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What differing views of heroes and heroism are explored in Mice and Men, and the Sexton’s Hero?

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Introduction

What differing views of heroes and heroism are explored in Mice and Men, and the Sexton's Hero? The idea of a hero, a man idealised for superior qualities, has been present in legends for centuries. The Greek myths contained heroes such as Hercules and Theseus, who outwitted and overpowered evil beings. This Greek image of a brave and strong hero was then carried into medieval tales, where a 'warrior type' male of exceptional courage and ability would stand up against evil and battle the monsters. The vision of a hero then developed from the 'warrior type' male into a man with not just physical strength but also mental strength. A man who would stick by his morals or principles. A hero was also thought to be modest, courageous, have integrity and willing to stick to his morals. An example of this is the 19th Century hero. However, one aspect that had not changed from the Greek myths was that the hero was always a male and if a female was mentioned she was a weak, vulnerable character, unable to save herself. It was not until the late 19th Century that the female figure became more independent. ...read more.

Middle

In return to the challenge Gilbert Dawson says 'I cannot fight, because I think it is wrong to quarrel and use violence.' This led to the village scorning him for his cowardice, 'The men muttered the word 'coward' in his hearing.' This reaction of the village is intended to make the reader criticize the people who isolated Gilbert Dawson. By refusing to fight Gilbert Dawson was sacrificing his place in the village, as everyone will now scorn him. To the reader he is now morally superior to the Sexton who 'was so full of scorn at his cowardliness' and the rest of the village. The reader now respects Gilbert Dawson. Gilbert Dawson then became an outcast in the village, with only the old clerk and the children talking to him. Gaskell used the children as they are seen as the innocent, able to see the good in people. The clerk, also with a religious background, understands Gilbert Dawson's decision. When Gilbert Dawson then saves the Sexton's life and sacrifices his own, he is seen as a hero by the reader, but also by the Sexton, who realised he was wrong about him. ...read more.

Conclusion

Gaskell aims with this story to show the reader how someone who sticks to his principles can be a hero. Whilst Steinbeck leaves the reader to decide on his or her own whether George is a hero or not. This novel aims to get the reader to consider the arguments involved in George being considered a hero. Another area of difference between the two authors is based on intentionally killing someone. Steinbeck based his book on this. He saw George killing Lennie as an act of bravery and courage. However, at the beginning of Gaskell's book she brings up the question of military heroes, men who injure others, whose heroism lies in the death and injury of others. After reading Steinbeck's Of Mice and Men the reader feel sympathetic towards George. Some people may think that he could not be considered a hero and that under no circumstances could killing Lennie be justified. I however feel that by killing Lennie, George was saving his companion from a more painful death, as it was inevitable that someone would have killed Lennie after what he had done. I also agree with Gaskell's opinion of a hero being someone who has religious principles. The question of heroism is one that can be considered very deeply and various people will have differing opinions. ...read more.

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