Exploring Heroes in Literature


I’m probably not the best person to write a post about heroes in literature. As I’ve mentioned on here before, I’m usually much more drawn to the supporting characters or the, ahem, villains than the heroes. But every now and then, like a normal person, I really do like the protagonist of the story.

And to that end, since the Great American Read is going to be airing its episode about heroes next week on September 25th, now’s the perfect time to explore a little more about literary heroes.

The Great American Read, in the upcoming episode, talks a lot about the different types of heroes: tragic heroes, unlikely heroes, relatable heroes, antiheroes, etc.

Personally, I prefer my heroes of the tragic variety–or maybe even of the failed variety.

My problem is that so many times the hero is, to me, rather boring compared to everybody else. They never seem to be enjoying themselves like the villain does, and they rarely have the colorful personalities given to their subordinates. Yeah, I know being a hero is no fun but still.

On a more serious note, my problem with most heroes is that they’re usually so predictable. A lot of times, they’re too perfect to be real, and even the ones that are flawed or are billed as anti-heroes are usually pretty predictable and rote. Like the proverbial cop “who always works alone” and gets stuck with a sidekick, you know what’s going to happen next and could predict the ending just based on that description.

So, for me, the tragic hero is the most interesting, even if you already know going into it that things are not going to end well. The tragic hero tends to be more complex, too, because if the story is featuring a truly tragic hero–according to the Greeks and William Shakespeare, all of whom knew a thing or two about writing heroes–he (or she) bears some of the blame for what befalls them and helps bring it on himself/herself. That at least ensures that the character has some flaws and is not perfect.

So, that’s why for me, of the heroes that end up on the bracket, I find myself a lot more interested in Winston Smith (1984) and Okonkwo (Things Fall Apart) than many of the other protagonists.

Who are your favorite literary heroes? Who are your least favorite literary heroes? What’s your favorite type of hero? Tell us in the comments!

And don’t forget to vote–both on the Great American Read website and on our own Great Berryville Read brackets!


Author: berryvillelibrary

"Our library, our future"

4 thoughts on “Exploring Heroes in Literature”

  1. I tend to like literary heroes that have both a good and bad side. One-sided heroes and protagonists are pretty dull, like you said. I also think it’s much more relateable and realistic to have a hero that embodies both light and dark qualities because we all of have those sides to us. So perhaps an “anti-hero” is my favorite.

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: