The question, which has been set, is about heroism so I will start the essay by giving my personal opinion of a hero and the dictionary definition of a hero.
The dictionary definition of a hero is ‘a man or boy who is admired for doing something very brave or great’. This definition is very close to my own definition apart from I believe that a hero is also someone who people can look up to as a mentor or as a role model.
The Sextons Hero
Firstly The Sextons Hero is a story about a sexton (digs graves for a living) who has a friend with whom he has known for most of his life but they get separated when they both fall for the same woman. Gilbert (his friend) is challenged by the sexton to a fight only to be turned down as Gilbert is a religious man and finds fighting wrong. He is latter rejected by his love Letty and the Sexton marries her and they bare child. But later on when they are both visiting family without the baby they are caught crossing a bay when the tide come in and looks destined to kill them both only for Gilbert to come and rescues them and thus kill himself so that the baby may have its mother and father.
Gilbert is a very stereotypical hero as he is six feet tall, broad and is very sporty. This is the more thought of sought of person when the word hero is mentioned rather than some one who replace broad with brains like in the Curates tale.
You learn of how Gilbert grows up with the Sexton as they had the same job grew up in the same place and both had similar education. The job which they both had was copping which is where you make barrels you learn here of how mighty Gilbert is as the Sexton says of how he would put his best leg forward and still wouldn’t match Gilbert. This is a statement, which shows that the Sexton views him as a superior to him even before he did this great dead for him.
Gilberts life changes for the worse when the Sexton and he meet Letty and they both seem to instantly fall for her. The problem arises when the Sexton finally challenges Gilbert for a fight over Letty. But Gilbert has turned to religion and sees there is no need for fighting. This proves his intelligence as he can rise above the barbaric tendencies to solve problems and wants to converse using his intelligence to fight his battles. This also proves that he has lots of morals, which he is not ashamed to stand by.
Subsequently he is treated badly and ridiculed but he turns more heavily to religion to endure his pain. Even Letty who has been kind to him in the past even turns on him as she refuses to even speak with him and leaves him in uncommunicativeness. She also gives Gilbert his flowers back, which he gives her to win her heart over with. Because of this rejection it forces Gilbert to turn fully to his faith.
Gilbert has quickly becomes a changed man as he says ‘sad, careless way’ This portrays that now his morals have taken a more precarious stance in his life he seems to be ashamed of his early life. I think this symbolises just how heart broken Gilbert is over Letty as religion is his comfort as his morals see it as a way to protect him so he turns to it.
Another region why Gilbert turns to religion is the fact that he is isolated from his friends, as they seem to follow the Sextons suite of churning him away and he become isolated from his other friends as well as the one he loves and his best friend.
The scene at the end where Gilbert rescues the Sexton and Letty show religion has made him stand out as a hero as the religious side of him brings out this great act of heroism. As the Sexton believes that it was God working in strange ways in which called Gilbert to there aid.
Gilbert also seems a lot more confident as he speaks with great authority to Letty and her husband when telling then what to do. This also shows him as a real Hero as he is calm and collected in this most frantic of situations.
Gilbert is also very reassuring and again knows how to calm people down as when Letty and the Sexton are stating to become frantic and scared Gilbert quickly reassures them by telling them that ‘The horse can swim’ which shows that Gilbert is very calm and to a certain extent knows how to react to people reactions.
Also when Gilbert knows that his fate is set in stone he quiet quickly accepts his fate as he speaks of no self-pity what so ever. This could also be linked to Religion, as he knows that he is dying a honourable death by saving a family’s life for his own.
There s than a piece of black comedy like in the Curates story as there is some irony present as Gilbert dies after Letty breaks the deadlock between the two by giving thanks to him for saving her life. This is the cost of love for Gilbert and this probably shows that Gilberts love for Letty is greater as he is prepared to die for her even after being out of sight and contact for several years and only lives on her memories.
The great love for Letty by Gilbert is shown again as at the end when Letty and the Sexton go through his things they find a pressed flower in his bible which he gave to Letty but which she rejected. This symbolises the two things, which were great in his life, his love for Letty and his religion. This shows everyone how courage’s he was and how much he loved his faith and his unchanging love for Letty. Gilbert saw his death to be not in vein as he managed to prove his courage in his two greatest things in his love for Letty by saving her and by his faith by forgiving the Sexton even though the Sexton was ridiculed him and essentially destroyed his life.
Old Mrs Chundle
I am secondly going to look at the story ‘Old Mrs Chundle’ and the hero in it who is the Curate. The Curate is a hero as he gets an old woman into church that other wise wouldn’t go because she is deaf.
This is one reason for him being a hero as he is bringing this isolated woman to a community and thus making sure that people know of her existence and that she has contact from the outside world. You learn of her solidarity as when the Curate firstly enters the house you told that Mrs Chundle ‘…held her head to her ear’ after the Curate had asked her for food. As with most deaf people they learn to lip read as they rely more heavily on there other senses too decipher speech. This is normally brought about by a doctors recommendation or interaction with other humans with either/or of the above not occurring this obviously proves isolation as she would have had practice experienced either one of the two. Also second section of evidence is found on the second page where the curate asks of a road running in close proximity to her home and is only three mile to the nearest town named Enkworth yet she has never visited there.
To achieve this feat so that Mrs Chundle can receive the sermons the Curate firstly gets an ear trumpet for Mrs Chundle but that fails to help as she tells him the next day that ‘You might as well have been mouthing at me from the top O’ Greech Barrow.’ This shows that she is still isolated, as she doesn’t mention a well known hilly area but that of a local one. However this doesn’t stop the Curate.
So instead of the ear trumpet he gets a pipe installed which links Mrs Chundle’s ear to the pulpit. This is Latter removed because the Curate can’t stand her breathing as she has bad breath and try’s to put him off by talking to him about food. ‘Accompanied by a suggestion of onion-stew’. This could show that Mrs Chundle likes the Curate as she talks to him about a subject, which she knows is appealing to him. You know of the woman’s bad breath by the fact that the Curate blocks the tube so that the odour can’t be smelt ‘ ..his finest cambric handkerchief.. no longer able to endure the odour he lightly dropped the handkerchief into the bell of the tube.’. The handkerchief is also his finest this could be representing the fact that he is willing to dispose of one of the things, which he holds dear in order to get rid of this odour.
The Curate physically is a young active person who has newly been posted to his current location of a small Parish between a town called Enckworth and a market town named Anglebury. You find proof of this as you first find him painting a watercolour of a ‘..distant view of the Corvstage ruin… which he had passed on his way hither.’. this could show that he is energetic as the nearest town is three miles away and you would assume that he would have walked the distance as the parish is isolated and transport in that time would have been very poor thus he most likely walked the distance.
The Curate is a generous man as he insists paying Mrs Chundle for his meal even though as she says that the ‘taters I’ve got plenty of, and the cabbage is going to waste.’ Mrs Chundle initially rejects the money but after the curate pleads with her she accepts it. However she insists that she will be making a profit even at two pence for the dish. There is also more proof of the Curates generosity as he installs the pipe and the ear trumpet at no cost to Mrs Chundle.
The Curate also is obviously an artistic man as you find him at the start of the story painting a picture that is a watercolour and is obviously a landscape and is obviously a landscape as it is mentioned that he is painting a distant view of ruins in which he came across in arriving to the Parish.
The Curate is also very professional man who is dedicated to his job as he persuades a woman who tells the curate that she attends church every week that she attends to actually attend. This proves his dedication to his job, as he doesn’t know of weather she comes to the parish or not even which religion she belongs to before talking her into coming to his parish on a Sunday.
The Curate also has an extensive and thorough vocabulary, which he uses at all, chances which prove he has a keen intellect as with the vocabulary and art which he partakes in it proves his intelligence. But personally I think his vocabulary is average by today’s standards but is far greater in the days when the story was written. Compared to the very regional dialect spoke by Mrs Chundle. The Curate’s intelligence is also proven by the fact that he can read which again a hundred years ago or so was quiet a great feat, which was also one, which showed of a educated upbringing. The instillation of the ear trumpet and pipe to the pulpit proves the curate’s resourcefulness and his ability to think on his feet.
However one of the defaults of the Curate is the fact that he has a temper on him, which tends to be more childish then malice. The Childish part is obviously shown as he refuses to go and visit Mrs Chundle and he blocks up the pipe so that she cant’ hear or breath down it! SO this childish mood swing changes the basic good attributes which the Curate has such as generosity as he stops his private readings to her.
The Language being used here shows the that the Curate is fighting himself with neglecting his generous instinct as he says “I must do something, I cannot stand this. I shall tell her not to come… And I’ve half promised to go and read to her. But I shan’t go.’ This shows that he is fighting himself as these sound like idle threats that he is making to himself inside and not ones which he is prepared to act on as the language is very stutter like which makes the thoughts seem feeble and pointless. Also the language used is not very string so this also proves that he isn’t used to doing this type of thing to people.
The Curate follows up with further childish actions as he gets the tube removed but as soon as he gets this done he feels more at ease with himself as he hasn’t stopped her from attending the service but has simply put her off by the fact that she can no longer hear the service.
The story then takes a sharp turn as you learn of the death of Mrs Chundle we learn of that she died as a result of her eagerness to go to the Parish on Sunday to see the Curate. This proves her admiration for him and along with the fact that you are told of how she wanted a reading of the bible from the Curate before she died she didn’t want to disturb him if he was busy. The deathbed reading also I think shows admiration as she seemed to wait until the last moment for the Curate to visit to read to her when he didn’t come before she died.
I think that the pipe personifies Mrs Chundle’s relationship with the Curate as when the pipe is being removed she is having her life removed. Secondly the pipe is only put in at a second attempt like what the Curate tried to lure her into his service. Thirdly he blocked the pipe up like how he blocked her out like hoe he didn’t visit her.
Mrs Chundle also gives her last piece of admiration to the Curate by leaving him everything in her will.
The Curate is also very upset at first and can’ believe it as the language and punctuation used when he first learns of the news seems to slow the whole situation down and make it seem more hard hitting ”Dead?…Mrs Chundle dead?’ Later at the end of the story it’s shown that the Curate puts his heads in his hands and try’s to get over the fact that he neglected her on her deathbed. This action shows that he is guilty and remorseful.
The answer to the question set I think is Gilbert as he gives his life for his friend and the on which he loves when he could have just abandoned his love who rejected him or killed his lovers husband but instead gave his life so that a child would have its parents. However the Curate was a here in a different sense as he used hi intelligence and good nature to make an old woman believe in life a bit more and come out of isolation so that she had friends and became a part of a community who cared about her as you find out half way through the tale the head of the parish who’s been situated at the parish for thirteen years knows very little of her yet at the end someone stops the Curate to tell him of her death.