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The Spring Soldier

by MoviesPlusBooks 6 months ago in superheroes
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Captain America's symbolic role in the MCU

“Captain America” opens in dark mists blowing over a frozen ocean.

From the shapeless haze, four lights emerge.

They’re the headlights of a S.H.I.E.L.D HMUV (high mobility utility vehicle).

Two men emerge from it and meet a third.

A search team is cutting a hole, a perfect circle, into the surface below them with a laser spinning rapidly counter-clockwise. It’s not the frozen ocean they’re cutting into, tough, but rather the hull of a plane that fell from the sky.

The team discovers their target: a large block of snow-covered ice. From it shines a glimmer of Captain America’s vibranium shield.


Passive, defensive, and protective weapon… used in the spiritual battle for salvation, including the Christian ‘Shield of Faith’.

Faith will be ‘able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked’. Extinguishing the flames is to allow the sense of the symbol to give a wholly spiritual meaning to the part played by the ‘Shield of Faith’, which should be used against the temptations of heresy, pride, and flesh.

In many cases the shield is, in fact, a representation of the universe, as if the warrior carrying it is confronting her opponent with the cosmos.¹

Steve Roger’s personality starkly contrasts with Tony’s. He is cool-headed and non-reactionary, as opposed to Tony’s volatility. Steve has faith in the individual, whereas Tony doesn’t trust anyone and believes the public ought to be shepherded by his machines.

Tony’s particular set of sins could be seen as the ‘hot’ sins, especially lust and pride. Steve’s shield, the blue of his uniform, and the water of his melted ice all correspond to what in essence is needed to balance such heat.

Steve saves himself for his one true love, even after their reunion is made impossible. His desirable virtues shine forth like natural light from the star on his chest. He is the true beating heart that Tony is trying to build the likeness of into his arc reactor.

Steve Rogers’ symbolic constitution expands further when we look at the origin of his name and title:

He is the First Avenger.

His first name is derived from “Stephanus”, meaning “crown”, “garland”, and “that which surrounds.”² The Greek verb “stéphein” means to “encircle”.

He is probably associated with Saint Stephen, who is known to Christianity as the “First Martyr”.

He was stoned to death in 34 AD.

The name “Rogers” draws back to the Viking invasion of what is now Normandy.³ The meaning goes further back to a hero who was “famous with the spear”.

Shield of Faith

The subject of ‘faith’ is quite complex and personal. Its presence and value is, however, more easily recognized by looking at its roots — “faithfulness to a trust or promise; loyalty to a person; honesty”²

The Captain’s shield cools the fire and contains a promise.

It also contains the “cosmos”, and serves the symbolic function of a mandala.


Strictly speaking, the word ‘mandala’ means ‘circle’, although it is a complex piece of drawing and often framed within squared borders.

Through the magic of its symbols, the mandala is both the image and the moving force of spiritual ascension. It derives from the ever-increasing drive to internalize existence by progressively concentrating the manifold upon the one, with the ego reintegrated into the whole and the whole into the ego.¹

This definition corresponds with a motif set up in “Iron Man” of the outward-facing, or projected war, finally turning inward — the result of an inevitable cycle demonstrated by a revolving circle or the face of a clock.

Steve acts simultaneously as an agent of Tony’s spiritual ascent, and as an individual person. He is a passive vehicle for the qualities defined in his name and character, and his greatest desire is simply to fulfill a promise: a date and a dance with the one he loves.

The three leading heroes of the first phases of the Marvel franchise are three facets a single being undergoing an undesired, but necessary transformation. While Steve’s physical transformation is obvious, there is little sign of inward change. His heart is set. Tony, however, represents the ego — the thing that must change — and his arc is the focus of the Marvel saga.

His values do appear to change as the franchise rolls forward, but really it is the world around him that is changing, as he is closest embodiment of the fixed point at the center of the circle.


The Penguin Dictionary of Symbols

Etymonline: Steven, faith



All images from


The War in “Iron Man”

The Shadow in “Iron Man”

Tony Stark Finds Himself in “Iron Man”

The Spring Soldier


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Weird but sincere notes on movies, books, dreams, & travel

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