Role and evolution of the hero in literature

Essay by suka311Junior High, 9th gradeA+, December 2003

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" If Hero means sincere man, why may not everyone of us be a Hero?"

(Carlyle, qtd. in Hoyt' s New Cyclopedia of Practical Quotations). This statement

makes heroism seem simple, but is being sincere enough to make you a hero? In

modern society, the answer is likely to be yes, but in literature, it can be


A hero in literature is generally portrayed as a man of action rather than

thought. He exceeds ordinary men in skill, strength, and courage and his usual

occupations are war and dangerous adventures. Surrounded by noble peers, he is

ruled by honor and pride and is ruthless towards his enemies. His responses are

generally predictable and his inability to decline a challenge can sometimes get him

into trouble.

The appearance of heroes in literature marks a revolution in thought that

occurred when writers and their audiences turned their attention away from

immortal gods to mortal men.("Hero",

Encyclopedia Britanica). Heroes were the

first human beings in literature and where able to spark a general interest in the

audience. They risked their lives for valiant causes and created a moment' s glory

that lived on longer after they were gone. Although this was a great change, these

heroes were still very much like the gods that preceded them and in turn created a

classic picture of heroism in all of our minds.

Nearly every literary work has a hero, or a main character that we think of as

being a hero. Modern literature has come a long way since the first hero and the

standards of heroism have been severely altered. Nowadays, literature potrayes a

hero as being : the classic hero who performs great feats of strength and is always

rewarded ; the humble hero who performs tasks simply because that is...