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Anti Hero

By Rebecca Ray

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The Anti Hero

A growing trend in literature, on screen, and on stage has moved to produce more flawed human protagonists. Gone are the days of perfect role models, paragons of virtue who are brave, capable, and always do the right thing. Instead of these inspirational heroes, many works feature a complementary archetype: the anti hero.

An anti-hero, by definition, is a central character who lacks conventional heroic attributes. Some even display qualities that are almost more in line with villains. Traits like conceitedness, immorality, rebellion, and dishonesty signal that the author does not intend the audience to admire the protagonist.

Antihero Definition Template
Create your own at Storyboard That Antihero is introduced. The reader begins to see character traits. The reader learns that the character is dynamic. Often having positive and negative traits. The negative traits of the protagonist make him an antihero. ...yet his positive attributes give them a redeeming quality. Conclusion: antihero INTRODUCTION CHARACTER TRAITS DYNAMIC NEGATIVE TRAITS POSITIVE TRAITS CONCLUSION Well I do have a few issues I need to work out like (_____). I never thought my (______) would get in the way. Hi, I am (____). I am a deep person it will take time to get to know me. Will I ever change? ...but people still like me because I (______). This is who I want to be and do, (_______) I seem like a great person.

Example

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Anti Hero Examples from Pop Culture and Literature

Prime examples of anti heroes can be seen in popular television shows like The Sopranos, Breaking Bad, or Mad Men. Tony Soprano, for example, is a murderous mob boss you can’t help but watch. His character’s inner conflicts make him relatable and sympathetic, even though he should be detested for his life of organized crime.

Jay Gatsby as an Anti Hero

In literature, Jay Gatsby, from the F. Scott Fitzgerald’s eponymous novel, is a young man who grew up in poverty. Although readers see him as influential, mysterious, and wealthy, it is revealed that he achieved this prestige through illegal means: organized crime, distributing alcohol during prohibition, and trading in stolen goods. Gatsby isn’t an admirable person, but his struggle to reclaim the past is compelling and deeply human.


The Great Gatsby - Antihero
Create your own at Storyboard That Antihero: a central character in a story, movie, or drama who lacks conventional heroic attributes such as idealism, moral goodness and altruism. Jay Gatsby is an example of an antihero because he represents the hope of the American Dream, however he becomes rich through dishonest means. "He had one of those rare smiles with a quality of eternal reassurance in it, that you may come across four or five times in life." (Ch. 3) "So he invented just the sort of Jay Gatsby that a seventeen year old boy would be likely to invent, and to this conception he was faithful to the end." (Ch. 6) “I found out what your 'drug stores' were...He and this Wolfsheim bought up a lot of side street drug stores here ... sold grain alcohol over the counter. ... I picked him for a bootlegger the first time I saw him, and I wasn't far wrong" (Ch. 7) DEFINITION WHY GREAT GATSBY? EXAMPLE 1 EXAMPLE 2 EXAMPLE 3 Pharmacy

Example

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Two Examples of Holden Caulfield as an Anti Hero

Holden Caufield, the main character and narrator of The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger, is another anti hero. He is a perpetual liar. He openly admits to being a coward and being weak. He fails to act so frequently that we begin to feel pity for him. Despite his flaws, he has redeeming qualities, like dignity and a desire to protect his family, Jane, and children everywhere. He has compassion and sees people for who they are and not what they are.






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Articles on Anti Heroes



To learn more about other hero types, take a look at our article on "Types of Heroes".

In Your Classroom

With Storyboard That, students can understand character development through a visual storyboard. Students can track changes in character traits through important scenes in a comic strip with illustrations and captions. By using this model, difficult literary terms such as anti hero become easy to comprehend.

Example Exercises


Teachers can customize the level of detail and number of cells required for projects based on available class time and resources.

Relating To The Common Core

ELA Common Core Standards for Grades 9-12

Example Hero vs. Anti Hero Rubric for Grades 9-12


More Examples of Anti Hero Activities


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