The anti-hero

A hero is defined as “someone admired for his bravery, great deeds or noble qualities”. There are three categories to which all heroes can be classified into, one of which is the anti-hero genre. An anti-hero has the role of a hero thrust upon them. They do not particularly want to be brave or noble but their actions lead them to be a hero. Facing difficult decisions and doubt are also classic traits of an anti-hero. They often lack confidence in themselves, refuse to accept their fate as a hero or don’t even realise their status or ability. At a certain point, anti-heroes usually transcend into either a tragic or romantic hero.

Anti-heroes can be identified in many different texts, however, all of them consist of those traits. In ‘The Crucible’ by Arthur Miller, John Proctor is the hero of the play. He is a good man, described as being : “the kind of man –powerful of body, even-tempered, and not easily led…” He is feared and respected throughout the town of Salem, but few know that he is guilty of adultery with the teenage servant Abigail Williams. As a result of this affair, Proctor is caught in guilt, which effects his self-perception. “Were I stone I would have cracked for shame this seven month! ” He regards himself as a fraud.

These insecurities are the foundation of Proctors character development into an anti-hero. The first signs of Proctor being an anti-hero evolve when accusations of witchcraft arise and he is torn between confessing to adultery and revealing the information he knows to save innocent lives. He understands his obligations but is still hesitant due to his fear of the consequences. He says to Elizabeth “I know I cannot keep it! I say I will think on it! ’ The difficult decision and pressure is thrust upon Proctor and his reluctance to reveal his knowledge enhances his anti-hero visage.

He puts his reputation before doing the right thing and confessing. Proctor finds a way of exposing Abigail and her friends as liars without having to make his affair public. He persuades Mary Warren to tell the truth. Eventually Proctor admits to having committed adultery but not to be brave or heroic, but out of desperation to save his wife. Sensing Mary Warren’s weakness, Proctor is forced to talk about his relationship with Abigail. Although it seems noble, this heroic notion is categorised under anti-hero because Proctor merely confessed because he had to.

He did not want to and had avoided revealing his affair but it was the last thing he could do because of Abigail’s influence over Mary Warren. His last attempt at saving Elizabeth fails and Proctor is also accused of witchcraft. Proctor is sentenced to hang but given an opportunity to save himself- he must confess to being aligned with the devil. This choice is the climax of the play. Faced with yet another difficult decision, Proctor is torn between a life of lies or an honourable death. Being an anti-hero, he does not immediately come to the more heroic decision. Instead, he consults Elizabeth for advice.

In the end he chooses to commit himself to his friends and die an honest man. He states that “I have three children – how may I teach them to walk like men in the world, and I sold my friends? ” Proctor reasons that in confessing, he can never raise his children to be virtuous men without being labelled a hypocrite. By facing death, he proves his loyalty to friends and maintains a respectable reputation. Proctor faces his own death and in making this decision, Proctor becomes a tragic hero. Unlike Proctor who goes from anti-hero to tragic hero, Thomas Anderson transitions to a romantic hero.

Thomas Anderson is the anti-hero of “The Matrix”. Anderson is immediately established as the heroic figure, constantly referred to as “the one” but his doubt shapes him into an anti-hero. He is initially the classic anti-hero with a very notable twist – his role is not thrust upon him, all his decisions are consciously made. Neo does not see himself to be special and this is clearly evident when he is attempting to escape from the agents out the window. He can be heard to say “Why is this happening to me? What did I do? I can’t do this. ” He does not believe in himself and therefore can not stretch to his full potential inside the Matrix.

This is a characteristic of his that is maintained throughout the movie, and it is no coincidence that he is the last person to believe that he is the One. He also appears quite unwilling to be the “hero” at some points, for example when he learns about the matrix he is unable to handle the shock and refuses to accept it, shouting “No, I don’t believe it. It’s not possible. Stop. Let me out! Let me out! I want out! Stay away from me! I don’t believe… ” These are all classic antihero traits, but he also displays the elements of the romantic hero, particularly towards the end when Neo re-enters the Matrix in order to save Morpheus.

He knows that one of them must die, and the Oracle has told him that it will be up to him which one it is. Therefore, when he enters the Matrix he makes that choice, and knowingly goes to sacrifice himself for the sake of mankind. However, it is now that he is starting to believe in himself, and he also believes that he can bring Morpheus back. It is at this point that he starts to transcend into the romantic hero, he starts to believe in himself and to realise the truth. He sheds his old identity, Thomas Anderson and embraces his new one with the famous “My name is Neo. “

Similarly, in ‘Buffy the Vampire slayer’ (the movie), the anti-hero also transitions to a romantic hero. In this case, the hero is Buffy herself. A stereotypical teenage American bimbo who later on admits, “I didn’t even think about anything”, Buffy is tracked down my Merrick and told she is “the one”- the next slayer, chosen to battle the head vampire, Lothos. Like Anderson from The Matrix, Buffy is bewildered and does not fully comprehend how important she is. She sarcastically jokes “Let me get this straight- you’re saying that I have to go to the graveyard with you because I’m the chosen one and there are vampires?

Pfft! Does Elvis talk to you? ” Merrick tries again and again to convince her that she has been chosen but Buffy refuses to see anything as a higher priority than her social life. She is unwilling to take up the role but still listens to what Merrick has to teach her. She begins to believe in herself when Merrick proves to Buffy that she is “the one” by throwing a knife at her head unexpectedly, and Buffy catching it all the same. He claims “only the chosen one could have done it”. Buffy is then faced with the difficult choice all anti-heroes are faced with.

In her case, she must choose between her demanding social life and committing herself to being a slayer. Being an anti-hero, she does not choose to be a slayer enthusiastically. She furiously yells “Don’t you get it? All I want to do is graduate from high school, fly off to Europe, marry Christian Slater and die! ” It is when Merrick gives his life for her that Buffy fully accepts her responsibility and transitions to a romantic hero. She sacrifices her friends, school, boyfriend and senior dance to battle the mighty Lothos. All three texts have resemblances in terms of their development.

Each of the anti-heroes face confusion and doubt followed by a difficult decision, then an incident that inspires and gives them confidence, finishing with a heroic act. In the Crucible, Proctor is unstable because of his shameful affair with Abigail. Then he has to choose between exposing Abigail and admitting adultery. Then he almost confesses to witchcraft when he sees the Rebecca and he regains his senses and willpower to finally make the heroic act of dying for his friends and family. In the Matrix, Neo is unsure of what the Matrix is and the concept drives his curiosity mad.

He is then faced with the decision of the blue pill or the red pill. Next his courage is uplifted with Trinity’s kiss and faith in him so he awakens to finally fully apprehend the rules of the Matrix. In Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Buffy faces doubt as to whether she should believe Merrick and soon the decision whether slaying was worth sacrificing her social life. The death of Merrick and love from Pike encourages Buffy to go on, and she is able to defeat Lothos. Although the character developments are quite the same, each text uses different textual styles and techniques.

The Crucible is in the format of a play. John Proctor is established as the hero through the use of Miller’s contrast in characters. Upon his introduction, Proctor seems to be the only calm, sensible and logical character among the rising hysteria of Abigail’s threats, Parris’ damnations and babble of the Putnam’s. Proctor is easily set apart from the other characters and the beginning of the play due to the obvious differences in character. Miller also builds up the climax throughout the book by making the conversations very quick paced and intense. The Matrix relies heavily on the technique of symbolism.

It is used frequently throughout the film implying both vital and obscure things. For example, the use of sunglasses. They indicated a characters strength and vulnerability. Or the doors representing the choices in Neo’s life, the signs strategically placed throughout the film or even Neo’s name being an anagram of the word “one”. In Buffy, the film style is stereotypical and over exaggerated. The blonde bimbo cheerleader who faces the evil vampire with the black cape and fangs. The dialogue sounding somewhat like “that was so 5 minutes ago” and “oh, get out of my facial”.

Perhaps the stereotypical settings are used to make a clear contrast with Buffy when she begins to accept her true identity. She drops the bimbo attitude and takes life more seriously, claiming “Things I thought were so crucial have just become so stupid …it’s a stupid dance with some stupid people that I see every stupid day” Another aspect that the texts differ from each other is their cultural and social values. The Crucible is set in the Salem witch-hunt of 1962. The story revolves around the importance of Christianity and the harsh punishments for those who were not religious.

It reflected the society, from religion to roles of women in the family. It explored the themes of jealousy, love, reputation, revenge and adultery but at the same time also was an allegory of the 1950 McCarthyism. Witches representing the communists and Parris with the other judges representing the Un-American Activities committee. The Matrix was released in 1999 and reflects the present societies growing independence and rapid development of technology. It questions the audience as they are faced with the frightening possibility that Artificial Intelligence may take ver the world.

The film also portrays several cultural values. It is a direct parallel to Buddhism, Christianity and the Greek concepts of oracles. Buffy the Vampire Slayer, released in 1992 can be seen as a representation of teenagers of today. Taking for granted a “normal” life that revolves around school, parties and friends. The Crucible and The Matrix exhibit more cultural and social values than Buffy and they are both done exceptionally well, covering many different themes and aspects without taking away from the plot or story.

The Crucible, The Matrix and Buffy the Vampire Slayer are three totally separate texts that are linked in some ways, like their developments of character, and vary other ways, like in terms of technique and value exhibition. However, all three texts have a character that is the image of an anti-hero- whom will remain its own genre, with the same characteristics, no matter it be set in Salem, cyber space, high school- or anywhere else in the world. The anti-hero remains someone who has had it thrust upon them to be admired for bravery, great deeds or noble qualities.

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