Contrasting Ideals of a Hero in Catch-22 and Beowulf

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John Yossarian, the individualist combateer of Catch-22, and Beowulf, the hero of Denmark, though both protagonists of their stories, portray two seemingly contrasting ideals of a hero. Yossarian, even by virtue of his unusual name, is marked as an outsider and an individualist who displays cowardly and self-motivated acts. Beowulf, on the other hand, is the personification of the "perfect" hero. His deeds are inhumanly courageous, he is accepted without question by those he seeks alliance with, and acted with the interests of his followers in mind.Yossarian breaks away from the idealistic mold of the hero from the very start. He does not endanger his own well-being for the sake of his peers. In fact, he goes to lengths to avoid putting his life in peril at any and every chance. However, because the system of values surrounding Yossarian is so obscure and distorted, this perspective stands out as being, ironically, the only "right" path for him to follow, even if it is only by virtue of being logical. It is in this way that Yossarian forces the reader to redefine their notions of the typical hero, as one who seeks little more than self-preservation. In sharp contrast, Beowulf seemed to have been created with the sole purpose of living the life of a warrior. His feats of strength and courage were staggering. However, he also exemplifies the personal, and often endearing, traits that we seek in a stereotypical hero. He is loyal, courteous, and conscientious. All these values can be best depicted in his swimming match against Breca.Yossarian, despite his self-proclaimed self-interest, shows a startlingly human and compassionate side. It becomes apparent that he is deeply in love with being a live. It is the passion for life that fuels his self-preservation. In fact, it is also this that torments him when a tragedy strikes a member of the squadron. He cares deeply for

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