What Is a Hero

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What is a hero?1

Have you ever asked yourself, “What is a hero?” A hero is “a mythological or legendary figure” (www.merriam-webster.com). Heroes have “divine ancestry, great courage and are “celebrated for bold exploits” (Houghton Mifflin, The American Heritage Dictionary, Second College Edition). This essay will highlight these qualities and how they are exemplified in the lives of Odysseus of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, the four priest who were on the Titanic, Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon, and Helen Keller who overcame a handicap of blindness and deafness.

As you take a look at the divine ancestry or some sense of the divine, there are many heroes that fall into this category. Take for instance, Odysseus, a mythical hero and son of Laertes. He ruled Ithaca and saved his men from “pleasure-giving drugs” and Cyclopes (“Odysseus” Encyclopedia Mythica). Let’s look at religious heroes. There were four priests aboard the Titanic. Three gave up a chance to be saved, so that other passengers could live; the fourth priest had to get off the boat but is considered a hero because of the pictures he had taken of the passengers and the boat. What about someone famous? By traveling beyond the bounds of earth to the heavens, Neil Armstrong, who was one of the first men in space, also fits this category.

Having great courage is a virtue and is evident in the courageous ventures of Odysseus, the priests aboard the Titanic, as well as Helen Keller. Odysseus defied the gods and “fought in the Trojan War” (“Odysseus” Encyclopedia Mythica). The priests gave up a seat on the lifeboats in order to give someone else a chance to be saved. They “calmed passengers, prayed with them” and led them to the lifeboats to help load the lifeboats (http://wau.org/resources/article/rethepriestsaboardtitanic/). This act of sacrifice of one’s life for another is an essentially heroic act. Helen Keller overcame her handicap and defied the odds of being blind and deaf....
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