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The Waste Land and the Hero

Powerful Essays
The Wasteland, based on the texts I have read, is a varied and diverse environment of barrenness and death. In my life, and in society today, the Wasteland is not much different; the barrenness is one of mind and soul, and we have the same lack of knowledge about death now that these authors did when recording their thoughts on paper. A hero is needed in this harsh environment, to guide the multitude, or merely set the example for all others to follow. Though few characters meet the qualifications of a true hero, many come close in several aspects of their lives. The wastelands in which they must survive involve bleak environmental conditions, truth, and destiny: difficult, though not insurmountable, conditions of life.

In my life, the barrenness that I dread most is the inability to grasp with abstract thoughts the concrete, yet ever-changing, life around me. This would be a failure of the mind, which, in turn, would lead to failure of the body. As The Scarlet Letter shows, the mind has such a powerful influence over the body that it can physically mold it to match the present level of consciousness and self-image: "his form grew emaciated; his voice, though still rich and sweet, had a certain melancholy prophecy of decay in it" (Hawthorne 117). This decaying of his bodily form is due to another of society's wastelands, that of secrecy and lies. Although shame is the focus of The Scarlet Letter and is a major contributor to the fate of its characters, shame is not the wasteland of the book or society. For Hester, shame is perpetual, yet she lives on and prospers with the shame. It is the lies that are most grievous to the characters (Dimmesdale and Chillingworth), what undermines them, body and soul.

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Whether this society's hero is the imperfect human form or the near-perfect non-human, someone will always be able to overcome the challenges of his or her world. Maintaining an open mind, clear conscience, and healthy body and soul are the basic needs of a hero, while traits like reason and patience come with age and experience. The question of society today is not "what is our wasteland?" but "who is our hero?" Individuals often speak of a certain movie star or tv actor as "their hero," but how true is this? Is he overcoming the demands of society, or merely glorifying them? That is what each of us needs to decide for himself; who our hero is and what he can help us to overcome. Once we accomplish this, our idols will become valid ones, and we can all learn to overcome our wastelands and not only survive, but thrive, in today's society.
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