Wei WuXian, Agency, and Tragedy

I had some feelings about Wei WuXian and decided to write about it. Here’s a somewhat coherent thought about Wei WuXian’s lack of angecy.

Spoiler Alert for everything.


Just thinking about the scene at Koi Tower.
#TheUntamed does a wonderful job of expressing the turmoil going on in that scene for both Wei WuXian and Jiang Cheng.

We already know that WWX is being affected by his demonic cultivation. It’s much more obvious in the drama compared to the novel imo. It’s affecting his temper, he’s like a different person.

But if you ask yourself “where did he go wrong?” and “what could he have done differently?”
Wei WuXian’s biggest flaw was always his arrogance. not only in his skills and power, but also in his morality.

Wei WuXian did not trust in the moral standards of anyone else enough to ask them for help before confronting Jin ZiXun himself. Not Jiang Cheng, not even Lan WangJi.

He’d seen the political landscape. He knew they were all taking part in an elaborate dance.

The issue with the Wen remnants was truly urgent. There was a chance they were already dead and every second that passed only increased that chance. This needed to be resolved quickly. He was desperate.

Without any kind of backup and knowing that they weren’t going to listen to him and give him what he wanted, he resorted to intimidation.

It’s worth wondering, if he hadn’t been so quick to judge, if he had gone to Jiang Cheng, or Lan WangJi, Lan XiChen, or even Jin ZiXuan and asked for their help, they might have agreed to help him.

After all, like Lan WangJi said, he wasn’t wrong.

He had a great point. What the Jin Sect and specifically Jin ZiXun was doing was horrible. The people above were all capable of seeing that. If only one or two of them had agreed to back him up it might have been enough to tip the scales.

But Wei WuXian knew where he stood. He was already widely feared and disliked. Most people present would never choose his side no matter what he had to say. Which is why he chose to use intimidation. It was the most efficient tool he had.

Unfortunately, by doing that he alienated anyone who might still trust or believe him. Anyone who agreed with him would face making themselves an enemy of the cultivation world by speaking up.

Jiang Cheng is the prime example of this. His position was already precarious at best. He was very young, the new sect leader of a sect that could barely stand. He couldn’t risk making enemies now.

Wei WuXian understood that which is why he made himself the sole target.

But Wei WuXian’s arrogance was not unfounded. He wasn’t the Jiang sect’s #1 disciple for nothing. He was highly skilled, incredibly clever, and very powerful.
Before, his arrogance was only a minor flaw. It got him into trouble with certain people, but he was still well-loved.

But after losing his golden core, that arrogance became his shield.
His new powers were powerful, but they made everyone suspicious of him. The Tiger Seal made him a target. He couldn’t afford to show any weakness. He couldn’t let anyone close enough to discover his secret.

Wei WuXian had never been good at asking for help, but now he was completely unable to ask for help.
Jiang Cheng grew up with him. He knew of Wei WuXian’s skills, he had spent his whole life with his brother’s accomplishments held over his head.
Not only could WWX not ask for help, but JC also failed to notice WWX was struggling. He couldn’t fathom WWX needing his help.

Jiang Cheng couldn’t fathom Wei WuXian ever being desperate. All his life WWX had been strong and confident. In control.

But Wei WuXian had never been in control of anything, not even his own life.

From the moment Wang LinJiao came to Lotus Pier to have him punished, Wei WuXian had been /reacting/ out of desperation.
– desperate to save the Jiang family/sect he accepted punishment and was even willing to give up his right hand
– desperate to save Jiang Cheng, he snuck back into Lotus Pier to save him
– desperate to save Jiang Cheng, he cuts his own golden core out of his body and gives it to him
– desperate to survive, he learns demonic cultivation in the Yiling Burial Mounds
– desperate to save the surviving Wens – innocent and also his own and Jiang Cheng’s saviors – he makes himself the enemy of the entire cultivation world
– desperate to protect the Jiang Sect /again/, he turns his back on them and becomes an exile and rogue
– desperate to protect the only family he has left, he fights the entire world and dies in the Siege of the Burial Mound

What’s less obvious is the fact that Wei WuXian did not start acting out of desperation at Lotus Pier. He has always been one step behind. He has always been reacting rather than acting. But this isn’t out of a lack of intelligence, but a lack of agency.

Wei WuXian has never had the luxury of being able to look more than a few steps ahead of himself. While he’s highly intelligent, he could never be a mastermind like Jin GuangYao and Nie Huaisang are. And that’s because he’s never been in control of his own future.

From the Lotus Pier massacre to turning his back on the Jiang sect at the Burial Mound, everything he did was for the sake of the Jiang Sect and Jiang Cheng. Because it was his family, but also because – as Madam Yu reminded him – it was his DUTY.

For most of his life he had belonged to the Jiang Sect and to Jiang Cheng. His future was already written for him. What was the point of looking ahead and planning for his future?

So instead of looking far ahead, he made choices for the present. He has fun and makes mischief because that’s the only thing he has agency over.
The now. Because tomorrow, tomorrow has already been decided for him.

And this is why the timeline up to the point of Wei WuXian’s death at the Siege of the Burial Mounds is a tragedy.
Wei WuXian is denied agency over his life till  the end. In his fight for freedom, his search for another path, nearly everyone he cares for dies or abandons him.

And that could have been the whole story. We could have had a tragedy. But the gears were still turning and matters were still unresolved because while Wei WuXian is the protagonist of the novel, the events of the novel don’t revolve around him.

And because of that, Wei WuXian is given another chance.
And dammit am I happy he is. I love the fact that this story doesn’t end in tragedy. Not only does Wei WuXian get another chance, he gets freedom.

He’s released from it all and finally gets to choose what his future will look like.
And dammit if that doesn’t make me emotional.

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