What Makes a Hero?

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Everyday, society misconceives identities. In the eyes of Ralph Waldo Emerson, “A hero is no braver than any ordinary man, but he is braver five minutes longer.” Heroism, in Emerson’s perspective, is the ability to stand out for longer, and to endure hardships for greater durations. The passengers on United Flight 93, which was hijacked by terrorists as part of the September 11 attacks on the U.S demonstrated bravery like few other civilians can measure up to. Although it is not clear whether passengers on the other hijacked flights fought back persistently, it is known that the passengers on Flight 93 attempted to take control of the plane, and were successful. During the 35 minutes the passengers spent attempting to get into the cockpit, they achieved a level of heroism like none other. Persistently, the passengers attacked, and this is what has helped define them as true heroes.

In a sense, we cannot compare the heroes on Flight 93 to Beowulf’s definition of heroism. Unlike many sane individuals in today’s culture, people, even heroes, don’t simply walk into danger, like Beowulf. True, there are people who strive to challenge obstacles in our world. Beowulf does something slightly irregular, however. “Then the hero, stern under the gleaming helmet, with his stout mail-coat and think-plated shield, strode out to meet his foe.” Beowulf appears a madman after examining this quote. We must consider Beowulf’s motive as a result of his apparent audacity. Which is more of a reason to put yourself in danger? An intense desire for fame, or an intense desire to give kindness to others? The logic speaks for itself, although in our time, we may turn quickly to Beowulf’s obvious desire for fame, instead of loving kindness, ...

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...nstead of one attempting to gain presence for his kindness. Again, examine apparent values of people during Beowulf’s time. People believed that there was no substitute for prominence when striving to be a hero. Today, heroes are commonly generous people. Bill Gates, for example has given billions of dollars to impoverished people all over the world. We consider Bill Gates to be a hero. Although some could argue that Bill Gates was brave in the business world, he would not have been as much of a hero as he is now had he lived in Beowulf’s time. Beowulf is a hero in the mind of civilians, and a hero is defined as one with Beowulf’s rough qualities, less so as a person who is generous. This is further proof that Beowulf is indeed a hero. For if he were generous, people would not have thought of him as a hero, as is cited in so many places throughout Beowulf.

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