Saturday, October 11, 2014

Evolution of Literature: the Hero/Warrior/Protagonist

About 1000BC: Achilles - Achilles was the son of a nymph and a king. He is considered one of the greatest warriors of ancient history, probably has muscles where muscles don't exist, and was (according to Mr. Tritico) 15 years old at the time of the Trojan War. He's masculine, but also has emotions, but he can become consumed by furor as a result of these emotions: the death of his dear Patroclus enrages him such that he kills Hector and drags him around Troy's walls.

About 30 BC - Aeneas: son of Venus, very emotional (as we saw in the Aeneid), had a great sense of duty/pietas. Great warrior, but nothing extremely abnormal about his physique. Aeneas must constantly struggle with a source of evil, the furor of Juno.

1200 AD - Sir Lancelot: Archetypical knight. Mighty in war and nice to the lady folk. The theme of chivalry rises up in this period. The way Aeneas handled his situation with Dido would not have been okay with the knights. Thus, the notion of responsibility is further developed to include a attention to the feelings of others.

1938 AD - Superman: born on a foreign planet, Krypton, he's an alien that has emotional cares for the people of earth as a whole. He's freaking invincible, save for his Achilles heel (reference intended), Kryptonite. The notion of responsibility has been extended to people whom the hero does not know, and the concept of good vs. evil is most prevalent, as in the Aeneid.

1976 AD - He-Man: a paragon of modern masculinity. This guy has about eight bicep muscles for every real human bicep muscle. He wields a sword about as big as he is tall, and he defeats evil with swift and exacting justice.
With the emphasis literature has placed on strong male figures, men  have an unrealistic social standard to live up to. I don't think this problem is addressed enough in modern times, so here's a summary:

1 comment:

alex Monier said...

I like the idea of a hero across all of these cultures. From Odysseus to King Arthur to Captain America, all of these characters embody the spirit of the time. Even in the roughest of times, we need a strong character to look up to and often these heroes served as that leader. This allowed for a level of escapism to occur. The people of their respected times would sit down to listen to a tale of the greatest of the great of their culture and allowed them to forget about life for a little while.