Allison's Book Bag

Posts Tagged ‘heroes

Really Random Tuesday is a meme created by Suko at Suko’s Notebook and is a way to post odds and ends about book-related things. Last week, I talked about anti-heroes. Now let me switch things up and write about heroes.


In a way, I suppose this is a redundant topic to write about. The bulk of our literature features heroes. Yet two articles prompted this post.

One of those articles, Where Have All Our Heroes Gone? poses the question about society itself. In Psychology Today, author Jim Taylor, contends that in his day the world was full of heroes. Moreover, he grew up wanting to emulate politicians, businessmen, social activities, athletes, and entertainers. In hindsight, despite the flaws of those leaders, he still views them as role models. Not so about the leaders whom he sees today and that his children desire to emulate. Instead “politicians are self-glorifying panderers, corporate leaders are greedy and corrupt, athletes are entitled and irresponsible, and entertainers are spoiled and aloof”. Hence, he asks: Where have all our heroes gone?

A second article, Making the Case for Heroes, poses the question about society AND about literature. In a Harvard Education Letter, author Peter Gibbon talks about how he studies the concept of heroes and travels the country to discuss the concept with students. Once upon a time, schools used to automatically offer examples of heroes in their textbooks and literary selections. Now society “offer lives that are seriously flawed, juvenile novels that emphasize mundane reality, and a history that is uncertain and blemished”. Unlike Taylor, however, Gibbons doesn’t encourage a return to the old ways, when the world mostly honored white, male, and privileged individuals. Rather, he suggests we find new heroes.

Why heroes? Gibbons argues that we can make the case for all kinds of heroes and show how the study of their lives can improve our own. Moreover, he cautions that anti-heroes can be dangerous when, instead of seeing them as characters to be wary of, we are seduced into antisocial behavior. When it comes to literature, Gibbons suggests that reading selections should pass the simple test of: “I feel greatly the better for having read it.” As for Taylor, he goes so far as to say that kids need to place their heroes on pedestals. That’s what gives heroes their power and causes children to want to emulate them.

The majority of my belief system comes from the heroes whom I grew up hearing about on the news or in literature. Their example is one of the reasons I became a special education teacher. Yet in over thirty years, I still feel the impact of having read about anti-heroes and feeling comforted by their stories. This is especially true for my teen years, when I felt like a failure than a role model. So, perhaps we need both anti-heroes and heroes in our lives.

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