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The American Hero

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Lindsay Bouchard

on 29 May 2014

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Transcript of The American Hero

The American Hero
by Lindsay Bouchard
There are four types of heroes in literature:
Byronic hero
Classic hero
Tragic hero
Even though each type of hero presents different characteristics, they all carry the same trait of striving to achieve a betterment for their purpose.
A tragic hero is a person of noble birth with heroic or potentially heroic qualities who is destined to have their ultimate downfall, also known as their “tragic flaw.”

An example of a tragic hero is Willy Loman. While Willy is not of noble birth and is no more than the average Joe, he does possess a tragic flaw. Willy’s fatal flaw is his inability to accept his status and lack of success. Because Willy is unable to accept his life the way it is, it leads to his ultimate downfall - his death - in order for him to provide his family with his vision of the American Dream.

The classic hero is “the person who goes on a quest to seek some good or triumph over something or someone to bring about benefit for the greater good.”

An example of a classic hero is Anna from the movie Frozen. Anna’s sister, Elsa, accidentally freezing their kingdom with her powers before fleeing to escape prosecution for being considered a ‘monster.’ Anna goes on a long quest to seek out her sister and save their kingdom from its ultimate demise.

An anti-hero lacks the traditional qualities of a hero, such as courage or idealism.

An example of an anti-hero is Holden Caulfield from The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. Holden is an apathetic teenager who wishes to be someone of substance, someone who matters but cannot find the means or motivation to get himself there. Holden is somewhat of a hypocrite as he details all that is “phony” in his life, but is kind of a phony himself. He is rude to those that care for him and rebels against norm for reasons even he doesn’t know.

The American Dream can be defined as a personal goal of general self-improvement and advancement, usually for a better quality of life or better financial situations.

In texts like Death of a Salesman, Catcher in the Rye, and The Great Gatsby, the hero's American Dream ideal is almost always unattainable dreams of wealth, popularity, and acceptance.

A common thread throughout the texts we studied was that almost all of the ‘heroes’ attempted to achieve their idea of the American dream through means of obtaining money and material things to become favored by those they admire. The want for what is unobtainable could be considered a tragic flaw, making that character a tragic hero like Willy Loman and Jay Gatsby. An anti-hero, like Holden Caulfield, achieves his dream through selfish and devious ways. And a byronic hero finds his dream through means of rebellion.

A couple hundred years ago, the modern dream was defined as “a set of ideals in which freedom includes the opportunity for prosperity and success, and an upward social mobility achieved through hard work.” But, in modern times, the American Dream is having the biggest, best, and most expensive version of everything so that you can seem more powerful than those around you. For most, this is unattainable due to financial circumstances and other irremediable obstacles that come with the
advancement of one’s life.

Modern day heroes could usually be considered classic heroes. This is not in
the sense that they are usually of royal descent or particularly special in some cases, but they go above and beyond the norm to achieve something for the greater good. Generally, people seem to be attracted to those who seem normal but can do something extraordinary. Examples of this hero could be Spiderman, Harry Potter, or the modern version of
Sherlock Holmes.

A real-life, non-fiction modern American hero is someone who goes above and beyond to help others. They devote more of their time to the betterment of others’ lives instead of their own, which in my eyes is very noble. These could be people like volunteers, army men and
women, and teachers.

What is a Hero?
The byronic hero is typically rebellious, arrogant, anti-social, and darkly, enticingly romantic.

An example of a byronic hero would be Severus Snape from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. Snape is the modern embodiment of the byronic hero as he is arrogant, sarcastic, and seems to hate Harry Potter. Snape even ends up killing Dumbledore towards the end of the series, and it is revealed later that Dumbledore plead with Snape to kill him so Draco would not have to. Snape possesses some mislead heroic qualities as his entire life is spent working toward avenging Lily Potter’s murder, and he killed a man in order to save a child from mental scarring. All of Snape’s internal conflicts are heavily romanticized by his eternal love for Lily.

The Byronic Hero
The Classic Hero
The Tragic Hero
The Anti-Hero
What is
the "American Dream"?
Attaining the American Dream
The Modern American Dream
and How to Achieve It
Modern Heroes
Real Modern
American Heroes
Works Cited
Fitzgerald, F S. The Great Gatsby. New York: Scribner Paperback Fiction, 1995. Print.
Salinger, J D. The Catcher in the Rye. Boston: Little, Brown, 1951. Print.
The Death of a Salesman movie adaption (unknown details)

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