"Mystery of Heroism" vs. "Speaking of Courage"

Essay by jblnickHigh School, 11th gradeA, March 2006

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What is courage? What is it that makes a hero? These are a few questions that are presented by the main character Paul in "Speaking of Courage", and Fred Collins in Mystery of Heroism. Paul and Collins were in different wars, different times, different places, but war is still war and tortures a man for the rest of his life. They saw their friends get killed right in front of them. Men became machines and their machinery became their closest friend. They live everyday in fear.

Collins is a private caught in battle in the civil war, and all he wants is a drink of water. His comrades made fun of him for how thirsty he was and his resentment towards the ridicule pushed him to risk his life for a sip of water. He takes a stupid risk and is labeled a Hero. Is that really what makes a hero? Stupidity and peer pressure? Even Collins at the end of the story questions why he was being recognized as a hero.

Collins was running back from the well with a full bucket of water as a dieing officer asks for a drink yet he passes him up and "ran on." He was too preoccupied with fear to stop and give a dieing man a drink, he acted as a coward. He did come back though in realization of his mistake and give the officer a drink splashing it all over him. His company labeled him as a hero but why? He was just about to pass up a fellow man dieing, without a second thought. Should a desperate deed such as stupidly risking your life for a drink of water be one of a hero or stupidity?

Paul is a young man that has recently returned from the Vietnam...