The epic hero varies drastically in each of the texts that we have read in the course so far. Discuss the development of the epic hero across three of these texts and explain the significance of any changes in the representation of this character.
1) The responses has a strong thesis, articulated from the start in an introductory paragraph.
2) The response has strong, well-articulated, and logical transitions between sentences and paragraphs. The argument seems to proceed inexorably from point to point.
3) The student is making powerful connections among the three texts s/he examines, interpreting any differences s/he identifies.
4) The student is providing interpretation of the text rather than mere paraphrase. The student is even making points that were not made in class. S/he is interpreting the text on his/her own and providing evidence to support his/her claims.
The epic hero changes drastically from Homer's time to Wordsworth's era. The hero begins in Homer's time as the traditional stud who can do nothing wrong. By Wordsworth's time, this idea has changed so that the epic hero is the writer himself, so much so that the writer is also the Muse and subject of the epic. The progress of this change can be seen as time passed after Homer's epic and the reader looks at Milton's Paradise Lost, which made the epic hero new and innovative by the author's own choice. The writers' innovations on epic form grow more personalized, as one can see by looking at the various epic heroes of Homer, Milton, and Wordsworth.
Homer, who was a rhapsode in nature, is the uncertain author of the Odyssey. He is uncertain because rhapsodes of this time told stories by word of mouth. The rhapsodes and Homer were faceless, nameless storytellers who had no effect on the story. Everyone knew the story, so there was no certain author. This meant that no single person could choose a distinct personality for the epic hero, Odysseus. Odysseus is seen as the traditional hero because readers want him to succeed in his journey home; he is strong and he is clever (which is why he is referred to as the "man of many wiles"). The rhapsodes which told the story from 1100 B. C. to 800 B. C. kept using the traditional idea of the epic hero because no one wanted anything different.
Milton did want a different kind of epic hero in his epic, Paradise Lost. Milton wanted to be different because he wanted people to notice him. After his help in revolting against the king, Milton secluded himself. However, Milton wrote Paradise Lost as a way to become noticed again. He, unlike Homer, made it known he wrote this epic. He puts his name as the author and describes himself within the story. Besides changing other epic conventions such as the invocation and using blank verse to explode his poetry, Milton changed the traditional epic hero, like the Odyssey 's Odysseus, to a character which is known to be an antagonist, Satan. By using Satan as his protagonist and hero, Milton drew attention to himself and made people aware of his writings. Milton used Satan because Milton could relate to Satan's sufferings under a tyrannical God. Satan was thrown into hell for revolting against the king, God, as Milton was forced into seclusion for doing the same thing. Milton was adding part of his own life into the epic to make people notice him, which was unlike the traditional idea.
Wordsworth went beyond Milton's changing of the traditional hero and addition of personal ideas to the epic. He believed the epic hero was the writer himself and that the subject of the epic was the hero's ideas, thoughts, and recollections. Wordsworth's Prelude included ideas and thoughts about his own life, not some Greek man who could connive his way out of troubles or some archangel who was used for sympathy. Wordsworth used himself as the hero because, as a Romantic poet during his time perioid, people focused more on the individual. After the French Revolution, people were seen as individuals with rights and identities (as compared to those just following a king's orders in Milton's day). Including his own thoughts, Wordsworth showed that the writer can affect his work as much as he wants. This is not what the rhapsodes and Milton believed. Time changed people's perceptions of not only epic heroes, but of what an individual, and a writer, can do.
Grade: 29 points
See the Response to the Exam's Other Essay Question on the Nekuia
Back to Exam Responses to the First Two Sections
BACK TO COURSE SYLLABUS