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Literary Martyrs and Heroes

In my opinion, heroism is having the courage to stand by what you believe in without fear of public criticism or social disgrace. It is living out your true self and ideas without having to resort to falsehood or dishonesty. A person who displays heroism is moral, selfless, unique and ethical. It is a person who makes an impact on others and makes sacrifices for the sake of others. The smallest act of kindness can be of greater value to the recipient of that act. A hero does not think of themselves before acting, they only consider the consequences if they do not act at all, so they act on instinct. A hero gives of themselves despite the consequences and does not accept nor expect any rewards and will not wait around for thanks or praise. A hero believes all people are generally good and that is why they are so willing to put themselves in harms’ way to help someone else. There are no thoughts behind their heroic deeds.
In the Sermon on the Mount I consider Jesus a hero. Even though he did not perform any heroic acts, he had the courage to stand by what he believed in without fear of criticism. Jesus displays a lot of the characteristics I spoke of in my opinion of a hero. With “the beatitudes” he taught everyone how to be blessed by God and reach the Kingdom of Heaven without fear of the consequences. In teaching what is know as the “Golden Rule” which Jesus states, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the law and the prophets,” Jesus gives us the standard in which naturally selfish people can gauge their actions. Jesus knew that because of his teachings the religious and political leaders did not agree with his teachings and that he would have to eventually sacrifice his own life to save us. That in my opinion is a form of heroism.
In the novel The Handmaid’s Tale the main character, Offred, in my opinion was not a hero and did not display heroism. Offred is intelligent, perceptive and kind. She possesses enough faults to make her human, but not so many that she becomes an unsympathetic figure. Although she resists Gilead inwardly, her failed escape attempt causes her to submit outwardly. She is hardly a feminist champion; she had always felt uncomfortable with her mother’s activism and she had a relationship with Luke that began as his mistress. Although her acts displayed a form of bravery they were not selfless and she did not do them to help or for the benefit of other. Her actions were solely self-satisfying. An example is her affair with Nick, which began by sneaking out to visit him to play Scrabble and read magazines (both of which are forbidden). This turned in to a self-fulfilling relationship which causes her to seemingly lose sight of escape entirely and she suddenly feels Gilead is bearable. If she really does escape at the end, it is because of Nick, not because of anything she does. Some of her actions might be considered brave, but I do not believe they are heroic or acts of heroism.
In the novel “Night,” I would consider Elie Weisel a hero. In my opinion I consider someone surviving such a horrific event like the Holocaust a hero. Elie never gave up hope when he was looking into the face of death. When he injured his foot which required surgery or he could possibly die from infection, Elie not only had great faith in the surgeon, but his ability to stay alive. He survived some of the most difficult tests of his strength and character: beatings, torture, hunger, being overworked and separation from most of his family. When his father dies and he feels he no longer has the strength to continue with his life, he survives and moves forward. At such a young age being able to survive through all the torment and brutality he had to endure is a true sign of heroism. I also consider Weisel a hero because even after all he endured during the Holocaust, still to this day, he dedicated his life to being a great humanitarian. He teaches us to never forget our past and the horrible experiences that he and millions of Jewish people endured during the Holocaust.
In Plato’s Apology and Crito, I would consider Socrates more of a martyr than a hero. Socrates was charged under Athenian law with corrupting the youth of the city with his teachings and not believing in the gods. He was eventually found guilty and sentenced to death which he did by drinking a poison Hemlock mixture. While similar to Jesus, who I earlier considered a hero, Socrates was charged and sentenced to death because of his teachings. The difference between the two in my opinion is that Jesus died to save everyone and Socrates died because he believed in his philosophies. He died for the sake of a cause and not specifically for the sake of another. I believe that would make Socrates a martyr. If you analyzed the entire life of Socrates, you would discover he was a decorated hero in the Peloponnesian war and committed other acts of bravery throughout his life. With that being said you could certainly make an argument that Socrates was heroic, but in the context of the Apology and Crito, in my opinion he was a martyr.
In the Autobiography of Malcolm X, Malcolm X was a martyr. Like Socrates he died for the sake of a cause, not for the sake of others. He was a militant political activist who was an advocate of black separatism, marked by hostility. What makes Malcolm X different from Socrates is that the cause he eventually was murdered for actually changed and was the biggest reason why he was murdered. Minister Malcolm X dedicated himself to the teachings of the radical Nation of Islam, specifically Elijah Mohammed and became one of the group’s most vocal and controversial leaders. He changed the perception of young black men in the United States. He caused changed when he realized that Elijah Mohammad twisted the teachings of Islam to suit his own needs and desires. Malcolm X traveled to the Holy City of Mecca and realized the religion of Islam was “colorblind” and did not call for black separatism, but the opposite, the uniting of all races under Islam. You can argue it was heroic to break away from the Nation of Islam, knowing that it would threaten his safety and possibly lead to his death. You can also say it was an act of bravery to stand up on the stage at the Autobahn Theater in Harlem knowing very well his life was in grave danger. So some can argue he was a hero, but in my opinion he died for a cause making his a martyr.

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Literary Martyrs and Heroes. (2018, Oct 12). Retrieved from https://thepoetrytrust.org/literary-martyrs-and-heroes-essay

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