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Difference Between Quests Doen By Female And Male Heroes

1064 words - 4 pages

Heroic fantasies are most often structured around the hero's or heroine's quest. This frequently turns out to be a quest for identity, although the hero or heroine usually does not realize this at first. "The journey of the upper-class white male is identified as the generic type for the normal human condition; and other members of society - racial minorities, the poor and women - are seen as secondary characters (Pearson 4)." "In the traditional, the quest hero is assumed to be a male who is separated from his known world, is initiated into a new consciousness, and then returns to his community (Russell 197)." However, when the hero of a story is a woman, her quest is essentially different from the male pattern. This was especially true in the second half of the nineteenth century. At that time, males were dominant over females and social conventions reinforced the submissive characteristics of female protagonists in literature. Women were portrayed as passive while they were carrying out the quest whereas men were more courageous and involved in direct action.

One recurring pattern of behavior in female protagonists was their tendency to always be humble and submissive to the evil villains. For example, the real princess in The Goosegirl, by the Brothers Grimm, endured disloyal and contemptuous treatment from her maid-in-waiting, when she switched positions with her and tended geese while the maid-in-waiting was to marry a prince in her place. Similarly, in another short story, Rapunzel by Brothers Grimm, Rapunzel was helpless against the evil witch, who put her in the captivity of a tower and later in a desolate desert. Furthermore, Vasilisa in Russian story, Vasilisa the Beautiful, was ordered to do chores first for her evil stepmother and sisters and later for the evil Baba Yaga without ever gaining enough courage to refuse or complain. In general, the female protagonists are patient and meek in their behavior in a hostile environment and depend on nature, the supernatural, and chance to save them from suffering during their quests.

Unlike female protagonists, male protagonists are flat and non-individualized (Scott 63). The characteristics of these heroes are very easy to identify since they are not sophisticated characters. For example, the men are always courageous and inquisitive, like the soldier in The Twelve Dancing Princesses by the Brothers Grimm. He was not afraid of being decapitated and adventurously discovered the truth as to why the shoes of the princesses were worn out after each night. As a reward, the soldier succeeded in marrying one of the king's daughters. Prince Ivan in Prince Ivan, The firebird, and The Gray Wolf by Bilibin is also courageous and inquisitive. He was willing to accept the consequence of the road signs indicated by the pillar, which brought him to the firebird. This may be the reason that his other two brothers were never able to find the firebird. They didn't have the courage and inquisitiveness...

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