Heroism: Definition And Explanation Term Paper

Length: 6 pages Sources: 2 Subject: Literature Type: Term Paper Paper: #72326366 Related Topics: Superheroes, Beowulf, Definition, Heroes
Excerpt from Term Paper :

¶ … heroism is not new to the world. The word 'hero' often stimulates the thought process of a person in such a way that the person automatically starts thinking about the heroic figures that he or she has heard about in stories, seen in movies or read in fairytales. However, the concept of heroism is slightly different from the common perception of this word. One can ask some questions in order to understand the exact definition or the description of a hero. The first question that one can ask is that whether hero is a person that we simply respect, admire and look up to. We can ask if hero is someone that has super powers, and thus a superhero. Some people might wonder if takes a great deal of fame and money to be known as a hero. Others might that what are the other things that are involved in becoming a hero. It is actually interesting to note that some people can even start considering themselves heroes. Another thing that needs to be discussed here is the peculiar relationship that people generally have with the word hero.

We will start this paper by looking into what is meant by the word hero. What are the aspects that are involved in defining the concept of heroism? Once thoroughly explaining heroism and discussing what characteristics take a person from being a normal human being to a hero, we shall then talk about this concept with respect to Odysseus and Beowulf.

Heroism -- Definition and Explanation

Heroes are basically those people who have the capabilities of transforming compassion, which is a person virtue into a heroic action, which becomes a civic virtue. During the process of this transformation, these people showcase their best selves for the betterment and service of humanity. Therefore, it can be said that a hero is an individual or even a network of individuals that tale actions on behalf or for the people that in need so that they can defend their integrity.

It is important to know here that heroes are not the people that are asked by others to get themselves involved in actions of compassion of civic virtue. In fact, these people engage in these activities voluntarily. These people are seen to render their services to a single individual or even to the people of an entire community. Heroes are the people that have the courage to step out of their comfort zone. These are the people that leave behind their social stature, physical comfort as well as their quality of life in order to serve the humanity. Another extremely important characteristic of heroes is that they get themselves involved acts of heroism without expecting any material gain in return.

When taken into consideration the aforementioned interpretation and characteristics of heroes, it will not be wrong to say that heroes are in fact the true opposites of a bystander. The behavior that is exhibited by heroes and the one that is demonstrated by a bystander are in fact two sides of the coin. When a person takes the initiative of getting engaged in an activity voluntarily, without the command of another person and that activity is related to the service of humanity of the community, then that person can rightly be called a hero. It is also important to note here that when heroes get involved in any such activities, they always put their own lives at stake and at risk.

However, there is another aspect to it. It should be clearly known that such some simple and random acts of kindness cannot be termed as being those if heroism, no matter how great they are. Heroism is a distinct entity as compared to compassion or generosity. Therefore, someone that you admire or respect does not become a hero. A hero has to be a distinct person.

The fact of the matter is that each one of us wants to be a hero. We all have experienced such a situation in which we wanted to make a difference on the situation in such a way that things change for good. For example, there are times when we want to keep a person...


There are times when we want to take a stand for what is just and right in a specific situation. It will not be wrong to say that people all over the world, belonging from any country, race, religion or ethnicity, want to get themselves involved in a situation where we could save people. This implies that each person has the ability and thus desires to act however that person wants without any restraint so that he makes any kind of difference in a particular setting.

Now, let us come to the discussion towards the relationship that people generally have with the word "hero." Many analysts are of the view that the association of heroism with the people is rather cynical. This relationship can be a result of a situation when we tried to be a hero but failed. Apart from that, this relationship can also be attributed towards an event in which we wanted to act like a hero for someone, but we did not have the courage to take the actions required to become a hero and make the difference. These are the moments when we decide that we do not have the capabilities or the potential to become a hero. We do not have that courage or we do not have what it takes to step out of our comfort zone to become a hero. However, it can be said that it is a good idea to try to become a hero.

It is actually quite interesting to note that social psychology has started to focus their attention towards heroism and heroes. Two of the psychologists Philip Zimbardo and Zeno Franco have pointed towards the differences between the concepts of altruism and heroism. They have put forth the evidence that the perceptions of observers pertaining to unjustified risk have a role to play, beyond and above risk type, in order to determine the aspects of heroic status.

On the other hand, the explanation given by evolutionary psychology for risk taking involved in heroism is rather an expensive signal that demonstrates the abilities of the hero. It will not be wrong to say that heroism can be viewed as being one form of altruism for which other evolutionary explanations have also been given.

Heroism in Beowulf

The poem Beowulf is based on the values of a person as a hero according to the acts that are undertaken by him and according to the good that he has done to the other people. The setting of this poem is that of a pre-medieval society, this was the time when the warriors and fighters were considered to be the most deserving of respect and honor out of all the other people, except for the kind. This belief does make a lot of sense since warriors were the people that gave up a lot of things to earn this respect. They demonstrated their valor and strength, and did not get any money in return. Therefore, it can be said that Beowulf is in fact considered to be the perfect example of a hero because he forsakes his comfort and life for other people and becomes known as the greatest warrior of that time.

As it has already been discussed before that a hero is an individual that has the courage to put his or her own wants and needs aside so as to get the best for the rest of the people, it should be noted here that there are many different kinds of people that come under the description of heroism. For example, firefighters are the individuals or the network of people that put their life and limb at risk and enter the buildings on fire so that they can save the lives of the people. Similarly, athletes participating in the Olympics sacrifice their energy and time so that they can get trained enough to represent their country. On the other hand, those who donate blood are the ones that weaken their body to provide others with what is the essence of life, and therefore save a dying person. There are many forms of heroism. But the fundamental principle that is common to all is self-sacrifice. In the case of Beowulf, there is no question or doubt about his heroism. He travels to far off places where he tells the tales of the challenges and exploits undertaken by him for the sake of his king. Beowulf perfectly fits in the description of a hero because he puts his own life at stake for the benefit of the other people (Hieatt).

Heroism in Odysseus

Thinking about heroes, a person would consider Batman, Spiderman, and Ironman. But if someone is told that Odysseus is a hero than one might think he was a normal person…

Sources Used in Documents:

Works cited

Hieatt, Constance B. Beowulf, And Other Old English Poems. 1st ed. New York: Odyssey Press, 1967. Print.

Homer., et al. The Odyssey. 1st ed. Print.

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