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Posted on May 31st, 2012, by

Leadership is a complicated and controversial issue. Those, who are in power, possess abilities to control the lives of other people. Unfortunately, very often they forget that right to influence the lives of other people can not be divided from the responsibility for their lives and happiness. In All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque, Orwell’s Animal Farm and Golding’s The Lord of the Flies we can see vivid examples of leaders, who turn to dictate and tyranny as the main methods. Despite the leaders, described in three novels are very different, there is one common characteristics which unites them. They misuse their leadership qualities and forget that main goal of any leader should be serving other people but not destroying them.

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque is a novel, which describes the events of the First World War. The novel is an account of the events of the war. We can trace the destinies of young German soldiers, who sacrifice their lives, mesmerized by the talks about honor and fighting for the fatherland.

Remarque very vividly describes how politicians, who are strong and influential leaders, use their abilities to influence the minds of people.  Good oratorical skills and appeal to universal human values make people believe these leaders and follow them. Such motivation helped Nazi ideologists take control over the minds of German people. Patriotism is one of the strongest weapons, which helps to influence people and control them and Hitler and his ideologists have successfully used it. Making strong accent on the ideas, which appealed to millions of people, they manipulated them and controlled their will. The war is a huge mechanism, which brings pain, death and destruction. Despite any highest goals and reasons proclaimed by those, who command the army, they send people to death. War changes not only the way of life, it also changes the way of thinking. Under the constant threat to life, people get another attitude to life and death. The distinction between life and death is often eliminated and this is the reality of war. The novel is not a heroic epic, which describes the great deeds of war heroes. The author has another purpose. Remarque participated in the First World War and knew what he was writing about. Paul Bäumer, the protagonist of the story, and his friends arrive to battle field full of desire to defend their motherland and its interests. They have idealistic thoughts about the war but reality comes to be quite different from their ideas about it.

Day after day their life is put in danger, they live in terrible conditions and face death every day. Finally, they come to realization that they sacrifice their lives to the group of political leaders, who follow their own interests. This becomes the worst disappointment for people, who were so eager to get to the battle field. The war becomes an eye-opener for ex-schoolboys as they perceive reality from another perspective now.  Only those, who can see all the atrocities of war and approach death closer than anybody else can start appreciating life. We can see a very vivid contrast when Paul, the protagonist, comes home and meets people, who want the war to continue. They still believe in ideals, proclaimed by politicians. Paul, who saw the war with his own eyes wants nothing but the end of the war.

The death of millions of people means nothing for politicians, who follow only their own ambitions.

Orwell’s Animal Farm is another novel, which illustrates how political leaders can misuse power. This novel became one of the sharpest novels, which criticized communist regime in the former USSR. Orwell uses animals to illustrate how political leaders use power and persuasion in order to manipulate others. The leaders of the USSR perverted ideals of communism and socialism. Orwell demonstrates the very mechanism by which ideas have being corrupted and perverted. Striving to get rid of domination of people animals get trapped by their own desire to live in equality and peace. Snowball and Napoleon, two pigs, who come to power, are used to create an allegorical image of political leaders, who turn to tyranny and despotism as soon as they come to power. Animal Farm very vividly illustrates how leaders can misuse their power and corrupt even the best ideas. Snowball and Napoleon became those leaders, who promised other animals to save them from despotism and tyranny but very soon become tyrants themselves. Leaders of the type described turn to hypocrisy, violence and despotism in order to get obedience form other people.

Leadership is one of the main themes of William Golding’s Lord of the Flies. In this novel Golding very vividly illustrates how people make their way to tyranny and despotism. Small boys, who are trapped in the desert island very quickly create a small model of human society and act accordingly. Two leaders, who soon emerge among them, use different means in order to gain power in their micro society. Both, Ralph and Jack possess characteristics of strong leaders but they show completely different attitude to their mission and people they lead. Ralph shows wisdom and inner force. He tries to establish a kind of democracy on the island and thinks about other people, while Jack takes care only about the short-term needs of other boys in order to control others. Gradually boys start following Jack as they believe that physically and emotionally strong person is able to defend them. Unfortunately soon they realize that Jack uses his strength for his own purposes and does not think about others. Under his rule boys descend to animal-like state and care only about food and safety. Jack uses insists, such as hunger and fear in order to control and manipulate others.

Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that, despite the fact that all three novels are very different, all of them are focused on different aspects of leadership. To put it more precisely, all three novels show that thin line, which divides leadership from violence and manipulations. The latter is particularly important because traditionally leadership is perceived as a positive phenomenon while, on acquiring violent and manipulative features, it rather tends to the tyranny and dictatorship. Unfortunately, leaders of all three literary works cross this line and use power for their own purposes. Despite all of them use different methods in order to lead others, such  methods as appealing to higher ideals and using  primitive instincts, such as fear and hunger,  are common for all leaders mentioned. As a result, it is possible to estimate that the three examples discussed above perfectly illustrate the extent to which leadership may be dangerous if it is wrongfully applied when a leader targets at the personal benefits ignoring the needs and interests of the society or group he/she leads. This is why it is necessary to underline that the major principle of leadership should be the primary concern about the prevalence of interests of social group and not of the personal interest of leaders. In other words, it is the leader that serves to his/her group but not the vice versa.

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