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Texts, Culture & Values Heroism What Did It Mean In The Past And Does It Still Mean The Same Today?

1392 words - 6 pages

Texts, Culture & ValuesHeroism- What did it mean in the past and does it still mean the same today?* This is the definition of a hero in a modern dictionary.o a man or boy admired for his bravery, great deeds, or noble qualities.o 2. a person admired for contribution to a particular field.o 3. the most important male person in a story, play, or poem.o 4. (Greek Legend.) a man of more than human strength, courage, or ability, especially a warrior favoured by the gods. Hercules and Achilles were heroes.* Notice that it is always a man. Does that mean that women can not be hero's? In the past, that is what it meant. The hero's that we know about, because we read about them in story books when we were young, or heard others talk about them, are all male.* To be a hero in the past, you had to have the quality of "Arête" which was the idea of human perfection. It translates into a word like virtue, meaning basicallyo 1. moral excellence; goodness.o 3. a good quality; merit.o 5. the power to produce good results; potency; efficacy.* In Book 22 of the well known story called 'The Odyssey' by Homer, Ulysses, one of the best examples of an Ancient Greek hero, comes back to find his home overrun by suitors, fighting for his wife's hand in marriage, since they think him dead.* This is a perfect example of what we used to take for herotic behaviour. Ulysses, when he sees this, kills all the people who have betrayed him. The way in which he does it, killing all the women who slept with the men as well, is for us now horrifying. Would we now raise up and praise a person with that much blood on his hands?* In a way, we actually are. For example, George Bush has the blood of millions on his hands, yet he is still called fit to lead a country, and to be a great example of the American way of life.* What has changed though, is our immediate conception of the word hero. No longer do we immediately accept someone like Ulysses to be a hero. Reading Book 22, we ask ourselves how someone like that could have ever been considered a hero. The shear brutality and cold bloodedness of what Ulysses did, shocks and amazes us.o This is a quote out of Book 22, when Telemachus comes out "She found Ulysses among the corpses bespattered with blood and filth like a lion that has just been devouring an ox, and his breast and both his cheeks are all bloody, so that he is fearful sight; even so was Ulysses besmirched from head to foot with gore. When she saw all the corpses and such a quantity of blood, she was beginning to cry out for joy, for she saw a great deed had been done"* She cryed out for joy, and this was because in those times, killing mercilessly like that was smiled upon, if it was warented. This person covered in gore and blood is someone who has always been considered the very embodiment of human perfection. How can that have been?* In "Happy Birthday, Wanda June" the composer, Kurt Vonegut, parodies Book 22 of the Odyssey. In this play, the hero coming home...

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