Read the title. This time read it right to left. The same ambiguous question, and yet what does it mean? Perhaps it is simply some words strung together that bear no significance, but before arriving at such a rash decision, I suggest that you read on and consider my perception of this enigmatic query.

You might just change your mind.


A visual palindrome

Let’s get technical. Evidently this is an epanadiplosis, meaning the same word begins and ends the sentence. It is also a word unit palindrome, as the sentence reads the same forwards and backwards (punctuation is usually ignored).

The author of this sentence is James A. Lindon, a mathematician born the 14th of December 1914. He is best known for his work with antimagic squares. Besides his passion for puzzles, Lindon was an accomplished poet and writer. Many proclaim him one of the world’s finest palindromists.

The Question

What image, if any, appears in your mind when you read the words:

” King, are you glad you are king? “

When I read this sentence a vivid image presented itself in my mind: A king sitting on his throne, swallowed by the vast and opulent within which he resides. He is deep in thought, looking critically into the distance.

This king is not very old, but his young visage bears signs of wear, containing wrinkles and streaks of grey hair. In his right hand, rests a jeweled sceptre. On his head, a heavy crown.

After I conceived this scene I realized that this is a strange question to ask a king, as they live lives of splendor and beauty, and are of highest rank in the royal hierarchy. But above all, a king has power. Isn’t this enough for anyone to want to be king?

Then, why did I see such a miserable scene?

The answer lies within the interrogative mood. If one is glad, it is evident, and there is no reason to ask such a pointless question. But in this case, I cannot help but wonder what circumstances would make one ask a monarch if they are glad to be what they are.

 I reflected on the image for which I had no explanation for, and realised that power is what makes all the difference.

The Duality of Power

So, we’ve established that a defining aspect of a monarch is the power they posses. While many people regard power as a wonderful thing, they often overlook the sinister side of power.

Frankenstein’s monster

A great example is Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, as it demonstrates the duality of many objects and concepts with symbols such as fire, hope, education, or beauty, that can bring an individual both pleasure and pain, depending on the boundaries.

For example, education brings Victor tremendous pleasure. Victor describes his enthusiasm and thirst for knowledge by expressing :

“that the stars often disappeared in the light of morning whilst I was yet engaged in my laboratory” (51).

But, with acquiring knowledge Victor wants more, and soon passes a delicate boundary when re-animating life. Victor pays dearly for his creation, suffering for the rest of his life. In fact, Victor warns Walton of his mistakes, explaining,

“How dangerous is the acquirement of knowledge and how much happier that man is who believes his native town to be the world, than he who aspires to be greater than his nature will allow” (35). 

Can this not be said for a king and the power he posses? Power can bring great joy and fulfillment, as a king can do great things for others, and make sure everyone’s voice is heard. But, with power there are responsibilities that must be upheld, and immense pressure.

Imagine, a whole country depending on you, blaming their misfortunes on you, and dying because of you or for you. Such a burden is reserved for monarchs.

What’s more, power is always accompanied by desperation and greed. We always want more than what we have, and know no limits when protecting what we have. This is unavoidable, as such is the human condition.

An example is seen in the film “A Simple Plan”. The main character Hank is introduced as an empathetic, intelligent, and ethical man. But money is power, and when he finds over 4 million dollars of cash in a forest every thing changes. Greed leads Hank to become unethical and he becomes a cold-hearted murder whilst trying to protect the money.

This raises questions, such as how much power should someone have? Where are the limits? Pierre Corneille affirmed that a true king:

“considers his throne and nothing else”.

Is that not a sad existence, in a quest for power and fame which has no end? How much privacy and time does a King really have to spend with his family, or do things that he enjoys? 

The Answer

Duality of mankind

The significance of this question is that it reminds us of the duality of power, and frankly the duality of life. We all think monarchs have it made, that their lives are the best. But we forget the other side, the responsibility, the commitment, the constant pressure and the stress. The same goes for power. Power can be used for good, but the sacrifices and search for power leads to a pointless existence.

When I think back to the King in my mind, I see a man corrupted by power who has lost himself in the process. And my King, who is sitting on his throne with a face of contemplation, is reflecting on his experiences as a monarch, attempting to answer the question: “King, are you glad you are king?”.

Although I could never understand the life of a monarch, the truth of the matter is, that once this simple question is asked, a King cannot escape these 7 words, no matter which direction he reads it.

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