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Modern-Day Heroes in Society Essay

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Updated: Jan 14th, 2020


Who is your hero? Most people when presented with a scenario to answer this question would think of a selfless character that braved the odds and rescued a situation that was getting out of hand. A hero is a person who is well-liked due to their successes and noble characteristics (The hero).

The likes of Martin Luther King Junior who advocated for equality among all races, Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Wangari Maathai who was buried in a papyrus casket for her love of nature, Clara Barton-an American activist; who risked her life on the battlefields of the Civil War to start the Red Cross and Oedipus of the Greek myths are all considered heroes by lots of people.

Although the heroes are understood differently among individuals, they are ordinary persons who posses more or less similar characteristics and could be anybody whose actions touch another person’s life.

Characteristics and Journey of a Hero

Irrespective of gender, culture or traditions from which they are depicted, heroes possess some common characteristics. Although a hero could possibly possess all the five characteristics shared by heroism outlined by Miriam Polster (2-5), some could be more evident and overshadow others. Heroes and Heroines have respect for human life; they believe in the sanctity of life and often risk their lives for other’s sake. They have faith in the effectiveness of their choices and would pursue them in spite of opposition and criticism they may face.

They possess an original perspective and are not forced to accept and conform to agreements as they are but rather advocate for issues to be as they way should be. Heroism entails physical courage that makes one risk death and injury for other’s sake as well as mental courage that drives one not to be limited by the accepted “truths.” The acts of heroes usually may have public impacts or may impact profoundly to an individual and pass unnoticed.

The heroes usually go through a number of stages before they attain their desired destiny. Joseph Campbell (57) outlines the steps of the hero’s Journey. They reside in a normal world until they are “called to adventure” by the rise of a discovery or an event in need of help. They are faced with the task of refusing or accepting the call and enter a world of the unknown where they encounter a supernatural aid that helps them through their quest.

They require a talisman and a helper along the way for success. They go through a series of tests that strengthen and prepare them for the final hurdle. The heroes finally encounter the supreme ordeal, pass it successfully and are finally rewarded for the hard toil. Their success changes their lives and the lives of those around them and are stand qualified e.g. for marriage, Kingship or Queen ship.

Modern-Day Heroes

Today the definition of the hero above as “a mythological or legendary figure often of divine descent endowed with great strength or ability” is long fading into history (Thomson 116-117). The meaning of a hero has changed and depends entirely on the time and reason for which one is considered a hero and parallel to the advancement of society, religion and politics to suit the wishes of those involved.

This is because the characters of people have changed; people no longer live in those old days where societal rules were rigid and leadership hereditary. People strive to do good and those who take the task to the extreme end are considered heroes or do-gooders (Moore 2). “Social entrepreneurs” as are commonly referred to are less interested in their success but rather on changing the system as a whole.

Today extreme do-gooders focus their attention to environmental protection, improving the education of a child and eradication of poverty and diseases from the face of the earth. They are pleased to do good even though their actions may negatively affect them. A good example is that of the late professor Wangari Maathai from Kenya who advocated for environmental protection through a worldwide program “the Green Belt Movement” for planting trees in deforested zones and lost her parliamentary seat in the process.

She however won the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize becoming the first Woman in East and Central Africa to win the prestigious award. Another example is by Erick Brockovich, a legal secretary who dedicated her efforts in petitioning against a service company for polluting a source of water for a community.


Heroes have tales of adventure written against their names and an audience to listen to them; however they go past the usual fame and celebrity status (Tollefson 1). They are people who dedicate themselves to simplifying tasks for others and live lives that others strive to emulate by setting standards not achievable by the common man yet encourage him to pursue.

Heroes envision positive change and work towards it. Each person is faced with the same difficulties and the path they choose to follow in making their journey unrivaled is always different. People should be well aware of the mission of their journeys to successfully accomplish it and emerge as the ultimate hero.

Gone are the days when heroes were considered supernatural’s and enigmas, the future foresees a world where everyone strives to be their own hero.

Works Cited

Campbell, Joseph. The Hero With a Thousand Faces. Novato Calif: New World Library, 2008. Web.

Moore, Jina. “Extreme do-gooders – what makes them tick?” The Christian Science Monitor, 2009: pp. 1-2. Web.

Polster, Miriam. “Eve’s Daughters.” Gestalt Journal (2001). Web.

HelpMe: “The hero.” 2011. Web.

Thomson, Iain. “Sparks in the Darkness”: Deconstucting the Hero. Jackson: University Press of MIssissippi, 2005. pp. 116-117. Web.

Tollefson, Ted. “Is a Hero Really Nothing but a Sandwich?” Utne Reader May-June 1993. n. pag. Web.

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