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JohnnyDeppReads - a place to discuss the news, books, plays, projects and materials relating to the artistic works and interests of multi media artist Johnny Depp.

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 What is an anti hero?
Posted: Jan 12 2007, 10:17 PM


Group: Admin
Posts: 40,244
Member No.: 1
Joined: 5-November 06

Posted on 2/07/06 at 08:21 AM


Let's brush up on the description and meaning of a literary "anti-hero."

A protagonist of a drama or narrative who is notably lacking in heroic qualities. This type of character has appeared in literature since the time of the Greek dramatists and can be found in the literary works of all nations. Examples include the title characters of Miguel de Cervantes's Don Quixote (Part I, 1605; Part II, 1615) and Henry Fielding's Tom Jones (1749).

The Gallery of Antiheroes and Villans -- What is an Antihero?

What is an Antihero?
The spice of a story, the element that makes it more than simple heroes and villains, lies within the character of the Antihero. The Antihero is someone with some of the qualities of a villain, up to and including brutality, cynicism, and ruthlessness, but with the soul or motivations of a more conventional Hero. The Antihero probably existed first (before conventional Heroes), perhaps pre-dating the sanctifying influence of organized religion. Many of the protagonists of Western and Eastern classical and mythological stories fit into the broad antihero mold, especially those who are shown as having turbulent, violent backgrounds and conflicting motivations. Frequently, it is this mental conflict that serves to link the discrete episodes which compose such stories. (Such a connector was necessary due to the oral storytelling tradition that persisted until fairly recently.)

On the secular front, the Antihero has fared better, used at times as a mirror for social commentary and political critique. The protagonist's spot may be used, but more often an antihero character is relegated to a secondary or fatal role in the story, skirting potentially negative attention. Swift's Gulliver and Hugo's Jean Valjean both had their fatal personality flaws and yet held fast to their attitudes, but although they could easily represent any person buffeted by life's harshness, they are not exactly characters to model one's future life on.

In later times, authors have been bolder in their use of flawed heroes and even villains as key characters, perhaps as the threat of retribution has lessened somewhat. Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn was a self-described rascal, causing all manner of trouble and even committing the then-crime of helping Jim, the runaway slave. Coming together with the increased use of emotionally unsettled characters, the propensity to leave a story incomplete with respect to characters' morality also increased. Holden Caulfield, the anti-poster-boy of Salinger's "Catcher in the Rye", flirts with criminal behavior and is both self-absorbed and depressed. Yet his frank portrait of adolescence resonates with many people, despite the lack of any last-minute salvation or even a final resolution of his many conflicts.

Picking up the themes of literature, live and recorded drama (stage productions, radio, movies, television) also make frequent use of antiheroes and complex villains, although there is more resistance to leaving matters of the heart and mind unfinished at the conclusion. The film noir approach relies upon such characters, and the best examples of this technique have few or no cut-and-dry, good-or-evil characters. "The Maltese Falcon", which admittedly began as a book, is all about the deadly waltz of four people with blatantly selfish motives willing and able to lie, steal, and murder for their obsessions. Despite all this, the protagonist and star, Humphrey Bogart as Sam Spade, is so highly regarded by reader-viewers and writers alike that he has practically spawned a new antihero sub-archetype, the grizzled, world-weary, working-class detective.

Captain Jack is back! Savvy?
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