Power Does Not Always Corrupt
Power does not necessarily corrupt leaders, but when used well, it can be beneficial to the society. The novels The Godfather by Mario Puzo and The Mosquito Coast by Paul Theroux illustrate a unique and unconventional style of using power to benefit mankind. The characters Don Vito Corleone in The Godfather and Allie Fox in The Mosquito Coast are accepted leaders within their own community. Also, they represent a charismatic figure and in some ways can be compared to real-life leaders like Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela.
In both novels, the protagonists undergo personal development as they rise to power. In the novel The Godfather by Mario Puzo, the character Don Corleone is worshipped by his community. The author Puzo introduces initially a character named Vito Corleone, who becomes the Don and later known as the Godfather to the people. Vito Corleone rises to power when he plans to kill Fanucci, a member of a mafia group called “Black Hand”. Fanucci prohibited him and his friends for starting a business at his neighbourhood. For Fanucci, if anyone was selling goods in his neighbourhood, he would warn you to stop this business. However, Vito is able to smartly kill Fannuci with a plan. After the death, Vito is granted the throne to become the Don in the neighbourhood and people asked him favours to be done. At one situation, Signora Colombo comes to Vito Corleone for a favour because the landlord wants her out of the apartment, due to a noisy dog. In this example, Signora Colombo asks “I want you to speak to the landlord to let me stay.” (Puzo, Pg 197). So, Don accepts and speaks to the landlord and is able to make Signora Colombo stay at the apartment. By helping Signora Colombo, he became known as Don Vito Corleone, a man in power willing to help the community. The previous man named Fanucci was shown to be dictating terms to the neighbourhood, but the Don Vito Corleone is shown to be considerate to the neighbourhood. Throughout the book, it is foreshadowing that people who are under the Don Vito Corleone’s wing will lead a better life. This is significant because it was the time of The Great Depression, where the economy crashed and many people lost their jobs. This is why Don Vito Corleone is known as The Godfather because people ask him for a job to be done and he is able to get the finish it. Don Vito Corleone gets a birds-eye view of people who suffered in the neighbourhood. He, himself, lived a poor life helping his family and children with food and money. He understands the problems people are going through in the neighbourhood. Similarly in the novel The Mosquito Coast by Paul Theroux portrays a different character by the name of Allie Fox. Allie Fox is an inventor living in the United States and sharing his inventions to the people in the neighbourhood. Throughout the novel, his inventions are never accepted by the people in the United States. Allie feels that everything in the United States is being wasted and people are enjoying all the benefits of technology. Allie has some last words in United States by saying “Goodbye, America… If anyone asks, say we were shipwrecked. Goodbye to your junk and your old hideola! And have a nice day!” (Theroux, Pg 75). Allie believes it is time to rebuild civilization by fleeing with his family to the Honduran jungle. The author Theroux shows character growth in Allie Fox throughout the novel. To elaborate more, Allie becomes a ruler of Jeronimo, a jungle in Honduras. Allie is a ruler who cares for the people by building houses for the tribes and growing crops. Also, he begins sharing his inventions to the tribes by building an ice machine. Through a top-view, Allie Fox has built an identity to the Jeronimo, which is just a jungle filled with forests. Allie Fox develops a character change of using power for the benefit of mankind and believes that tribes can benefit from his inventions than the neighbourhood in the United States. This signifies that an ordinary man who gains power can become a legend to the community.
There are diverse styles of Leaderships as explained by Kurt Lewin, famous social scientist: authoritarian, democratic and laissez-faire (Leadership, 5). In general, leadership styles range from being a dictator to freedom of speech for people and finally to having no leader and letting the people run the country. Research indicates that democracy is the preferred style and the most popular one where people have a right to express their viewpoints and helping leaders take decisions based on mass consensus. The two novels The Godfather by Mario Puzo and The Mosquito Coast by Paul Theroux show how the protagonists follow a democratic style of leadership. They are found to be empathizing and having their ears listening to the people. This is evident at the outset of the novel, The Godfather, where the author Mario Puzo elaborates how society feels comfortable to ask a favor from Don Vito Corleone for their needs. This is evident from Puzo’s description of Don “Don Vito Corleone was a man to whom everybody came for help, and never were they disappointed. He made no empty promises, nor the excuse that his hands were tied by more powerful forces in the world himself.” (Puzo, Pg 11). Don, following a Democratic leadership style is able to get the job done. He does not expect anything for doing the service for the people, except a return of friendship. He takes every promise and makes sure it is done. He knows the right person who can do the job smoothly and it is not easy to make everyone happy at all times. Likewise, the novel The Mosquito Coast by Paul Theroux gives an interpretation of a character named Allie Fox, leading a society in Jeronimo. As Allie mentions “Our message to the world …. I’d love to see their faces when it heaves into view-coming out of the hottest, sickest …. most parched and bug-ridden jungle in the whole hemisphere.” (Theroux, Pg 208). This is advancing plot by Allie showing his invention to the tribes in Jeronimo. He is perceived as a visionary when he invents the ice machine and develop Jeronimo as a better place to live. He believes in sharing with the other neighbourhood places with the invention of making ice. Many of the tribes in Jeronimo began listening to him and believed he would make a difference in the community. Allie’s ideologies are to start a fresh in civilization and rebuild the jungle.
The protagonists in the novels compare to the real-life leaders like Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela. Gandhi, as a freedom fighter got Independence for India when Britain was ruling (Gandhi, 4). He was involved in many important acts which was a peaceful march to the sea where he and his followers will make salt by evaporating water because he was against the idea of British making Indians pay taxes for salt. The march to the sea marked a significant point in India because it was the beginning where India was going to fight Britain non-violently. Gandhi’s ideology of the non-violence activism is followed throughout the world. Similarly, Nelson Mandela fought against the discrimination of the South African blacks (Mandela, 3). Nelson used force when South African blacks were discriminated badly. For that, he was imprisoned for a long time in jail and after his release, he became known as a big freedom fighter for South Africa. Now, people around the world worship Nelson as a hope figure to end the persecution and evil. In the novels, Don Vito Corleone is looked upon as a Godfather to the community because he helped people. Even, Allie Fox is an inventor, which has benefited the tribes. Not only has he invented, he has given an identity to Jeronimo like how Gandhi showed India as United by breaking the salt act. When a man leads by example, people will have respect for such a leader. They will also like to follow and emulate this type of leader. This leader believes in empowerment of people following him. He exerts power to bring about benefits to the mankind and community around him. These real-life examples compare to how Don Vito Corleone and Allie Fox are looked upon in their community as a leader.
Power need not necessarily be used negatively, but can be used to help mankind. The authors Mario Puzo and Paul Theroux show protagonists Don Vito Corleone and Allie Fox who are making a positive difference by using their power for helping the community. Power when used well can bring about a huge difference to the society and make this world a better place to live in.
1. Puzo, Mario. The Godfather. New York City, New York: New American Library, 1969.
2. Theroux, Paul. The Mosquito Coast. London, England: Penguin Books, 1982.
3. “Long Walk to Freedom.” Retrieved May 7, 2008.
4. “Mahatma Gandhi.” Retrieved May 7, 2008.
5. “Leadership Styles and Bases of Power.” Retrieved May 22, 2008