Heroes and Heroism
Heroes are part of the fabric of our society. Heroes inspire and lift us up when we need a little boost. Sometimes we need a dose of inspiration. We watch television shows and movies to watch heroes on television who seem to do nothing wrong but still succeed in life.
What exactly makes a hero? A hero is a normal human being or a fictional character who, against insurmountable odds, performs extraordinary acts of courage, ingenuity, or strength in the face of adversity. As with other previously only gender-specific words, hero can be used to describe any gender, although hero often only refers to females. In general, a hero’s greatest achievements often qualify them as a true hero. True heroes use their knowledge, power, skills, and confidence to do the right thing, even if it is not always popular or accepted by others.
The Greek god of war, Aeschylus, is known as a hero because of his many achievements during the Trojan Wars. Although he was never actually captured by the Trojans, he repeatedly demonstrated that he was untouchable despite his own wounds. Hector, the hero of the Iliad and the play by Homer, did not flee from battle when he was wounded. Rather, he ran toward danger, which eventually saved his friends, became a skilled fighter, and then went on to conquer Troy and most of Greece. Achilles, the son of Hippias, was known as a prince who lived a luxurious life and loved his family, yet he never showed fear or hesitation while fighting for his country.
Many psychologists believe that some forms of heroism can be learned. Others point out that children are usually more willing to take action for reasons of love or caring. Still, researchers suggest that all forms of heroic behavior have a psychological component, whether it is the desire to be a hero or the ability to see an opportunity or problem through to its conclusion. All of this may come from the ability to accurately perceive and interpret social situations, to identify with others, and to take action in the face of adversity.
Some scholars argue that the most important feature of classical heroes was their ability to immortality. As Coleridge said of the Greek hero Achilles: “There’s something romantic in the belief that a man may die a thousand deaths and live to be a tree.” Achilles is the epitome of strength and courage; he epitomized excellence, noble sacrifice, and the ability to overcome great odds. Many scholars agree that this combination of qualities is what modern Americans attempt to achieve by subscribing to the heroic code, elevating those whose accomplishments run the gamut from professional athletes to prisoners of war to civic leaders.
In sum, many people choose to model themselves after heroes. Whether they take action to fulfill a personal need or seek out heroic acts to help others, the goal is the same. Heroes teach us that there is a place for excellence, that true success depends not on the absence of danger but the presence of opportunity, and that the call to greatness must come from within rather than from the outside.