The Role Of a Hero In Epic Literature

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The Role of a Hero in Epic Literature In order to analyze the function of something, one must first seek to know what it is. A hero is defined as a man of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities. So, in essence, a hero’s role, first and foremost, is to fulfill dauntless tasks in order to achieve an illustrious status. However, the pragmatics behind the subject do not allow for such a simple answer. An epic is more or less a story that has been considerably exaggerated to the extent that, in some cases, gods that possess the ability to manipulate the laws under which the natural world operates interfere and pose such a threat, that the security of everything we know is at stake. Epics are characterized by a literary term known as In medias res which translates to,” in the middle of things,” meaning that they usually begin either at the mid-point or conclusion, rather than the initial beginning. Somewhere in the piece frequently lies an invocation to a particular muse, for blessing, aid, protection, etc. This I believe is a crucial element in determining the role of a hero in an epic. In the two epics I am familiar with (Beowulf and Odysseus), both “heroes” were originally driven by their own hubris, ego, and self-admiration. Yet, as they progressed throughout the story, they found that they are no longer propelled by themselves and their ideals, rather, the values of the civilization or purer intentions all-together. The interesting thing about epics is the incorporation of the struggle between man and god. In Greek epics, some gods help the hero on his quest, for example, Athena aiding Odysseus on his journey home. Nevertheless, there always stands that one deity who someone just had to piss off. I think the purpose of heroes in epics is to suppress our
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