“With great power there must also come great responsibility.” These words from Peter Parker’s uncle, along with spiders attributes, allow Peter to defeat the Green Goblin and successfully to become the hero of the story, Spiderman. Traditionally, characters who carry attributes such as strength and distinguished super-natural powers/abilities and are successful in the end are automatically known as the heroes of the stories. However, what requirements does a character literally need to be an absolute hero?
In most novels today, heroes do not often hold such traditional qualities. Many have to put in effort, and pay the price to undergo this honour. In some instances, they may not even be appreciated as the heroes. Within those novels, we can identify that heroes are frequently victims of the society, victims of the immediate envies of others, which eventually lead to hostilities and cause crisis, and victims of their own isolation. These roles of heroes are apparent inside the texts of Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, and Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck.
First of all, in many cases, the heroes play roles of being victims of the society. Surviving under undesirable lifestyles causes people to suffer. They may even face harassment. When enduring in places where their different attributes are obvious to the public and yet they stand out the most, that is when people around start to harass and make fun of them. The theory of harassment as a victim of a society can be seen in Of Mice and Men: “Curley stared levelly at him. ‘Well, nex’ time you answer when you’re spoke to.’
He turned toward the door and walked out, and his elbows were still bent out a little” (Steinbeck 26). As a small sized but hot-tempered boxer, Curley only likes little guys because they are who he can easily overpower. However, insecure of his size and is over-protective of his wife, Curley hates the big guys and is eager to fight anyone he perceives as a threat to his self-image. Since he is the son of the boss for whom George and Lennie work, Lennie has no choice but to stay in this terrifying situation. Noticing “His (Curley’s) elbows were still bent out a little,” proves that Lennie unwittingly incurs Curley’s antagonism as well as harassment simply because of his size.
A similar case is shown in “Brave New World”. Although John leaves the London Hatchery and settles in a deserted area where only imperfect live exists, the world he is grown to live in is filled with hopelessness and yet the brave New World will stay permanent. As a result, the Savage plans to purify himself and to escape further contamination by the filth of civilized life. “…were astonished to see a young man standing outside the abandoned lighthouse stripped to the waist and hitting himself with a whip of knotted cords. His back was horizontally streaked with crimson, and from weal to weal ran thin trickles of blood” (Huxley 226). This passage clearly demonstrates that he cleanses himself, due to the erroneous community he lives in, by carrying out a traditional Reservation religious ceremony (the whipping). Unlike Lennie, who is innocently harassed by other, John wishes to initiate self-flagellate in order for him to call on the God for forgiveness for his lust for Lenina and lack of concern for Linda’s death.
In both situations, due to a hero’s act of being a victim of the society, he must undergo some sort of harassment. Based on these facts, one can conclude that heroes can still be victims of a society, despite that they have done nothing wrong. Other than being harassed, victims of society can also be controlled by others, which mainly results from having no options at all. In Brave New World, this concept is illustrated: ” ‘And that,’ put in the Director sententiously, ‘that is the secret of happiness and virtue– liking what you’ve got to do. All conditioning aims at that: making people like their inescapable social destiny’ ” (Huxley 13). Obviously, after genetic engineering, Huxley suggests that social conditioning is the most important way for the government to enslave its people. Since the brave New World holds different classes of people, from Alphas to Epsilons, those different caste members are conditioned never to yearn for a life other than their own. In other words, this is a major instrument for social stability which holds control of everyone within its society, including the heroes.
The following scene from Of Mice and Men is another example of victims under control by others, which explains George’s restriction on his mentally handicapped friend. ” ‘Lennie, for God’ sakes don’t drink so much.’ Lennie continued to snort into the pool. The small man leaned over and shook him by the shoulder. ‘Lennie. You gonna be sick like you was last night.’… He threw a scoop of water into his face and rubbed it about with his hand, under his chin and around the back of his neck. Then he replaced his hat, pushed himself back from the river, drew up his embraced them. Lennie, who had been watching, imitated George exactly” (Steinbeck 3, 4). Here, it is obvious as to who is in charge between the two as Lennie carefully obeys George and imitates his actions at the riverbank. It is proven that because Lennie’s mind is not as bright, George simply takes this advantage and holds power over Lennie in their society.
Both circumstances in Brave New World and Of Mice and Men show how one can easily dominate others, leaving them no options at all. However, heroes do not necessarily suffer in a bad way when surviving under undesirable lifestyles. Indeed, they dream. They dream about their future, waiting for advancements on the current conditions. In some way, their dreams allow the heroes to dodge from reality as their depression and problems momentarily vanish. The third chapter of Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men shows this concept of dreaming about conditions improving through this passage: ” ‘All kin’s a vegetables in the garden, and if we want a little whisky we can sell a few eggs or something, or some milk. We’d jus’ live there. We’d belong there. There wouldn’t be no more runnin’ round the country and gettin’ fed by a Jap cook. No, sir, we’d have our own place where we belonged and not sleep in no bunk house’ ” (Steinbeck 57).
At this point, Steinbeck clearly shows that both George and Lennie do not live in a pleasing lifestyle and both aspire to obtain a piece of land to live off. This proves that during the time the story is set, life can be very strenuous but dreams can effectively be use to repel despair. The idea of this quote links directly to the following quote, spoken by Bernard in the book Brave New World. “In a different key, ‘How can I?’ he repeated meditatively. ‘No, the real problem is: How is it that I can’t, or rather – because, after all, I know quite well why I can’t-what would it be like if I could, if I were free – not enslaved by my conditioning’ ” (Huxley 81). Bernard’s hatred for the society, which he is forced to live in, is resulted from the fact he cannot interact emotionally or physically to the community.
Everyday in his life, he is treated with inhospitality and is obligated to work for something he hates the most. Therefore, sometimes during his loneliness, he will dream about himself being untangled from the brave New World he is born to live in. Unlike George and Lennie, Bernard is not able to allow his sadness fade away as he is hoping for a better future. Instead, he is even more enraged, speaking in an angered tone. From these two examples, it is obvious that a hero can be influenced by the society negatively, but still dreams for a better life. From all the above arguments, one can clearly realize the statement that victims of the society, whether enduring harassment of some sort, under control by others, or even dreaming about conditions improving, are often the heroes.
Secondly, it is the immediate envies from others which may cause the heroes to be dragged into crisis. This takes place when a figure(s) in the story is jealous about what another has, not necessarily high-quality items such as gold or money, but whatever he does not have. Huxley displays this idea of one envying another in Chapter 12 of his book: “So cordially indeed that Bernard felt a sharp pang of jealousy. In all these weeks he had never come to so close an intimacy with the Savage as Helmholtz immediately achieved. Watching them, listening to their talk, he found himself sometimes resentfully wishing that he had never brought them together” (Huxley 165). Basically, Helmholtz and the Savage are experiencing the same emotion of feeling not part of the society. In addition, they both enjoy poetic literature, which is what they are sharing together.
In some way, their sharing of poems allows them to hide from reality as their depression and problems temporarily vanish. However, Bernard, whose knowledge is negligible in terms of literature, envies John and Helmholtz for their happiness. After attempting to jump in and break apart their conversations, Bernard is not too successful and feels like the odd man out, while also being jealous that his two friends like each other more than they like him. In Of Mice and Men, Crooks is fascinated by the strength of the friendship of Lennie and George, but also envies their relationship, by saying ” ‘Well, s’pose, jus’ s’pose he don’t come back. What’ll you do then’ ” (Steinbeck 72)? Crooks asks these questions because he does not have any friends, and does not know how losing them unexpectedly will feel.
Noticing that Lennie is stupid, he takes advantage of this situation to torture him mentally, which makes himself feel better and ease the pain of having others rejecting him. His face lights with pleasure at his torturing to Lennie against the friendship that Lennie has. That is to say, something that Crooks will never have. Thus, he wants other people to suffer the way that he does, of being completely alone. Apparently it is mostly the figure who envies others who must suffer, while the target do not necessarily get harmed. Additionally, people who are envious of others set goal(s) for themselves. However, due to the fact that they cannot obtain such objective(s), they begin to look at what others have and envying occurs. In Brave New World, John hates the way that brave New World runs, hoping to twists its perspective back to the old world. He states “But I don’t want comfort. I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin” (Huxley 219).
Here in Chapter 17 of the book, the Savage explains the old world reasoning by asserting that true life requires exposure to all things, good and evil. The unsuccessful Savage envies the Reservation Areas, where imperfect livings still exist, even though he is having a much better life in the New World. In Steinbeck’s novel, wanting the unattainable is also shown. From the outset of the story, Steinbeck makes the failure of George and Lennie’s dream inevitable. Finally, the tragedy of the ending is heightened by the fact that they never realize what just might have been possible. The first indications of this failure are revealed when Lennie’s mental deficiencies are demonstrated – he is both amoral and forgetful. When he is handling the dead mouse he cannot appreciate that doing so is wrong. “I wasn’t doing nothing bad with it” (Steinbeck 9). Lennie cannot distinguish between right and wrong, which seriously challenges the success of their dream. We are given more doubts when we learn of Lennie’s actions in Weed. “You ain’t gonna do no bad things like you done in Weed” (Steinbeck 7).
When George says this he is almost tempting fate, and when Curley’s wife is introduced, their dream heads off the track. Considering what Lennie did in Weed, Curley’s wife was a major threat; she was a problem just waiting to be occurred. Throughout the book, Steinbeck develops the idea of the dream’s inevitable destruction. Steinbeck has clearly emphasised the fact that the dream was never going to happen. In both instances, the heroes are hoping to reach one goal which indeed is not reachable. Frequently, it is because of these unattainable objectives that give the heroes disappointments. In Huxley’s Brave New World, however, it is the hero’s dissatisfaction of his society that leads him to setting an unreachable goal. John states “Linda had been a slave, Linda had died; others should live in freedom, and the world be made beautiful.
A reparation, a duty. And suddenly it was luminously clear to the Savage what he must do; it was as though a shutter had been opened, a curtain drawn back” (Huxley 192). Here, John realizes that something has to be fulfilled to modify this erroneous society, or the brave New World. As of the day when John and his mother come to the London Hatchery Centre, Linda is feeling unwell. Although she is given somas to keep her in “holiday”, John believes that somas are poisonous while also enslave the public. It is at this point that the Savage notices his reason for coming to this strange world: he will make it free. Conversely, George in Of Mice and Men is disappointed with his companion Lennie, who in fact, is one of the toughest barriers of reaching their dream of owning a farm.
From the quote ” ‘God, you’re a lot of trouble,’ said George. ‘I could get along so easy and so nice if I didn’t have you on my tail. I could live so easy and maybe have a girl’ “(Steinbeck 7), we become aware that George is reluctant to carry Lennie around. However, he has to bear with this responsibility due to the death of Lennie’s Aunt Clara. Although they both want a better life and put in the effort to attain this goal, they never seem to be very successful. Ultimately, it is Lennie whom George blames for their failure. Whether it is the hero’s disappointment that leads to setting an unattainable goal or it is the unreachable goal which leads to his disappointment, these two examples show that one will still suffer with distress of dissatisfaction to some degree. Certainly jealousy of others, wanting the unattainable and undergoing disappointment are the results of immediate envies from others.
Frequently the heroes, victims of isolation are such roles. They feel differently about themselves compared to the public and therefore, the act of setting themselves apart from others takes place. To begin with, the decrease of self-confidence of the heroes, due to a number of reasons, is one of the main causes that eventually lead to self-banishment, or one’s isolation. The friendship between John, Helmholtz and Bernard in Chapter 12 of Brave New World shows this concept of self-confidence diminishing: “He was revenging himself on his two friends for liking one another more than they liked him. In the course of their next two or three meetings he frequently repeated this little act of vengeance. It was simple and, since both Helmholtz and the Savage were dreadfully pained by the shattering and defilement of a favourite poetic crystal, extremely effective.
In the end, Helmholtz threatened to kick him out of the room if he dared to interrupt again” (Huxley 166). Although John and Helmholtz experience depression, both enjoy sharing their unique poetic ideas together. By doing so, their sadness towards the society gradually evaporates. Bernard, however, is the odd man out and is very regretful of bringing them two together. Perhaps he is jealous of the friendship he creates. It is what John and Helmholtz have in common, which Bernard does not, that tightly bonds their relationship while Bernard is left out. As his two companions like each other more than they like him, his self-confidence decreases and envying starts to occur. In addition, Bernard believes that he cannot correspond to John because John is more desirable and knows more than he does. Ultimately, this odious sentiment keeps returning to Bernard as Helmholtz and John continue to share their thoughts and even threaten to boot Bernard out if he interrupts again.
As a result, the friendless Bernard cannot relate to his only friends and loses his self-confidence significantly. The concept of one’s isolation that results from low self-confidence of a hero decreasing also appears in Of Mice and Men. From the quotes “He kept his distance and demanded that other people keep theirs. His body was bent over to the left by his crooked spine, and his eyes lay deep in his head, and because of their depth seemed to glitter with intensity. His lean face was lined with deep black wrinkles, and he had thin, pain-tightened lips which were lighter than his face” (Steinbeck 67) and ” ‘why ain’t you wanted?’ Lennie asked. ”Cause I’m black. They play cards in there, but I can’t play because I’m black. They say I stink. Well, I tell you, you all of you stink to me’ ” (Steinbeck 68), we can identify the fact that Crooks’s self-confidence reduces only because of his physical appearance and attributes. Since this book takes place during the 1930’s and discrimination, sadly, still exists, this Negro experiences isolation because of racism. It is this that the other farmhands believe that it is necessary not to allow, as it seems a privilege in their minds, Crooks to live with them.
Furthermore, his separation from others causes his severe loneliness spending his nights reading and his days alone in the barn working on the horses. He is treated as an outcast and underling and is forced to find friendship in the only thing assessable, the books he reads. Crooks’s distance from others eventually causes his downfall, and his downfall also stretches their bonding. From the two circumstances, we can conclude that one’s judgements are usually base on his physical looks, instead of one’s true behaviours and characteristics. This is a reason why many characters in a story, including heroes, frequently lose their self-confidence which eventually leads to self-banishment of themselves. Moreover, it is because of these reductions in terms of heroes’ self-confidence that causes their withdrawal from a society. Without confidence, they are afraid to be harassed and teased, and are too weak to face the public, resulting isolation in personal.
This idea of withdrawing from a society is demonstrated here by Huxley in Chapter 11, stating ” ‘But I do,’ he insisted. ‘It makes me feel as though …’ he hesitated, searching for words with which to express himself, ‘as though I were more me, if you see what I mean. More on my own, not so completely a part of something else. Not just a cell in the social body’ ” (Huxley 81). The Top Ten Controllers in Brave New World initiate Bernard’s hatred on his society, due to the ways on how the society runs. This links to Bernard’s downfall. The policies of the brave New World, such as to insert alcoholic materials into Gammas’ blood surrogate, indirectly cause Bernard’s downfall. In addition, sleep-teaching hypnosis makes people (in the society) to automatically associate heights with caste levels, thus making it more difficult for others to respect Bernard, who indeed, is an Alpha. Base on this quote, Bernard wishes to look at the ocean, peacefully, and enjoy it. We can identify that Bernard always wishes to be by himself and extract from the society, instead of being part of the social group.
However, his ability may not allow this dream to come true. The concept of withdrawing from the society also takes place in the novel Of Mice and Men, shown in this quote: ” ‘S’pose you didn’t have nobody. S’pose you couldn’t go into the bunk house and play rummy ’cause you was black. How’d you like that’ ” (Steinbeck 72). From this, one can identify why Crooks is withdrawing from his society. This black handicap has a strong difference from the rest of the crew, as he must live in a separate room from the rest of the workers. No one in the novel ever feels any sort of empathy or even tries to comprehend what Crooks is saying. This is Steinbeck’s mechanism for displaying Crooks’s isolation from the public. For Crooks, he has never been treated well by any of his co-workers because he is black. In addition, Crooks also does not know how to relate and function normally anymore because of how his loneliness has effected him. Loneliness has made Crooks a very bitter individual, while he is truly not able to leave this situation because of his race during the entire novel.
Proven in both instances, characters are frequently born with imperfections, depending on their society, leading to their extraction from the public and causes isolation. For this reason, victims of one’s isolation experience loneliness as well. In a way, everyone needs someone to talk to, whether it is a family member, a friend, or even a pet, as a source of comfort and wealth for the person. Yet most heroes never seem to behave in such a way. This belief of one feeling lonely can be displayed within this passage: “From Guildford the down-line followed the Wey valley to Godalming, then, over Milford and Witley, proceeded to Haslemere and on through Petersfield towards Portsmouth. Roughly parallel to it, the upline passed over Worplesden, Tongham, Puttenham, Elstead and Grayshott. Between the Hog’s Back and Hindhead there were points where the two lines were not more than six or seven kilometres apart.
The distance was too small for careless flyers-particularly at night and when they had taken half a gramme too much. There had been accidents. Serious ones. It had been decided to deflect the upline a few kilometres to the west. Between Grayshott and Tongham four abandoned air-lighthouses marked the course of the old Portsmouth-to-London road. The skies above them were silent and deserted. It was over Selborne, Bordon and Farnham that the helicopters now ceaselessly hummed and roared. The Savage had chosen as his hermitage the old light-house which stood on the crest of the hill between Puttenham and Elstead” (Huxley 222). Here, Huxley thoroughly explains the fact that John wishes to escape from the London Hatchery Centre as far as possible. He has decided to isolate himself from the society and to live away with pain and loneliness, due to his opposition in terms of the brave New World’s principles.
George in Of Mice and Men also demonstrates the concept for a hero being lonely: ” ‘I ain’t got no people. I seen the guys that go around on the ranches alone. That ain’t no good. They don’t have no fun. After a long time they get mean. They get wantin’ to fight all the time… ‘Course Lennie’s a God damn nuisance most of the time, but you get used to goin’ around with a guy an’ you can’t get rid of him’ ” (Steinbeck 41). Clearly, George proclaims his view on loneliness to give a reason for his connection with Lennie. This connection George has with Lennie makes the two of them unique to the rest of the characters.
Many of the men on the ranch have a dream, but only Lennie and George have a chance of obtaining it. Essentially, John Steinbeck wants to show that although George and Lennie have the advantage of being a team, they will never accomplish it because all human beings are in essence, alone. Thus, George’s constant playing of the game of solitaire, “cutting the cards again and put out a solitaire lay” (Steinbeck 28) foreshadows his eventual decision to become a solitary man. Within these two occurrences, one can realize that heroes are affected by the society, which brings them loneliness and isolation. Based on the above examples, it is proven that heroes self-banish because of their weak self-confidence, which ultimately leads to withdrawal from society and subsequent loneliness.
We learn from Brave New World and Of Mice and Men that being an absolute hero requires not only traditional skills and abilities, but also being able to withstand great hardships. In both novels, the heroes had to endure being victims of their societies, victims of envy from others, and victims of their own isolations. Despite them undergoing many difficulties in the stories, Bernard and Crooks are not the heroes because neither of them follows the hero monomyth structure. Yet to some extent, they were neither able to escape nor did they survive. Although based on the script, John, for example, left the London Hatchery and decided to live in a deserted area where only imperfect live exists.
However, deep down in John’s mind, he knew that the world would never experience the same freedom he is grown to love. In spite of everything, he is trapped by the hands of the controllers of the brave New World. Similar to John, Lennie is forever locked in his mentally handicapped mind and be tricked and betrayed by his best companion, George. As heroes tend not to have successful conclusions, why will anyone choose to be honoured with such positions? If you are required to carry out non-traditional-qualities and/or hardships throughout a story, are you willing to be a hero when given an opportunity?
Courtney from Study Moose
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