What Makes a Hero

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English 1B
17 March 2011
What Makes A Hero
What makes a hero? Saving a puppy from a burning building? Or what about being a single mother raising three kids and working two jobs? Both of these could be good candidates for heroes since they both possess the characteristic of strength—not just physical strength, but mental strength. This is one of the most important traits of a hero but it is not the only one. Courage, intelligence, and morality are also necessary in order to really get penciled in to the “hero” category. Being a hero also means doing what’s right almost all the time, even when no one is looking. So that guy who just happened to be in the right place at the right time gets the rubber end while the hard-working mother who gives so much day in and day out gets the graphite gratitude of “hero”. Heroes are the characters that are consistently strong, selfless, and intelligent.

In Shakespeare’s legendary play, Hamlet, the main character is faced with a journey of vengeance and self-discovery. Even though in the beginning of the play Hamlet is a depressed young man, he develops into a character of intelligence, courage, and strength. First, instead of confronting his uncle about murdering his father and possibly ensuing into some kind of physical altercation, Hamlet organizes a scene to be played by a group of actors depicting the murder, hoping to guilt his uncle into admitting to the crime. This shows Hamlet’s strength comes from his mind, not his muscles. However, his treatment of the women in his life is incredibly poor. He holds deep resentment towards his mother for marrying his uncle so quickly after his father’s death. In his famous monologue denouncing his mother’s behavior he has the famous line, “Let me not think on ‘t; frailty, thy name is woman!” (Shakespeare, 613). He also shows his lack of humility with his treatment of Ophelia, a young woman he spurned and emotionally abuses throughout the play. Hamlet’s journey of self-discovery leads to the uncovering of a few of his heroic qualities however this mere discovery of a few characteristics does not warrant him the full title of a true hero.

A young woman’s rational judgment is clouded by the emotional loss of her brothers and father in Sophocles’ play Antigone. Many would call Antigone a hero since she stood up against her uncle, the new king of Thebes, for something she believed in, a fair and proper burial for her brother. However, her actions are powered by emotion and her reason is clouded by anger and grief over her recent losses. She does display the heroic qualities of selflessness since at one point she says she would even join her dead brother in sacrifice, “But I will bury him; and if I must die, / I say that this crime is holy: I shall lie down / With him in death, and I shall be as dear / To him as he to me” (Sophocles, 846). Antigone also shows an immense amount of courage since she is a young woman standing up to the rulings of the king, something almost unheard of in that time period. Nevertheless it seems her decisions are very emotionally motivated especially when compared to the logical and reasonable approach of her lover—and cousin—who also attempts to convince his father, King Creon, of a fair burial for Antigone’s brother. Antigone’s decision to stand up for her deceased brother seems like a heroic act but her illogical and emotionally-powered attempts make her less of a hero and more of a hysterical woman in need of a proper period of mourning.

Another female character with hysterical tendencies is that of Nora from Henrik Isben’s A Doll’s House. This woman, imprisoned in her own home by her overbearing and old-fashioned husband, leaves him and her children high and dry in an attempt to find herself. Leaving her children behind so that she can walk the path of self-discovery is selfish and potentially very damaging to her children. Who knows if she actually plans on returning at all? Nora does show a small amount of...
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