Greek Tragedy And Heroes Essay, Research Paper
Anyone who conforms to the ideals of his particular society is a hero. If I was a beautiful busty blond who loved puppies and saved people from imminent death, in today?s society, I would generally be considered a hero. Huck, is a modern hero, and although he wasn?t an ideal person in his particular environment, the reader finds him to be near his or her own moral ideal, so the reader recognizes Huck as a hero. Odysseus is a classical hero, for he conforms to the very different social standards of ancient Greece but, since modern society shares so many ideals with Greek culture, the modern reader can still appreciate him as a heroic figure.
The classical hero and the modern hero are near opposite, but both are often identified as heroes in today?s society, even though the stories themselves are quite similar. Since the cultures were so varied, the heroes were too. The entire epic of the Odyssey was based upon the need for Odysseus to gain hubris, the Greek social ideal, and Odysseus himself was brave, fought external conflicts, and restored order. Huck rejected community values for the greater moral good. The modern hero being an underdog of sorts, he needed to battle internal conflicts, face less monsters and more people. The stories, as far as plot go, were very alike, as far as use of water, and traveling adventures. In both, the hero wandered from place to place by a water vehicle, in both, that water vehicle was destroyed at some point, in both, the hero restores some order to the place he goes (with the classical example it is external, with the modern, internal).
While Odysseus battles monsters, Huck battles his own inner conflict. The Greek myth was so simplistic a monster represented everything that may have been an inner conflict, while modern struggles are openly inner. As Odysseus battled the Cyclops, and conquered it, (even with a large sacrifice to his pride when he lost his crew), Huck battled his racism, and also had to conquer his pride, only in a slightly less represented or magnified state than in the Greek epic
“?But that was enough. It made me feel so bad I could almost kissed his foot to get him to take it back. It was fifteen minutes before I could work myself up and apologize to a nigger; but I done it, and I warn?t ever sorry for it afterward, neither”(84)
The same concept applies when the two are dealing with death. While Huck feels sorrow for Emiline, attempts to write a poem, and struggles with his own emotions, Odysseus, the classical hero, sails to the manifestation of death in Hades to deal with death itself, not his emotions resulting from it.
“And now there came before my eyes Minos,
The son of Zeus, enthroned, holding a golden staff, dealing out justice among ghostly pleaders
Arrayed about the doors of death.”(204)
The two heroes are riddled with the choices of what they want to do themselves, and what they are pressured into doing. Odysseus is constantly challenged by the gods, which are a superior force, and he must eventually obey or pay the price for it do he pays dearly and sacrifices his crew. Huck a similar problem with the great force of southern mob mentality, except that he, the modern hero, deals with his conflict by escaping and not by suffering.
“There was considerable jawing, so I slid out, thinking there was going to be trouble?everybody that seen the shooting was telling how it happened?”(139)
Both Classical and Modern heroes restore some kind of order to their story. Huck quietly helped Mary Jane overcome her problems, while Odysseus restored social order at his house by killing all who opposed him, which, however unappealing that may seem in today?s society, was the appropriate/ideal manner in the day. When Ideals change, so do heroic aspects.
“These dead must be disposed of first of all. Direct the women. Tables and chairs will be scrubbed with sponges?take them outside these women?and hack them with your swordblades till you cut the life out of them?”(423)
However, some ideals remain constant. Intellect and ingenuity was present in both Odysseus and Huckleberry, and it is still an ideal in our society today.
The purposes of the adventures were both quite different.
Odysseus wanted to get home to the loving family he left behind, and Huck was trying to get as far away as possible from his drunken abusive father. Both were a physical journey though and always towards some goal. Huck’s goal was to help Jim find his family, and to reach the territories. These goals were boths reward for ideal behavior too. If Huck were true to Jim would find his family. If Odysseus were true to the gods, he would regain his former life.
Water was used in a parallel manner also. Both stories were water voyages, and both ships crashed, only to ride on a better one instead. (Ithican/Phoenician, raft/steamboat) there are storms in each story, and each has an ending involving a primarily land based journey.
It is not the hero that changes over time, but the ideal. When we read Odysseus killing women, and such, we may cringe, since it is so far from our ideal. But we must keep in mind that the title if hero is primarily in our minds.
Without a hero in literature, books would rarely, if ever, have a main character. Without the bias that comes with the heroic novel, an uncontrollable wave of indifference would smite the imaginations of the people of the world, causing suffering and boredom. Heroes are truly vital to any story.
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