The Hero and the Anti-Hero in Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises

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A definition is seldom absolute, and the fickle definition of hero is no exception. Some envision a hero as one who excels in battle and others admire champions of peace. Regardless of this personal understanding, however, all common and perfunctory thoughts surrounding the title, hero, are quickly unraveled when we examine the life of any mortal. While it would be impossible for anyone to perfectly satisfy the role of a hero, save the Savior, most of us have created certain standards within our minds that we strive and search for. Ernest Hemmingway in his short work, “The Sun Also Rises” presents to us a world accommodating a “Lost Generation” in which the central figure’s interactions with various men give us fragmented pictures of what it means to be a hero. This method of presenting a hero is effective logistically, because as previously stated it is impossible for one to fully embody everything a hero is. While it is true that this work has limited themes, critics agree that it also gives us a clear picture of what most regard as a hero: “A man of action, of self-discipline and self-reliance, and of strength and courage to confront all weaknesses, fears, failures, and even death.”. Hemmingway’s “man’s man”, a traditional and respected understanding of hero, deviates from the entirety of what the underground man adduces. Multiple critics have even gone as far as to brand the underground man an “Anti-Hero”.

The greater the degree of self-sufficiency an individual demonstrates, the greater capacity that person has for becoming a hero or maintaining a heroic constitution. This is not to say that every person who has potential will become a hero or even engage in any activities that could be considered heroic. However,...

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...can be traced back to this Enlightenment idea of rational thought and it’s utmost importance. The political nature of Dostoevsky’s attack on Enlightenment ideals also plays a factor in understanding of the negative and inactive figure, the underground man. Flaws of confusion, uncertainty, and tragic delusion prevent the underground man from accomplishing anything noble or even noticeable which appears to be Dostoevsky’s consideration of new Enlightenment ideals.

The underground man is a man of inaction, of self-disorder and dependency, and of weakness and timidity to evade all strength, belief, success, and even life. Even the narrator of his tale loses patience and quits attempting to convey the ramblings of the underground man. Avoidance of the qualities of the underground man can lead us to heroics, because he truly is a traditional “Anti-Hero”.
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