English 283 discusses many themes of British Literature, covering novels from ancient to modern times.
These themes are evident in the personality of the main character, usually the hero, of each novel. These themes include loss of a close friendship and great displays of violence. However, one prominent theme in most of the novels is that the hero waits until the moment when he most needed to become a leader. The hero often begins as a quiet character and then transforms, by taking authority and command, into a heroic leader. Each hero appears to lack leadership qualities, or at least ignore their responsibility, until a time of dire distress, in which they become the great leader. This is true of heroes of ancient times, such as in The Iliad, to more modern novels, such as in The Time of the Hero.
Although the time evolutionizes, the hero’s mindset seems to stay the same, at least in the matter of when to display their great leadership ability. These characters’ actions are often not affected by morals but by personal interests. They do not seem to fight because the cause is just but more for personal gain or wealth.
However, when the time comes that the hero takes command, he is usually very determined and successful. There are four novels, in particular, that seem to display this pattern. The hero portrays leadership in a time of anguish in the novels Henry V, The Elfstones of Shannara, The Time of the Hero, and The Iliad. Henry V, the hero of the novel Henry V, shows great leadership in a time of need. As a child, Henry was very unresponsible and wild; however, once he inherited the throne, his behavior matured.
Henry becomes a great leader in England’s war with France, in which the French outnumber the English by four to one. The English troops seem to think all hope is lost because the odds favor the great army of the French. However, Henry ignores his disadvantage and rallies his troops together by demonstrating his belief and courage in them. He leads his troops into war and manages to seize a great victory in which the French casualty is very high and the English have only a few deaths.
Henry succeeds in gaining possession of parts of France and wedding the Princess of France. When England needed a great leader, Henry, whom most people thought could not meet the expectations of a great king, rose above the call of duty by encouraging his troops with his high hopes and bravery. Therefore, Henry V becomes a great leader and king in England’s distress at war.Wil, one of the main characters of The Elfstones of Shannara, overcomes his weaknesses and becomes a leader in a time of misfortune. Wil is chosen to guide andprotect the last of the Chosen, Amberle, on her mission to fertilize the seed of the dying Ellcrys, a tree that holds the Forbidding, which exiles all the demons. Wil has sole power over the magical elfstones, his means of protection, and must unite body, soul, and mind to control their power, which can destroy the evil demons.
Wil unconsciously shows leadership by leading Amberle through the country and through the horrible Wilderrun in pursuit of the Bloodfire, a magical pool in which she must immerse the Ellcrys seed, to save the Elves. He appears to fearlessly face demons, thieves, and hard times throughout the mission in order to keep Amberle safe. Wil ultimately shows his leadership by convincing Amberle that she is strong enough to complete their mission, even when he himself is not sure that he can continue on. Without this reassurance, Amberle would have given up on herself and the mission. Wil seems to lack confidence in his ability to command the power of the elfstones until the need to protect Amberle becomes so great that only the elfstones will save them. Wil then looks deep within, discovers his courage, and unites his mind, body, and soul to unleash the great power of the elfstones, thereby, saving Amberle and the last hope for the Elves’ survival.
Therefore, Wil becomes a protector and shows his great leadership in a time of danger. In The Time of the Hero, Alberto becomes a leader in a time of grief. After the Slave, Alberto’s friend, is murdered, Alberto, once a quiet but respected cadet, takes command and accuses the Jaguar, the mean, violent cadet who is feared by all, of being the killer. Alberto makes this dangerous accusation and is then jumped by the Jaguar, who is the best fighter of all the cadets and the leader of the secret society, The Circle.
Instead of backing down, Alberto fights the Jaguar and earns respect for standing up to the violent boy, even though Jaguar eventually defeats Alberto. Alberto shows his true leadership by spreading the rumor that Jaguar killed the Slave, instead of letting the weak boy’s murder pass on unsolved, and turns all of the cadets against the Jaguar, therefore, isolating him as he once isolated the Slave. Alberto has to bypass his fear of the Jaguar and the threats of the officers, who wish to let the murder pass as an accident, to become a leader. Alberto’s accusations eventually lead the officers to reenact the drill in which the Slave was fatally shot, in order to see if Jaguar actually killed the Slave. Once the Jaguar, who was seen as the leader of the cadets, is isolated, Alberto takes control and becomes their leader. Alberto took control of a dire situation and became a leader by standing up to the Jaguar, gaining the support of the other cadets, and in his attempt to gain justice for the Slave, tries to find his murderer.
Therefore, Alberto becomes a great leader to the cadets when the time is needed.In The Iliad, the main hero, Achilles, becomes a leader only when he is desperately needed. Achilles is insulted by the great warrior, Agamemnon, and refuses to fight in order to save the Trojans. Instead Achilles sits back and watches as ship after ship is destroyed. Achilles is begged and even offered a great treasure to fight, but still refuses, even for personal wealth. Achilles even sends his best friend, Patroclus, into war for him, allowing Patroclus to wear his armor. This is one attempt of Achilles to avoid fighting and results in Patroclus’ death.
Eventually, after being consulted by a goddess and deciding to avenge Patroclus’ death, Achilles decides to fight because he knows the Greeks will be defeated without him. At this moment Achilles becomes a great leader. Knowing that he is the only warrior that can defeat Hector, he chases the warrior until Hector turns to fight and then slays Hector. Achilles ends up saving the Trojans from defeat in their greatest moment of need, when all hope was lost.
Therefore, Achilles is yet another hero that waits until the moment of distress to show his leadership.Each character in these four novels seems to follow the same pattern of leadership. They become heroes only when they are absolutely needed and all hope is lost. Achilles waits until defeat seems inevitable to bring his power into the war, but once he does, he becomes a great leader. Another character who follows this pattern is Alberto. Alberto had always been more of a follower than a leader until the death of his friend, the Slave. Alberto then takes control by refusing to stay quiet about the murder.
He stands up to the violent “leader” of the cadets and accuses him of the murder. Alberto then becomes the cadet’s new “leader” after the rest of the cadets shun the Jaguar. Wil, one hero of The Elfstones of Shannara, is a leader is several ways. Not only is he the sole protector of Amberle, he also leads her though a strange country to complete her mission and save the Elves.He then overcomes the fear that is stopping his use of the elfstones, overcomes the obstacle, and wields the power of the magical stones.
Henry V is also a hero who becomes a great leader in a time of need. Henry guides his troops against all odds through a seemingly hopeless war to a great victory. All of these characters withheld their leadership ability until it was necessary and needed. Each character and novel, whether ancient or modern, follows the pattern that the hero becomes a leader in a time of distress.Bibliography: