In The City of Ember, The Mayor is the most corrupt character in the novel.  He squelches the thirst for knowledge and limits freedom, yet the majority of the townspeople just accept his behavior....

In The City of Ember, The Mayor is the most corrupt character in the novel.  He squelches the thirst for knowledge and limits freedom, yet the majority of the townspeople just accept his behavior.  Why do you think they act this way?  What other actions might they have taken?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Mayor Cole is a very corrupt character in The City of Ember.  His abuse of power and self-serving nature are the epitome of corruption in politics.  Part of the reason he is able to exert power over the townspeople is in his ability to spin.  When Doon impulsively voices discontent to the Mayor, the politician is able to spin it to his advantage:  "A childish display of temper! Students should be glad to work for their city. Ember will prosper if all… citizens… do… their… best."  This is an example of how the Mayor is able to maintain his position of power.  He is able to spin what he does in order to deflect criticism.  Rather than accept that Doon might be right to feel frustrated, Mayor Cole shifts the blame.  This "shell game" in which he is able to move where blame is placed is one reason he is able to convince the townspeople to accept the way things are.  

Mayor Cole operates with duplicity meant to confound the public. This is seen in how the Mayor uses his position of power for his own interests. It is also seen in how he addresses Lina as she challenges his authority:

The duties of a mayor…are…complex. Cannot be understood by regular citizens, particularly children. That is why…certain things must remain hidden from the public. The public would not understand. The public must have faith…that all is being done for their benefit. For their own good.

The townspeople are convinced to accept his behavior through the idea of "faith" and "trust."  The public is told to trust the political leadership and, as a result, they are more likely to accept the conditions that surround them.  This prevents change and questioning authority because resistance is replaced with a benevolent view towards leadership.

In terms of what other actions the townspeople might take, there is evidence that some members of the body politic are quite interested in challenging the Mayor.  When challenging the Mayor after a speech, the hostile crowd reflects an overall attitude that they might not be entirely willing to accept the way things are:

"...the two guards were hustling the mayor back through the door of the Gathering Hall. The crowd roared, and a few people started hurling whatever they could find—pebbles, garbage, crumpled paper, even their own hats."

The Mayor tries to keep the public "in the dark" about the way things are, pacifying them with easy solutions and outright deception.  The response to his speech in which the public begins to rebel and express dissatisfaction through disobedience is another form of action that can be taken.  The book displays how individuals can take action to show discontent and frustration with political authority even in the most politically controlled atmospheres.

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