Most works of literature have a protagonist and an antagonist. While the protagonist is a main character who pursues the primary goals of the plot in the novel or short story, the antagonist is the character who gets in the way. The protagonist has good intentions towards other characters and does great things, while the antagonist is the opposite.
Since all works of literature have a protagonist, it is helpful to know which category or type of character the protagonist belongs in. A protagonist's traits and attitude towards human nature help readers to understand them, connect with them to their own real life, or follow their actions and understand why they do what they do.
Certain protagonists are considered to have universal qualities and these qualities are called archetypes. Archetypes have similar characteristics throughout literature and make unpredictable characters easier to understand. One archetype is the hero - defined as a person who is admired or idealized for courage, outstanding achievements, or noble qualities. However, there is more than one hero archetype. The most notable appear to the left.
Classical heroes, sometimes known as romantic heroes, are everyday people that have a great talent! Classic heroes often possess an attribute or quality that distinguishes them from ordinary people, making them a hero. It's important to remember that classical hero is equal in their world, but the classical hero possesses a gift that others do not have.
Examples of classical heroes would be Harry Potter, Ponyboy, or Victor Frankenstein.
In literature, the term everyday has come to mean an ordinary individual that the audience or reader easily identifies with. Also, the everyday hero (sometimes known as the "everyman hero") has no outstanding abilities or attributes. An everyday hero is thrown into extraordinary circumstances where they must act with heroic qualities. Moreover, they have sound moral judgment and show selflessness in the face of adversity.
Many protagonists in realistic fiction are considered to be an everyday or everyman hero.
Superheroes can start out as classical heroes or even everyday heroes and be given a power that makes them 'superhuman'. They can also be born with a ‘superhuman’ power.
Famous examples of the superhero archetypes would be Superman, Thor, or Wolverine.
It was the great philosopher Aristotle who first defined the ill-fated protagonist as a tragic hero, or flawed hero. Aristotle suggested that a hero of a tragedy must evoke a sense of pity or fear from the audience. Also, the tragic hero has to be someone whose misfortune is brought about not by vice or depravity, but by some error or fate. To this day, literature is inundated with the use of this type of protagonist.
|Aristotle’s Principles of a Tragic Hero|
|Hamartia||Flaw that causes the downfall|
|Peripeteia||Reversal of fortune|
|Anagnorisis||When the hero makes a critical discovery|
|Nemesis||Fate that cannot be reversed|
|Catharsis||Tone (pity or fear) that the audience is left with after the hero's fall|
Shakespeare was famous for using this archetype in his plays: notable tragic heroes include Romeo, Macbeth, and Brutus!
As with the tragic hero, the Greeks were first to define the protagonist known as an epic hero. These are heroes of a tragedy who evoke in the audience a sense of heroism and legendary awe-inspiring lore, often in an epic poem. An epic hero is someone whose fortune is brought about by their admired characteristics. Many of the famous Greek Epics, such as The Odyssey and the Illiad, contain these larger than life heroes and deeds:
|The 7 Characteristic Principles of an Epic Hero|
|Noble Birth||An epic hero is usually a king, prince, demi-god, or nobleman.|
|Superhuman Strength/Courage||The warrior has the potential for greatness based on their attributes, for example: cunning, brave, humble, sagacious, and virtuous.|
|Vast Traveler||An epic hero is known for making travels to exotic locations by choice or chance, usually to battle against evil in a hero’s journey adventure.|
|Unmatched Warrior Skill||This hero typically has a reputation for being a great warrior. Epic heroes commonly have a status that precedes them prior to the beginning of the story.|
|Cultural Legend||Before an epic hero can be universally accepted, they must first be a legend in their culture.|
|Humility||This hero's greatest attribute is his humbleness. Despite the fact that he may be the best of the best, he never brags, boasts, or becomes ostentatious about his abilities.|
|Battles Supernatural Foes||The Nemesis of this hero is usually a supernatural being, for example: Grendel, Poseidon, or a cyclops.|
Odysseus, Lancelot, and Beowulf are all epic hero examples.
Anti Heroes begin with traits that are very uncommon or unbecoming of those of regular heroes in stories. Anti Heroes display qualities that are more in-line with a villain's characteristics rather than the admirable qualities of the common hero character. With traits such as conceitedness, immorality, rebellion, and dishonesty, anti heroes are not viewed with admiration. Like many of the other heroes, an anti hero starts out as an average person who is controversially flawed and inherently good at the same time, sometimes making them an unwilling hero. An anti hero, by definition, is a main character who lacks conventional heroic attributes. The anti hero can range from a good person with an unattractive vice to a criminal mastermind who has a heart of gold.
Famous examples of a main character anti hero include Jay Gatsby, Holden Caulfield, and Lady Macbeth.
In conclusion, there are many different types of heroes in literature. These types of literary heroes make our favorite stories exciting, engaging, and keep us wanting to read more! We readers may not necessarily have a soft spot for every literary hero; they may not have a fatal flaw or a tragic flaw, and despite their best efforts, the unwilling hero may just not be a good person. They may not be a romantic hero or well-loved like King Arthur, but we enjoy their journeys just the same.
Start by discussing what a hero is and why heroes are important in our society. Ask students to think of examples of heroes they know or have heard about.
There are many different types of heroes, including superheroes, historical heroes, everyday heroes, classical heroes, epic heroes, cultural heroes, literary heroes, and even anti-heroes.
Provide examples of each hero type to help students understand the differences between them. You can use books, movies, or real-life examples to illustrate each hero type.
Ask students to think about the characteristics that define each hero type. For example, superheroes are often characterized by their superhuman abilities and their willingness to fight for justice, while everyday, or everyman heroes are characterized by their bravery and selflessness.
Finally, encourage students to create their own heroes. Ask them to think about what type of hero they want to create and what characteristics their hero will have. They can draw their hero, write a story about their hero, or create a comic using Storyboard That’s comic creator!
The archetypal hero definition is as follows: the character in the story who is the less obvious hero. While the classic hero is known for their heroic deeds, the hero archetype characteristics are subtle and often overlooked. They often come from a humble upbringing, yet possess extraordinary characteristics that set them apart. They may often even be a reluctant hero, while the classic is a willing hero.
Some well known hero archetypes in literature include: Harry Potter, Beowulf, and Katniss in The Hunger Games.
Not all heroes are created equal. They could be an ordinary person with superhuman abilities or supernatural powers, or they could be an antihero with excessive pride and without a moral code or strong moral compass. They could be a reluctant hero/unwilling hero or a willing hero. The basic types of heroes are those who possess positive qualities and must overcome obstacles throughout the story.
The most popular hero types are: the classical hero, the everyday hero (sometimes known as everyman heroes), the superhero, the tragic hero, the epic hero, and the antihero. Which hero type is your favorite?