Oedipus Tragic Hero Essay

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Tragic heroes — from Sophocles’ Ajax and Antigone to the Western films’ Shane and Woodrow Call — can be defined in a variety of ways. But the common archetype is a larger-than-life figure. He is endowed with extraordinary gifts and sometimes even more monumental flaws. Fate decrees that even his departure or self-destruction will be memorable. Sometimes the tragic hero suffers from hubris, like know-it-all Oedipus. The goddess Nemesis waits until just the proper moment to tap his arrogance, blind him to the reality around him, and thereby lead him to his own destruction. But note: What separates the tragic hero from the arrogant fool who suffers the same fate is the sheer magnitude of his gifts, and thus the depth of the abyss into which he falls, and the spirit with which he…show more content…
That paradox is a common theme of classic Westerns like High Noon, Lonesome Dove, The Magnificent Seven, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, Ride the High Country, The Searchers, and Shane. Tragic heroes are throwbacks to a prior, perhaps pre-civilized age (hence the Old West is our version of the pre-Athenian city-state, so fertile for the mythological nature of Greek tragedy). They hold a Manichean notion of good and evil, and in unapologetic fashion. There is little nuance in General Grant’s “lick ’em tomorrow” or “I propose to fight it out on this line if it takes all summer.” (Imagine if President Obama said that about his health-care plan’s employer mandate!) Tragic heroes possess the requisite primeval physical and mental assets to welcome the challenge at hand, and they exude a certain sort of self-destructiveness — or is it self-sacrifice? — that puts the welfare of the people they’re protecting above their own. In Ride the High Country, an aging Steve Judd, with all his talk about “sand,” doesn’t much care whether he lives, but he very much cares that the job is

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