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Bryana Arriola
Professor Lewis
English 115
8 December 2014
The Ideal Hero
The word hero sparks several different opinions in today’s society. Due to my curiosity
about what today’s society values in a hero, I conducted research that resulted in a broad list of
traits that are often used and agreed upon when describing what an individual must have in order
to be a hero. Many of these general and frequently used characteristics in the descriptions of a
hero are learned through movies, comic books, and readings. However, while there are similar
characteristics people agree upon, the interpretation of these characteristics can vary greatly. In
order to acknowledge and support the idea of these characteristics being interpreted differently, I
conducted interactive research at the California State University of Northridge for my
ethnography.
On the campus, I held two different sessions of questions on two different days in the
month of October 2014. Within each session, I randomly selected and approached college
students of all ages, genders, and ethnicities who attended the University and asked them
questions relating to the personality traits a hero must have, as well as the rules and guidelines
one must follow, in order to be a credible hero. The first session consisted of one short answer
question and the second session consisted of two short answer questions that were produced from
the analysis and interpretations of the responses received in the first session.

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In the first session conducted on Tuesday, October 7th at nine o’ clock in the morning, I
asked six men and five women who were walking around the campus one question: “What
characteristics would you use to define a hero?” The most frequently used characteristics were:
bravery, courage, intelligence, care, and selflessness. Their responses were enlightening because
today heroes are usually shown in high tech suits of armor with incredible strength and
confidence, which supports the general idea that heroes are defined by strength and physical
aspects. Yet surprisingly, out of the eleven students I questioned, only one female mentioned
strength and the act of being bold in her response to the question. Based on my analysis I came to
the conclusion that heroism is no longer greatly impacted by strength, brawn and muscle, but
instead wit, charisma and overall good nature of the emotional values in a person that
specifically focus on the consideration of other people.
The second thing I noticed while conducting my first session of observations was that
bravery and courage were the most frequently used characteristics in the responses I received.
After analyzing the responses I also noticed something specific about the two characteristics.
Both of the characteristics were listed together in six out of the eleven accumulated responses.
This observation lead me to the first question that I asked in the second session of my research
on October 9th 2014: “Is there a difference between bravery and courage, and if so, what is the
difference?” At first it seemed strange, in an interesting kind of way, that bravery and courage
were listed together because I personally believed they were the same thing, however, after
listening to the responses I received to the supplemental question about the difference between
bravery and courage, my opinion changed.

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During the second session I asked five men and five women two questions. The first
question was a supplemental question produced from session one of my research which was
mentioned previously about the differences in bravery and courage. After analyzing the
responses to this question about possible differences, I realized men and women have a very
strong cognitive view of the ethics and principles of the two traits. Although half of the
responders, three women and two men, said there is not a difference between the two traits, the
other half, three men and two women, who said there is a difference responded with the same
answer. The five responders who stated there is a difference reported that courage is an internal
feeling that a person pre-conceives and encourages in order to accomplish a personal goal or to
overcome a personal fear, whereas bravery is an outward action that is praised and honored that
is done out of the desire to accomplish something for the well-being and sake of others.
All five responders agreed that bravery is done out of the aspiration to be noticed for a
particular act that serves others and courage is done out of the desire for unnoticed personal
growth and accomplishment. A definite answer could not be attained to the core question due to
the fact that the amount of people who believed there is a difference between the two traits and
the amount of people who believed there is not a difference between the two traits are equivalent.
However, the overall conclusion I made out of this analysis is that there is a category of heroes
that perform acts of heroism out of the hopes of attaining attention, respect, and honor, while
there is another category of heroes that performs acts of heroism that focuses on an agenda that
promotes self-worth and emotional pleasure without any kind of desire to be noticed and honored
for their acts of heroism.

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Another conclusion I made from my research was produced from the second question
asked in session two of my research. This question was formulated from the analysis of the
responses to the previously mentioned question asked in session one: “What characteristics
would you use to define a hero?” In the responses to this question I found that honor and
morality were the next most frequent characteristics used to describe a hero. While three out of
six men valued honor, three out of five women valued morality. After looking into the official
definition of honor and morality on the Google online dictionary, I learned that honor is a form
of respect given to a person of authority while morality is the distinction between right and
wrong or good and bad behavior. After looking into the definitions, I formulated a second
supplemental question that I believed would be extremely effective in illustrating society’s
interpretation of a hero: “Can a hero still be a hero if they must commit crime or injustice in
order to gain justice for a greater purpose or victory?” Before asking the question, I assumed that
because men valued honor, they would believe performing an injustice would be acceptable as
long as the person gained victory over their opponent. Additionally, based off of the result of
women valuing morality, I assumed women would not support a hero acting out in a manner of
injustice for a greater good, due to the fact that morality is defined as the distinction between
right and wrong.
Due to the assumptions made before asking the final question in my study, the results
were even more interesting to me. The ratio of women who believed injustice was acceptable to
the women who believed injustice was unacceptable was larger than that of the male ratio. Four
out of five women stated that it was acceptable to commit injustice for the greater good while
three out of five men stated that it was acceptable. Two out of the five male college students I

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questioned stated that a hero is not a hero if they are committing crime themselves. The other
three males were extremely hesitant before responding with “yes,” to the question and seemed
very unsure after they responded; however, they stuck to their response. These responses
revealed that my assumption that males would be okay with injustice due to their main concern
and value being honor was false, which was very fascinating. I assumed more men would believe
criminal acts in the process of gaining victory were suitable, however the result of the
accumulated responses show women find it to be more acceptable despite the fact that previous
responses from women confirmed that they value morality. Based on this analysis, I came to the
conclusion that morality is a very complex topic in the context of a hero and that although a hero
should possess a prohibitive amount of morality, under certain circumstances it is tolerable and
does not cripple their heroism.
The hero in today’s society is a very complex being. Heroism is no longer illustrated
through a muscular, callous, and hardcore being who is only concerned with winning and
accomplishing a mere goal. Today a hero is a person who has emotional ties to their goals, a
sense of morality, and awareness of when morality must be limited. Through my research and
analysis I came to the conclusion that there are two types of heroes. The first type of hero is a
person who bases their actions and performances off of their personal reputation in the act of
helping others while the other type of hero is one who performs for a personal gain that they do
not need to be accredited for. Men and women of all ages in the college student culture value a
hero who attains bravery, courage, honor, morality and the ability to distinguish when and where
the limitations of this morality should be enforced.