Personal Statement Of Life Purpose And Ambitions Of A Rider

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"Hath told you Caesar was ambitious:
If it were so, it was a grievous fault;
And grievously hath Caesar answer'd it."

Antony, Scene II, Julius Caesar

There's a character who aims to improve their situation in life, be it in terms of money, fame, or power. There is a high probability of this character starting out as evil or becoming evil very quickly. The Visionary Villain and Well-Intentioned Extremist will do horrible things to achieve their Heaven on Earth; The Social Darwinist and The Sociopath will commit every act of crime and manipulation to move up the ranks; the Corrupt Corporate Executive began as a dirt-poor proletarian who wanted to live wealthy, etc. Upon attaining this power, they'll likely forget whatever it was they wanted it for in the first place. The Illusion of Pride, and the inevitable tale of Tragedy for the one who dared to be ambitious is likely. Fictional and Real Life moral codes have a tendency to demonstrate Selfishness, Greed, Pride, Megalomania, and Machiavellian Chronic Backstabbing Disorder as a consequence of the catch-all term "ambition". If you consult a dictionary it's broader than that. Ambition is the same thing that motivates some heroes to make the world a better place, but in that case it's more likely to be called "Hope".This trope is one of the reasons why Villains Act, Heroes React. Villains who don't have great ambitions would not plot grand schemes and motivate story driving conflicts such asWorld Domination or Utopia Justifies the Means, and, therefore, would be boring and petty. It is possible to write an "ambitionless" villain — see For the Evulz — but they risk coming off as a Generic Doomsday Villain. Justified when the existing society is an evil dystopia, or otherwise flawed — "advancing" in such a society would mean complying with or encouraging its systemic injustices. Also justified when ambition, or other emotions, is the personification of evil itself.Can happen as a result of Status Quo Is God. Normally used as an AnviliciousAesop about what's really important. Unfortunately ends up in a Broken Aesop that teaches us Evil Is Cool (or at least open to social progress). The Svengali, since their goal is usually to profit through their (supposed) protege, will usually be an example of this, and turn their protege into one, unless they realize in time. This is a common trait of The Starscream; indeed, it's often what makes them The Starscream. The heroic converse of this trope is To Be a Master, where the hero is motivated by ambition. Note that heroes tend to pursue "healthy" goals such as strength and knowledge, while villains are more likely to be after power or money, usually for their own benefit and no one else's and at other people's expense. For some reason, while even high levels of ambition are bad, equal or greater levels of determination are usually presented as good, or at least not bad. If you have high levels of both, you're The Unfettered. Heaven help the character intending to use their super powers this way; it guarantees Screw the Rules, I Have Supernatural Powers!. If a character wants to rise above the level of their fellows, it might be a case of The Complainer Is Always Wrong. This, in a way, is the inverse of Living Is More Than Surviving, where achieving more than the most basic things people can do is seen as good. See also Pride, Personal Gain Hurts and Evil Virtues. Contrast with Self-Made Man, who pursues his ambitions, and isn't (necessarily) evil, as well any Rags to Riches story where The Protagonist means to become rich.

Examples

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     Anime and Manga  

  • Berserk: Griffith. Originally, he "merely" wanted to rise from a poor street urchin to king in a society that does not encourage this sort of upward mobility. After a few setbacks, he sets his sights a little higher, and sacrifices all of his mercenary band to the god hand, rapes Guts' girlfriend in front of him, and unleashes a plague of demons on the world in order to reach his goal.
  • In Katekyō Hitman Reborn!, Futa's "ambition" rankings actually seem to measure how treacherous a given person is.
  • Isamu in Breakshot is described as "an ambitious guy"... because he often cheats to win.
  • Very much averted in Fullmetal Alchemist, where a number of characters (e.g. Mustang, Olivia Armstrong, Greed, and Ling) are ambitious but they are generally good because of this, not in spite of it. Ling's ambition to become the next emperor was the only thing that prevented Greed from taking over his body completely.
    • Greed's ambition is notable in that he desires to possess everything. Most people would chalk this up as evil, but the thing is that he also values everything he possesses. His minions may be possessions, but they're his and killing them is equal to stealing from him.
  • In Air Gear, the Big Bad just wanted to improve his lot in life and ended up Jumping Off the Slippery Slope.
  • Averted in Bleach. During his more reflective moments, Ichigo makes much of becoming more powerful so that he can better protect the people he cares about, even if he's doing it by using his Superpowered Evil Side. Combined with With Great Power Comes Great Insanity around the 350th chapter/the final stages of his fight with Ulquiorra, where the latest upgrade to his Superpowered Evil Side only appears interested in protecting Orihime, and will casually attempt to kill anyone else who gets in his way—like, for instance, Uryu.
    • Played straight with Big BadAizen. His unlimited ambition is the sole reason for all his evil.
    • Inverted with Starrk, one of the few amicable arrancar. He has a very similar backstory to Aizen, with the biggest difference in their Character Development coming from Starrk's extreme laziness.
  • Subverted in Code Geass, Everyone assumes Lelouch, a prince, used the Black Knights for personal gain at best and a game at the worst. However, by the end, a select few realize that all of Lelouch's ambition was for the good of the world.
    • Schneizel, described by Word of God as lacking ambition, ended up being the Big Bad since he would pursue whatever goal tickled his fancy at the moment without any overall or long-term interest.
  • Ambition is the defining characteristic of Dio Brando from JoJo's Bizarre Adventure, to the point that he rejects his humanity and transforms himself into a vampire for the sake of gaining more power.
  • Played straight and subverted quite often in One Piece. Most of the villains have pretty lofty goals, but the main characters have arguably the highest ambitions in the series. Inverted with Captain Kuro, who annoys Luffy because his goal to retire from being a pirate is completely lame.
    • Played straight with Blackbeard, whose ambition to become Pirate King led him to kill one of his own crewmates in the back story, capture Ace to secure a position in the Seven Warlords of the Sea, try and kill Luffy, caused a war that led to the death of Ace, Oars Jr., and who knows how many others, killing Whitebeard directly and unleashed who knows how many of the world's worst criminals on an unsuspecting world.
    • Basically One Piece is more like "Ambition is Neutral," as many of the villains they have fought had aims similar to the heroes, and it was merely their methods that were evil, not necessarily their aims. Blackbeard above is the best example as he also wants to be King of the Pirates, but his methods involve all sorts of cruelty. Or Eneru, whose ambition was to go to the Moon, perfectly innocuous except that he wanted to do it by plundering an island of all its gold then planning to blow the island up into the sea.
      • It should be noted that said blowing up wasn't even necessary to the plan. It was just for the sake of it.
    • Hell, "Haki" (Japanese for "ambition") is basically One Piece's resident Life Energy. Those who can control and project it out of their body get a substantial boost in battle. And the most powerful form, which one has to be born with, is the "Ambition of the King" — the sheer desire to reign over everyone else. The main hero has itnote He wants to be king of the pirates, after all. The Big Bad, probably, too.
  • In Umineko: When They Cry, Eva's ambition to succeed her father as the head of the Ushiromiya family instead of her older brother was stepped on most of her life due to the Heir Club for Men, but wow, once she manages to achieve her goal, she goes nuts and kills most of the rest of her family.
  • Slade (no, not that Slade), a minor character in Rave Master who worked with Haru's dad back when he was a soldier, is the person that Gale turns to to report his best friend who has since gone bad and began to run a criminal organization. He promises to tell Slade where the group, known as Demon Card, has its headquarters so long as Slade only arrests King. Slade agrees, then brings the whole army and shoots everyone down in as flashy a way as possible so his superiors will notice and he'll get a promotion. In doing so, he pushed King all the way intoBig Badstatus, and set his six year old son down the road to that as well.
  • Played straight with Light Yagami; by the time the US President surrenders to Kira, his father is dead and his sister is traumatized. He even allowed his father to put himself in a life-threatening situation for his own gain, which ultimately led to his demise. And that's not even counting the countless other times Light has made morally questionable decisions in order to realize his dream of a perfect new world. The difference between his innocent, idealistic self and the person he becomes with the Note is startling.
  • Naruto: Orochimaru's ambition to have eternal life (which he believed would be more easily accomplished by becoming Fourth Hokage, and he was passed over in favor of Minato) is pretty much the reason why he turned into the Big Bad. Similarly, Danzo was a political rival to the Third Hokage who sought to impose his warlike ideals on the village with means from covert operations to using his mind control powers to seize the Hokage title after Tsunade goes into a coma.
    • Averted for several characters too, most notably Naruto himself, who wants to be Hokage one day and by Hashirama Senju, the First Hokage, whose boundless ambition to change the world created the entire system of hidden ninja villages and drastically reduced the Crapsackiness of the world.
    • This is also Inverted with some villains like Nagato, Tobi and Madara since their wanting to change the world is viewed in a very positive light. But howtheywanted to change it is where they gets into trouble.
  • Averted for the most part in Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann; daring ambition is the most powerful force in the universe, and the vast majority of the protagonists indulge. However, according to the Anti-Spiral, it's also the force that will eventually destroy reality, so really it could go either way.
  • In Durarara!! Mikado's goal is to unite the Dollars and Blue Squares to show Kida that he can stand on his own. In his own words, "The only way for having your dreams realized is to have power." However this has pushed Mikado's sanity as of recent novel volumes out the window for the most part (unless he was crazy from the beginning.) In a good example of the evil bit, he even goes as far as setting people who piss him off on fire.
  • Enchu of Muhyo and Roji desperately wanted to become an Executor to help his ailing mother, while Muhyo did not want the position, and would have turned it over to Enchu if given the chance. The committee for choosing an executor recognized that Enchu's preoccupation with his mother was a risk factor; hearing of her death and losing the position to Muhyo pushed Enchu into his Start of Darkness.
  • Gihren Zabi of Mobile Suit Gundam is the single most ambitious member of the Zabi family. He's also the single most evil member, and the only one with no redeeming qualities.
  • In Cyber Weapon Z, Leiting may look like a Well-Intentioned Extremist but, at the end of the day, what he really cares about is his increasing his own power by siphoning that of the Demon King Solote.
  • Tokyo Ghoul explores this trope, particularly in the sequel, :Re.
    • Seidou Takizawa is quite vocal about his desire to get promoted, and this is one reason he frequently clashes with his rival, Akira Mado. At one point, they get into a drunken argument concerning whether being promotion-focused is bad or not. But when push comes to shove, he risks his career by disregarding direct orders and goes in search of a wounded Amon. In the sequel, he plays the trope straight — his thirst for power seems to have played a part in his Transhuman Treachery.
    • Kuki Urie's ambitions might be fueled by an understandable desire to avenge his father, but the methods he uses establish him firmly as the Token Evil Teammate of the Quinx Squad. Though assigned as their acting Squad Leader, he refuses to work with the others....unless, of course, he can use them to achieve his own ends. Intensely jealous of Sasaki's strength, he looks for ways to undermine his leadership and increase his own power even when warned against doing so. After his actions cause him to be dismissed as Squad Leader, he begins plotting ways to destroy the team from within in order to discredit Shirazu. It becomes a case of Be Careful What You Wish For: Urie gets his position back and receives credit for bringing down one of Aogiri's most prominent members.....because Shirazu sacrificed himself to create an opening. Urie tries to convince Shirazu to live by promising him all the credit, and is left crushed by his friend's loss.
    • Matsuri Washuu is this trope incarnate. The heir of the illustrious Washuu Clan, he is infamous even among his clan for his ambition and callous disregard for human life. Operations he supervises are known for having incredible success rates, but also extreme loss of life in the process. He actively schemes against his colleagues and his own father, with many within the organization concerned about what would happen if he manages to take over. When asked point-blank whether seeing the bodies of his subordinates makes him feel anything, Matsuri states that it doesn't while looking like he'd been asked a stupid question.
  • Mei from Ga-Rei -Zero- believes that she is more qualified than Yomi to lead the Isayama family. Her ambition allows her Sesshoseki stone to corrupt her, after which she kills Yomi's father and manipulates the family in order to steal the position for herself.

     Comic Books  

  • This seems to actually be a trend among superhero fiction; this article notes that rich superheroes tend to inherit their money, while self-made men are usually villains.
  • Subversion: Tony Stark (aka Iron Man) is hugely ambitious, to the point of it frequently biting him in the ass, but his drive is less for personal gain and more for the betterment of mankind... he hopes. His worst excesses (such as Civil War and the Armor Wars) are usually not driven by lust for power, but by an overzealous sense of guilt and responsibility.
  • Half the point of The Authority was that, where other superheroes simply react to supervillains' schemes and preserve the status quo, The Authority would use their powers to genuinely change the world. The implications of this vary from author to author, but often involve the team Jumping Off the Slippery Slope and becoming Anti Villains or just plain villains.
  • Seahn of The First. He's the personification of ambition, and a nasty, nasty piece of work.
  • The Plutonian has a very subtle version of this. It's revealed in flashbacks that he has a strong desire for love and adoration. Since his ambitions were very altruistic, and he used his superpowers to make them come true by helping people, nobody seemed to mind (or just assumed he was doing it out of the goodness of his heart and not a need for affection). But then he eventually realized you can't please everyone and gave up on being a hero, and instead ruined a world that he could never get to love him.
  • The first Squadron Supreme miniseries (whose members are Captain Ersatzes of the Justice League of America) had the heroes helping to rebuild the world (after they themselves helped conquer it under an evil alien's mind control) and decide that instead of rebuilding it as it was, they would make it better. They even announced that if people trusted them they would give up control over Earth in exactly one year. However this was seen as a bad thing by half the heroes, who organized a resistance against them. The reasons given weren't very convincing- they just seemed to be there just to maintain the Status Quo of their Earth resembling the real one. Note that this story inspired both DC's Kingdom Come and Civil War.
    • Only one hero, the Batman Captain Ersatz, actually objected to improving the world. What causes the real split was when the majority of the Squadron Supreme decided to use Brainwashing for the Greater Good.
      • Actually, he made a very valid point in the final issue. Even after turning power back over to civilian authority, the Utopia could only last so long as the Squadron was around to enforce it. There's no guarantee their eventual successors would hold to the same moral standards.
  • The Hood suffers Motive Decay (he initially just wanted to support his family) because of his ambition to be a big-time supervillain criminal mastermind instead of the street thug he really is. Acquiring the magical hood and boots empowered by Dormammu gave Parker Robbins an appetite for power that has gotten worse with time.
  • The cape-killer (Ozymandias) of Watchmen might fit, depending on whether you think he's evil or a Well-Intentioned Extremist. It's true that he gave up a fortune, but that just underlines his ambition (he wanted everyone to know that his accomplishments were his accomplishments, not his family's).
  • The Transformers: Last Stand of the Wreckers: Averted with Prowl, who is the most morally grey of the good guys as he's willing to go to lengths to end the war others find uncomfortable. He just wants the war to end; he doesn't want any credit or glory. For the Decepticons, Overlord is quite possibly the most evil Decepticon in the IDW comics. Megatron always thought that he'd pull a Starscream on him, but Overlord does not care about rank and he doesn't care about advancing in the power structure. He just wants to kill people. Kup speculates that his goal in life is to upgrade from homicide to genocide, and keep killing.
  • The Transformers: Robots in Disguise: Starscream is this. Bumblebee remarks that his ambition is untempered due to his lack of any ideology and a huge dose of caring only for himself. He wants power and control, but now the war is over, and the world they face is brutal and the people all distrust each other. To get power he... wants to be elected by a committee of his peers. He keeps his smug attitude, but does his best to help the society move into a brighter future, one he wants to lead. He even befriends his political rival Metalhawk, and though he snarks at him, seems to respect Bumblebee. When Megatron throws it all into chaos, Scream berates him because of his shortsighted folly, and stands with the Autobots. When Megatron is defeated Starscream rejoices, and then kills Metalhawk, uses his death as a political maneuver, swears off his faction, and has the entire public rally behind him. He then banishes Bumblebee and all the Autobots and Decepticons clinging to old alliances. His final words to Metalhawk lampshade this:

    Metalhawk: I thought you were my friend.

    (Starscream murders Metalhawk)

    Starscream: I was. I just wanted this more.

  • Judge Dredd: It turns out that Judge Martin Sinfield would do anything to become Chief Judge, including brainwashing his predecessor to step down. Of course, he did it all for the good of the city.

    Fan Works 

  • In the Jackie Chan Adventures fic Queen of All Oni, Jade seems to fit this, as one of her major motivations is to prove herself, even as a villain, feeling unappreciated for all the times she helped against evil and saved Jackie's life. Later in the story, she suffers from PTSD, which leads to Motive Decay that makes her even more of an example of this — now, she wants to gather massive amounts power for its own sake, and doesn't care who gets hurt in the process.
    • Finn at one point makes it clear just how ambitious he is, hoping for a Mook Promotion to higher ranks of villainy. He even tells Viper that he's a better criminal than she ever was, because he has ambitions to move beyond his current position.
  • In the Harry Potter fic Why Harry Hates the Headmaster or Alt Sixth Year Ron actually started fighting Harry at the mere mention of ambition, which resulted in Harry giving a somewhat Anvilicious mini-sermon on how ambition wasn't "Slytherin" or "Dark."
  • Averted in Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, where Harry's ambition to become omnipotent and benevolently reorganize reality is fully endorsed by the Author.
  • Twilight Sparkle in Pages Of Harmony very much fits this, seeing as her ambition is to "preserve harmony"? How does she do so? By Mind Raping, torturing, and killing her friends to extract their Elements. And that's just the start.
  • In Blood and Spirit, Veress broke off from the main Sheikah tribe to create the Dark Interlopers because of her desire to succeed Impa as the leader of the tribe and lead the Sheikah into battle against Demise. However, since this was not the destiny of the Sheikah tribe, she was passed over in favor of Sheik, her former best friend.
  • Friendship Is Magical Girls: Sunset Shimmer's Start of Darkness was caused by her desire for power and glory for its own sake, and her belief that her mother and Celestia were holding her back. Thus why she ritually killed her mother to become immortal and started her campaign to become more powerful than Celestia.
  • In The Vow, this is taken further with Lord Shen (see Kung Fu Panda 2 in Animated Film section below). Even when he has won the heart of the woman he loves and his future as his parents' heir is secure, he can't help but feel that he must strive to make a name for himself instead of settling to inherit his parents' legacy. It leads him to experiment on black powder and designing cannons, and his attempt to prevent the fate he'd end up with for continuing his dark path leads him to be driven away from his home and loved ones, leaving him filled with embittered ambition.
  • Pointedly averted with the Harry Potter fanfic THERMOS!, or, How a Muggle-Born Brought a New Age of Spell-Making to Hogwarts (Entirely by Accident). The main character Phoebe is a Slytherin, and while she's noted to be ambitious (it being the defining trait of Slytherin House and all), somewhat lazy and definitely a Troll (no, not a literal one), she isn't mean-spirited in any way. Her friend Titus, also a Slytherin, comes off as friendly and nice, too. (The author's identified herself as a Slytherin, so it makes sense that she'd write them in a more flattering light.)
  • In Queen of Shadows, most of the Circle of Generals have ambitions of gaining even further power (namely, becoming the Yojimbo
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