The Significance of Tragic Heroes in Literature

The Significance of Tragic Heroes in Literature

Introducing Heroes in Tragic Literature

Literature’s main purpose is to bring to fore events and happenings in the society. It is simply a mirror of what is happening around us. Literature can be in so many formats and forms; including drama, poetry, essay and any other recordings. Its value makes it imperative for authors to choose carefully characters and their roles for it realize the desired objective.

The ancient Greeks are well known for their poetry and art. Most terminologies and concepts can be traced back to this period and in that part of the world. The term tragic hero is no exception. Aristotle defined a hero in tragedy as the protagonist who experiences a twist of fate from good luck to misery, and even death in most cases because of their mistakes. The characteristics of a hero in a tragic literature include;

  • They are of noble stature and hold a high position in society.
  • Such heroes have great attributes such as strength, intelligence, wisdom, among However, even with such extraordinary qualities, they still possess a weakness (harmesia).
  • They are prone to blunder and mistakes, which again makes them easily identifiable with the audience.
  • The hero in a tragedy suffers bad luck and misfortune of great He moves from happiness to misery and demise, and this is beyond his control.
  • They portray a consistent pattern of behavior throughout the literature.
  • Their tragedy is so great that we all feel that they suffered more than they deserved.

From the Aristotelian understanding of a tragic hero, an author of heroes in literature thesis may, therefore, define a hero in tragedy as a type of character who possess extraordinary attributes but still face unfortunate ending due to mistakes and errors in their actions. We are drawn to sympathy by such attributes of a hero. They begin well and seem as good characters, but misfortune strikes them as a consequence of flaws in their characters and they end up dead in most stories or dramas.

As an audience, we are touched by tragic heroes. We develop feelings and emotions of anger, sympathy, fear and love as we develop sympathy watching or reading about their pains, bad luck and disaster. This is significant in literature because it makes the audience to empty the pent up feelings, giving them a good feeling.

Providing Examples of Tragic Heroes in Literature

To students who are about to undertake the task of developing heroes in literature thesis, the following statements are important. Whenever one wants to identify tragic heroes in literature essay, they must consider the above qualities as cited in Greek literature. Therefore, we are able to conclude that Oedipus, Achilles, Odysseus, Creon of Thebes among others fall into the category of tragic heroes in literature. In Shakespeare’s literature, we may cite Romeo, Prince Hamlet and Othello. Recently, Davy Jones (in the Pirates of The Caribbean) and Michael Corleon (in the Godfather) also may qualify as tragic heroes in literature thesis.

Let us look at two examples of tragic heroes in literature, one from classical and the other in modern times.

Homer’s Tragedy

In the epic of Homer, the main hero is known as Achilles. He was a powerful warrior described as mighty, ferocious, but full of grief. He was alleged to be the son of Peleus (a king) and Thetis (goddess of water). Thetis’ love for her son is evident throughout The Illiad. She comes to the aid of Achilles in several instances.

When Achilles was young he was brought up by centaure Chiron was wise and had much knowledge in medicine. Achilles was considered by many as a god and immortal. Driven by anger following the death of his good friend Petroclus, he challenges Hector to a fight and kills him. He manages to avenge his friend’s.

Achilles is not spared from tragedy and pain which characterizes heroes in tragic literatures. He ultimately dies violently in a brutal battle.

In many ways, Achilles is a typical tragic hero. First, his birth is royal. His father is a king and his mother a goddess, underlining his noble stature which is a key feature of Greek heroes. Secondly, he exhibits exceptional and superhuman qualities such as bravery, courage, pride, and great strength. He is god-like and immortal. From the Illiad, Achilles is portrayed from the beginning as a virtuous and perfect character, but he deep down he has flaws. His pride, overconfidence and stubbornness, in the end, cause his demise. His pride can also be seen when he refuses to make amends with Agememnon, leading to a chain of events eventually leading his death.

Finally, the Homer’s hero is also prone to miscalculations and mistakes. He is unable to discern and contemplate consequences of his actions, putting him on the path to self-destruction. He puts great value on his personal honor on tops of everything else and ultimately he meets misfortune and calamity that to a large extent, is disproportionate to his faults. His fate leaves us with a lot of contemplation and emotions.

Tragic Heroism in the Life of Abraham Lincoln

Born in Kentucky in 1809 February to Thomas Lincoln (a carpenter and a Baptist) and Nancy Lincoln (who unfortunately died when Lincoln was just nine years), Abraham Lincoln grew up with no education, spending his early days assisting his father to cut down trees and collect food. As he advanced in age, he developed an interest in reading books, making him to learn reading.

His failure to enforce his security to guard him, even after foreshadowing his death, during a play would open a chance for his assassination. This was an error in judgment and a costly mistake. Lincoln would in April 1865 be assassinated while watching a play at Ford’s Theatre.

Lincoln’s rise to one of the greatest America’s president is quiet an inspiration. He was hardworking and did not give up despite losing in a previous election. The fact that he was subconsciously aware of his death and still failed to take his security seriously proves that he was ready to embrace his demise with honor.

Lincoln’s legacy and popularity still echo many years after his death. His exceptional leadership qualities, political skills, integrity, and good crisis management skills has to date made him stand out among presidents United States has had. He guided the nation through the bloody civil war; his emancipation proclamation was revolutionary in terms of how it dismantled slavery; some of the most important and visionary laws such as the Homestead Act of 1862 were enacted during his tenure. These are just but a few of his achievements as the president.

Let us examine a few points from the above case. Tragic heroes in literature examples in modern times are not necessarily born nobles. They can come from a humble background. This is a departure from the Greek heroes who were noble in stature and were god-like. Modern authors of heroes in literature are careful to create heroes who resonate with reality. This is a key significance of heroes in literature.

How is Lincoln a tragic hero? Despite his brilliance and intelligent, he had flaws. Failure to take precaution on his safety was an error in judgment which caused his demise. Lincoln’s rise to greatness inspires hope to many, equally his death was tragic. His reversal of fortune from being a president of a free nation to a security lapse which caused his death is evident. His life story evokes feelings of sadness, pity, shame and embarrassment, making it impossible not to identify with him.

Remember, Lincoln was not born from a noble family or by immortals. This in modern perspective does not disqualify him a hero in tragedy. For we have already pointed in the body of this essay the departure in the old and new conceptualization of heroes in literatures. Therefore, the other attributes apply to Lincoln.

Significance of Tragic Heroes in Literature

From the two stories above, we can extract the importance of heroes in literatures examples that end in tragic;

  • They are the main focus of the story or drama. Being the main character, they are central to the literature.
  • Their ability to evoke emotions among readers and audiences leads to catharsis or release of the emotions that have been built up throughout the literature.
  • Heroes are significant because there provide us with important life lessons which can be applied. Modern heroes closely resemble individuals and their day to day affairs. They give us the moral of the narrative or drama. Their ultimate doom serves to warn people that even the mighty are not immune to downfall.
  • Being main characters, through them, we become conscious of other characters in the literature. There are other personalities who impact on the life of the hero; we are able to know their roles.

Considerations by both Writers and Audience

Some advice is appropriate for both the audience and authors or developers of heroes in literature thesis at this point. It is imperative that a tragedy must end in an unfortunate manner. But how can one discern the tragic heroes in literature? The already mentioned attributes should guide one in identifying a hero. Still, the audience or reader has must be deliberate in choosing their literature genre well.

In a nutshell, identifying a tragic hero calls for a focus on characters and examining whether or not in their extraordinary qualities they have shortfalls and are prone to making errors. The audience has to decide whether their supposed tragic hero elicits emotions in them.

The author, depending on his narrative must build a key character and assign him prominent roles in literature. This character can only be termed as tragic when his or her life depicts the qualities discussed above on tragic heroes.

Take Home

This piece of literature has taken sought to improve our understanding about heroes in literature that are tragic and their importance. Tragic hero concept was first featured in Greek literature. The Aristotelian concept of a tragic hero is a protagonist or main character that has outstanding qualities, however, as fate would have it he or she still come across less fortunate ending due to errors in their actions. The Greek literature contains cross-cutting traits that can be attributed to typical heroes of tragedy. Philosophers, such as Aristotle identified the following; harmatia, hubris, peripeteia, nemesis, anagnorisis, and catharsis.

It is now evident from this work that the modern understanding of heroes and how they feature in literature is not the same as classical perception of the concept. Modern tragic heroes are normal individuals who live amongst us, and their social status and background is not necessarily that of nobility. They are more ordinary normal who experience life just like any other person in the social setting. From the Greek literature, tragic heroes who were mostly men were immortals and possessed qualities of a god or immortality. They were born and raised in noble families.

Despite the contrast between the old Greek and the modern portrayal of heroes in literature that are tragic, a good author must ensure that a hero in a tragedy comes to an unfortunate ending due to their mistake and bad actions. Further, they should be able to inspire sympathy and other emotions such as shame, embarrassment, love, fear, and anger from readers or those watching a play.

Writers of heroes in literature thesis are called upon to feature their prominent characters in a manner that readers or audiences get to see their significance. In most instances, heroes are important in literatures. They serve the objective of evoking feelings of pity, sadness and fear. These emotions make a reader or an audience to experience catharsis or the act of venting out of emotions that have built up in the audience from the beginning of the art.

The imperfection and flaws which exists in a hero causes their death and/or misfortunes. They quickly reverse from bad to the worse leading to their doom and unavoidable unfortunate end.

Our article concludes having answered the question why tragic heroes are significant in literature using examples. We are all now experts.