“He’s worth more sorrow...”
Reading the last few chapters of SnK I keep thinking of this exchange from the end of Macbeth:
SIWARD Then he is dead?
ROSS Ay, and brought off the field: your cause of sorrow
Must not be measured by his worth, for then
It hath no end.
SIWARD Had he his hurts before?
ROSS Ay, on the front.
SIWARD Why then, God’s soldier be he!
Had I as many sons as I have hairs,
I would not wish them to a fairer death:
And so, his knell is knoll’d.
MALCOLM He’s worth more sorrow,
And that I’ll spend for him.
SIWARD He’s worth no more
They say he parted well, and paid his score:
And so, God be with him!
The fandom seems to be split into Siwards on the one hand, and Malcoms/Rosses on the other over Erwin’s death and the way Isayama has shown the survivors’ reactions to it. But I think Levi, who is a character I love partly because of his ability to always see both sides of an issue, holds both these attitudes at once.
Erwin is dead, and brought off the field. Who knows what sorrow Levi, and the others, spent for him during those four hours between the end of Chapter 84 and the start of Chapter 85? It was almost certainly Levi who cleaned that room, and carried Erwin there, laid him out and put those flowers beside him, while the others were out looking for survivors and equipment. Hange may have helped Levi, too. They all thought he was worth sorrow.
“Had he his hurts before?”
Of course he had - charging the enemy for humanity’s survival, leaving his personal dream behind. Levi loves him as a man, and as a soldier. Levi allowing this to be his death has given Erwin the most noble death possible in their hellish world. Forcing him to become a demon would have taken away that honour. This, I think Levi feels, is the kind of death Erwin would have wanted, and the kind of death he would want for himself. In that sense, Levi would probably agree with Siward. Erwin would certainly be pleased with the idea that he had “paid his score”.
But Levi “must also feel it as a man”. I’m sure he does feel that if he allowed himself to grieve according to Erwin’s worth, his sorrow would have no end. But that’s not what Erwin would have wanted. They have to carry on. That’s why I can’t see Levi allowing himself to be broken by this, or to give up and be in a rush to follow Erwin into death - at least not until the job is done. This is why I think he’s still impatient to reach the basement - why he has no time for the squabbles that led to this point. Hange is the commander and can sort out discipline. Armin has to take on the responsibility for strategy. Neither of them, nor anyone else, can replace Erwin, but between them they still have a chance. Levi will do what he has always done, and fight with every ounce of his strength which I think is not diminished by Erwin’s death - not while Erwin’s memory is still alive. I still have hope that Isayama won’t give us an utterly hopeless ending, and that he will allow Levi and the others to keep working, carrying Erwin’s memory with them, until “the time is free”.