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About heroes

June 30, 2012

“I never appreciated ‘positive heroes’ in literature. They are almost always clichés, copies of copies, until the model is exhausted. I prefer perplexity, doubt, uncertainty, not just because it provides a more ‘productive’ literary raw material, but because that is the way we humans really are.”

Jose Saramago

I agree wholeheartedly with Jose Saramago. Nothing annoys me more than the positive, enthusiastic and all good hero. D”Artagnan,  James Bond, Sir Lancelot and Luke Skywalker are not on my top list.

If it has to be a heroic hero, give me Don Quixote, give me Hamlet or Paul Bäumer from “All Quiet on the Western Front” by Erich Maria Remarque. They all face a struggle from within, to which the reader can identify himself/herself with. I do not mind Ulysses, he is torn apart by two worlds: by humans and Gods.

I like also the tragic hero, the character that knows that will have a bad end, or, if he/she doesn’t, than the reader is the one who sees it coming: Orestes and King Lear – for example. It is even better, when the hero lives moments of happiness, like Yuri Zhivago in Boris Pasternak book, Doctor Zhivago. This is when the reader hopes foolishly that some miracle will happen and save the character.

And how about the self-destructive hero, like Byron’s Corsaire, or The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo, Goethe’s Young Werther. I, the reader, feel compelled to do something, but I am unable and helpless, the hero has taken his/her decision and the end is dramatic.

My favourite though, has to be the anti-hero – the one that has flaws, breaks the law, the imperfect soul that in the end has a noble motive: Winston Smith from 1984 by George Orwell, Cal from East of Eden by John Steinbeck, Holden Caulfield from Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, just to mention a few.

If I brought up this subject, how can I not mention the ones up to no good, the villains and the antagonists from Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, Shakespeare’s Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet, to Humbert Humbert – Nabokov detestable character in Lolita.

However, there is no standard, no scheme,no arrangement and no easy formula to create a hero. I am sure that any human being can be a character that stands defiant to all the classic rules and can be transformed into a piece of literature.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 30, 2012 6:10 pm

    And that’s why I always tend to like side characters more than the main characters. Most of the time they’re painted in such high regard that causes me to reject them.

  2. July 2, 2012 12:50 pm

    Zen, you gave me an excellent idea, next time I will talk about side characters.
    Thank you for liking my post.

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