Essay Instructions: Develop a essay response to the following topic. Be sure to provide adequate textual evidence from the works you choose to illustrate your answer. The essay is your last demonstration of clear, effective, correct prose.
Topic: During the term we discussed various heroic types: revenge, solar, phallic, savior and anti-hero, to name several. 1) How would finally assess each of our five main protagonists, Oedipus, Krapp, Estragon and Vladimir and Hamlet, as regards these heroic types. 2) Given the fact that recent history and the media have presented us with so many examples of fallen heroes, what qualities would you assign to the hero of the theater of the future?
Northrop Frye in his Anatomy of Criticism Frye distinguishes between the High Mimetic and the Low Mimetic. These are on a vertical axis—as compared to the horizontal axes of the above-mentioned continuums. At the highest level we have the divine—Gods, heroes, etc.—at the lowest lever we have all that is ignoble—stones, garbage, etc. Milton is an example of the high mimetic; Beckett is an example of the low mimetic.
Anti-hero. N fiction, an anti-hero is a protagonist who is lacking the traditional heroic attributes and qualities, and instead possesses character traits that are antithetical to heroism. Many modern anti-heroes possess, or even encapsulate, the postmodern rejection of traditional values symptomatic of Modernist literature in general, as well as the disillusion felt after WWII and the Nuclear Age. It has been argued that the continuing popularity of the anti-hero in modern literature and popular culture may be based on the recognition that a person is fraught with human frailties, unlike the archetypes of the white-hutted cowboy and the noble warrior and is therefore more accessible to readers and viewers
The Byronic hero is an idealized, but flawed character exemplified in the life and writings of Lord Byron, characterized by his ex-lover Lady Caroline Lamb as being “mad, bad and dangerous to know” The Byronic hero fist appears in Byron’s semi-autobiographical epic narrative poem Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage (1812-18). The Byronic hero has the following characteristics”
- conflicting emotions, bipolar tendencies, or moodiness
- self-critical and introspective
- struggles with integrity
- a distaste for social institutions and social norms
- being an exile, and outcast, or an outlaw
- has “dark” attributes not normally associated with heroes
- struggle with sexual identify (homosexual, sleeps with many women, etc)
- a lack of respect for rank and privilege
- a troubled past
- being cynical, demanding, and/or arrogant
- often self-destructive
- loner, often rejected from society
Tragic Hero. Aristotle once said that “ A man doesn’t become an hero until he can see the root of his own downfall.” An Aristotelian tragic hero must possess specific characteristics, five of which are below.
1. Nobility (of a noble birth) or wisdom (by virtue of birth).
2. Hamartia (translated as flaw or error in judgment). Either a mistake in the character’s actions or in his personality that leads to a downfall.
3. A reversal of fortune (peripeteia) brought about because of the hero’s Hamartia.
4. The discovery or recognition that the reversal was brought about by the hero’s own actions (anagnorisis)
5. The audience must feel dramatic irony for the character.
Initially, the tragic hero should be neither better nor worse morally than normal people, in order to allow the audience to identify with him. This also introduces pity, which is crucial in tragedy, for if the hero were perfect we would either be outraged with his fate or not especially care due to his ideological superiority. If the hero were evil, then the audience would feel that he had gotten what he deserved. It is important to strike a balance in the hero’s character.
Eventually the Aristotelian tragic hero dies a tragic death, having fallen from great heights and having made an irreversible mistake. The hero must courageously accept his or her death with honor. This is not the case with all tragic heroes, since Oedipus does not in fact kill himself.
Some other common traits characteristic of a tragic hero:
- Usually has an epic battle with a villain where he fights to the death for what he believes in
- The hero must suffer more than he deserves.
- The hero must be doomed from the start, but bears no responsibility for possessing his flaw.
- The hero must have discovered his fate by his own actions, not by things happening to him.
- The hero must see and understand his doom, and that his fate was revealed by his own actions.
- The hero’s story should arouse fear and empathy.
- The hero must be physically or spiritually wounded by his experiences, often resulting in his death.
- Ideally, the hero should be a king or leader of men, so that his people experience his fall with him. This could also include a leader of a family, like Allie Fox in The Mosquito Coast.
- The hero must be intelligent enough to have the opportunity to learn from his mistakes.
- The hero must have a weakness, usually hubris, a subtle but irreversibly tragic form of pride.
- The hero must be faced with a very serious decision.
- The suffering of the hero must have meaning.
Other types include the revenge hero, solar hero, phallic hero, and savior hero.
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