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What Is a Hero?: Variety of Definitions and Meanings Essay

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Updated: Jun 25th, 2020

Introduction

The term hero is probably one of the most frequently discussed themes in different spheres of life. Are there certain traits that have to be inherent to heroes? Is it necessary to be born a hero? Or is it possible to become a hero with time demonstrating the best qualities and good intentions? When a person starts thinking about heroes, it is better to use one of the most reliable and helpful sources, literature. Each author makes a wonderful attempt to evaluate the peculiarities of a hero and define what can actually make a hero.

The works of such authors like Knight, Quinonez, J.H. Franklin, and Thoreau have to be mentioned at first because their ideas are so different and so helpful for those who are still seeking the answer to the question “what is a hero?”. A true hero may be defined by the situations which happen to him and the actions which he prefers to take; there are both dark and light sides of heroism that have to be comprehended, and each side makes its own contribution to the definition of a hero.

Discussion

Is it possible to present one concrete definition to the word hero? Hardly! Each person has his/her own understanding of this world and the demands which are expected. Some people believe that virtue is needed for a person to become a hero, and some people still admit that anyone may become a hero just being in the right place at the necessary time.

For example, in Bodega Dreams, Ernesto Quinonez introduces a Robin Hood character is the role of a drug dealer as a typical hero who earns money from selling drugs in order to renovate houses and improve the healthcare system (Quinonez 168). Though it is an example of the dark-side heroism, this character is still a hero for those who feel these improvements and get a chance to make their lives better than they are right now.

The concept of heroism and its impact may also be defined by the society this hero lives in. One of the most successful examples of how heroism may be accepted by society is described by Etheridge Knight in his poem about Hard Rock, a Black hero. This prisoner is the hero that tries to fight on behalf of the society and introduce a kind of opposition to authority that fails to comprehend everyone who “dreamed of doing but could not brings ourselves to do/ the fears of years, like a biting whip, had cut deep bloody grooves/across our backs” (Knight 183). On the one hand, if society is weak, it is not very difficult to become a hero and introduce the disappointments that may bother. On the other hand, becoming a hero in a weak society may be frustrating because not everyone is able to realize this heroism and accept it on the necessary level.

Being a hero may be rather frustrating and difficult for some people, especially in the rest of society, who do not want to accept this idea. For example, Henry Thoreau introduces an image of the hero by means of civil disobedience and the idea to refuse all those civil rights and the necessity to obey them. He underlines that the current world and its conditions turn each person into a machine that has to follow the already offered way constantly (Thoreau 247), and those heroes who try to resist this style of life have no other way by being buried.

Maybe, it is better to become heroes in the narrower circles like it is described by John Hope Franklin in his essay The Train from Hate. He shares the experience that is connected to the idea of racial inequality and the desire of minorities to become an integral or at least an equal part of this world (Franklin 211). This intention does not make them real heroes in the whole world but still can make them heroes for those who are near and waiting for help and support.

My personal attitude to heroes and all those things that make ordinary people heroes has much in common with all stories and ideas discussed above. First, it is necessary to underline that society and conditions under which people live can make a person a real hero. Second, it is necessary to comprehend that it is hardly possible to become a hero for everyone because of heroism, as any other concept in our world may be of double nature. This is why it is possible to become a real hero for one group of people and an inveterate rogue for the others. But still, it is possible to be a hero somewhere inside and be able to demonstrate the best virtues when it is necessary.

Conclusion

People may be called heroes because of numerous things: their status, virtues, actions, and ideas. However, it is still impossible to define whether all heroes are saints only. Society is the only issue that helps to recognize a hero and his intentions and, at the same time, may completely destroy this image if necessary. If a person feels that he/she can be useful for some people and can do something that is really helpful, this chance should be used. And even if the world cannot accept this person as a hero, those whose lives are improved and saved because of the actions of this person, will always remember this power, this heroism, and this desire to help and will promote the term of heroism to new extents.

Works Cited

Franklin, John, H. “The Train from Hate.” In Missy James and Alan P. Merickel Reading Literature and Writing Argument. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall Professional Technical, 2004.

Knight, Etheridge. “Hard Rock Returns to Prison from the Hospital for the Criminal Insane.” In Missy James and Alan P. Merickel Reading Literature and Writing Argument. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall Professional Technical, 2004.

Quinonez, Ernesto. “From Bodega Dreams.” In Missy James and Alan P. Merickel Reading Literature and Writing Argument. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall Professional Technical, 2004.

Thoreau, Henry, D. “Civil Disobedience.” In Missy James and Alan P. Merickel Reading Literature and Writing Argument. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall Professional Technical, 2004.

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