When beset with grief during times of great crisis, a leader must adopt change or risk becoming powerless to the changing world. In the novel ‘Ransom’, David Malouf expresses the many facets of leaders who are faced with tragic loss, demonstrating how grief may overcome them, and ultimately disempower them. Similarly, Stephen Frears likewise presents leaders faced with crisis in his movie ‘The Queen’, who consequently become helpless when they are incapable of adopting the change in the society they rule.
As a leader faces times of great crisis, it is crucial they are able to maintain a balance between emotion and stoicism in order to uphold power over the kingdom they rule. Achilles, when faced with the tragic death of his close friend Patroclus in battle, is left child-like by his anguish as he “weeps without restraint… on the ground” while “rocking back and forth”. Malouf presents Achilles as completely overcome by emotion, incapable of action as he is incapable of controlling his own grief. As such, Malouf demonstrates the absolute disempowerment of a leader who cannot control their emotion, as Achilles becomes completely helpless by loss and can only wallow in despair. This is in stark juxtaposition to Achilles’ role to his followers, who idolise him as a strong warrior that will lead them in battle. Hence, Malouf demonstrates Achilles’ failure as a leader when overcome by grief, who while praised for his strength in battle, becomes helpless to his emotions.
Contrasting this however, Frears rather depicts how a leader may be overcome by the need to remain stoic that they too fail as a leader. In wake of Princess Diana’s tragic death, the Queen stubbornly maintains the traditional notion of “mourning… Quietly, with dignity” in “restrained grief”. As such, by upholding this stoicism that she believes the British people are “admired for”, the Queen ultimately becomes chastised by her people, who call for her to allow a public funeral such that they may “share in the grief”. Hence, Frears depicts the opposite extreme when a leader is faced with crisis, where while Achilles becomes helpless to his emotion, the Queen’s power degrades over her people who reprimand her for not expressing her sorrow enough. As such, both authors demonstrate the importance of maintaining balance between being stoic and expressing emotion as a leader, where while Malouf depicts an overwhelming emotion as a betrayal of power, Frears identifies stubborn stoicism of a leader as a betrayal to their people, both extremes causing complete powerlessness of a leader.
In times of crisis, as a leader becomes powerless to grief, it is crucial they establish change in both themselves, and to tradition itself, in order to maintain power over their people. ‘Ransom’, which is set thousands of years prior to ‘The Queen’ during the Trojan War depicts a kingdom in which “a King… has to act in full assurance of what the Gods have called him to”, depicting them as subjects to the whims of their higher powers. As such, when faced with crisis, King Priam becomes torn between his duties as a father and as a “mortal”, who must face the daily desecration of his son’s body by Achilles, and his duty as a subject of the Gods in ruling his kingdom. This latter notion subsequently disempowers Priam who becomes a “ceremonial figurehead” that “might as well be made of stone”, in which he is objectified, becoming disempowered to act as a “mortal man”.
Similarly, the Queen too faces objectification by a higher power. However, the Queen governs over the modern world in which the media are depicted as an everwatching power that judges her decisions, much like the Gods are to Priam. She too faces a predetermined role that is expressed by the press that she faces scrutiny for acting against the morals of. Hence, in order for her to maintain power, she is forced to confront it, speaking to it and aligning with its morals. As such, she must face change to the traditions she previously followed to appease this higher power, the media, by publicly expressing her sorrow on television. Priam too faces change, however he does so by publically acting against the Gods, acting “impulsively” he is enabled to “act for himself” and ultimately able “to try something that might force events into a different course” outside what is preordained by the Gods. As such, Malouf establishes the need to change as a necessary requirement during crisis in order to maintain, or establish, the power to act as a mortal, without the oppression of the Gods. Conversely, Frears depicts a leader’s change as to better align with the higher powers, such that they are empowered to act as a leader once more.
As a leader undergoes the arduous journey towards change in times of grief, while they may become disempowered by it, those who guide them through change may become empowered as a result. Tony Blair, who is appointed Prime Minister by his people in a “landslide election”, is still required, despite his power, to follow the Queen. However, as she faces the harsh scrutiny of her people, in which she becomes unfavourable as a leader to them, Tony Blair becomes empowered as an aid to the Queen towards approval. In his frequent phone calls, Blair depicts this power as he begins expressing the disempowerment of the Royalty, switching from suggesting action to the Queen, to demanding it. Similarly, Somax becomes empowered too, as he becomes the literal guide for Priam towards his goal, as well as the metaphoric guide for Priam towards his personal change. Somax, who being lower class, held no political power, became a figure ultimately in charge of Priam’s safety. As such, both Malouf and Frears demonstrate how, as a leader, they may be guided towards change and ultimately disempowered as a result, those who lead them may become empowered by this grief.
Hence, both Frears and Malouf explore the many facets in which a leader may become disempowered during times of tragic crisis as they are faced with both their own, and their people’s grief. Consequently, both authors also express how a leader must be willing to adopt change in order to maintain power over their people, warning of the dangers complete disempowerment may cause.