There are few movies I remember with as much fondness as The Princess Bride. If you grew up in the 1980s, you undoubtedly hold it in high regard. In fact, it’s one of the few 80s childhood movies that holds up reasonably well (sorry Goonies!).
This past weekend I started reading the book for the first time and it’s been an interesting experience to say the least. Aside from seeing how surprisingly easily the book translated into film (thanks in no small part to both being authored by William Goldman), and being astounded by his affection for parenthetical statements, I read what may well be one the most insightful examples of pride ever put to paper in the person of Vizzini the Sicilian.
There are no words to contain all my wisdom. I am so cunning, crafty and clever, so filled with deceit, guile and chicanery, such a knave, so shrewd, cagey as well as calculating, as diabolical as I am vulpine, as tricky as I am untrustworthy … well, I told you there were not words invented yet to explain how great my brain is, but let me put it this way: the world is several million years old and several billion people have at one time or another trod upon it, but I, Vizzini the Sicilian, am, speaking with pure candor and modesty, the slickest, sleekest, sliest and wiliest fellow who has yet come down the pike.
Vizzini clearly holds himself in high regard—and yet, only a few moments later, his pride leads him to his death in his battle of wits against the man in black. We laugh at the description, especially when play it back with Wallace Shawn’s delivery… but are we any less guilty of having such a grandiose view of self? Do we see ourselves as being pretty big deals when we might be only moments away from disaster?
Too many have thought themselves above falling. They wouldn’t succumb to sexual sin or the love of money. They wouldn’t allow the devil to get a foothold in their lives.
And yet, what do we see, day after day? A pastor falls. An esteemed leader in the church’s marriage hits the skids. Double lives are revealed.
(And in case you’re wondering, no I’m not thinking of anyone in particular.)
Behold—and beware!—the grandiose view of self. Be watchful, for it may be you who, with “pure candor and modesty” finds themselves on the receiving end of disaster.