The Hero as an Outcast: an Essay on Outsiders

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The leper. The homeless. Minorities. People labeled “different”. These are examples of “outcasts,” people “rejected or cast out, as from home or society.” They are “mistfits” even, “unable to adjust to a situation” with its narrow, inflexible expectations.

Holden Caulfield in the novel Catcher in the Rye, Wally in the short story White Chocolate, and Jamal Wallace in the movie Finding Forrester are examples of teen heroes, all attending high school, who struggle to fit, but who discover quickly that they are not wanted. They are ostracized, cast out.

Jamal, is a black high school student who resides in mainly black neighbourhood in the Bronx, New York. Jamal is missing a father figure in his life. He is single-handedly raised by his mother because his father has supposedly left home to go “get himself clean.” Before he is recruited by a prestigious New York prep school, Jamal is a C average student. His assessment scores however, are “impressive.”

Aside from his background, Jamal excels at both basketball and writing. His skill with words especially contributes to him being ostracized by his peers and his teacher. His writing skill is targeted by his English Professor Robert Crawford. Jamal’s apparent improvement in his school marks and his racial background raises suspicion in Crawford. He comments that Jamal’s just a “basketball player from Bronx!” and that his writing ability can’t be “this good.” Jamal is also targeted by his peers at his new prestigious school; he faces discrimination because of his racial background.

To cope with reality, Jamal escapes through his writing and the game of basketball. Since his father left, Jamal reads books and constantly writes. He seeks assistance from acclaimed author William Forrester, to help improve his writing skills. He especially finds comfort in basketball not only because he excels at it, but also because “it’s where he gets his acceptance from.”

Despite the many obstacles that Jamal is faced with, he...
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