Literaturewith heroic characters presents heroism along the main characters toestablish and develop the plot. However, there are certain valuesthat the heroic characters must present to earn the heroic status(Christ 3). These characters must portray heroic prowess that ispresented in the heroic orientation of the literature (Christ 4).This is in line with the intention of presenting a pridefuladvancement of the main characters as the heroes in every tale. Thispaper seeks to assess the features of heroism and in particular,tragic heroes in literature. To achieve this analysis, the paperevaluates tragic heroism feature of characters in the novel “Alesson before death” and in comparison with other novels.
Heroismin “Alesson before death"
Inthe novel, Grant describes a hero as a person who does something thatother people cannot do, or do not want to attempt to do (Gaines191).according to Gaines (191), Grant explains to Jefferson that ahero does what others cannot do and takes courage to do what isrisky. This definition is not different from the universal idea of ahero. A hero can is a literary title for a person with extraordinaryworks that accord him honor to the community. This person isperceived to have done great things for other human beings in thecommunity.
Tragicheroes are characters who die tragically after courageous acts thatare not common to average human perception. In the novels underreview, the central characters in the stories appear to be taking ontheir own description of the heroes. Out of the character of Grantand Jefferson presents a silent description of a hero. According tothe story, Jefferson character is presented as a strong and violentperson, evidenced by the murder of Mr. Grope. However, he attains theelements of a heroic character when he decides to embrace changewhile in prison. Unlike other prisoners, Jefferson is presented as anaverage human being who portrayed actions of beyond average change atthe prison, before his execution, as the deputy Paul notes.
Inthe novel, the concept of heroism is based on the actions andbehavior of Jefferson and Grant while he is in prison and not theactions Jefferson does as per the conventional features of a maincharacter hero. Jefferson is illustrated as a physically strongperson who is constantly emphasized by descriptions of Grant’sjourney to visit him at the prison before his execution. His recoveryfrom the behavior that landed him to prison takes actions thatportray a change of behavior. This particularly started when he askedGrant that he wished t eat some ice-cream, an event that became theturning point of his life in prison (Gaines, 190).
Jeffersonis presented as a true hero since he changes the character and isinfluenced by Grant and Reverend Ambrose. Unlike Grant, Jeffersondecides to learn more from the Reverend, which influences histhoughts and behavior. Throughout their friendship, Jefferson andGrant develop their heroic character in a limited scope due to theprison environment. Jefferson for instance develops a differentcharacter and portrays his own heroic qualities by correcting hismistakes during the stay at the prison. It is due to the change thatDeputy Paul Bonin explains to Grant that Jefferson had become one ofthe strongest men in the room, during his execution, which tragicallyends his life (Gaines 201).
OtherHeroes and Tragic Heroes
Heroesare qualified by their courage and bravery to tackle things thatother average human beings do not dare to (Christ 3). In the novel,"A Lesson before Dying," Jefferson takes action to changebehavior while Grant decides to live free from oppression as one ofthe few educated blacks. These were acts of courage because fewpeople in the society or in prison were known of taking suchpositions. This is what is seen in the character Behrman, in thenovel story "The Last Leaf,” as he takes actions to neverquit. He seems to be a defeated character as he barely makes anyincome as an artist. However, he takes actions similar to those takenby Grant and Jefferson, to continue to live on, until he tragicallydies of Pneumonia.
Thetragic death of Behrman concludes his life as a tragic hero who wasled by life bravery. Bravery is portrayed by all the three charactersbut Behrman is portrayed as the bravest of all of them. In addition,he portrays more conspicuous character of tragic hero as he dies fromhis own passion to work. In literature, a tragic hero is depictedwhen a person does the best to live better and eventually dies fromhis efforts to live, just like Behrman died from a disease caused byhis commitment to painting.
Ahero is a loyal person who undertakes all his or her adventures todefend his life, or his allegiance to the land or occupation (Christ5). In the novel “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,”the grandmother is committed to a good life, never takes alcohol.However, she ironically dies despite being a person intending to livelife to the fullest. In the novel “Divergent,” Tris’ mother,Natalie shows her support despite the factions that Tris takes. Thisshows her commitment to her daughter, an element of loyalty thatdefines her as a hero. However, the character in the novel that showstragic hero is Tris’ Father, Andrew. Despite being angry that Trisdid not chose his faction, he fights for them and he tragically diesfrom a gunshot from a guard. In terms of loyalty, the threecharacters are loyal to their family, showing their heroic nature.
Inliterature, a hero is defined by his or her actions and behavior thatgoes beyond what any other character is ready or able to do. In thenovel "A Lesson before Dying," Jefferson shows heroism inhis own way by changing behavior in prison, despite the deathpenalty. His death introduces tragedy that leads to a conclusion of atragic hero. In relation to their character in other works ofliterature, tragic heroes face death while pursuing their ideals andactions that define their belief. Like Jefferson, the Old Behrman andGrandma die while pursuing their course of good life. In a case of atragic hero, Tris’ father dies in a fight for his faction. Thesecharacters present heroes as people that were able and ready toprotect what they cherish or what the society values. They becomeexamples of men and women who give the society their best and leave alesson to learn from.
Christ,Henry. Heroesand Villains in American Literature.U.S. New York, Amsco School
PublicationsIncorporated, 1996. Print
Gaines,Ernest. "ALesson Before Dying."United States: Knopf Publishing Group, 1993. Print