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Tragic Hero Essay

According to Aristotle, “A tragic hero is a character who is not eminently good and just, yet whose misfortune is brought about not by vice and depravity, but by some error or frailty…” The tragic hero has a weakness that causes them to have an inner struggle. The literature piece goes on to narrate the inner struggle the tragic hero has as well as how they overcome it. The hero goes through a cycle that helps them conquer their struggle and become a better person. Therefore, through an examination of departure, test/trials and transformation of the protagonist in the written work The Stone Angel by Margaret Laurence, Hagar Shipley and Tuesday’s with Morrie by Mitch Albom, Mitch Album, it is visible that both protagonists have gone through the journey that makes them a tragic hero. For the tragic hero cycle to start the protagonist must depart. In The Stone Angel Hagar is afraid of being sent off to an old age home so she runs away. This is seen when she says: “Of course. I’d almost forgotten. They’d crate me up in a car and deliver me like a parcel of old clothes to that place.” (Laurence, 185)

Since Hagar has not travelled alone in a very long time she is anxious she may be caught. This is proven in the quote: “He’s not starting the bus, though. He looks at me, even after I’ve managed to sit down in the nearest seat. What is it? Will he make me go back? Are others staring?” She questions everything even though no one is looking at her curiously. (Laurence, 146) Seeing as Hagar is need of a new home she decides to live in an abandoned home: “A door’s ajar. I push it and walk in.” (Laurence, 152) Even though Hagar is frightened by the idea of living alone she still finds it thrilling to be alone, which could be a change in her: “To move to a new place- that’s the greatest excitement.” (Laurence, 153)Hagar forgets her worries and explores the abandoned home. In Tuesday’s with Morrie, Mitch starts his departure with his old professor.

Mitch’s journey starts when he’s watching TV and hears about his old professor dying: “I heard these words from the TV set- “Who is Morrie Schwartz?”- and went numb.” (Albom, 23) After hearing the awful news about his professor Mitch decides to visit him, which changes his life. Visiting Morrie has sent Mitch back to being a student: “Although I was unaware of it, our class had just begun.” (Albom, 29) Mitch doesn’t feel comfortable visiting his professor because it causes him to reflect on how much he has changed: “I traded dreams for a bigger paycheck, and I never even realized what I was doing.” (Albom, 33) He realizes that leaving everything after getting graduating changed him into a man he never wanted to become. The departure is important because it causes the tragic hero to begin the change needed to overcome their flaws. After departure the hero must face tests/trials to further their change. When Mitch loses his job his world is turned upside down. He realizes he was not as important as he thought he was: “Instead, I stayed home, watched them on TV. I had grown use to thinking readers somehow needed my column.

I was stunned at how easily things went on without me.” (Albom, 45) Being so obsessed by his work he does not realize people have other means of entertainment. Mitch learns a lot after being reunited with his professor. He tries to put himself in Morrie’s place so he could see what Morrie sees: “I tried to see what he saw. I tried to see time and seasons, my life passing in slow motion.” (Albom, 85) After countless meeting with Morrie, they finally talk about family where Mitch reflects on his relationship with his brother. After, Mitch admits that working is his way out of thinking about his problems: “And each time I would get the answering machine – him speaking in Spanish, another sign of how far apart we drifted- I would hang up and work some more.” (Albom, 97) The biggest trial Mitch faces is watching his professor die. ““You okay? You all right?” I said, trying to hide the fear.” (Albom, 106) Mitch is afraid of his professor dying.

Hagar’s tests/trials happen while she is at Shadow Point hiding. Hagar, frightened has second thoughts about leaving Marvin’s house. “What on earth possessed me to come here? What if I take ill?” (Laurence, 153) Another test Hagar faces is not having her luxuries with her as she is used to being pampered. “I wish I had a blanket cloak. It’s cold here.” (Laurence, 248) Struggling with her decision Hagar realizes she regrets her decision about not letting John bring Arlene. “I didn’t mean it, about bringing her here.” (Laurence, 247) Hagar also faces the fact that John can never forgive her since he is not alive anymore, but Murray pretends to be John and forgive her. ““It’s okay,” he says. “I knew all the time you never meant it.”” (Laurence, 248) Both protagonist go through tests/trials that make them reflect about their past, which sets off their transformation. The finally stage of the tragic hero cycle is transformation.

This is where the protagonist’s try to fix their flaw and finally stop their struggle. Hagar’s transformation starts when she walks up after drinking all night with Murray. “The morning light stings my eyes.” (Laurence, 249) This quote marks the start of the change. Although there is a noticeable change Hagar still does not realize it and gets irritable: “Quite sure, Move me or not. It’s all the same to me.” (Laurence, 281) It is not only Hagar that is confused by the sudden change Doris is too: “Speechlessly I nod. Why all this fuss? In another moment I’ll take the wretched thing back to shut them up. Doris pops it in her purse thinking the same thing.” (Laurence, 279) Hagar finally realizes shunning Doris will hurt herself. “I only defeat myself by not accepting her.” (Laurence, 308)

In the end instead of seeing others as a nuisance, Hagar decides to help her roommate. “Certainly. You just wait. I’ll get it for you, you’ll see.” (Laurence, 300) Mitch’s transformation starts when he realizes just how much the professor has changed him. “Things that before would have made me embarrassed or squeamish were now routinely handled.” (Albom, 154) The professor in the end did what he always wanted, to make Mitch more emotional expressive. “I like to think it was a fleeting moment of satisfaction for my dear old professor: he had finally made me cry.” (Albom, 186) Morris left Mitch with a lesson he would never forget.

“But if Professor Morris Schwartz taught me anything at all, it was this: there is no such thing as a “too late” in life.” (Albom, 190) Hagar Shipley, from The Stone Angel and Mitch Albom from Tuesday’s with Morrie are both tragic heroes’ that overcome their flaws by going through a journey that includes: departure, tests/trials and a transformation. As tragic heroes these protagonists have a flaw or weakness that causes them to struggle. The hero must go through a journey to overcome their flaws and have accepted them. Both Hagar and Mitch, by the end of their story have beaten their weakness and become better people because of it.


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