Billy the Kid: A Tragic Hero

Topics: Billy the Kid, Aristotle, Tragedy Pages: 3 (1214 words) Published: March 19, 2014

Is Billy The Kid a Tragic Hero?
William H. Bonney (born William Henry McCarty, Jr.) was known for his sulky smooth character, his enigmatic hero/outlaw image, and most importantly his treacherous rumored 21 murders. Most commonly and historically known as Billy the Kid, Bonney was born November 1859 in New York City, having moved around numerous times as a young child, and ultimately settling down in the Old American West. Orphaned as a young boy, “The Kid” began hanging around the wrong crowd and eventually on the wrong side of the law. He ended up in the rugged saloons and gangs of the Old West which led to his numerous incarcerations and ultimate death. Bonney had many characteristics; intellectualism, wit, rebelliousness, courage, and wisdom, but did these characteristics make him a tragic hero? According to Greek philosopher Aristotle, there are 6 distinct characteristics that can make a person a tragic hero. Bonney is a tragic hero because he possesses many of the six characteristics that Aristotle described. These characteristics did not aid so greatly in Bonney’s short lived life, but they did assist in allowing his legacy to last eternally.

One of Billy the Kid’s characteristics was hamartia; “the flaw in character which leads to the downfall of the protagonist in a tragedy” (Collins English Dictionary). The Kid’s wild ways and slight absence of empathy caused him to be involved in dangerous and decisional situations. William’s first crime, stealing cheese, was nothing compared to his many petty and other more significant crimes. His second offense, being caught with stolen clothing and a firearm ended in jail time for William, but not for very long, as he escaped just two days later. These novice crimes started a criminal record for William, and would eventually lead to his tragic downfall (Wallis 2007, p. 89). William’s crimes from that moment on only became more and more serious. During his young life as a farm hand in Arizona he befriended a...
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