What Makes A Hero? Essay

1460 words - 6 pages

Everyday, society misconceives identities. In the eyes of Ralph Waldo Emerson, “A hero is no braver than any ordinary man, but he is braver five minutes longer.” Heroism, in Emerson’s perspective, is the ability to stand out for longer, and to endure hardships for greater durations. The passengers on United Flight 93, which was hijacked by terrorists as part of the September 11 attacks on the U.S demonstrated bravery like few other civilians can measure up to. Although it is not clear whether passengers on the other hijacked flights fought back persistently, it is known that the passengers on Flight 93 attempted to take control of the plane, and were successful. During the 35 minutes the passengers spent attempting to get into the cockpit, they achieved a level of heroism like none other. Persistently, the passengers attacked, and this is what has helped define them as true heroes.
In a sense, we cannot compare the heroes on Flight 93 to Beowulf’s definition of heroism. Unlike many sane individuals in today’s culture, people, even heroes, don’t simply walk into danger, like Beowulf. True, there are people who strive to challenge obstacles in our world. Beowulf does something slightly irregular, however. “Then the hero, stern under the gleaming helmet, with his stout mail-coat and think-plated shield, strode out to meet his foe.” Beowulf appears a madman after examining this quote. We must consider Beowulf’s motive as a result of his apparent audacity. Which is more of a reason to put yourself in danger? An intense desire for fame, or an intense desire to give kindness to others? The logic speaks for itself, although in our time, we may turn quickly to Beowulf’s obvious desire for fame, instead of loving kindness, when fighting a fire dragon. A key reason is the act of being the aggressor. It is still debatable whether Beowulf was battling the dragon for purposes of self-defense, or if he believed self-defending his people entailed going to fight the dragon. When we think of one who lends his protection to others, we think of protecting them. When we think of one who desires fame and stardom, we imagine them meeting a challenge, and willfully fighting an opponent. Beowulf chose not to defend, he chose to run into the strife of battle. For kindness? Or for distinction?
There is much to be learned from Beowulf’s last sentence. “You are the last of our line, the noble Waegmundings, Royal House of Sweden. The rest has Fate swept to their doom - princes, proud warriors, great kings in their glory - all to their doom. Now I follow after.” In our class discussions, it had been hypothesized many times that Beowulf’s last line would reveal what his true intentions were. In this case, it was easy to see; Beowulf spoke about glory, and glory in Beowulf’s time did not stem from generosity. The meaning of Beowulf’s words are clear: he was out to be recognized. When Beowulf suggests that he is the last of the Waegmundings, it...

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