History, Heroism and Home (History Comes to Life)

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Hero's Journey in Literature

For example, Karl Marx argued that history was determined by the massive social forces at play in " class struggles ", not by the individuals by whom these forces are played out. After Marx, Herbert Spencer wrote at the end of the 19th century: "You must admit that the genesis of the great man depends on the long series of complex influences which has produced the race in which he appears, and the social state into which that race has slowly grown The Annales school , led by Lucien Febvre , Marc Bloch , and Fernand Braudel , would contest the exaggeration of the role of individual subjects in history.

Indeed, Braudel distinguished various time scales, one accorded to the life of an individual, another accorded to the life of a few human generations, and the last one to civilizations , in which geography , economics , and demography play a role considerably more decisive than that of individual subjects.

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Among noticeable events in the studies of the role of the hero and great man in history one should mention Sidney Hook 's book The Hero in History. In the epoch of globalization an individual may change the development of the country and of the whole world, so this gives reasons to some scholars to suggest returning to the problem of the role of the hero in history from the viewpoint of modern historical knowledge and using up-to-date methods of historical analysis.

Within the frameworks of developing counterfactual history , attempts are made to examine some hypothetical scenarios of historical development. The hero attracts much attention because most of those scenarios are based on the suppositions: what would have happened if this or that historical individual had or had not been alive.

Although the term "heroine" exists in recent use, "hero" is the predominantly used term nowadays, even though its neutrality may be put into question by some. The definitions of the heroine often refer back to the one of the hero, but sometimes insinuate that their deeds are of less value, or were obtained only thanks to their love of God, country, or a man.

Therefore, implying that an external explanation for the supposedly extraordinary nature of her deeds is needed to justify them. The warrior women is considered unholy, unnatural.

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These figures tend to be dismissed because they don't fit in the feminine values they are supposed to represent. Following this logic, acts of heroism by women are seen as acceptable, during specific time, such as when men are at war and during times of crisis, but they are otherwise often seen as suspicious.

Moreover, women are often not individualized, but praised as a group for heroic deeds. Women in the military were often subordinated to tasks less likely to be praised than armed combat and rather, are praised for their courage as a general force, the behavior of nurses during wartime are a good example of this phenomenon.

Reflecting the same perspective, if their story gets told at all, they are made to fit in the acceptable script. Their story is told in a way as to match the expectations of femininity ex: maternal love, compassion, fidelity, resistance, defense, etc. So the set of strengths in which, historically, a heroine could express her value, are overall not the same and perceived as less valuable than their masculine counterpart. In general, the cultural repertoire of heroic stories requires different qualities for each gender. The contrast of the ideal narrative line pits the autonomous ego-enhancing hero single-handedly and single-heartedly progressing toward a goal versus the long-suffering, selfless, socially embedded heroine, being moved in many directions, lacking the tenacious loyalty demanded of a quest.

Often, if women heroes get mentioned in history, the way their story is told also differs from their male counterparts. Generally, they are portrayed as young and beautiful, their actions are limited to a short time period in opposition to the possibility of a long heroic career portrayed for male heroes, underlying feelings that led to their heroic acts are underlined, overall less details about their life are kept, and emphasis is put upon their tragic death.

It has been asserted that heroes and heroines are part of a social construct, their history is told and changes throughout history to serve different purposes of memory, propaganda according to diverse social, political, or religious evolution. The word "hero" or "heroine" in modern times , is sometimes used to describe the protagonist or the romantic interest of a story, a usage which may conflict with the superhuman expectations of heroism.

In modern literature the hero is more and more a problematic concept. In , for example, William Makepeace Thackeray gave Vanity Fair the subtitle, A Novel without a Hero , and imagined a world in which no sympathetic character was to be found. Even the most sympathetic characters, such as Captain Dobbin, are susceptible to weakness, as he is often narcissistic and melancholy. The larger-than-life hero is a more common feature of fantasy particularly in comic books and epic fantasy than more realist works.

The superhero genre is a multibillion-dollar industry that includes comic books, movies, toys, and video games. Superheroes usually possess extraordinary talents and powers that no living human could ever possess. The superhero stories often pit a super villain against the hero, with the hero fighting the crime caused by the super villain. Social psychology has begun paying attention to heroes and heroism. Zeno Franco and Philip Zimbardo point out differences between heroism and altruism, and they offer evidence that observer perceptions of unjustified risk play a role above and beyond risk type in determining the ascription of heroic status.

Psychologists have also identified the traits of heroes. Elaine Kinsella and her colleagues [34] have identified 12 central traits of heroism, which consist of brave, moral integrity, conviction, courageous, self-sacrifice, protecting, honest, selfless, determined, saves others, inspiring, and helpful.


Aretha Franklin: a life of heartbreak, heroism and hope | Music | The Guardian

Scott Allison and George Goethals [35] uncovered evidence for "the great eight traits" of heroes consisting of wise, strong, resilient, reliable, charismatic, caring, selfless, and inspiring. These researchers have also identified four primary functions of heroism. An evolutionary psychology explanation for heroic risk-taking is that it is a costly signal demonstrating the ability of the hero. It may be seen as one form of altruism for which there are several other evolutionary explanations as well.

Roma Chatterji has suggested that the hero or more generally protagonist is first and foremost a symbolic representation of the person who is experiencing the story while reading, listening, or watching; [38] thus the relevance of the hero to the individual relies a great deal on how much similarity there is between them and the character.

Chatterji suggested that one reason for the hero-as-self interpretation of stories and myths is the human inability to view the world from any perspective but a personal one. In the Pulitzer Prize -winning book, The Denial of Death , Ernest Becker argues that human civilization is ultimately an elaborate, symbolic defense mechanism against the knowledge of our mortality, which in turn acts as the emotional and intellectual response to our basic survival mechanism.

Becker explains that a basic duality in human life exists between the physical world of objects and a symbolic world of human meaning. Thus, since humanity has a dualistic nature consisting of a physical self and a symbolic self, he asserts that humans are able to transcend the dilemma of mortality through heroism, by focusing attention mainly on the symbolic selve. This symbolic self-focus takes the form of an individual's " immortality project" or " causa sui project" , which is essentially a symbolic belief-system that ensures that one is believed superior to physical reality.

By successfully living under the terms of the immortality project, people feel they can become heroic and, henceforth, part of something eternal; something that will never die as compared to their physical body.

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This he asserts, in turn, gives people the feeling that their lives have meaning, a purpose, and are significant in the grand scheme of things. Another theme running throughout the book is that humanity's traditional "hero-systems", such as religion , are no longer convincing in the age of reason. Science attempts to serve as an immortality project, something that Becker believes it can never do, because it is unable to provide agreeable, absolute meanings to human life. The book states that we need new convincing "illusions" that enable people to feel heroic in ways that are agreeable.

Becker, however, does not provide any definitive answer, mainly because he believes that there is no perfect solution.

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Instead, he hopes that gradual realization of humanity's innate motivations, namely death, may help to bring about a better world. From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. This is the latest accepted revision , reviewed on 10 November Person or character who combats adversity through feats of ingenuity, courage, or strength.

For other uses, see Hero disambiguation and Heroes disambiguation. For the film, see Heroism film. For the racehorse, see Heroic horse. It is not to be confused with Heroin. For other uses, see Heroine disambiguation. See also: Greek hero cult. Further information: Philosophy of history and Great man theory.

Further information: Vanity Fair novel and Superhero. Retrieved Retrieved 2 October Beekes , Etymological Dictionary of Greek , Brill, , p. University of California Press. Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association. The Iliad. Robert Fagles Features Reviews News Community.

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Submit Feedback. Thank you for your feedback. See Article History. Read More on This Topic. A culture hero can easily be assimilated to a god by identifying him with an incarnation of a god. Thus, great religious teachers are considered…. Start Your Free Trial Today. Learn More in these related Britannica articles:.

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