Free College Essays - The Sword in the Stone

Free College Essays - The Sword in the Stone

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The Sword in the Stone

The Sword in the Stone is a book about an adopted child named Wart.

He is of royal blood and does not know this.  One day when Wart is in the

forest, he finds a magician named Merlin.  Merlin comes home with Wart and

agrees with Sir Ector, Wart's guardian, to become Wart's tutor.  Merlin

goes about educating Wart by transforming him into different animals.

Through each transformation Wart experiences different forms of power, each

being a part of how he should rule as king.

 

     The first transformation plunges Wart and Merlin into the castle's

moat as fish.  They proceed to meet the largest fish in the moat, who is

the ruler.  This fish takes what he wants because of his size.  In a speech

about power, he tells Wart that, "Might is right," and might of the body is

greater than might of the mind. Because of the way the fish-king rules, his

subjects obey him out of fear for their lives.  Wart experiences this

firsthand when the fish-king tells him to leave.  He has grown bored of

Wart, and if Wart does not leave he will eat him.  The king uses his size

as his claim to power, therefore his subjects follow him out of fear.

 

     In Wart's next transformation into a hawk, he soars into the castle's

mews.  All the birds in the mews have a military rank. Their leader is an

old falcon, who Sir Ector keeps for show.  The birds who rank below the

falcon, hold her in highest regard because of her age.  She applies her

power over the other birds with no concern for their lives.  In one

instance, Wart is ordered to stand next to the cage of a crazy hawk who

almost kills him.  On the other hand, her seasoned age brings respect,

since she had not been released once she outlived her usefulness as a

huntress.  This allows her to maintain a powerful grip over all the birds

she rules through fear and respect.

 

     Next, Wart is transformed into an ant and posted within an ant colony.

There is a single leader of the ants, and she is the only thinking

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individual in the whole nest.  All the ants are manipulated and overseen by

her.  Each ant has a specific task, which it completes repeatedly.  The

absolute power exerted by the leader destroys all individualism, leaving

the ants with no creativity.  Instead, they use trial and error to complete

tasks that should take only a small amount of thought.  Wart sees this

occur when an ant tries with difficulty to organize three cadavers in a

small burial chamber, when a small amount of reasoning would have solved

the problem quickly.  The ants are of a collective mind, so that what one

thinks, they all think.  They go about their daily lives oblivious to the

control the leader has over them.

 

     Wart's fourth transformation places him in a flock of geese. These

geese are a peace loving race that never kill.  There is one leader to a

group who is called The Admiral.  He guides them on their flight south for

the winter.  The Admiral receives his position because of his knowledge of

the southern migration route. He is only elected if all the geese in the

migration group agree he is capable of doing the job.  During the flight

the geese obey his choices, since he is their elected leader.  But his

power ends once they are back on the ground, where he is only looked upon

as a respected elder.

 

     In the final transformation Wart visits the badger.  The badger is a

great philosopher who enjoys giving scholarly commentaries.  While Wart is

visiting him, he explains a story he has written on the creation of the

animal kingdom's hierarchy.  In his commentary he explains how man answered

God's riddle and is awarded control over the animal kingdom.  He lives a

life of solitude because many other animals do not think at his level. They

listen because he is old and experienced, and with this comes respect.

 

     Through each of the transformations, Wart sees different uses of

power.  Wart must choose how he will eventually govern his kingdom.  The

leaders he visits, govern in their own way, each retaining their power

through different  methods.  When these are combined, the following picture

of how a leader should or should not rule emerges: A leader should not

attempt to rule his or her people through might and fear, as does the

fisk-king.  Unlike the falcon, a ruler should not retain power only because

of age, and should rule with the subjects well-being in mind.  One should

not exert total control over one's subjects, because they lose creativity

and individualism as shown by the ants.  A democratically elected leader,

whom subjects have faith in his or her ability to get a job done, and who

has the required skills will complete the task at hand, as do the geese.

Leaders must give great thought to making decisions related to their use of

power, and use their experience, like the Badger.  Also like the Badger,

these decisions should be made without the help of others, and therefore

may lead to solitude.  T. H. White is therefore similar to Merlin in trying

to teach us about leadership.

 
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