Tragedies often feature happiness developing into miseries through errors which ultimately reveal the cold hard truth. The hero suffers from human frailty (hamartia) which directs to his/her downfall. The hero suffers from catastrophic events, experiences peripeteia and is confronted with the magnitude of his/her actions. Two such heroes are Hazel Grace Lancaster from “The Faults in Our Stars” by John Green, and Oedipus in the play “Oedipus Rex” written by Sophocles. Both modern and classic articles of literature have a wide-reaching influence on people and inspire many through the centuries.
Modern tragic hero Hazel is a teenage thyroid cancer patient who experiences twisting series of bitter losses. As an only child who has been diagnosed since the age of thirteen, she fears and worries what will happen to the loved ones after she dies and wants to minimize the pain her death will cause others. Classic hero Oedipus is destined to fulfill a prophecy that says he will kill his father and marry his mother, and thereby brings disaster on his city and family.
He is blinded by the truth and hubris, powerlessly enduring the course of fate despite harsh and fearful confrontations. While both characters fulfill the role of a tragic figure, the modern hero Hazel evidently provides more hope for the audience than the classic hero Oedipus. This is shown when their character traits of determination, courage and ignorance are compared. Determination is a quality a hero cannot be considered one without, and both Hazel and Oedipus show this quality along their ways.
Hazel shows determination as she combats cancer despite harsh reality. Augustus asks, “With the trope of the stoic and determined cancer victim who heroically fights her cancer with inhuman strength and never complains or stops smiling even at the very end, etcetera? ” (Green 128). Gus and Hazel refuse to be tropes. Instead they create a new kind of cancer rhetoric, one that looks straight on at the unbearable fact that they are unbelievably unfortunate and stand a good chance of dying young.
They are two doomed children who have not really had the chance to experience life, and who are determined to do so one way or another. Hazel demonstrates her strong determination once again as she sets out to Amsterdam with Augustus to find out the ending of her favourite book, “An Imperial Affliction”. She wants to know those answers and what happens to Anna’s mother after she dies. By using the lens of the novel, she wishes to reassure the fact that her own mother and family will be okay after her death, since directly thinking about it is too terrifying and upsetting.
Hazel is told she “…can’t go to Amsterdam” because her doctor “…thinks it’s a bad idea” for she might encounter “… a probably fatal episode of deoxygenation” (Green 157). Knowing her death is near, Hazel does not pull back from flying out with her oxygen tank. Hazel shouts, “bullshit ! That’s bullshit. Just tell me! Make something up! you promised! ” (Green 192). Although she does not receive any good information from the author, she tries to pound out what she hopes to hear out of Peter Van Houten’s mouth when he refuses “…to pity [her] in the manner to which…” she is “…well accustomed’’(Green 192).
On the other hand, Oedipus displays determination to seek, to know, and to pursue principle as he unwaveringly discovers the truth behind his birth. The evidence first shows when Oedipus is so determined to solve former King Laius’s murder. The citizens of Thebes gather to discuss solution to the plague while Creon returns from the oracle and tells that the murderer of Laius is in Thebes and must be driven out in order for the plague to end. He furiously curses Laius’s murderer who is himself; he states, “Nor do I exempt myself from imprecation: /Lie all the curses I have laid on others” (Sophocles 32).
Oedipus proclaims that should he discover the murderer to be a member of his own family, that person should be struck by the same exile and harsh treatment that he has just wished on the murderer. Oedipus’s sense of justice and powerful determination to uncover the mystery of Laius’s murder ironically leads him to unintentionally curse himself. He acts eagerly and rashly, refusing to shield himself from the truth, as if he brings catastrophe upon himself willingly.
Therefore, it is clear that in terms of determination, Hazel’s will to combat tough fate is far more positive than Oedipus’s cursing to resolve matters, delivering more hope to audience. In addition to determination, courage is an important trait for a hero to signify firmness and face difficulty, danger and pain. Both Hazel and Oedipus show their great courage, but Hazel’s courage appears to be more encouraging rather than Oedipus as it is more relatable to the audience. Living with cancer alone takes great bravery.
While Hazel has to deal with hospitals, doctors, and imminent death every day, she recognizes how tough she needs to be and how courageous she has been. She says, “People talk about the courage of cancer patients, and I do not deny that courage. I have been poked and stabbed and poisoned for years, and still I trod on” (Green 74). She is all about not hurting others even if it hurts her and wants to be as passive as possible. Courage is especially evident when she overcomes her pain to prevent others’ suffering.
She says, “I’m a grenade and at some point I’m going to blow up and I would like to minimize the casualties, … And I can’t be a regular teenager, because I’m a grenade” (Green 99). Since Hazel feels that she will soon die, she is motivated to be as insignificant as possible and desires to take the risks of others. She is much like a soldier rushing into battle knowing well that death awaits her. She chases her dreams from the hospital bed all the way to the plane to Amsterdam. Not the doctor nor her family’s disapproval and instructions could stop her from going after her dream.
She provides faith to teenagers who are commonly trapped under parents’ umbrella to pursuit their own dreams for themselves. She even ignores the glances, whispering, and finger-pointing along her way. In spite of criticism, she acts in accordance to her own beliefs displaying admirable courage and selflessness of her. Young people can be benefit and inspired by her daring courageousness and overcome their obstacles with Hazel’s fearlessness in her battle in mind.
Oedipus is also certainly a figure of remarkable courage. Upon arriving in Thebes, Oedipus displays his courage and lack of fear by facing the deadly Sphinx and solving its riddle: He sacrifices himself entirely in an effort to save Thebes which shows great bravery. He is courageous in his refusal to hide from the truth about himself, even when he realizes how horrible it will be. Facing the horror of personal guilt, especially guilt so enormous, takes extreme courage. In the end, Oedipus has to face his own failure to outrun his fate,