Outlaw Heroes in Literature

Good Essays
Outlaw Heroes in Literature

In "The Thematic Paradigm", Robert Ray explains how there are two distinctly different heroes, the outlaw hero and the official hero. The official hero embraces common values and traditional beliefs, while the outlaw has a clear sense of right and wrong but operates above the law (Ray). Ray explains how the role of an outlaw hero has many traits. "The attractiveness of the outlaw hero's childishness and propensity to whims, tantrums, and emotional decisions derived from America's cult of childhood", states Ray. (309) Ray also says, "To the outlaw hero's inconsistence on private standards of right and wrong, the official hero offered the admonition, you cannot take the law into your own hands." (312) The values of these two traditional heroes contrasts clearly. Society favors the outlaw hero because we identify with that character more. We see ourselves more so in the outlaw hero than in the official hero. The outlaw hero has the "childlike" qualities that most of us wish we had as adults. To civilians it may seem that the outlaw hero lives more of a fantasy life that we all wish to have.

Robert B. Ray categorizes Casablanca as "the most typical" American film. Ray uses Casablanca as a tutor text for what he calls the formal paradigm of Classical Hollywood as well as the thematic paradigm that addresses the conflict between isolationism and communitarian participation. The film is typical in its appropriation of an official hero Laszlo, who stands for the civilizing values of home and community, and an outlaw hero Rick, who stands for individu...

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...n isolationist.

If Casablanca's audience had to choose between Rick and Laszlo, they would choose Rick because everything in the film has prepared them to choose him, who represents the rejection of America's involvement in world politics. Instead, the film relieves the audience of the necessity of choice by displacing the film's political conflict into melodrama, where familiar emotions overwhelm ideas. Although Victor Laszlo is always in Rick's shadow, he stands for the values of the father and the prevailing American belief in 1942 that freedom is worth fighting and dying for, which is the definition of the official hero. By censoring the theme of American reluctance to give up its autonomy, the film spares the audience the agony of siding against the values of the father, condensing the oedipal resolution to another shared experience between Rick and the viewer.