The introduction of heroes in British literature marked a significant revolution in the thoughts of the authors and their audiences. Heroes are regarded as the first presentation of human beings in writing with the recount of their experiences characterized by perennial freshness. Heroes represent the figures through which different cultures negotiate their cultural values and standards. Through the years, the concept of the hero has taken various forms in British literature. Also, some unique characteristics have been presented in different works. This essay offers a discussion of the concept and aspects of a hero in British literature. Heroes have often been linked to ideal warriors who acted with courage, bravery, and honour, and additionally characterized by flaws like any ordinary human being.
A piece that has, through the years, shaped the concept of a hero is ‘Beowulf.’ Beowulf can, by far, be regarded as the greatest hero in British literature as his character inspired multitudes for many years. Beowulf presents the heroic concept of an ideal warrior, as he represented the ability to overcome complicated situations. Beowulf also described the idea of inspiration to others and sacrificing oneself for the sake of others. The narrator of ‘Beowulf’ also presents two essential traits of a hero, courage, and strength. Beowulf’s courage and strength are manifested when he battles with Grendel, Grendel’s mother, and a deadly dragon. Beowulf’s defeat over the monsters is an affirmation of his almost superhuman strength. In addition to traits of courage and toughness, Beowulf also possesses the attributes of bravery and loyalty. Beowulf is a representation of a typical hero in the Anglo-Saxon period, in which heroes were regarded, honorable warriors. Beowulf’s human side is evidenced by his pride and prejudice in his actions, implying that he, too, had flaws.
After ‘Beowulf’s’ concept of a hero, subsequent literature works borrowed some of the traits and incorporated a twist of more human characteristics. In ‘Sir Gawain and the Green Knight,’ the concept of a hero is almost similar to that of an ideal warrior in ‘Beowulf.’ Sir Gawain manifests the characters of bravery, courage, and chivalry. He also shows the trait of honour by stepping up to fight with Green Knight on behalf of King Arthur. Sir Gawain upholds reputation in his actions but is portrayed as human when he fails in the end. His failure is symbolic of human flaws and is proof that even heroic men have flaws.
A somewhat problematic concept of the hero is seen in ‘Paradise Lost.’ The article has often been subject to dispute on who is the real hero between God and Stan. Some argue that Satan is the true hero owing to his courage and dedication to achieve his central goal of corrupting humanity. Understanding of the concept of the hero in ‘Paradise Lost” however requires one to look at the bigger picture beyond just courage and dedication. The idea of the hero in the article brings to light the intentions of the actions of the hero. Though dedicated to his course, Satan’s plans are not good, and thus he is not the ultimate hero in the story. God is instead the true hero in ‘Paradise Lost’ because of his good intentions for humanity.
In conclusion, the concept and characteristics of a hero have, through the years, adopted different forms. However, one factor that stands out is that the actions of heroes are in the interest of others and not their interests. The essay has linked the concept of a hero to an ideal warrior who acts with courage, bravery, and honour. Heroes have also been portrayed to a human side, depicted by their character flaws, as in the case of Sir Gawain. In problematic texts like ‘Paradise Lost,’ the concept of the hero extends to the intentions of the actions of the hero. The texts broaden the concept of a hero beyond bravery and dedication, including acting for the greater good.