urning down your house might seem like a crazy thing to do, but for Edward and Alphonse Elric, it symbolizes their determination to never turn back and to start over. They had made a horrible mistake and they resolve to never do it again, and never let others follow the terrifying path they went down.
As young boys with the gift of alchemy, a grieving Ed and Al try to resurrect their mother using their powers, and they fail miserably.
Not only does their attempt create a monstrous shell of nothing like their mother, but it completely obliterates Al’s body and destroys Ed’s left leg. They had made an enormous mistake and they had to pay a terrible price, but Ed refuses to lose his little brother:
“No, dammit. You won’t take him too. Give him back! He’s my brother! Take my leg. Take my arm! Take my heart, ANYTHING, YOU CAN HAVE IT! Just give him back! He’s my little brother, he’s all I have left!”
Ed sacrifices his right arm to bring his brother’s soul back and attaches it to a nearby suit of armour using alchemy. The two are then left to face the consequences of their actions with the realization of why resurrection is taboo to alchemists.
Humans are not meant to have that kind of power.
What I find amazing about Ed and Al’s story is their acceptance of their own sin and their willingness to suffer, not as self-inflicted punishment for what they did, but simply as an acceptance of the consequences. They choose not to ignore or forget the lesson they learned, but fight against others who are trying to abuse alchemy in a similar way.
They also suffer a hell of a lot for each other along the way, seeing things that no teenage boys should have to witness (Shou Tucker episode, anyone?). Ironically, though, they spend most of the series looking for a similar kind of power; they are not trying to resurrect their mother any more, but they want to return their bodies back to normal.
So did they actually learn their lesson? They are still attempting to use alchemy in a way that it’s not supposed to be used.
Near the beginning of Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood, when talking to Al about their future plans, Ed calls himself a hopeless idiot who hasn’t grown up one bit, who hasn’t learned anything from what their attempt to resurrect their mom should have taught him.
Al responds, “Without a body, I can’t feel the rain hitting my face. That’s something I miss… all the time. I wanna get my body back soon, brother. I just wanna be human again. Even if it means going against the flow of the world, and trying to do the impossible.”
Despite Ed’s words, the brothers show throughout the story that they have indeed learned much. They fight against those who want God’s power for themselves. They refuse to sacrifice others in order to get what they want. They understand pain and consequences better than most.
“There’s no such thing as a painless lesson,” says Ed in ‘Journey’s End.’ “They just don’t exist. Sacrifices are necessary. You can’t gain anything without losing something first, although if you can endure that pain and walk away from it, you’ll find that you now have a heart strong enough to overcome any obstacle. Yeah, a heart made fullmetal.”
The real world is just as cruel and punishing as the one the Elrics face. History is filled with those who tried to power their own immortality by heartlessly destroying everything that is around them. Perhaps it is not through alchemy, but it would not be hard to find political, economic, or even religious institutions where they are doing exactly the same thing: seeking their own immortality regardless of the cost. Maybe the world could use more people with fullmetal hearts.