Patterns in Heroic Literature
English 283 discusses many themes of British Literature, covering novels from ancient to modern times. These themes are evident in the personality of the main character, usually the hero, of each novel. These themes include loss of a close friendship and great displays of violence. However, one prominent theme in most of the novels is that the hero waits until the moment when he most needed to become a leader. The hero often begins as a quiet character and then transforms, by taking authority and command, into a heroic leader. Each hero appears to lack leadership qualities, or at least ignore their responsibility, until a time of dire distress, in which they become the great leader. This is true of heroes of ancient times, such as in The Iliad, to more modern novels, such as in The Time of the Hero. Although the time evolutionizes, the hero’s mindset seems to stay the same, at least in the matter of when to display their great leadership ability. These characters’ actions are often not affected by morals but by personal interests. They do not seem to fight because the cause is just but more for personal gain or wealth. However, when the time comes that the hero takes command, he is usually very determined and successful. There are four novels, in particular, that seem to display this pattern. The hero portrays leadership in a time of anguish in the novels Henry V, The Elfstones of Shannara, The Time of the Hero, and The Iliad.
Henry V, the hero of the novel Henry V, shows great leadership in a time of need. As a child, Henry was very unresponsible and wild; however, once he inherited the throne, his behavior matured. Henry becomes a great leader in England’s war with France, in which the French outnumber the English by four to one. The English troops seem to think all hope is lost because the odds favor the great army of the French. How...