Can it be right to do wrong? Can we have a square circle? Can we move backwards and forwards at the same time? During Plato's time (c. 429-347 B. C. ) a long discussion had begun and carried throughout the Middle Ages that affirmed that the ruler ought to embody noble ideals and values. This tradition focuses on the virtues of justice and mercy as essential for good government.
However, during the Renaissance period the author Niccolo Machiavelli turned away from these traditions and considers in The Prince what is necessary to be successful in a corrupt world. Machiavelli proclaims in his book The Prince, "A man who wishes to make a profession in everything must necessarily come to grief among so many who are not good. Therefore, it is necessary… to learn how not to be good, and to use this knowledge and not use it, according to the necessity of the case".
Essentially, it is the situation at the moment that determines which actions are necessary. For Machiavelli, the goal is success, not the virtue or vice of the act. He does not advocate that the successful prince should always violate the rights of others but, rather, calculate what course of action will enhance the strength and vitality of the state. In the book All the King's Men by Robert Penn Warren, the character Willie Stark is similar to the prince; he exemplifies and exercises Machiavelli's ideals.
In All the King's Men by Robert Penn Warren, Machiavelli's ideals are dealt with through the political career of Willie Stark, a man that was transformed from an idealist to an opportunist because of power, a man who ultimately was assassinated, but not before he could achieve the goodness he sought to make possible. Willie Stark, the son of a farmer, began his political career when becoming the County Treasurer of Mason City. As the Treasurer of Mason City, he was an idealist, guided more by ideals than practical considerations. Willie Stark remained an idealist up until he discovered the truth about politics.
He than started to believe that goodness derives from evil because there is nothing else from which to make it. This idea comes from the mature, disillusioned Willie, who had become a tough-minded politician after losing his first political job and after discovering he was manipulated by the bosses who wanted to split rural votes. After he learned about the scheme and analyzing the situation, Willie Stark realized what Machiavelli's theory proclaimed, "A man who wishes to make a profession in everything must necessarily come to grief among so many who are not good".
Willie encountered and experienced the "grief among so many who are not good," he encountered Harrison and his men and their political methods to try and win an election which was all made possible by corrupt men, bad men. This was a turning point in Willie's career and life since he how believed, "Man is conceived in sin and born in corruption and he passeth from the stink of the didie to the stench of the shroud. " As he sees it, goodness is not an inherent human characteristic. People, basically, are prone to corruption and evil. Goodness has to be made.
Because of the scheme Willie's blindfold he had as an idealist was gone and he now knew that politics were not at all what he though it to be and that he had to change the way he was conducting his political campaign if he was to get anything done around here. Although Willie withdrew his name from the ballot for the Governor race, he still came out of that ordeal as a winner. Stark exposed the dirty tricks of Harrison and his men and in the process gained support from the public, therefore leading to his ultimate election for Governor the second time he ran for the position.
By this time Willie, "learn how not to be good, and to use this knowledge and not use it… " He exposed to the public the corrupt men of Harrison who coerced him to run for Governor only to be "used and abused in the process;" by blowing the whistle Willie became a bad man who turned against the people who helped him come into the political spot light. Instead of being seen with bad eyes, the public sympathized with him. With all the sympathy he gained Willie managed to win the race for Governor. Once Willie became Governor he became an opportunist because of the lack of support he received and because his power was growing.