The definition of the term “hero” has been constantly evolving, allowing individuals, who would have not been considered heroes in the past to receive the noble titles. However, one epic that embodies the role of a true hero is Beowulf, an epic written by an Anglo-Saxon descendant,which tells the story of honor and chivalry. In this epic, Beowulf ignores his fears and continuously saves the Danish kingdom from the beasts that attempt to attack it. Although he acknowledges he could die in battle, he willingly goes, proving he is a true hero. Although this story is purely fictional, there are lesser individuals whose actions have awarded them with the same noble title. Based on the known facts, It is easier to be a hero in modern times, since the circumstances which distinguish a hero have become broader throughout the years.
It is easier to be a hero in modern times, mainly because modern individuals can be called heroes for performing the smallest favors, without the fear of risking their lives for others. After viewing Grendel consume a Geat knight, Beowulf, “leaned up on one arm/ …battled/…with swords raised and ready/…(and) killed Grendel” (line 322). By using imagery to display the chivalry that Beowulf displays, the author creates a hero which is immune to fear, and who is unafraid to risk his life for the safety of others. However, society has confused individuals who perform kind favors for those who risk their lives as heroes. Although thoughtful, the definition of a hero has become broader, from someone who risks their lives to save others, to someone who displays noble qualities. For example, caregivers have been honored with the title hero due to their dedication towards the elderly. Although these individuals display kind actions on a daily basis, they do not deserve the title hero. Devoting one’s life to caring for the elderly may be honorable, but receiving the high pay that comes along with is is far from chivalrous. A hero must be willing to sacrifice his life for others at any given moment, and doing this without accepting compensation or special favors thereafter is the most chivalrous act of all.
Furthermore, individuals are accepting the title of hero for actions and events that were out of their control. For example, the Prisoner Of War medal is an award given to any individual who is a prisoner of war. Although the event is honorable, the soldier most likely did not willingly volunteer to be captured by an enemy, and ultimately benefits from the publicity they gain as a result of the event. Nevertheless, these instances make it easier for the modern day individual to be a hero. However, had the situation been different and he volunteered to be captured by the enemy in order to save his fellow troops or another war prisoner, these actions would signify a true hero. A similar event can be witnessed when Beowulf arrives along the Danish coast, stating, “We are the Geats… (are here to) drive this devil out… “ (174-195). Through realising the dangers but pursuing the mission anyway proves he is s a true hero. Furthermore, if prisoners of war were confronted with the medal, and refused to accept it, this action would be the most venerable act of all, as these actions prove the individual displays humility and selflessness.
A beneficial progression in history that makes it easier for modern day individuals is the ability for both genders to receive the title hero. In the past, most epic novels depicted strong males willing to risk their lives at any given time. However, few stories emphasizing female heroes were ever created during the early ages. Given these pretenses, it is easier to become a hero in modern times mainly due to the fact that both genders are accepted as tenders to receive the honorable title. Everyday, females perform noble actions, and as a result they are honored with the title. For example, Marie Curie, a pioneer in the medical field, devoted her life to the study of radium. However, after countless years of research, Curie died of “ aplastic anemia believed to have been contracted from her long-term exposure to radiation” (wikipedia). Beneficial for growth of the community, the term hero being shared by both genders opens up another half of the population to receive the noble title. Thus, some may conclude that is is “easier” to become a hero in modern times.
Lastly, it is easier to be a hero in modern times since the individual must succeed in his actions in order to deserve the title hero or die trying. Many individuals almost falter in the hands of fear or danger, but not completing an action does not assign someone the term hero. However, unlike the modern hero, Beowulf feels degenerative consequences of his aging body, he continues to fight the dragon until it is defeated. He is unafraid, and continues to battle after his armor fails him (line 750 to 766). Ultimately, society has been rewarding individuals whom come near to completion of their mission, but ultimately falter due to danger or other factors.
The modern world’s definition of the term hero has drastically changed, making it easier for the modern day individual to become a hero. Negatively, small favors and half done jobs, as well as positively, the acceptance of women as heroes prove it is easier to be a hero in the modern day. The past honored individuals who greatly impacted society or a single individual with the title, but modern day has broadened this term to include individuals who perform actions of all types. Although not all changes regarding heroes are negative, these factors make it much easier for individuals to become modern day heroes.
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