Thinking about Rhetorical Effects on the Minds of Soldiers – Attack on Titan
It is not the words that are spoken by a leader, but the esteem in which soldiers hold that leader in that matter most.
Erwin’s words of “give your hearts” was his rallying slogan for the survey corps. Whether he was recruiting new members, or rallying troops in real time on the battlefield, his words echoed throughout his corp. In essence Erwin was asking his soldiers to give their lives if need be for the greater good of humanity.
Recall that Erwin never got to see the mystery unravel and discover the truth of the world.
Erwin had lived in a world where titans’ power were absolute. There were only limited means to combat the titans. More often than not he would have to sacrifice his men to gain more knowledge about the titans. He wanted to know the truth of the world. In his quest for knowledge, he lost again and again.
Losing in Erwin’s case meant that he had ordered soldiers to their deaths. He was a commander who stood on a mountain of bodies figuratively speaking. While progress was being made to learn more about the world in which he lived, he never hesitated to send himself or others into harm’s way.
Therefore he came up with the slogan “give your hearts” to rally soldiers to his cause. He had high expectations of those around him, and held himself to high standards. He was highly esteemed among his men. They never questioned his orders and followed Erwin no matter what he asked. They believed in him to deliver results as long as they did their part.
Erwin, true to his own beliefs, led his soldiers and himself on a death charge to give humanity a chance. In the end he gave his own heart, literally. Erwin was a man worthy of esteem that was given to him.
It’s strange when the words come out of someone else’s mouth.
In the case of Floch, the de-facto leader of the Yaegerists, when he utters the words “give your hearts” they sound strange and devoid of the special meaning that Erwin had given them.
Floch was part of the famous Erwin suicide charge on the beast titan diverson. Ironically Floch initially protests the decision for the suicide charge from Erwin, not convinced it will do anyone who had survived the beast titans attacks any good. Erwin, through his persuasion, is able to convince Floch and the other remaining survivors to join him on the charge. While practically all others die in the charge, including Erwin, Floch miraculously survives.
Years later, as he executes unarmed volunteers who had come to help the Eldians, he tells the other Yaegerists the same words as Erwin: “give your hearts”. The words ring hollow and twisted coming from Floch.
It’s hard to watch as Erwin’s philosophy gets twisted to suit a moment of political need. Floch doesn’t persuade those around him as Erwin was able to. Floch was unable to get others to see the reason for his cause. When mediocre and poor leaders, who haven’t earned the esteem of those around them, can’t get people to do what they want they resort to violence.
It’s why after murdering a man Floch echoes the words of a man he could never measure up to. Give your hearts. It is ironic that the man who Floch so much idealizes, and Floch’s fame no doubt built on the story of the suicide charge, would rob the great words of Erwin. Not only does he rob the words, he strips them completely from their original meaning.
Floch had never actually lived by the words; he selfishly lived for himself and his own interests, not in the interest of greater good for humanity.