The whole issue of whether or not a king is a good thing or a bad thing, and whether or not B'nei Yisrael should have asked for one, seems strange in light of the following: From a thematic perspective, the major goal of the first quarter of Sefer Shmuel is to transition the people from the era of Regionalism/Shoftim to the era of Nationalism/Monarchy. This is evidenced by many things: The sefer opens with scenes centered on Shiloh and the Mishkan--the spiritual center. Eli's homebase is in Shiloh, and he is a Levi. (To be fair, we know very little about his tenure.) B'nei Yisrael constantly face an existential threat from the P'lishtim, who don't just want to attack one region, but want to exert major control over a large area. Some of this evidence are things that Shmuel himself does. He too is a Levi. He spends much time traveling (and teaching, and leading) from place to place, and not just staying in his local region. He starts a Prophecy school. He comes back from the dead. (Wait, that has nothing to do with this discussion, but once I was listing cool things that Shmuel did . . .) Ironic that Shmuel himself helps along this transition, yet he is against a king. Further complicated by the fact that he himself becomes one of Sha'ul's staunchest and most loyal supporters--it pains him terribly when Hashem takes the monarchy away from Sha'ul.