Fifty-First Dragon, a short story written by Heywood Broun, has a critical appraisal of the sense of paternalism, a policy or practice of treating or governing people in a fatherly manner especially by providing for their needs without giving them rights or responsibilities, towards the characters in the story. The characters articulate against the paternalistic practices, and how the usage of it in real life is as devastating as applications of it in stories. The protagonist of the story, Gawaine le Coeur-Hardy, is a knight in training who lacks confidence and is very isolated from the rest of society. Since Gawaine was most likely to end in expulsion due to his lack of self-confidence, the headmaster says “we must consider the greater good. We are responsible for the formation of this lad’s character”, believing that sending him to slay the dragons uphill will help his abilities into becoming a man. The headmaster represents as the paternalistic leader and his well-meant intentions (whether for the good of Gawaine himself, or for the school) eventually led to Gawaine’s downfall.
The magic word that the headmaster tells Gawaine, ‘Rumplesnitz’, is nothing more than a confident booster which is pushing Gawaine onto a path of dependency and addiction. This piece not only shows paternalism, but can also have a critique on the pompousness and pride of those in a position to view themselves as paternalistic. After Gawaine confronts the headmaster that the word ‘Rumplesnitz’ has no magic in it, the headmaster proudly proclaims that in a fit of his own genius. The headmaster is being good in helping Gawaine by giving him a “magic word”, but Gawaine, as an untried youth, looked up to the headmaster for proper guidance, not for a leader to sugar coat inspiration. Sending Gawaine off to fight more dragons as a self-reassurance, instead led Gawaine to death. In an effort to save the school's reputation from harm, “the headmaster and the assistant professor of...
Please join StudyMode to read the full document