“Perhaps those who are best suited to power are those who have never sought it.” – Professor Dumbledore in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
In Part 1, we looked at power and corruption as characters—both real and imagined—rise to greater heights. There is another possibility as one rises to power, that of benevolence.
Professor Dumbledore, in J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, is the Headmaster at Hogwarts. He could use this position for greed or personal gain, but he uses it instead to fight dark forces, including the evil Lord Voldemort.
Glenda the Good Witch, in L. Frank Baum’s The Wizard of Oz, is a perfect example of a powerful yet benevolent character. Though she possesses the command of magic, she has chosen to use it for good and not evil. Because so many of us remember her is a testament to using a benevolent individual as a minor character as well as a major one.
Police Chief Brody in Peter Benchley’s Jaws is another example of a character in a powerful position that genuinely cares about the community he polices. We care about what happens to him, from battling the mayor to keep the beaches safe to fighting for his life as the shark tears apart his boat.
Gandalf in JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings is a white wizard. Like Glenda the Good Witch, he could use his power for evil or personal gain, but he chooses to use it for good.
Then there are those characters that are not generally in a dominant position, but find themselves able to save others in a life-or-death situation. A real-life example is Doss Desmond, an unassuming man in World War II that others saw as a coward because he did not wish to take another’s life. Faced with the horrific circumstances of Hacksaw Ridge at Okinawa, he managed to save 75 of his fellow soldiers while under heavy enemy fire—and he did it one at a time. The book Redemption at Hacksaw Ridge by Booton Herndon, inspired the blockbuster movie, Hacksaw Ridge.
Courage under fire often inspires writers, as it did Stephen Crane, who wrote of Private Henry Fleming in The Red Badge of Courage, who first flees from the field of battle but returns later to carry the flag. It is this battle that Henry finds his courage.
Whether the protagonist is powerful in a malevolent or benevolent manner, it could be one pivotal scene in which either the good or evil rises within them or a series of scenes that lead to the book’s conclusion.
p.m.terrell is the award-winning, internationally acclaimed author of more than 24 books ranging from historical to suspense. One example of taking a character to greater heights is found in her latest release,
A Struggle for Independence, in which Lady Independence Mather must find courage and purpose in the 1916 Irish Easter Rising, which led to the Irish War for Independence.