Introduction for a novel I'm writing (Theme of essay: What is a "hero")

The work that follows this introduction was first conceived in June of 2011, and was first brought to paper two months later. Now, one month through the writing of this project, it occurred to me that I should explain what first inspired it. There are many things that must be considered as to the influence and origin of this novel (which is as of yet lacking a title of any sort). It was spurred out of my fascination of political ideology and power play, assassination and espionage, the criminal underworld, and the true, ugly nature that balances out with the beauty within us all as human beings. But perhaps most central to the plot of this story is the examination and, to a much lesser extent, criticism of who and what we perceive to be a “hero”, and the various things that factor into these perceptions.

What is this “hero” anyway? Is it someone who inspires us? One who drives us to do great things? A person who puts the greater good and needs of others above their own well-being? Does this “hero” remain an imagined ideal, a mythical being as it was first conceived by the Greeks? Are all of these assessments incorrect? The short answer? No. But the true answer is much more complicated than that. The truth is that a hero is all of these things and none of them. They are there and yet they are not. In truth, a hero is what we make it.

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Heroes are constructs of the individual mind. On the other hand, we often find that many individuals will conform to a common belief on what this “hero” is, just like they do with everything else. This shows that people have made a personal resolve to conform to this social norm or ideology. And without this conformity, we would never come to a conclusion on anything. I suppose what I mean by this is that conformity is what gives us this idea of what a hero is. But when the social norm becomes complicated and even, especially in this case, self-contradicting, that is when the nonconformists come into the picture, helping balance out the equation as well as making it that much more complicated.

Ironically enough, these “nonconformists” are actually becoming quite the opposite of what they pictures themselves (and how many of us picture them). Identifying as nonconformist is becoming the social norm – most notably shown in my generation and the previous. I will use the formation and astonishing – if brief – success of the grunge band Nirvana. To some, Kurt Cobain was an anomaly and a strange creature, and mentioning and thinking about him and his ideals was usually far from the average person’s mind. This was either out of fear or indifference towards this “voice of a generation”.

But to many others, particularly the teens of the day, Kurt Cobain was a hero of sorts. In fact, I specifically remember my sister, who had been 8 at the time of his death, blasting his music almost 10 years later. She had apparently been introduced to the band by her older half-sister when she was 13. She viewed him as a great intellectual, and a martyr to some extent, for a few years. To those who came before me or my sister, his death made many more people view him as a hero. Effectively, a man who had been the king of demoralized and detached teens had become a hero upon his death.

Slowly but surely, it has become the social norm to be the “rebel”, the “nonconformist” and “that one guy who’s different from the rest of us, which makes him cool”. What I am getting at here is that even though we think that this person is a hero and this person is not, here’s the truth: it is all about how we view and perceive the world. One of my personal slogans-to-live-by is a play on a popular saying, my version being: “Reality is in the eye of the beholder”. And this applies very much to the theme of this novel: even my “hero” is not the good guy. But he is still the protagonist, and still treated like a hero, in the loosest sense of the term.

The reader’s comprehension of this point of view is all I ask. Your comprehension, not your agreement. I will end this short essay with this: What would happen if my point of view were to become the absolute social norm, just how complicated would that make things? That is all.