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A hero is any person who is admired for qualities of achievement, courage, nobility or exploits, especially in war, and is honored for these outstanding qualities. In this essay, the texts which I will be focusing on are The Chrysalids by John Wyndham and Shane by Jack Schaefer and on the characters who are portrayed as heroes in each text. In The Chrysalids, heroism is shown in the actions and attitudes of David. His bravery might not be as exceptional as Shane’s, where he fights against great physical odds, but David takes risks for the sake of others in the face of ever-present dangers.
From an early age, David exhibits acts of bravery while trying to protect Sophie from the more powerful Alan, as well making sure her deviation is not revealed to other members of society. To some, these might seem as small deeds, but are actually rather bold for a boy of such a small age rejecting the powerful religious teachings of Waknuk and a stern upbringing, defiance of authority and of the law and the endurance of physical pain.
Although his efforts to safeguard Sophie from being captured and punished are futile, one must commend him for his childhood courage and loyal friendship, which were his motivation.
David exhibits courage as a young man in the Fringes when he attacks Gordon, who is terrifying Rosalind, and he later runs the risk of being shot when he sneaks back into the encampment to rescue Rosalind and Petra. This time, his efforts are more successful.
Love and friendship motivate heroism in David and his courage is appreciated by the Wenders – Sophie’s parents – and can be applauded for overcoming his fear of death at the hands of a prejudiced community, thinking not only of himself, but of others in an oppressive and dangerous society.
In Shane, the protagonist, Shane, can be considered a hero because he is willing to defend others even though it puts him in a dangerous position. Throughout the text, Shane is forced to defend the reputation of Joe when Fletcher’s cowboys insult him – an act which seems contradictory to this man who appears to have laid down his gun and has forgotten about his fighting days. However, he is willing to fight as he defends his friends.
Shane struggles to maintain the peaceful person he has become. In spite of the trouble brewing around them with Fletcher’s cowboys, he warns Bob that “a gun is just a tool…it is as good or as bad as the man who carries it….” Shane does not become involved in any of the fights for personal satisfaction. He does it all for the benefit of the Starretts. He could have walked away from any of the fight since he has no obligations, but he does not. He breaks his promise which he has made to himself to put violence behind him and defends the homesteaders. The mark of this hero here is selflessness.
After killing Fletcher, Shane refuses to return to the Starrett farm. He has rid Bob and the homesteaders of their problem, but he has failed himself. It is important to note here that Shane knew beforehand what he had to do and he was willing to do it especially for the sake of the Starrett family. He tells Bob at the end of the novel, “A man is what he is…and there’s no breaking the mould.” He realizes that he cannot change himself, but he also realizes that he had to change his plans a bit as he tries to help the Starretts and the homesteaders.
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