freedom, renown, and glory.
In the end Eowyn is rejected by what she saw as her last chance, when Aragorn refuses to take her with him to the South. Left behind and abandoned once again, Eowyn can either submit to her role, her 'cage', or she can take matters in to her own hands. She chooses the latter. She is not motivated by her unrequited 'love', or by a need to 'prove herself'; she feels instead that there is no other path left to her. She has this one last chance to do something of worth. She has no hope that her situation will improve. She has stopped caring about life, not because Aragorn didn't love her, but because he withdrew her last means of 'escape', thus serving as a catalyst. Left without hope, Eowyn "...desired to have nothing, save a brave death in battle." (The Return of the King, 'The Steward and the King')
Eowyn's Road to Healing: By disguising herself, Eowyn breaks free of her 'cage', her entrapping role. By taking on the guise of a man, Eowyn frees herself from the constraints of her sex, the duty that says "...you are a woman, and your part is in the house." (The Return of the King, 'The Passing of the Grey Company'). By taking on the role of a warrior, Eowyn is taking action, striking out against everything that has kept her trapped.
Eowyn's desperate action, her breaking free, is necessary for her because it makes way for healing to take place. Having been already driven to the very edge and drawn back, the wounds on her heart have been cauterized. A Faramir puts it, "...you and I have both passed under the wings of the shadow, and the same hand drew us back." (The Return of the King, 'The Steward and the King'). She has already seen the darkness, already been through the fire.
Eowyn's disguise and subsequent valor on the battlefield do not bring her healing, but they do pave the way. Her healing comes in the form of Faramir, and his understanding of her heart. When Eowyn finds that despite what she has done she is still not content, she struggles with herself, not understanding what it is that she truly wants. Faramir, who has 'clear sight' (The Return of the King, 'The Steward and the King'), sees Eowyn truly as she is, as a woman, a person, and an individual, and not defined by her role, station, sex, or situation. As he tells her, "Were you sorrowless, without fear or any lack, were you the blissful queen of Gondor, still I would love you." (The Return of the King, 'The Steward and the King'). Being loved unconditionally takes away Eowyn's need to find glory as a way to find worth in herself.
Eowyn as a character is unique because, like many of Tolkien's characters, on the surface she fits an archetype, but truly she is too complicated to fit in a mold.