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The Hero

Traditionally in literature a hero is a character who possesses a

strong morality.

This is a character that seems to always do the right thing, no

matter what the situation.

A hero has a strong conviction, is dynamic, and/or has a certain

magnetism that draws the reader to him/her.

A hero does not necessarily complete their journey on their own,

but they are the central character in the story.

A literary hero will complete the traditional Hero Cycle,

triumphing in the end.

Definition of Tragedy:
A drama in which a character (usually a good and
noble person of high rank) is brought to a
disastrous end in their confrontation with a
superior force (fortune, the gods, social forces,
universal values), but also comes to understand
the meaning of their deeds and to accept an
appropriate punishment. (The Norton Introduction
to Literature, 7th ed)

Aristotles Characteristics of
a Tragic Hero
1. Background Usually of noble birth; destined for greatness
2. Hamartia a.k.a. the tragic flaw that eventually leads to his
downfall; often this leads to a mistake in judgment.
3. Peripeteia a reversal of fortune brought about by the heros tragic
flaw; this is often also influenced by fate or the gods.
4. Epiphany Actions result in an increase of self- awareness and selfknowledgethough they may not choose to act on this!
5. Catharsis The audience must feel pity and fear for this character
and purge these emotions at the end of the story.

Tragic Hero Background

A tragic hero is often used in literature, especially Greek and

Shakespearean drama.

The tragic hero has made its way into more contemporary literature
because they are more realistic and audiences can relate to them.
The tragic hero was traditionally a man of noble stature. High position
usually means a king, duke, prince, company owner, etc. He is not an
ordinary man, but a man with outstanding quality and greatness about him.
Someone we look up to.
He is goodbut not too goodso the audience can identify with him.

Tragic Hero
Noble Stature: since tragedy involves the "fall" of a tragic hero, one
theory is that one must have a lofty position to fall from, or else there
is no tragedy (just pathos).
Also, tragedies involving people of stature affect the lives of others.
In the case of a king, the tragedy would not only involve the
individual and his family, it would also involve the whole society.

Tragic Hero
Unlike a hero, a tragic hero does not always do the right thing
Their own destruction is for a greater cause or principlei.e. it proves a
Hero's downfall is their own fault as a result of their own free choice, but
their misfortune is not wholly deserved. There must be an element of
choice in order for there to be a true tragedy. The tragic hero falls because
they choose one course of action over another.
Death is seen as a waste of human potential
Audience must feel a combination of pity and fear for this character

Harmartia: The tragic flaw

The fatal flaw brings the hero down from their elevated state.
Renaissance audiences were familiar with the wheel of fortune or
fickle fate: What goes up, must come down.
The tragic hero must "fall" due to some flaw in his own personality. The
most common tragic flaw is hubris (excessive pride). One who tries to
attain too much possesses hubris.
Ex: Pride (Hubris) Skywalker thinks he is so good, he can take on an
experienced Jedi all by himself.

Examples of Flaws (Harmartia)

Peripeteia a reversal of fortune brought about by the
heros tragic flaw; this is often also influenced by fate
or the gods, but clearly is caused by an action of the hero
related to their flaw.
Peripeteia is also known as the turning point, the place in which
the tragic protagonists fortune changes from good to bad. This
literary device is meant to surprise the audience, but is also meant
to follow as a result of a characters previous actions or mistakes.

Epiphany: The Heros Understanding

Aristotle: "A man cannot become a hero until he can see the root
of his own downfall.
The tragic hero has a moment of enlightenment near the end of the
The story often ends with the death of the tragic hero.
Hero has Increased Awareness: it is crucial that the tragic hero
come to some sort of an understanding of what went wrong or of
what was really going on before they come to their endhow they
contributed to the tragic situation..
Their death usually is not a pure loss, because it results in greater
knowledge and awareness.


We get the word catharsis from Aristotles katharsis. Catharsis

is the audiences purging of emotions through pity and fear.

The Punishment Exceeds the Crime: the audience must not be

left feeling that the tragic hero got what he deserved. Part of what
makes the action "tragic" is to witness the injustice of what has
occurred to the tragic hero. However, this feeling is complicated
by the knowledge that they brought about their fate and it is at
least partially deserved--thus they accept death with honor.

The spectator is purged as a result of watching the hero fall: we

feel emotionally drained, but exultant. This is why we cry during

Restoration of Social Order

The play cannot end until society is,

once again, at peace.

This is why the Tragic Hero often dies!

They usually die. If they dont die,

then there must be an alternate yet
appropriate punishment for their
actions that restores the social order.

Modern Tragic Hero: the Anti-Hero

In the late 19th and early 20th century, a new
kind of tragic hero was created, known as the
The modern hero does not necessarily have to
be of a high estate, but rather an"ordinary
He or she may not even die!
We dont necessarily LIKE this kind of hero,
but we are fascinated by them.
The story may not result in an epiphany of
awareness or even come to a resolution of

The Anti-Hero

The concept of an Anti-Hero is often used in darker


The Anti-Hero is being used more in modern literature as

authors try to portray villains as complex characters

An Anti-Hero relates to a reader because the Anti-Hero

displays more humanity that a regular Hero.

Instead of a standard tragic flaw an Anti-Hero may try to do

what is right by using questionable means.

Anti-Heroes can be

Anti-Heroes can be amoral.

Anti-Heroes can be violent.

Anti-Heroes can be pitiful.

Anti-Heroes can be

Anti-Heroes can be

Types of Anti-Hero

Some Anti-Heroes may be unable to

commit to traditional values of society.

This type of Anti-Hero distrusts

conventional society.

Another type of Anti-Hero cannot get a

break in life.

They will move from one disappointment

to another, their efforts always ending in

The Anti-hero does not always die at the

end of a text

Discuss with your table and
fill in as many details as you
can in the various sections

As you read the novel

Consider as you read: Is Okonkwo in Things Fall
Apart an example of a classical tragic hero, or is
his tragic end more in line with the definition of a
modern tragic anti-hero?