Throughout this Unit, you have been exploring what it means to be an epic hero. We have seen strong heroes, brave heroes, clever heroes, arrogant heroes, and more. For this paper, you will consider what traits the heroes we studied had in common – and which heroes did not quite fit the mold.
Remember that epic heroes embody the values of the culture that created them, and so heroes vary as widely as cultures do. However, there are certainly common threads and themes while discussing what makes a hero. For your paper, you will be exploring one trait of a hero in a complex and nuanced way. You will build this complexity by discussing two heroes who possess it – and one hero who does not.
Below is what your outline should include:
This essay structure might be new to you. Usually, academic essays ask you to choose a thesis and prove it thoroughly, while this essay asks you to break away from your thesis to create a deeper definition of heroism. Because it might be confusing, I have included a summary of a sample essay below. (Note: This summary shows you the progression of thought I am looking for. Your essay should follow a similar logical path, but should be a full five paragraphs, include quotations from the story, etc.)
Epic heroes behead their enemies. Beowulf beheads Grendel, Gilgamesh removes Humbaba’s head and hangs it on a tree branch, and Eowyn slices off the large, scaly head of her enemy with a sword. This act of decapitating your enemies seems to be a consistent trend among epic heroes and tells us a good deal about what kind of hero they are. A hero must be confronting their enemy face-to-face and dominates them completely by decapitating them – this shows bravery, capability, and thus seems to be the “noble” way to kill your enemy. However, the hobbit, Merry, destroys the Black Rider he faces by stabbing it in the back; this is an underhanded method, relying on the element of surprise rather than the physical power of the hero. Thus, Merry certainly seems to lack the “nobility” of the grand, armored heroes of the other tales. While this distinction sets Merry apart as a unique hero among the others, the end is the same: he defeats the threat he faces.
Your paper must discuss three heroes out of the ones we studied in the Unit (Beowulf, Gilgamesh, Eowyn, Merry, Sundiata, Odysseus). You must use quotes from the text for at least two of the three heroes, and a total of at least four quotes throughout the paper.
This essay should be between two and five pages (500-1500 words) in length.
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