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Essays About Heroes: 5 Examples And Topic Ideas

Here, we’ll look at examples of essays about heroes and questions that can be used as topics for essays about an imagined or real hero.

A few different images likely come to mind when you hear the word hero. You may imagine Superman flying above the world with his superpower of flight. You may imagine a personal hero, a real person who has made a significant impact on your life for the better. You might think of a true hero as someone who has shown heroic qualities in the public eye, working to help ordinary people through difficult situations.

When writing an essay about your life hero, it’s important to consider the qualities of that person that make them stand out to you. Whether you choose to write an essay about how your mom got you through tough times and became your role model or about a political figure who made a difference in the lives of people in history, it’s key to not just focus on the person’s actions—you’ll also want to focus on the qualities that allowed them to act heroically.

Here, we’ll explore examples of hero essays and potential topics to consider when writing about a hero.

For help with your essays, check out our round-up of the best essay checkers

Examples Of Essays About Heroes

  • 1. These Are The Heroes Of The Coronavirus Pandemic By Ruth Marcus
  • 2. Why Teachers Are My Heroes By Joshua Muskin
  • 3. Martin Luther King Jr.—Civil Rights Activist & Hero By Kathy Weiser-Alexander

4. Steve Prefontaine: The Track Of A Hero By Bill O’Brian

5. forget hamilton, burr is the real hero by carey wallace, topic ideas for essays about heroes, 1. what makes a hero, 2. what are the most important characteristics of heroes in literature, 3. what constitutes a heroic act, 4. is selflessness required for heroism, 1.  these are the heroes of the coronavirus pandemic  by ruth marcus.

Examples of essays about heroes: These Are The Heroes Of The Coronavirus Pandemic By Ruth Marcus

“Is this what they signed up for? There is some danger inherent in the ordinary practice of medicine, but not this much. I confess: I do not know that I would do the same in their circumstances; I am not sure I am so generous or so brave. If my child were graduating from medical school, how would I deal with her being sent, inadequately protected, into an emergency room? If my husband were a physician, would I send him off to the hospital — or let him back into the house in the interim?” Ruth Marcus

Healthcare workers have had no choice but to go above and beyond in recent years. In this essay, Marcus discusses the heroism of those in the healthcare field. He delves into the traits (including selflessness and courage) that make doctors, nurses, and other healthcare workers heroes.

2.  Why Teachers Are My Heroes   By Joshua Muskin

“Teachers are my heroes because they accept this responsibility and try extremely hard to do this well even when the conditions in which they work are far from ideal; at least most do. Our jobs as society, education systems, and parents is to do our best to be strong allies to teachers, since their success is essential to ours.” Joshua Muskin

In this essay, Dr. Muskin discusses the many challenges teachers face and what parents, administrators, and education researchers can do to help teachers support students. Muskin explains that most teachers go above and beyond the call of duty to serve their classrooms.

3.  Martin Luther King Jr.—Civil Rights Activist & Hero   By Kathy Weiser-Alexander

“During this nonviolent protest, activists used boycotts, sit-ins, and marches to protest segregation and unfair hiring practices that caught the attention of the entire world. However, his tactics were put to the test when police brutality was used against the marchers, and King was arrested. But, his voice was not silenced, as he wrote his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” to refute his critics.” Kathy Weiser-Alexander

In this essay, Weiser-Alexander details both the traits and the actions of Dr. King before and during the civil rights movement. The author touches on King’s commitment to justice, persistence, and willingness to stand for his beliefs despite difficult circumstances.

“I remember this so vividly because Prefontaine was a hero to me, a hero in a way that no one was before, or really has been since. A British commentator once called him “an athletic Beatle.” If so, his persona was much more Lennon than McCartney. Actually, I thought of him more as Mick Jagger — or ultimately James Dean.” Bill O’Brian

A hero to many in the running world, Prefontaine’s confidence, unique style, and unmatched athletic ability have been heralded for decades. In this essay, O’Brian shares how he, as a distance runner during the era of Pre, related to his struggles and ambition.

“Burr fought against an ugly tide of anti-immigrant sentiment in the young republic, led by Hamilton’s Federalist party, which suggested that anyone without English heritage was a second-class citizen, and even challenged the rights of non-Anglos to hold office. In response, Burr insisted that anyone who contributed to society deserved all the rights of any other citizen, no matter their background.” Carey Wallace

In this essay, Wallace explains why Aaron Burr, the lifelong nemesis of founding father Alexander Hamilton, should be considered a historical hero. This essay exposes someone seen as a villain but much of society with a different take on their history. 

It can be interesting to think about your definition of a hero. When describing what the term hero means to you, you may want to choose a person (or a few people) you look up to as a hero to solidify your point. You might want to include fictional characters (such as those in the Marvel universe) and real-life brave souls, such as police officers and firefighters.

A word of caution: stay away from the cliche opening of describing how the dictionary defines a hero. Instead, lead-in with a personal story about a hero who has affected your life. While talking about a public figure as a hero is acceptable, you may find it easier to write about someone close to you who you feel has displayed heroic qualities. Writing about a family member or friend who has shown up as a heroic main character in your life can be just as exciting as writing about a real or imagined superhero.

From Beowulf to Marvel comics, heroes in literature take on many different traits. When writing an essay on what trait makes a hero come alive in a short story, novel, or comic, choose a few of your favorite heroes and find common themes that they share.

Perhaps your favorite heroes are selfless and are willing to put themselves last in the name of sacrifice for others. Perhaps they’re able to dig deep into the truth, being honest even when it’s hard, for the greater good. There’s no need to list endless heroes to make your point—choosing three or four heroes from literature can be a great way to support your argument about what characteristics define heroism in literature.

When someone is named a hero in real life, we often picture them saving people from a burning building or performing a difficult surgical operation. It can be difficult to pin down exactly what constitutes a heroic act. When writing about what constitutes a heroic act, think about people who go above and beyond, performing feats of courage, honesty, and bravery to support themselves or others. When writing about what constitutes a heroic act, discuss real-life or literary examples of heroes at work.

To many people, being a hero means giving back to others. While giving something away or trading in one’s well-being for others can certainly be seen as a heroic act, many people wonder if selflessness is required for heroism or if a hero can serve the greater good in a way that also supports their happiness. When writing about whether selflessness is required for heroism, choose examples from literature and real-life to support your point.

Tip: If writing an essay sounds like a lot of work, simplify it. Write a simple 5 paragraph essay instead.

If you’re still stuck, check out our available resource of essay writing topics .

literary heroes essay

Amanda has an M.S.Ed degree from the University of Pennsylvania in School and Mental Health Counseling and is a National Academy of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer. She has experience writing magazine articles, newspaper articles, SEO-friendly web copy, and blog posts.

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Humanities LibreTexts

12.14: Sample Student Literary Analysis Essays

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  • Page ID 40514

  • Heather Ringo & Athena Kashyap
  • City College of San Francisco via ASCCC Open Educational Resources Initiative

The following examples are essays where student writers focused on close-reading a literary work.

While reading these examples, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is the essay's thesis statement, and how do you know it is the thesis statement?
  • What is the main idea or topic sentence of each body paragraph, and how does it relate back to the thesis statement?
  • Where and how does each essay use evidence (quotes or paraphrase from the literature)?
  • What are some of the literary devices or structures the essays analyze or discuss?
  • How does each author structure their conclusion, and how does their conclusion differ from their introduction?

Example 1: Poetry

Victoria Morillo

Instructor Heather Ringo

3 August 2022

How Nguyen’s Structure Solidifies the Impact of Sexual Violence in “The Study”

Stripped of innocence, your body taken from you. No matter how much you try to block out the instance in which these two things occurred, memories surface and come back to haunt you. How does a person, a young boy , cope with an event that forever changes his life? Hieu Minh Nguyen deconstructs this very way in which an act of sexual violence affects a survivor. In his poem, “The Study,” the poem's speaker recounts the year in which his molestation took place, describing how his memory filters in and out. Throughout the poem, Nguyen writes in free verse, permitting a structural liberation to become the foundation for his message to shine through. While he moves the readers with this poignant narrative, Nguyen effectively conveys the resulting internal struggles of feeling alone and unseen.

The speaker recalls his experience with such painful memory through the use of specific punctuation choices. Just by looking at the poem, we see that the first period doesn’t appear until line 14. It finally comes after the speaker reveals to his readers the possible, central purpose for writing this poem: the speaker's molestation. In the first half, the poem makes use of commas, em dashes, and colons, which lends itself to the idea of the speaker stringing along all of these details to make sense of this time in his life. If reading the poem following the conventions of punctuation, a sense of urgency is present here, as well. This is exemplified by the lack of periods to finalize a thought; and instead, Nguyen uses other punctuation marks to connect them. Serving as another connector of thoughts, the two em dashes give emphasis to the role memory plays when the speaker discusses how “no one [had] a face” during that time (Nguyen 9-11). He speaks in this urgent manner until the 14th line, and when he finally gets it off his chest, the pace of the poem changes, as does the more frequent use of the period. This stream-of-consciousness-like section when juxtaposed with the latter half of the poem, causes readers to slow down and pay attention to the details. It also splits the poem in two: a section that talks of the fogginess of memory then transitions into one that remembers it all.

In tandem with the fluctuating nature of memory, the utilization of line breaks and word choice help reflect the damage the molestation has had. Within the first couple of lines of the poem, the poem demands the readers’ attention when the line breaks from “floating” to “dead” as the speaker describes his memory of Little Billy (Nguyen 1-4). This line break averts the readers’ expectation of the direction of the narrative and immediately shifts the tone of the poem. The break also speaks to the effect his trauma has ingrained in him and how “[f]or the longest time,” his only memory of that year revolves around an image of a boy’s death. In a way, the speaker sees himself in Little Billy; or perhaps, he’s representative of the tragic death of his boyhood, how the speaker felt so “dead” after enduring such a traumatic experience, even referring to himself as a “ghost” that he tries to evict from his conscience (Nguyen 24). The feeling that a part of him has died is solidified at the very end of the poem when the speaker describes himself as a nine-year-old boy who’s been “fossilized,” forever changed by this act (Nguyen 29). By choosing words associated with permanence and death, the speaker tries to recreate the atmosphere (for which he felt trapped in) in order for readers to understand the loneliness that came as a result of his trauma. With the assistance of line breaks, more attention is drawn to the speaker's words, intensifying their importance, and demanding to be felt by the readers.

Most importantly, the speaker expresses eloquently, and so heartbreakingly, about the effect sexual violence has on a person. Perhaps what seems to be the most frustrating are the people who fail to believe survivors of these types of crimes. This is evident when he describes “how angry” the tenants were when they filled the pool with cement (Nguyen 4). They seem to represent how people in the speaker's life were dismissive of his assault and who viewed his tragedy as a nuisance of some sorts. This sentiment is bookended when he says, “They say, give us details , so I give them my body. / They say, give us proof , so I give them my body,” (Nguyen 25-26). The repetition of these two lines reinforces the feeling many feel in these scenarios, as they’re often left to deal with trying to make people believe them, or to even see them.

It’s important to recognize how the structure of this poem gives the speaker space to express the pain he’s had to carry for so long. As a characteristic of free verse, the poem doesn’t follow any structured rhyme scheme or meter; which in turn, allows him to not have any constraints in telling his story the way he wants to. The speaker has the freedom to display his experience in a way that evades predictability and engenders authenticity of a story very personal to him. As readers, we abandon anticipating the next rhyme, and instead focus our attention to the other ways, like his punctuation or word choice, in which he effectively tells his story. The speaker recognizes that some part of him no longer belongs to himself, but by writing “The Study,” he shows other survivors that they’re not alone and encourages hope that eventually, they will be freed from the shackles of sexual violence.

Works Cited

Nguyen, Hieu Minh. “The Study” Poets.Org. Academy of American Poets, Coffee House Press, 2018, .

Example 2: Fiction

Todd Goodwin

Professor Stan Matyshak

Advanced Expository Writing

Sept. 17, 20—

Poe’s “Usher”: A Mirror of the Fall of the House of Humanity

Right from the outset of the grim story, “The Fall of the House of Usher,” Edgar Allan Poe enmeshes us in a dark, gloomy, hopeless world, alienating his characters and the reader from any sort of physical or psychological norm where such values as hope and happiness could possibly exist. He fatalistically tells the story of how a man (the narrator) comes from the outside world of hope, religion, and everyday society and tries to bring some kind of redeeming happiness to his boyhood friend, Roderick Usher, who not only has physically and psychologically wasted away but is entrapped in a dilapidated house of ever-looming terror with an emaciated and deranged twin sister. Roderick Usher embodies the wasting away of what once was vibrant and alive, and his house of “insufferable gloom” (273), which contains his morbid sister, seems to mirror or reflect this fear of death and annihilation that he most horribly endures. A close reading of the story reveals that Poe uses mirror images, or reflections, to contribute to the fatalistic theme of “Usher”: each reflection serves to intensify an already prevalent tone of hopelessness, darkness, and fatalism.

It could be argued that the house of Roderick Usher is a “house of mirrors,” whose unpleasant and grim reflections create a dark and hopeless setting. For example, the narrator first approaches “the melancholy house of Usher on a dark and soundless day,” and finds a building which causes him a “sense of insufferable gloom,” which “pervades his spirit and causes an iciness, a sinking, a sickening of the heart, an undiscerned dreariness of thought” (273). The narrator then optimistically states: “I reflected that a mere different arrangement of the scene, of the details of the picture, would be sufficient to modify, or perhaps annihilate its capacity for sorrowful impression” (274). But the narrator then sees the reflection of the house in the tarn and experiences a “shudder even more thrilling than before” (274). Thus the reader begins to realize that the narrator cannot change or stop the impending doom that will befall the house of Usher, and maybe humanity. The story cleverly plays with the word reflection : the narrator sees a physical reflection that leads him to a mental reflection about Usher’s surroundings.

The narrator’s disillusionment by such grim reflection continues in the story. For example, he describes Roderick Usher’s face as distinct with signs of old strength but lost vigor: the remains of what used to be. He describes the house as a once happy and vibrant place, which, like Roderick, lost its vitality. Also, the narrator describes Usher’s hair as growing wild on his rather obtrusive head, which directly mirrors the eerie moss and straw covering the outside of the house. The narrator continually longs to see these bleak reflections as a dream, for he states: “Shaking off from my spirit what must have been a dream, I scanned more narrowly the real aspect of the building” (276). He does not want to face the reality that Usher and his home are doomed to fall, regardless of what he does.

Although there are almost countless examples of these mirror images, two others stand out as important. First, Roderick and his sister, Madeline, are twins. The narrator aptly states just as he and Roderick are entombing Madeline that there is “a striking similitude between brother and sister” (288). Indeed, they are mirror images of each other. Madeline is fading away psychologically and physically, and Roderick is not too far behind! The reflection of “doom” that these two share helps intensify and symbolize the hopelessness of the entire situation; thus, they further develop the fatalistic theme. Second, in the climactic scene where Madeline has been mistakenly entombed alive, there is a pairing of images and sounds as the narrator tries to calm Roderick by reading him a romance story. Events in the story simultaneously unfold with events of the sister escaping her tomb. In the story, the hero breaks out of the coffin. Then, in the story, the dragon’s shriek as he is slain parallels Madeline’s shriek. Finally, the story tells of the clangor of a shield, matched by the sister’s clanging along a metal passageway. As the suspense reaches its climax, Roderick shrieks his last words to his “friend,” the narrator: “Madman! I tell you that she now stands without the door” (296).

Roderick, who slowly falls into insanity, ironically calls the narrator the “Madman.” We are left to reflect on what Poe means by this ironic twist. Poe’s bleak and dark imagery, and his use of mirror reflections, seem only to intensify the hopelessness of “Usher.” We can plausibly conclude that, indeed, the narrator is the “Madman,” for he comes from everyday society, which is a place where hope and faith exist. Poe would probably argue that such a place is opposite to the world of Usher because a world where death is inevitable could not possibly hold such positive values. Therefore, just as Roderick mirrors his sister, the reflection in the tarn mirrors the dilapidation of the house, and the story mirrors the final actions before the death of Usher. “The Fall of the House of Usher” reflects Poe’s view that humanity is hopelessly doomed.

Poe, Edgar Allan. “The Fall of the House of Usher.” 1839. Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia Library . 1995. Web. 1 July 2012. < >.

Example 3: Poetry

Amy Chisnell

Professor Laura Neary

Writing and Literature

April 17, 20—

Don’t Listen to the Egg!: A Close Reading of Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky”

“You seem very clever at explaining words, Sir,” said Alice. “Would you kindly tell me the meaning of the poem called ‘Jabberwocky’?”

“Let’s hear it,” said Humpty Dumpty. “I can explain all the poems that ever were invented—and a good many that haven’t been invented just yet.” (Carroll 164)

In Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking-Glass , Humpty Dumpty confidently translates (to a not so confident Alice) the complicated language of the poem “Jabberwocky.” The words of the poem, though nonsense, aptly tell the story of the slaying of the Jabberwock. Upon finding “Jabberwocky” on a table in the looking-glass room, Alice is confused by the strange words. She is quite certain that “ somebody killed something ,” but she does not understand much more than that. When later she encounters Humpty Dumpty, she seizes the opportunity at having the knowledgeable egg interpret—or translate—the poem. Since Humpty Dumpty professes to be able to “make a word work” for him, he is quick to agree. Thus he acts like a New Critic who interprets the poem by performing a close reading of it. Through Humpty’s interpretation of the first stanza, however, we see the poem’s deeper comment concerning the practice of interpreting poetry and literature in general—that strict analytical translation destroys the beauty of a poem. In fact, Humpty Dumpty commits the “heresy of paraphrase,” for he fails to understand that meaning cannot be separated from the form or structure of the literary work.

Of the 71 words found in “Jabberwocky,” 43 have no known meaning. They are simply nonsense. Yet through this nonsensical language, the poem manages not only to tell a story but also gives the reader a sense of setting and characterization. One feels, rather than concretely knows, that the setting is dark, wooded, and frightening. The characters, such as the Jubjub bird, the Bandersnatch, and the doomed Jabberwock, also appear in the reader’s head, even though they will not be found in the local zoo. Even though most of the words are not real, the reader is able to understand what goes on because he or she is given free license to imagine what the words denote and connote. Simply, the poem’s nonsense words are the meaning.

Therefore, when Humpty interprets “Jabberwocky” for Alice, he is not doing her any favors, for he actually misreads the poem. Although the poem in its original is constructed from nonsense words, by the time Humpty is done interpreting it, it truly does not make any sense. The first stanza of the original poem is as follows:

’Twas brillig, and the slithy toves

Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;

All mimsy were the borogroves,

An the mome raths outgrabe. (Carroll 164)

If we replace, however, the nonsense words of “Jabberwocky” with Humpty’s translated words, the effect would be something like this:

’Twas four o’clock in the afternoon, and the lithe and slimy badger-lizard-corkscrew creatures

Did go round and round and make holes in the grass-plot round the sun-dial:

All flimsy and miserable were the shabby-looking birds

with mop feathers,

And the lost green pigs bellowed-sneezed-whistled.

By translating the poem in such a way, Humpty removes the charm or essence—and the beauty, grace, and rhythm—from the poem. The poetry is sacrificed for meaning. Humpty Dumpty commits the heresy of paraphrase. As Cleanth Brooks argues, “The structure of a poem resembles that of a ballet or musical composition. It is a pattern of resolutions and balances and harmonizations” (203). When the poem is left as nonsense, the reader can easily imagine what a “slithy tove” might be, but when Humpty tells us what it is, he takes that imaginative license away from the reader. The beauty (if that is the proper word) of “Jabberwocky” is in not knowing what the words mean, and yet understanding. By translating the poem, Humpty takes that privilege from the reader. In addition, Humpty fails to recognize that meaning cannot be separated from the structure itself: the nonsense poem reflects this literally—it means “nothing” and achieves this meaning by using “nonsense” words.

Furthermore, the nonsense words Carroll chooses to use in “Jabberwocky” have a magical effect upon the reader; the shadowy sound of the words create the atmosphere, which may be described as a trance-like mood. When Alice first reads the poem, she says it seems to fill her head “with ideas.” The strange-sounding words in the original poem do give one ideas. Why is this? Even though the reader has never heard these words before, he or she is instantly aware of the murky, mysterious mood they set. In other words, diction operates not on the denotative level (the dictionary meaning) but on the connotative level (the emotion(s) they evoke). Thus “Jabberwocky” creates a shadowy mood, and the nonsense words are instrumental in creating this mood. Carroll could not have simply used any nonsense words.

For example, let us change the “dark,” “ominous” words of the first stanza to “lighter,” more “comic” words:

’Twas mearly, and the churly pells

Did bimble and ringle in the tink;

All timpy were the brimbledimps,

And the bip plips outlink.

Shifting the sounds of the words from dark to light merely takes a shift in thought. To create a specific mood using nonsense words, one must create new words from old words that convey the desired mood. In “Jabberwocky,” Carroll mixes “slimy,” a grim idea, “lithe,” a pliable image, to get a new adjective: “slithy” (a portmanteau word). In this translation, brighter words were used to get a lighter effect. “Mearly” is a combination of “morning” and “early,” and “ringle” is a blend of “ring” and "dingle.” The point is that “Jabberwocky’s” nonsense words are created specifically to convey this shadowy or mysterious mood and are integral to the “meaning.”

Consequently, Humpty’s rendering of the poem leaves the reader with a completely different feeling than does the original poem, which provided us with a sense of ethereal mystery, of a dark and foreign land with exotic creatures and fantastic settings. The mysteriousness is destroyed by Humpty’s literal paraphrase of the creatures and the setting; by doing so, he has taken the beauty away from the poem in his attempt to understand it. He has committed the heresy of paraphrase: “If we allow ourselves to be misled by it [this heresy], we distort the relation of the poem to its ‘truth’… we split the poem between its ‘form’ and its ‘content’” (Brooks 201). Humpty Dumpty’s ultimate demise might be seen to symbolize the heretical split between form and content: as a literary creation, Humpty Dumpty is an egg, a well-wrought urn of nonsense. His fall from the wall cracks him and separates the contents from the container, and not even all the King’s men can put the scrambled egg back together again!

Through the odd characters of a little girl and a foolish egg, “Jabberwocky” suggests a bit of sage advice about reading poetry, advice that the New Critics built their theories on. The importance lies not solely within strict analytical translation or interpretation, but in the overall effect of the imagery and word choice that evokes a meaning inseparable from those literary devices. As Archibald MacLeish so aptly writes: “A poem should not mean / But be.” Sometimes it takes a little nonsense to show us the sense in something.

Brooks, Cleanth. The Well-Wrought Urn: Studies in the Structure of Poetry . 1942. San Diego: Harcourt Brace, 1956. Print.

Carroll, Lewis. Through the Looking-Glass. Alice in Wonderland . 2nd ed. Ed. Donald J. Gray. New York: Norton, 1992. Print.

MacLeish, Archibald. “Ars Poetica.” The Oxford Book of American Poetry . Ed. David Lehman. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2006. 385–86. Print.


  • Sample Essay 1 received permission from Victoria Morillo to publish, licensed Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International ( CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 )
  • Sample Essays 2 and 3 adapted from Cordell, Ryan and John Pennington. "2.5: Student Sample Papers" from Creating Literary Analysis. 2012. Licensed Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported ( CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 )

Who are Heroes? An Analysis of the Literary Hero and an Interpretation of the Modern Hero

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Heroes appear in literature and reality in various forms. Given the changing times, the definition of heroism has evolved to incorporate modern societal values, but remains built on a structural foundation of moral righteousness prevalent in philosophy. Utilizing Immanuel Kant, David Hume, and John Stuart Mill’s philosophical evaluations of moral righteousness and Joseph Campbell’s The Hero with a Thousand Faces, this thesis seeks to understand the structural components to heroism both in theoretical and practical applications. Analysis of J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series will provide distinctions between traditional and modern heroism as well as highlight developments of hero archetypes. Through understanding these idealized hero archetypes in literature, this thesis will further examine heroism and its manifestation in the modern world through case studies of activists, whistleblowers, doctors, teachers, mentors, and good Samaritans – ultimately bringing light to the compassionate, empathic, and inspirational qualities prevalent across heroic figures.


Lcsh subject headings, collections.

Definition of Hero

As a literary device, a hero can be defined as the principal character of a literary work. The term hero has been applied, not only in the classical sense, but also in modern literature, as the principal character of a story , play or novel .

This term is also employed in another sense, for the celebrated figures in certain ancient legends , and heroic epics like Gilgamesh , the Iliad , Beowulf , or La Chanson de Roland . However, it has traveled a long way from classical heroes in Oedipus and Odysseus, to Hamlet , and then to modern heroes, such as Willy Loman. From confrontation of monsters, to mental dilemmas , a hero has transformed from an attractive prince to a common man.

Examples of Hero from Literature

Example #1: odysseus.

Odysseus is the principal character of Homer’s epic “Odyssey.” Odysseus is also known by his Latin name, Ulysses . As the king of Ithaca, Odysseus has been presented as the dominant character of the ten-year-long Trojan War, who became famous through his struggles in the war. Odysseus is well-known for his brilliance, versatility, wit , and ingenuity – so much so that the epithet “Odysseus the cunning” is used for his character. He is the best example of a larger-than-life-figure type of a classical hero.

Example #2: Beowulf

Beowulf is the hero of the epic poem of the same title from Old English. The epic consists of 3,182 alliterative lines, and is considered the oldest surviving epic in Old English literature. This long poem is supposed to have been written between the 8th and 11th centuries. As an adventurous hero from the race of Geats – who offers his help to the King of the Danes, against a monster called Grendel – Beowulf displays legendary courage , and sacrifices his men to save the king. He fought the monster until his own death; thus achieving greatness in the ancient poem, and becoming a classical hero of English literature.

Example #3: Hamlet

Hamlet is the hero of the play Hamlet , written by William Shakespeare . He is a sort of modern hero, in that he faces physical as well as psychological dilemmas. However, he is also akin to classical heroes, for he is a larger-than-life figure, and the would-be king of Denmark after his uncle, Claudius. However, he is akin to a common man, a modern hero, in that he faces the same universal dilemmas about life and death as a common man faces. That is why Hamlet has achieved so much popularity, for he represents a common man facing common problems, despite his being a prince.

Example #3: Willy Loman

A modern hero is reduced to a common man, who simultaneously suffers the “slings and arrows” of the time, and of society. It is because an ordinary man has the same life as a king has. Therefore, Arthur Miller has made Willy Loman the hero of his famous play, Death of a Salesman . Willy Loman represents a common man who could not face the pressure of the modern world, and commits suicide. The difference between Willy Loman and Hamlet is the evolution a hero goes through from a prince facing common problems, to a common man facing common problems.

Function of a Hero

A hero is the major character of a narrative . In classical sense, the hero is not only involved in dangerous adventures or wars, but also in feats and exploits of unparalleled courage and bravery. He possesses extraordinary mental faculties and physical abilities. He takes the narrative long with him to the end that is usually his victory or, in some cases, his death. However, a modern hero plays a complex role in facing mental dilemmas, as he is an ordinary man intended to bring out complex modern psychological issues faced by modern man.

This long journey of a hero from prince to common salesman has brought several changes in a narrative, turning tragedy into a tragi- comedy , and a complex modern tragedy, absurd writings, and then modern pieces. Therefore, the character of a hero in a literary piece not only brings unity in action, but also makes other characters prominent when they are compared and contrasted with him. That is why a hero is considered the central figure of a narrative or a play, and even if a hero is not present in a piece, efforts are made to create one.

Related posts:

  • Tragic Hero
  • 10 Hero Archetypes with Examples  
  • Anti-Hero Archetype

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Introduction: Heroes and Heroism in British Fiction. Concepts and Conjunctures

  • First Online: 10 November 2016

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literary heroes essay

  • Barbara Korte 3 &
  • Stefanie Lethbridge 3  

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The introduction outlines reasons for the cultural relevance of hero figures. It provides a brief historical overview of the role of heroes and heroism in British fiction since the Middle Ages, exploring the relevance of genre conventions as well as cultural preoccupations.

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Korte, B., Lethbridge, S. (2017). Introduction: Heroes and Heroism in British Fiction. Concepts and Conjunctures. In: Korte, B., Lethbridge, S. (eds) Heroes and Heroism in British Fiction Since 1800. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.

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You’ve been assigned a literary analysis paper—what does that even mean? Is it like a book report that you used to write in high school? Well, not really.

A literary analysis essay asks you to make an original argument about a poem, play, or work of fiction and support that argument with research and evidence from your careful reading of the text.

It can take many forms, such as a close reading of a text, critiquing the text through a particular literary theory, comparing one text to another, or criticizing another critic’s interpretation of the text. While there are many ways to structure a literary essay, writing this kind of essay follows generally follows a similar process for everyone

Crafting a good literary analysis essay begins with good close reading of the text, in which you have kept notes and observations as you read. This will help you with the first step, which is selecting a topic to write about—what jumped out as you read, what are you genuinely interested in? The next step is to focus your topic, developing it into an argument—why is this subject or observation important? Why should your reader care about it as much as you do? The third step is to gather evidence to support your argument, for literary analysis, support comes in the form of evidence from the text and from your research on what other literary critics have said about your topic. Only after you have performed these steps, are you ready to begin actually writing your essay.

Writing a Literary Analysis Essay

How to create a topic and conduct research:.

Writing an Analysis of a Poem, Story, or Play

If you are taking a literature course, it is important that you know how to write an analysis—sometimes called an interpretation or a literary analysis or a critical reading or a critical analysis—of a story, a poem, and a play. Your instructor will probably assign such an analysis as part of the course assessment. On your mid-term or final exam, you might have to write an analysis of one or more of the poems and/or stories on your reading list. Or the dreaded “sight poem or story” might appear on an exam, a work that is not on the reading list, that you have not read before, but one your instructor includes on the exam to examine your ability to apply the active reading skills you have learned in class to produce, independently, an effective literary analysis.You might be asked to write instead or, or in addition to an analysis of a literary work, a more sophisticated essay in which you compare and contrast the protagonists of two stories, or the use of form and metaphor in two poems, or the tragic heroes in two plays.

You might learn some literary theory in your course and be asked to apply theory—feminist, Marxist, reader-response, psychoanalytic, new historicist, for example—to one or more of the works on your reading list. But the seminal assignment in a literature course is the analysis of the single poem, story, novel, or play, and, even if you do not have to complete this assignment specifically, it will form the basis of most of the other writing assignments you will be required to undertake in your literature class. There are several ways of structuring a literary analysis, and your instructor might issue specific instructions on how he or she wants this assignment done. The method presented here might not be identical to the one your instructor wants you to follow, but it will be easy enough to modify, if your instructor expects something a bit different, and it is a good default method, if your instructor does not issue more specific guidelines.You want to begin your analysis with a paragraph that provides the context of the work you are analyzing and a brief account of what you believe to be the poem or story or play’s main theme. At a minimum, your account of the work’s context will include the name of the author, the title of the work, its genre, and the date and place of publication. If there is an important biographical or historical context to the work, you should include that, as well.Try to express the work’s theme in one or two sentences. Theme, you will recall, is that insight into human experience the author offers to readers, usually revealed as the content, the drama, the plot of the poem, story, or play unfolds and the characters interact. Assessing theme can be a complex task. Authors usually show the theme; they don’t tell it. They rarely say, at the end of the story, words to this effect: “and the moral of my story is…” They tell their story, develop their characters, provide some kind of conflict—and from all of this theme emerges. Because identifying theme can be challenging and subjective, it is often a good idea to work through the rest of the analysis, then return to the beginning and assess theme in light of your analysis of the work’s other literary elements.Here is a good example of an introductory paragraph from Ben’s analysis of William Butler Yeats’ poem, “Among School Children.”

“Among School Children” was published in Yeats’ 1928 collection of poems The Tower. It was inspired by a visit Yeats made in 1926 to school in Waterford, an official visit in his capacity as a senator of the Irish Free State. In the course of the tour, Yeats reflects upon his own youth and the experiences that shaped the “sixty-year old, smiling public man” (line 8) he has become. Through his reflection, the theme of the poem emerges: a life has meaning when connections among apparently disparate experiences are forged into a unified whole.

In the body of your literature analysis, you want to guide your readers through a tour of the poem, story, or play, pausing along the way to comment on, analyze, interpret, and explain key incidents, descriptions, dialogue, symbols, the writer’s use of figurative language—any of the elements of literature that are relevant to a sound analysis of this particular work. Your main goal is to explain how the elements of literature work to elucidate, augment, and develop the theme. The elements of literature are common across genres: a story, a narrative poem, and a play all have a plot and characters. But certain genres privilege certain literary elements. In a poem, for example, form, imagery and metaphor might be especially important; in a story, setting and point-of-view might be more important than they are in a poem; in a play, dialogue, stage directions, lighting serve functions rarely relevant in the analysis of a story or poem.

The length of the body of an analysis of a literary work will usually depend upon the length of work being analyzed—the longer the work, the longer the analysis—though your instructor will likely establish a word limit for this assignment. Make certain that you do not simply paraphrase the plot of the story or play or the content of the poem. This is a common weakness in student literary analyses, especially when the analysis is of a poem or a play.

Here is a good example of two body paragraphs from Amelia’s analysis of “Araby” by James Joyce.

Within the story’s first few paragraphs occur several religious references which will accumulate as the story progresses. The narrator is a student at the Christian Brothers’ School; the former tenant of his house was a priest; he left behind books called The Abbot and The Devout Communicant. Near the end of the story’s second paragraph the narrator describes a “central apple tree” in the garden, under which is “the late tenant’s rusty bicycle pump.” We may begin to suspect the tree symbolizes the apple tree in the Garden of Eden and the bicycle pump, the snake which corrupted Eve, a stretch, perhaps, until Joyce’s fall-of-innocence theme becomes more apparent.

The narrator must continue to help his aunt with her errands, but, even when he is so occupied, his mind is on Mangan’s sister, as he tries to sort out his feelings for her. Here Joyce provides vivid insight into the mind of an adolescent boy at once elated and bewildered by his first crush. He wants to tell her of his “confused adoration,” but he does not know if he will ever have the chance. Joyce’s description of the pleasant tension consuming the narrator is conveyed in a striking simile, which continues to develop the narrator’s character, while echoing the religious imagery, so important to the story’s theme: “But my body was like a harp, and her words and gestures were like fingers, running along the wires.”

The concluding paragraph of your analysis should realize two goals. First, it should present your own opinion on the quality of the poem or story or play about which you have been writing. And, second, it should comment on the current relevance of the work. You should certainly comment on the enduring social relevance of the work you are explicating. You may comment, though you should never be obliged to do so, on the personal relevance of the work. Here is the concluding paragraph from Dao-Ming’s analysis of Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest.

First performed in 1895, The Importance of Being Earnest has been made into a film, as recently as 2002 and is regularly revived by professional and amateur theatre companies. It endures not only because of the comic brilliance of its characters and their dialogue, but also because its satire still resonates with contemporary audiences. I am still amazed that I see in my own Asian mother a shadow of Lady Bracknell, with her obsession with finding for her daughter a husband who will maintain, if not, ideally, increase the family’s social status. We might like to think we are more liberated and socially sophisticated than our Victorian ancestors, but the starlets and eligible bachelors who star in current reality television programs illustrate the extent to which superficial concerns still influence decisions about love and even marriage. Even now, we can turn to Oscar Wilde to help us understand and laugh at those who are earnest in name only.

Dao-Ming’s conclusion is brief, but she does manage to praise the play, reaffirm its main theme, and explain its enduring appeal. And note how her last sentence cleverly establishes that sense of closure that is also a feature of an effective analysis.

You may, of course, modify the template that is presented here. Your instructor might favour a somewhat different approach to literary analysis. Its essence, though, will be your understanding and interpretation of the theme of the poem, story, or play and the skill with which the author shapes the elements of literature—plot, character, form, diction, setting, point of view—to support the theme.

Academic Writing Tips : How to Write a Literary Analysis Paper. Authored by: eHow. Located at: License: All Rights Reserved. License Terms: Standard YouTube license

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Literary Analysis

The challenges of writing about english literature.

Writing begins with the act of reading . While this statement is true for most college papers, strong English papers tend to be the product of highly attentive reading (and rereading). When your instructors ask you to do a “close reading,” they are asking you to read not only for content, but also for structures and patterns. When you perform a close reading, then, you observe how form and content interact. In some cases, form reinforces content: for example, in John Donne’s Holy Sonnet 14, where the speaker invites God’s “force” “to break, blow, burn and make [him] new.” Here, the stressed monosyllables of the verbs “break,” “blow” and “burn” evoke aurally the force that the speaker invites from God. In other cases, form raises questions about content: for example, a repeated denial of guilt will likely raise questions about the speaker’s professed innocence. When you close read, take an inductive approach. Start by observing particular details in the text, such as a repeated image or word, an unexpected development, or even a contradiction. Often, a detail–such as a repeated image–can help you to identify a question about the text that warrants further examination. So annotate details that strike you as you read. Some of those details will eventually help you to work towards a thesis. And don’t worry if a detail seems trivial. If you can make a case about how an apparently trivial detail reveals something significant about the text, then your paper will have a thought-provoking thesis to argue.

Common Types of English Papers Many assignments will ask you to analyze a single text. Others, however, will ask you to read two or more texts in relation to each other, or to consider a text in light of claims made by other scholars and critics. For most assignments, close reading will be central to your paper. While some assignment guidelines will suggest topics and spell out expectations in detail, others will offer little more than a page limit. Approaching the writing process in the absence of assigned topics can be daunting, but remember that you have resources: in section, you will probably have encountered some examples of close reading; in lecture, you will have encountered some of the course’s central questions and claims. The paper is a chance for you to extend a claim offered in lecture, or to analyze a passage neglected in lecture. In either case, your analysis should do more than recapitulate claims aired in lecture and section. Because different instructors have different goals for an assignment, you should always ask your professor or TF if you have questions. These general guidelines should apply in most cases:

  • A close reading of a single text: Depending on the length of the text, you will need to be more or less selective about what you choose to consider. In the case of a sonnet, you will probably have enough room to analyze the text more thoroughly than you would in the case of a novel, for example, though even here you will probably not analyze every single detail. By contrast, in the case of a novel, you might analyze a repeated scene, image, or object (for example, scenes of train travel, images of decay, or objects such as or typewriters). Alternately, you might analyze a perplexing scene (such as a novel’s ending, albeit probably in relation to an earlier moment in the novel). But even when analyzing shorter works, you will need to be selective. Although you might notice numerous interesting details as you read, not all of those details will help you to organize a focused argument about the text. For example, if you are focusing on depictions of sensory experience in Keats’ “Ode to a Nightingale,” you probably do not need to analyze the image of a homeless Ruth in stanza 7, unless this image helps you to develop your case about sensory experience in the poem.
  • A theoretically-informed close reading. In some courses, you will be asked to analyze a poem, a play, or a novel by using a critical theory (psychoanalytic, postcolonial, gender, etc). For example, you might use Kristeva’s theory of abjection to analyze mother-daughter relations in Toni Morrison’s novel Beloved. Critical theories provide focus for your analysis; if “abjection” is the guiding concept for your paper, you should focus on the scenes in the novel that are most relevant to the concept.
  • A historically-informed close reading. In courses with a historicist orientation, you might use less self-consciously literary documents, such as newspapers or devotional manuals, to develop your analysis of a literary work. For example, to analyze how Robinson Crusoe makes sense of his island experiences, you might use Puritan tracts that narrate events in terms of how God organizes them. The tracts could help you to show not only how Robinson Crusoe draws on Puritan narrative conventions, but also—more significantly—how the novel revises those conventions.
  • A comparison of two texts When analyzing two texts, you might look for unexpected contrasts between apparently similar texts, or unexpected similarities between apparently dissimilar texts, or for how one text revises or transforms the other. Keep in mind that not all of the similarities, differences, and transformations you identify will be relevant to an argument about the relationship between the two texts. As you work towards a thesis, you will need to decide which of those similarities, differences, or transformations to focus on. Moreover, unless instructed otherwise, you do not need to allot equal space to each text (unless this 50/50 allocation serves your thesis well, of course). Often you will find that one text helps to develop your analysis of another text. For example, you might analyze the transformation of Ariel’s song from The Tempest in T. S. Eliot’s poem, The Waste Land. Insofar as this analysis is interested in the afterlife of Ariel’s song in a later poem, you would likely allot more space to analyzing allusions to Ariel’s song in The Waste Land (after initially establishing the song’s significance in Shakespeare’s play, of course).
  • A response paper A response paper is a great opportunity to practice your close reading skills without having to develop an entire argument. In most cases, a solid approach is to select a rich passage that rewards analysis (for example, one that depicts an important scene or a recurring image) and close read it. While response papers are a flexible genre, they are not invitations for impressionistic accounts of whether you liked the work or a particular character. Instead, you might use your close reading to raise a question about the text—to open up further investigation, rather than to supply a solution.
  • A research paper. In most cases, you will receive guidance from the professor on the scope of the research paper. It is likely that you will be expected to consult sources other than the assigned readings. Hollis is your best bet for book titles, and the MLA bibliography (available through e-resources) for articles. When reading articles, make sure that they have been peer reviewed; you might also ask your TF to recommend reputable journals in the field.

Harvard College Writing Program:

In the same way that we talk with our friends about the latest episode of Game of Thrones or newest Marvel movie, scholars communicate their ideas and interpretations of literature through written literary analysis essays. Literary analysis essays make us better readers of literature.

Only through careful reading and well-argued analysis can we reach new understandings and interpretations of texts that are sometimes hundreds of years old. Literary analysis brings new meaning and can shed new light on texts. Building from careful reading and selecting a topic that you are genuinely interested in, your argument supports how you read and understand a text. Using examples from the text you are discussing in the form of textual evidence further supports your reading. Well-researched literary analysis also includes information about what other scholars have written about a specific text or topic.

Literary analysis helps us to refine our ideas, question what we think we know, and often generates new knowledge about literature. Literary analysis essays allow you to discuss your own interpretation of a given text through careful examination of the choices the original author made in the text.

ENG134 – Literary Genres Copyright © by The American Women's College and Jessica Egan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License , except where otherwise noted.

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What is Essay? Definition, Usage, and Literary Examples

Essay definition.

An essay (ES-ey) is a nonfiction composition that explores a concept, argument, idea, or opinion from the personal perspective of the writer. Essays are usually a few pages, but they can also be book-length. Unlike other forms of nonfiction writing, like textbooks or biographies, an essay doesn’t inherently require research. Literary essayists are conveying ideas in a more informal way.

The word essay comes from the Late Latin exigere , meaning “ascertain or weigh,” which later became essayer in Old French. The late-15th-century version came to mean “test the quality of.” It’s this latter derivation that French philosopher Michel de Montaigne first used to describe a composition.

History of the Essay

Michel de Montaigne first coined the term essayer to describe Plutarch’s Oeuvres Morales , which is now widely considered to be a collection of essays. Under the new term, Montaigne wrote the first official collection of essays, Essais , in 1580. Montaigne’s goal was to pen his personal ideas in prose . In 1597, a collection of Francis Bacon’s work appeared as the first essay collection written in English. The term essayist was first used by English playwright Ben Jonson in 1609.

Types of Essays

There are many ways to categorize essays. Aldous Huxley, a leading essayist, determined that there are three major groups: personal and autobiographical, objective and factual, and abstract and universal. Within these groups, several other types can exist, including the following:

  • Academic Essays : Educators frequently assign essays to encourage students to think deeply about a given subject and to assess the student’s knowledge. As such, an academic essay employs a formal language and tone, and it may include references and a bibliography. It’s objective and factual, and it typically uses a five-paragraph model of an introduction, two or more body paragraphs, and a conclusion. Several other essay types, like descriptive, argumentative, and expository, can fall under the umbrella of an academic essay.
  • Analytical Essays : An analytical essay breaks down and interprets something, like an event, piece of literature, or artwork. This type of essay combines abstraction and personal viewpoints. Professional reviews of movies, TV shows, and albums are likely the most common form of analytical essays that people encounter in everyday life.
  • Argumentative/Persuasive Essays : In an argumentative or persuasive essay, the essayist offers their opinion on a debatable topic and refutes opposing views. Their goal is to get the reader to agree with them. Argumentative/persuasive essays can be personal, factual, and even both at the same time. They can also be humorous or satirical; Jonathan Swift’s A Modest Proposal is a satirical essay arguing that the best way for Irish people to get out of poverty is to sell their children to rich people as a food source.
  • Descriptive Essays : In a descriptive essay, the essayist describes something, someone, or an event in great detail. The essay’s subject can be something concrete, meaning it can be experienced with any or all of the five senses, or abstract, meaning it can’t be interacted with in a physical sense.
  • Expository Essay : An expository essay is a factual piece of writing that explains a particular concept or issue. Investigative journalists often write expository essays in their beat, and things like manuals or how-to guides are also written in an expository style.
  • Narrative/Personal : In a narrative or personal essay, the essayist tells a story, which is usually a recounting of a personal event. Narrative and personal essays may attempt to support a moral or lesson. People are often most familiar with this category as many writers and celebrities frequently publish essay collections.

Notable Essayists

  • James Baldwin, “ Notes of a Native Son ”
  • Joan Didion, “ Goodbye To All That ”
  • George Orwell, “ Shooting an Elephant ”
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson, “ Self-Reliance ”
  • Virginia Woolf, " Three Guineas "

Examples of Literary Essays

1. Michel De Montaigne, “Of Presumption”

De Montaigne’s essay explores multiple topics, including his reasons for writing essays, his dissatisfaction with contemporary education, and his own victories and failings. As the father of the essay, Montaigne details characteristics of what he thinks an essay should be. His writing has a stream-of-consciousness organization that doesn’t follow a structure, and he expresses the importance of looking inward at oneself, pointing to the essay’s personal nature.

2. Virginia Woolf, “A Room of One’s Own”

Woolf’s feminist essay, written from the perspective of an unknown, fictional woman, argues that sexism keeps women from fully realizing their potential. Woolf posits that a woman needs only an income and a room of her own to express her creativity. The fictional persona Woolf uses is meant to teach the reader a greater truth: making both literal and metaphorical space for women in the world is integral to their success and wellbeing.

3. James Baldwin, “Everybody’s Protest Novel”

In this essay, Baldwin argues that Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin doesn’t serve the black community the way his contemporaries thought it did. He points out that it equates “goodness” with how well-assimilated the black characters are in white culture:

Uncle Tom’s Cabin is a very bad novel, having, in its self-righteous, virtuous sentimentality, much in common with Little Women. Sentimentality […] is the mark of dishonesty, the inability to feel; […] and it is always, therefore, the signal of secret and violent inhumanity, the mask of cruelty.

This essay is both analytical and argumentative. Baldwin analyzes the novel and argues against those who champion it.

Further Resources on Essays

Top Writing Tips offers an in-depth history of the essay.

The Harvard Writing Center offers tips on outlining an essay.

We at SuperSummary have an excellent essay writing resource guide .

Related Terms

  • Academic Essay
  • Argumentative Essay
  • Expository Essay
  • Narrative Essay
  • Persuasive Essay

literary heroes essay

Literary Vs. Real Life Heroes

This essay about the distinction between literary and real-life heroes explores how each influences society in different yet profound ways. Literary heroes, like Harry Potter or Atticus Finch, are constructed within narratives that underscore moral dilemmas and showcase exceptional qualities in fantastical scenarios. These characters serve as aspirational figures that stimulate the imagination and foster a sense of moral clarity. In contrast, real-life heroes emerge from ordinary circumstances and display extraordinary courage and resilience, such as Malala Yousafzai or frontline workers in crises. They inspire through their relatability and their tangible impacts, demonstrating what individuals can achieve despite fear and imperfection. The essay underscores that both types of heroes offer valuable lessons—literary heroes encourage us to aspire to higher ideals, while real-life heroes show the real impact of personal courage and integrity.

How it works

In our culture, the concept of a hero is one that permeates both our literary traditions and our real-life experiences. The heroes of literature and those who emerge in the real world often stand in stark contrast to each other, yet both serve crucial roles in inspiring and influencing society. Understanding the nuances between literary and real-life heroes can offer us deeper insights into what truly makes a person heroic.

Literary heroes are crafted from the imagination of authors and are often larger than life.

Characters such as Harry Potter, Katniss Everdeen, or Atticus Finch from Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” represent ideals of courage, bravery, and moral integrity. These heroes are placed in extraordinary circumstances, where they must make dramatic choices that reflect their exceptional qualities. Their stories are designed to evoke a sense of wonder and aspiration, often rooted in a narrative that clearly distinguishes between good and evil. The clarity of their heroic journeys allows readers to explore complex ethical questions within a safe and structured environment, making literary heroes both inspirational and instructive.

Conversely, real-life heroes usually emerge from the ranks of everyday people who find themselves in scenarios where they act in ways that are extraordinary. These individuals might not wear capes or wield magical powers, but their actions speak volumes about human potential and the impact of altruism. Consider figures like Malala Yousafzai, who stood up for the right to education in the face of extreme danger, or the countless frontline workers who risked their lives during global crises. Real-life heroes exemplify resilience, perseverance, and the capacity for self-sacrifice without the promise of a happy ending or narrative closure that literary heroes often enjoy.

The appeal of real-life heroes lies in their relatability. They are not infallible; they experience fear, doubt, and failure, just like any other person. Yet, it is their ability to rise above these challenges and make a significant impact that endears them to us. Their stories might not always be as polished or as dramatic as those of literary heroes, but they are real and raw, resonating with the genuine complexities of life.

The contrast between these types of heroes also reflects in the lessons they offer. Literary heroes, with their clear moral compass and often supernatural challenges, inspire us to strive for greater ideals and remind us of the values we aspire to embody. They are the embodiments of what we hope to be. Real-life heroes, on the other hand, demonstrate what we are capable of achieving as ordinary individuals. They ground us in reality and inspire change through tangible examples of courage and commitment.

Moreover, the narrative of a real-life hero can often be more unpredictable and less binary than that of a literary hero. While literary narratives often revolve around a clear conflict with a defined antagonist, real-life heroism can involve complex social issues or personal struggles that don’t necessarily have a visible enemy. This complexity adds a layer of authenticity to their heroism and provides a more nuanced perspective on what it means to be truly heroic.

In conclusion, both literary and real-life heroes have their unique allure and lessons. Through the stories of literary heroes, we explore the boundaries of our imagination and the ideals we hold dear. In the actions of real-life heroes, we find the tangible expressions of human potential and the profound impact of individual action. Each type of hero enriches our understanding of heroism and reflects the diverse ways in which courage and integrity can manifest in our world. Whether in the pages of a book or in the deeds within our communities, heroes continue to inspire, challenge, and change us, urging us onward towards our best selves.


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Home — Essay Samples — Life — Hero — Definition Essay: What Makes A Hero


Definition Essay: What Makes a Hero

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Published: Mar 5, 2024

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literary heroes essay

literary heroes essay


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literary heroes essay

Organizer created on 8/22/2023 9:15:28 AM by Abigail Richardson

Last edited 8/22/2023 1:53:10 PM by Abigail Richardson

  • Entertainment
  • The Surprising Literary Inspiration Behind <i>Anyone But You</i>

The Surprising Literary Inspiration Behind Anyone But You

R om-com fans, rejoice: Anyone But You has finally come to streaming. The sleeper hit, released theatrically in December, stars Euphoria ’s Sydney Sweeney and Top Gun Maverick ’s Glen Powell (although rom-com fans may know him better from Netflix’s Set It Up ). The R-rated enemies-to-lovers film became a surprise box-office smash thanks to a savvy social media campaign and rumors of an off-screen romance (which Sweeney called “obviously not true”). The film also stars Barbie 's Alexandra Shipp, Brothers & Sisters ’ Rachel Griffiths, Darren Barnet of Never Have I Ever, Michelle Hurd of Star Trek: Picard , and rom-com royalty Dermot Mulroney, also known as the object of Julia Roberts’ obsessive affection in My Best Friend 's Wedding . 

While movie studios haven’t invested in as many romances lately and options at the theaters have been dominated by franchises and spin-offs, fans were apparently eager to indulge in a light comedy, helping Anyone But You become a slow-burning hit. Director Will Gluck says that while many modern rom-coms have gone straight to streaming, Anyone But You benefited from being shown in theaters. “I think a big part of our movie was how people felt watching it with others in a theater,” he told the Hollywood Reporter .  

There’s also the added bonus that the movie comes from an original script, but one steeped in literary references. More specifically, it borrows from the characters and plot of Much Ado About Nothing . And Shakespeare, of course, has been popular with audiences for over 400 years. Hard to argue with that track record!

Here’s what to know about the movie’s months-long rise and the Shakespearean references scattered throughout.

What is the plot of Anyone But You ?

The story follows Bea (Sweeney) and Ben (Powell), who have a suitably adorable meet-cute in a coffee shop, involving a rule-following employee, bread for grilled cheese night, and a hand dryer aimed at an unfortunate wet spot, followed by a memorable date that ends in disaster. The two are reunited by coincidence on their way to a destination wedding in Australia, where Ben’s friend and Bea’s sister are getting married. Faced with Bea’s pushy family and their two exes conveniently waiting in the wings, in true rom-com fashion they decide they must fake a relationship to survive the wedding. 

Is Anyone But You based on a book?

The plot of the rom-com is loosely inspired by William Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing , in which Benedick and Beatrice act out the now-stereotypical enemies to lovers trope, which has since inspired the storylines of countless romance books and movies. In both the play and the movie, an early courtship goes awry, leaving the pair waging a “merry war” of words. It’s not just the storyline that is borrowed from The Bard: The protagonists’ names, clearly, also take their inspiration from Shakespeare. Screenwriter Ilana Wolpert, previously best known for her work on High School Musical: The Musical: The Series , took Shakespeare’s play and updated it into a modern romantic comedy. 

“ Much Ado About Nothing is my favorite Shakespearean piece, and I kept coming back to it at school, even throughout my studies in college,” Wolpert told her alumni pape r. “There is so much farce, great humor, and so many great characters. It's about family and friendship, but also a battle of wits and genders. It's really a wonderful play. I always felt it would make an amazing movie.” 

Sweeney and producer Jeff Kirschenbaum liked the script enough to start shopping it to studios with Sweeney onboard to play Bea. “Ilana took such a cool, modern twist on Shakespeare, I felt like I was reading an early 2000s rom-com,” Sweeney told the New York Times . “I loved wanting to be kissed in the rain, wanting to fall in love once I finished reading the script, wanting to cry, laugh, feeling all the feels.”

Sweeney and Kirschenbaum brought on Gluck, who had previously directed both Emma Stone in Easy A and Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis in Friends With Benefits. Gluck re-worked the script before taking on the role of director. Both Gluck and Wolpert are credited as writers for the film, but Shakespeare’s influence is woven throughout, in ways both subtle and decidedly not.

At one point, as ScreenRant notes , Bea walks by a mural emblazoned with a line from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet , “Here’s much to do with hate, but more to do with love.” Later someone has written in the sand the lines “Bait the hook well; this fish will bite.” That comes from the second act of Much Ado About Nothing, where two characters are spreading the rumor that Beatrice is desperately in love with Benedick, who just so happens to be eavesdropping on the conversation. Anyone But You has plenty of its own eavesdropping scenes as characters humorously try to convince Bea and Ben to fall in or out of love.

At one point the camera pans to a bedside table where someone has been reading a book titled Men Were Deceivers Ever , which is both a novel by Patricia Veryan and a line from Shakespeare’s play. To really bring the point home, in the film’s final montage, as Natasha Bedingfield’s 2004 single “Unwritten” plays, Ben and Bea dance under a huge sign that reads, “Much Ado About Nothing.”

Where can you stream Anyone But You ?

Anyone But You was initially released in theaters just in time for Christmas on Dec. 22. It was then released for rent or purchase on YouTube, Apple TV, and Amazon Prime Video. On March 19, Netflix announced that the film would be available to stream beginning April 23 for all subscribers.

A Netflix UK release date is yet to be confirmed, but the film is currently available to rent or buy in the UK via Prime Video and iTunes, per Digital Spy .

How did Anyone But You become a box-office hit?

Despite a trailer that ran in theaters before Taylor Swift's Eras Tour film, Anyone But You didn’t garner much buzz, critical acclaim, or box-office success during its first week. “I kept my expectations low and, in retrospect, not low enough,” Gluck told the Times about the film’s $8 million opening weekend. But that disappointing first week performance was not indicative of the film’s future.

TikTok was soon flooded with videos of fans reenacting the film’s credit sequence, dancing to and singing snippets of “Unwritten,” which plays a key role in the movie. Rumors of an off-screen romance between Powell and Sweeney helped create more buzz, which the actors’ friendly behavior on the publicity tour fed into even as the two denied their veracity. In addition to skewering the rumors during Sweeney’s Saturday Night Live appearance , the two stars created a TikTok video where they whispered to each other, a clip which racked up a reported 18 million views, far outnumbering the 10 million views of the film’s official trailer, according to the Hollywood Reporter . Soon the film was pushed into the top five at the U.S. box office, staying there each weekend through the end of January. In February, the film was re-released for Valentine’s Day with extra footage, per Variety . It eventually grossed over $200 million globally off what Variety reports was a $25 million budget.

Will there be a sequel to Anyone But You ?

While no sequel has been officially announced, during Sweeney’s appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon in February, the actor teased fans with the possibility that she might reunite with Powell for another romance.

“Fans are hoping for a sequel, do you think that maybe we’ll see a sequel?” Fallon asked her. “Maybe like, a high nine chance,” Sweeney told an enthusiastic audience. 

Unfortunately, the studio may not be as excited by the idea. Tom Rothman, chairman and chief executive of Sony Pictures Motion Picture Group told the New York Times that they may have other ideas for the duo. “Not that we wouldn’t consider a sequel—obviously, we would,” Rothman said. “But I think maybe the healthiest opportunity is another original starring the two of them.” While the future may not hold an Anyone But You, Part II, perhaps Sweeney and Powell could be this era’s Goldie Hawk and Kurt Russell or Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan. 

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Millsaps College

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Syner’s Essay Wins Second Place at 2024 Southern Literary Festival

Mary Frances Dickie

April 23, 2024

"I appreciate the ways that literary criticism and research can bring an entirely new viewpoint and make me question what the work is truly about."

Patricia Syner, a senior creative writing major at Millsaps, recently earned second place in the 2024 Southern Literary Festival’s Formal Essay category. Her essay, “On a Dark and Stormy Screen: Bringing ‘Frankenstein’ to Life in Black and White Film,” analyzes the implications and effects of adapting the Mary Shelley novel in that medium.

Syner, from Meridian, Miss., wrote her essay for her senior seminar class. English literature and creative writing students must complete a senior seminar course focused on one or more works of literature to graduate.

This year, Dr. Anne MacMaster centered the seminar around “Frankenstein,” Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” and adaptations of these novels. Syner shares that in her essay, she wanted to give the 1930s “Frankenstein” films their due for using technological limitations – specifically black and white film – to translate the imagery in Shelley’s novel.

“I appreciate the ways that literary criticism and research can bring an entirely new viewpoint and make me question what the work is truly about,” Syner said.

In her essay, Syner argues that capturing the films in black and white allowed the directors to catch the persistent interplay of darkness, light and the elements that haunt Shelley’s novel. Though these films of the 1930s took significant liberties with the source material’s plot points, settings and even character names, she says, “I couldn’t ignore how their aesthetics evoked a true eeriness and complicated sympathy for the creature.”

Patricia delivering her speech.

Syner studied critical analyses of Classical-era film visuals and aesthetics to build her argument. In her research, she says she, “looked specifically for how authors commented on themes of horror and the uncanny using specific film vocabulary like ‘lighting’ and ‘set design.’”

It took some determination to find analyses dedicated specifically to the effects of lighting in black-and-white Classical-Era horror films. For researchers, this can be a blessing and a curse. “’Frankenstein’ films seemed to have fallen into the abyss as far as study on their lighting and other techniques go,” Syner acknowledged. “Though, I was happy my paper wasn’t rehashing a worn-out point.”

She attended the Southern Literary Festival in Oxford, Miss., to present her second-place essay. Her writing placed alongside students from Lipscomb University and the University of North Georgia.

Impressively, the festival fit into Syner’s already busy schedule. In addition to majoring in creative writing, she is minoring in film studies and Spanish . She co-edits the Stylus, Millsaps’ literary magazine, with fellow senior Brittany Wilson, acts with the Millsaps Players, works with Millsaps’ Digital Welty Lab and interns with the University Press of Mississippi.

Syner plans to continue writing after graduating in May. She hopes to pursue a career in publishing with a focus on editing or acquisitions while building her creative writing portfolio for submission to different publications. Her Millsaps education and success as a writer and researcher will be a strong foundation in every path she pursues.

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    Browse essays about Heroes in Literature and find inspiration. Learn by example and become a better writer with Kibin's suite of essay help services. Essay Examples

  16. What Makes a Hero: Analysis of Fictional and Real-life Heroes

    Two reasons that separate these two different heroes is that one, sometimes someone doesn't necessarily need to be physically saved so that the individual is labeled as a hero. For example, improving one's life is enough unlike in movies where the hero always needs to save multiple people from a collapsing burning building.

  17. Essay in Literature: Definition & Examples

    An essay (ES-ey) is a nonfiction composition that explores a concept, argument, idea, or opinion from the personal perspective of the writer. Essays are usually a few pages, but they can also be book-length. Unlike other forms of nonfiction writing, like textbooks or biographies, an essay doesn't inherently require research. Literary essayists are conveying ideas in a more informal way.

  18. Literary Vs. Real Life Heroes

    This essay about the distinction between literary and real-life heroes explores how each influences society in different yet profound ways. Literary heroes, like Harry Potter or Atticus Finch, are constructed within narratives that underscore moral dilemmas and showcase exceptional qualities in fantastical scenarios.

  19. Epic Hero in Literature

    Epic heroes are literary characters from ancient mythology and other stories, which were written down in the form of long, narrative epic poems. The hero is the main character, or protagonist, of ...

  20. Heroes

    Heroes by Robert Cormier focuses on the way that returned soldier Francis Cassavant eventually finds a way to forgive himself for a past action. Themes are ideas that run through a text. In Heroes ...

  21. Definition Essay: What Makes a Hero

    A hero is someone who selflessly puts the needs of others before their own, often sacrificing their own well-being for the greater good. Their actions are driven by a deep sense of empathy, compassion, and a genuine desire to alleviate the suffering of others. One defining characteristic of a hero is their unwavering courage.

  22. Anti-Heroes: Creating and Critiquing Them

    An anti-hero is a literary archetype characterized by a protagonist who deviates from traditional heroic qualities, often displaying moral ambiguity, flaws, and unconventional behavior. These characters challenge conventional notions of heroism and morality, adding complexity and depth to narratives. Despite their imperfections, anti-heroes often elicit empathy from audiences, inviting ...

  23. Examples of MY HERO Essays

    By: Claudia Hudson. Olympics Hero: "The love for what I was doing...passion for gymnastics, competing and pleasing the crowd. Able to last 18 years in the sport because I loved what i was doing." -- Dominique Dawes on what kept her motivated.

  24. The Surprising Literary Inspiration Behind Anyone But You

    What is the plot of Anyone But You?. The story follows Bea (Sweeney) and Ben (Powell), who have a suitably adorable meet-cute in a coffee shop, involving a rule-following employee, bread for ...

  25. Syner's Essay Wins Second Place at 2024 Southern Literary Festival

    Patricia Syner, a senior creative writing major at Millsaps, recently earned second place in the 2024 Southern Literary Festival's Formal Essay category. Her essay, "On a Dark and Stormy Screen: Bringing 'Frankenstein' to Life in Black and White Film," analyzes the implications and effects of adapting the Mary Shelley novel in that medium.

  26. "The Vortex", written 100 years ago, anticipated eco-literature

    The book is on the minds and lips of presidents. Recently Gustavo Petro, Colombia's leader, praised "La Vorágine" ("The Vortex"), a novella by José Eustasio Rivera, for having words ...