Rockstar has a pretty good habit when it comes to main characters. Niko is arguably one of the most realistic depictions of someone arriving in the East in games; John’s arc in Red Dead Redemption is equal parts heartfelt and heartwrenching all with a rich emotional center; and now Arthur Morgan is here to show what can be done with a main character in the modern age of gaming. More realistic than any character who has come before him, Arthur Morgan is the pinnacle of Rockstar’s character crafting. In many ways, Red Dead Redemption II is more or less a character study of Arthur.
Throughout the game’s six chapters, Arthur develops quite a bit- more than John ever did. He has a rich arc full of ups and downs ultimately leading up to one of the saddest endings in gaming. As the game is so huge, however, it is easy to miss out on key details about Arthur’s life. Whether it be through optional side content or just missable conversations, there is a lot to be gleaned from Arthur Morgan that you may have missed entirely. Of course, this list will spoil both Red Dead Redemption games in their entirety, as it is impossible to discuss the nuances of Arthur Morgan without diving into the series’ story.
25 Arthur Was Raised By Dutch And Hosea For Twenty Years
Although Arthur does have a biological father who raised him for quite some time, and we’ll touch on that soon enough, Arthur is more a son of Dutch and Hosea than anything else. It does make a considerable amount of sense when you stop to think about it. After all, Arthur was raised by Dutch and Hosea for nearly twenty years.
It takes a gang to raise a child.
Primarily through camp dialogue, you can deduce that Arthur is roughly 35 years old by the time of Chapter 2. Other in-game dialogue, both main mission and otherwise, suggest that Arthur was 15 when he joined Dutch’s game. More interestingly, it’s even implied that the gang was just Dutch, Hosea, and Arthur for quite some time.
24 Arthur’s Father Was A Monster
Unlike John Marston who barely knew his father, Arthur did live quite a few years with his biological father. While this is a subject he keeps relatively mum about for most of the game, a few moments in the first six chapters do reveal key tidbits about Arthur’s father: specifically, his wicked ways.
The recurring element circling Arthur’s father is how much they did not get along. While he looks back on his mother fondly, Arthur states that his father lived far too long for anyone’s goodwill. That said, Arthur does keep a portrait of his father by his bed. Granted, it’s a picture of his mugshot, but still.
23 Arthur Had A Young Son
Chapter 6 is an emotional roller coaster from start to finish. The moment Arthur is diagnosed, the game, in general, takes a dark turn that it never quite comes back from until the Epilogue. Even then, the final two chapters are just as emotional. For as heart-wrenching as the game becomes, nothing tugs at the heartstrings more than Isaac.
Not all those who are pure are blessed.
In an optional conversation with Rains Fall, Arthur will bring up his son: Isaac. A son born to a waitress, Arthur visited him off an on for ten years until, one day, he arrived to find two graves outside the house. The two lost their lives in a robbery over ten dollars, adding yet another layer of tragedy to Arthur’s life.
22 Why Arthur Doesn’t Find Company In Strangers... Get It?
Naturally, the solemn case of Isaac Morgan perfectly explains why Arthur Morgan does not sleep with people over the course of the game. Even Mary-Beth, who shows explicit interest in him and is in a perceived safe environment to have a family, does not spur Arthur’s interest- simply because he does not want the world to have another Isaac.
More specifically, Arthur does not want the world to force another Isaac to suffer. Isaac was a boy be could not raise born to a mother he could not be with. For all the good he did for the family, he could not be there when it most mattered, and he lost the son who he cared for so deeply. Arthur would never want to risk that again.
21 Arthur Is Forgotten By History
In the original Red Dead Redemption, after control switches to Jack, you’ll still find townspeople mentioning John Marston by name. Not even being gunned down by the government was enough to wipe his name away from the annals of history. Even Red Harlow, Revolver’s main character, is remembered in Redemption.
The world has no need for men like Arthur Morgan.
The same cannot be said for Arthur Morgan. Even in the epilogue of his own game, the world has more or less forgotten Arthur with John too uncomfortable to bring him up in constant conversation. By 1911, not a soul so much as utters the name “Arthur Morgan” from their lips. He is a man forgotten.
20 Arthur Is The Best Gunslinger In The Series
There are three gunslingers who best define the Red Dead franchise: Red Harlow, John Marston, and Arthur Morgan. Despite the legendary status of the former two, however, Arthur Morgan is actually the best gunslinger. Time and time again, members of Dutch’s gang will comment on how good of a shot Arthur is.
In gameplay, he can also simply do more than John ever could in the first game. He knows his way around his weapons and puts up a legitimate challenge in his many duels. Funny enough, despite being the best, Arthur gets in far fewer duels than Red or John ever did. Perhaps that’s why no one recognizes his talent outside the gang.
19 Arthur’s Fate Is Sealed By Chapter 2
Poor Arthur Morgan is walking to his grave by the start of Chapter 2. As soon as you do Money Lending and Other Sins, Arthur’s fate is sealed. One of the lenders he goes to extort ends up coughing on him which starts the whole thing. His symptoms don’t show up until Chapter 5, but his fate has been sealed by that point.
Money lending is indeed the worst sin.
For the entire story, you’re playing as an Arthur working on borrowed time. When he finally realizes he doesn’t have much time left, he spirals into self-introspection, deciding to help John’s family leave Dutch’s gang while he can. In the end, the TB takes Arthur’s life, leaving him a better shell of the man he once was.
18 Arthur’s Lost Love: Mary Linton
One of the most important sub-plots in Red Dead Redemption II can be entirely skipped if you sit too long on it or if you choose not to act as a willing participant of said missions. Mary Linton is Arthur’s long lost love, and she appears precisely three times in the game with each meeting inferring their relationship.
At some point in the far past, Arthur and Mary were at the very least engaged. Due to his life as an outlaw, however, Mary’s family disapproved of him, ultimately forcing a wedge in their relationship. Mary left Arthur, Arthur never found love again, but the two still shared feelings for each other up to the very end.
17 Arthur Adores His Horse
Canonically, it is strongly implied that Arthur took his first purchased horse up to the game’s very last mission, but that’s beside the point. Regardless of whichever horse you choose to buy, or how many you end up with in your stables by Chapter 6, one scene clearly demonstrates Arthur’s love for his animal.
A good boy if there ever was one.
In the final mission of Chapter 6, Arthur’s horse will get horse. The horse will not survive the shooting, prompting Arthur to sit back with his horse- in a moment of legitimate danger- and comfort it to its grave. It is a powerful moment, arguably more so than Arthur’s fate, that solidifies who Arthur is as a man.
16 Arthur Morgan’s Short Temper
Arthur Morgan is not a patient man. Time and time again, he carries himself with a considerable temper. It is only with men like Dutch —men who absolutely demand his respect— that Arthur controls himself around. Otherwise, he is prone to letting loose and succumbing to his most carnal temptations.
Just look at the frequency in which Arthur beats men into the ground. The game opens with Arthur’s intensity upfront and center. Chapter 2 reiterates his rage in the great brawl of the 19th century, and while Arthur certainly mellows out as the story progresses, he never stops getting ticked off as evidenced by the many Money Lending and Other Sins missions.
15 What Loyalty Means To Arthur
Faith. Loyalty and faith are the two defining features of Dutch’s gang with the former more presently defining Arthur as a character. When all is said and done, when the sun has set on Arthur Morgan for the last time, the world will remember him —if they do— as a loyal man. Not to Dutch, but to his ideals.
Without loyalty, this'll all have been for nothing.
Up to the very end, Arthur carries on the belief that there must be something better out there, not for himself, but for someone. He brings this concept into fruition through John, staying loyal to what he believes in and never allowing himself to waver. When Dutch finally snaps, Arthur does not blindly side with the man who raised him, but stands up for his ideals.
14 Arthur Is A Talented Writer
Arthur’s journal isn’t just a narrative tool used as a means of characterization- you can actually read it in-game should you find it in your satchel. Upon flipping through the pages, you’ll come to the very quick realization that Arthur Morgan is actually quite the talented writer, putting a good deal of emphasis on his craft.
Arthur’s style of writing takes on a very introspective, almost existential tone. He perfectly conveys how at odds he is with Dutch’s descent into madness and is able to convey emotion incredibly well. Maybe of his sentences are fragmented, but they’re done so deliberately so to prove a point. The man knows how to write.
13 Arthur Loves Jack
With the implication that John is fairly distant towards Jack prior to the start of the game, the young Marston spawn needs a strong male presence in his life. Before John gets his act together and starts to turn his life around, that role is filled by none other than Arthur Morgan himself.
Someone has to.
Arthur loves it, too. He may not show it, but he genuinely cares deeply for Jack as a person. Maybe Arthur sees a bit of Isaac in Jack, but their interactions are fully supportive with Arthur acting as a better father figure than John ever would. Arthur’s sacrifice is just as much for Jack as it was for John.
12 Arthur Is Rockstar’s Most In-Depth Character
Rockstar’s protagonists are almost always likable and a joy to watch, but how many of them are actually in-depth? A case can be made for both Michael and Jimmy, but only Niko and John can definitively be called fully fleshed out characters with complete, thematically cohesive, arcs. Until Arthur Morgan that is.
In a twist of fate, Arthur has gone on to perhaps be Rockstar’s most in-depth character. There are so many layers to his persona that just about every piece of dialogue, every action, can be analyzed for an incredible amount of nuance. John does give him a run for his money in the two epilogue chapters, but Arthur just barely comes out the more complex character.
11 The Symbol Of The Stag And The Wolf
Chances are you’ve seen either a stag or a wolf during Arthur’s many ethereal visions. These moments serve primarily as symbolize, reflecting where Arthur is as a character. More pressingly, they symbolic where YOU are as a player. Both the stag and the wolf are tied to the game’s core mechanics.
Pick your spirit animal.
If you are playing a high honor Arthur, you will see visions of the stag — a serene, majestic creature whose gentle nature and regal stature make him the king of the forest. If you are playing a low honor Arthur, you will see visions of a wolf — a callous, cold predator who stalks the woods, but not without his own sense of self or solitude.
10 John Carries Arthur’s Legacy
At the end of Chapter 6’s final mission, Arthur gives everything he owns to John. His guns, his satchel, his journal — everything. This is the last John and Arthur ever see of each other as Arthur immediately goes off to confront Micah and Dutch one last time. Where Arthur perishes, John thrives.
Not just thrives, through, John carries about Arthur’s legacy. Simply by the virtue of being alive, John is able to carry about Arthur’s final will and testament. Of course, things don’t end all too well for John Marston, but he keeps Arthur’s journal intact and even writes in it. In a sense, the world remembering John after he’s gone is also the world remember Arthur.
9 Jack Takes As Much From Arthur As He Does John
By the time the first game’s epilogue hits, it’s hard to deny that Jack Marston is John Marston’s son. He looks like him, he talks like him, and he even moves like him. Jack Marston may as well be John’s twin. At the same time, however, he doesn’t inherit all that much personality wise from his father.
Like fathers, like son.
While Jack does model himself after John in the epilogue, it’s actually Arthur who he most closely resembles. Both are sensitive, both like reading, both like writing, and both are inherently artistic folk. Jack is John’s son, but Arthur clearly had a massive influence on him. It’s just a shame the cards life dealt the boy.
8 Arthur Would Have Left The Gang If Not For Guarma
So long as you completed Mary’s second mission in Chapter 4, you’ll know that Arthur actually agreed to leave the gang and be with her following the bank heist. Had the heist not gone sour, Arthur would have taken his money, abandoned Dutch, and finally ran away with Mary to start their lives together.
Love waits for no man.
Unfortunately, the bank’s aftermath immediately leads into the shipwreck which causes Arthur to be stranded on Guarma for an unspecified amount of time. By the time he reaches land, he receives a letter Mary left him that she has given up waiting for him to change. Arthur truly had changed, however, and was genuinely planning to leave once and for all.
7 Hosea Was Arthur’s True Father Figure
Even though the story pushes the idea of Dutch as Arthur's true father figure, it’s quite obvious that Arthur takes after Hosea more than he does Dutch. While he does ride with Dutch and act as his right hand man, Hosea’s influence can be clearly seen on Arthur as a person. He has a certain wisdom that feels in like with Hosea.
Not just that, there is a sensitivity to Arthur that he keeps tucked away in his journal. Although it’s stated that Dutch taught Arthur to read, Hosea was likely the one who taught Arthur to refine his craft. Hosea is clearly the smartest member of the gang, keeping everyone in line, and you can see the resemblance in Arthur- particularly after Chapter 4.
6 Arthur’s Hat Becomes John’s
Although John has access to both his and Arthur’s signature hats when control switches over to him, the end of Chapter 6 clearly conveys that, in some capacity, Arthur’s hat becomes John’s hat. Specifically, the one he wears in the first game. Up to Chapter 6, John is never shown wearing his familiar cap.
A man is only as good as hit hat.
Of course, there’s the fact that both hats look fairly different, but do keep in mind that time passes between the end of Chapter 6 and the start of the first Epilogue chapter. Naturally, Arthur’s hat was going to go through some modifications. If nothing else, the giving of the hat is a symbolic gesture that represents Arthur’s will carrying on through John.
5 Low Honor: The End With Micah
Where honor was fairly useless in the first game, primarily used as a means to either get John his duster coat or simply for role-playing purposes, honor in the second game takes on a deal of greater importance. Specifically, it helps to infer how Arthur Morgan ultimately loses his life in the finale.
Should you play a low honor Arthur, the final mission will see Micah finishing Arthur off rather than the TB itself. Arthur still puts up a fight and his “redemption” is intact, but karma is not kind to a man who, despite finding himself on the cusp of life, remained a mostly cold and heartless outlaw.
4 High Honor: The Last Sunset
The high honor ending is significantly kinder to Arthur on the other hand. Although he still passes away, this time due to the severity of his TB, Arthur gets to go out on his own terms. Rather than finishing Arthur off, Micah flees at the last possible moment, leaving Arthur to ponder his last moments alive.
Every outlaw meets his end. Some better than others.
As he perishes, Arthur overlooks one last sunset. He does not say anything. There is no narration. In that moment, it is clear that Arthur has finally found serenity. Narratively, the high honor ending is a far more meaningful ending that wraps Arthur’s arc perfectly. Micah offing him just doesn’t have the right weight.
3 Everything Arthur Did Was For Nothing
The greatest tragedy of Red Dead Redemption 2 is not Arthur’s untimely demise, but just how little he actually changed the course of history. Dutch still got away; he never truly put a stop to Micah’s reign; John escaped, but not for long; and Jack never grew up into the man that Arthur knew he could be.
When all is said and done, for as happy as the game’s epilogue is, Red Dead Redemption 2 will always be followed by the first game. John has to put down a Dutch who has lost his mind even further; John needs to be executed by Edgar Ross for a redemption he did indeed achieve; and Jack must throw his life away to avenge a father who never wanted to be avenged.
2 Arthur Still Believed In Dutch To The End
Arthur is loyal to a fault. Loyalty is his defining feature from start to finish. Even though he ends up betraying Dutch one last time to help John, Abigail, and Jack leave the gang’s clutches, Arthur’s faith never truly wavers regarding Dutch. By the end of it all, Arthur still follows Dutch in his schemes.
You can't fight nature.
Even when fighting against Dutch to keep John alive, Arthur never shoots back at him, Arthur never spouts any malice at the man who raised him. At the end of his life, Arthur still believed that there was some semblance of the Dutch he once knew inside the man who raised him.
1 Despite It All, Arthur Morgan Is Not A Good Man
You can play High Honor, you can play Low Honor, and you even play Mid Honor. Ultimately, though, it doesn’t change much outside of Arthur Morgan’s final scene. When it comes down to it, despite how much Arthur tries to change —and he does try quite hard— he does not pass a good man.
At the end of his life, Arthur Morgan is a better man, but he is still a man who lived a criminal’s life, committing atrocities from start to finish. When all is said and done, however, this is not to diminish how far Arthur came. For Arthur Morgan, redemption was never about being a good man, but simply being better. He may not have been a good man at the end of his life, but he was, unquestionably, better.