Antihero

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This article is about the character type. For the 1999 action film, see Anti-hero (film). For the punk band, see Anti-Heros. For the Marlon Roudette song, see Anti Hero (Brave New World).
A number of revisionist Western films have "antiheroes" as the lead character, who are morally ambiguous. Clint Eastwood, pictured here in A Fistful of Dollars (1964), portrayed the Man With No Name, an archetypical antihero, in the Spaghetti Western Dollars Trilogy.

An antihero or antiheroine is a protagonist who lacks conventional heroic qualities such as idealism, courage, and morality.[1][2][3][4][5] These individuals often possess dark personality traits such as disagreeableness, dishonesty, and aggressiveness. These characters are usually considered "conspicuously contrary to an archetypal hero".[6]

History[edit]

The antihero archetype can be traced back at least as far as Homer's Thersites.[7] The concept has also been identified in classical Greek drama,[8] Roman satire, and Renaissance literature[7] such as Don Quixote[8][9] and the picaresque rogue.[10]

The term antihero was first used as early as 1714,[5] emerging in works such as Rameau's Nephew in the 18th century,[11] and is also used more broadly to cover Byronic heroes as well.[12]

Literary Romanticism in the 19th century helped popularize new forms of the antihero,[13][14] such as the Gothic double.[15] The antihero eventually became an established form of social criticism, a phenomenon often associated with the unnamed protagonist in Fyodor Dostoevsky's Notes from Underground.[16] The antihero emerged as a foil to the traditional hero archetype, a process that Northrop Frye called the fictional "centre of gravity."[17] This movement indicated a literary change in heroic ethos from feudal aristocrat to urban democrat, as was the shift from epic to ironic narratives.[17]

The antihero became prominent in early 20th century existentialist works such as Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis (1915),[18] Jean-Paul Sartre's La Nausée (1938) (French for Nausea),[19] and Albert Camus' L'Étranger (1942) (French for The Stranger).[20] The protagonist in these works is an indecisive central character who drifts through his life and is marked by ennui, angst, and alienation.[21]

The antihero entered American literature in the 1950s and up to the mid-1960s was portrayed as an alienated figure, unable to communicate.[22] The American antihero of the 1950s and 1960s (as seen in the works of Jack Kerouac, Norman Mailer, et al.) was typically more proactive than his French counterpart; with characters such as Kerouac's Dean Moriarty famously taking to the road to vanquish his ennui.[23] The British version of the antihero emerged in the works of the "angry young men" of the 1950s.[8][24] The collective protests of Sixties counterculture saw the solitary antihero gradually eclipsed from fictional prominence,[25] though not without subsequent revivals in literary and cinematic form.[26]

The antihero also plays a role in Western films, especially revisionist Westerns and some Spaghetti Westerns.[citation needed] Lead figures in these films may be morally ambiguous.[citation needed]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "American Heritage Dictionary Entry: antihero". Ahdictionary.com. 2013-01-09. Retrieved 2013-10-03. 
  2. ^ "anti-hero - definition of anti-hero by Macmillan Dictionary". Macmillandictionary.com. Retrieved 2013-10-04. 
  3. ^ "Antiheroine - Definition and More from the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary". Merriam-webster.com. 2012-08-31. Retrieved 2013-10-03. 
  4. ^ "anti-hero: definition of anti-hero in Oxford dictionary (British & World English)". Oxforddictionaries.com. Retrieved 2014-09-06. 
  5. ^ a b "Antihero - Definition and More from the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary". Merriam-webster.com. 2012-08-31. Retrieved 2013-10-03. 
  6. ^ Jonason, Peter K.; Webster, Gregory D.; Schmitt, David P.; Li, Norman P.; Crysel, Laura. "The antihero in popular culture: Life history theory and the dark triad personality traits.". Review of General Psychology 16 (2): 192–199. doi:10.1037/a0027914. 
  7. ^ a b Steiner, George (2013). Tolstoy Or Dostoevsky: An Essay in the Old Criticism. New York: Open Road. pp. 197–198. ISBN 9781480411913. 
  8. ^ a b c "antihero (literature) - Encyclopedia Britannica". Britannica.com. 2013-02-14. Retrieved 2014-08-09. 
  9. ^ "Literary Terms and Definitions A". Web.cn.edu. Retrieved 2013-10-03. 
  10. ^ Halliwell, Martin (2007). American Culture in the 1950s (Transferred to Digital Print 2012 ed.). Edinburgh: Edinburgh Univ. Press. p. 60. ISBN 9780748618859. 
  11. ^ Steiner, George (2013). Tolstoy Or Dostoevsky: An Essay in the Old Criticism. New York: Open Road. pp. 199–200. ISBN 9781480411913. 
  12. ^ "Literary Terms and Definitions B". Web.cn.edu. Retrieved 2014-09-06. 
  13. ^ Alsen, Eberhard (2014). The New Romanticism: A Collection of Critical Essays. Hoboken: Taylor and Francis. p. 72. ISBN 9781317776000. Retrieved 20 April 2015. 
  14. ^ Simmons, David (2008). The Anti-Hero in the American Novel: From Joseph Heller to Kurt Vonnegut (1st ed.). New York: Palgrave Macmillan. p. 5. ISBN 9780230612525. Retrieved 20 April 2015. 
  15. ^ Lutz, Deborah (2006). The Dangerous Lover: Gothic Villains, Byronism, and the Nineteenth-century Seduction Narrative. Columbus: Ohio State University Press. p. 82. ISBN 9780814210345. Retrieved 20 April 2015. 
  16. ^ Steiner, George (2013). Tolstoy Or Dostoevsky: An Essay in the Old Criticism. New York: Open Road. pp. 201–207. ISBN 9781480411913. 
  17. ^ a b Frye, Northrop (2002). Anatomy of Criticism. London: Penguin. p. 34. ISBN 9780141187099. 
  18. ^ Barnhart, Joe E. (2005). Dostoevsky's Polyphonic Talent. Lanham: University Press of America. p. 151. ISBN 9780761830979. 
  19. ^ Asong, Linus T. (2012). Psychological Constructs and the Craft of African Fiction of Yesteryears: Six Studies. Mankon: Langaa Research & Publishing CIG. p. 76. ISBN 9789956727667. 
  20. ^ Gargett, Graham (2004). Heroism and Passion in Literature: Studies in Honour of Moya Longstaffe. Amsterdam [u.a.]: Rodopi. p. 198. ISBN 9789042016927. 
  21. ^ Brereton, Geoffery (1968). A Short History of French Literature. Penguin Books. pp. 254–255. 
  22. ^ Hardt, Michael; Weeks, Kathi (2000). The Jameson Reader (Repr. ed.). Oxford, UK ; Malden, Mass.: Blackwell. pp. 294–295. ISBN 9780631202707. 
  23. ^ Edelstein, Alan (1996). Everybody is Sitting on the Curb: How and why America's Heroes Disappeared. Westport, Conn.: Praeger. p. 18. ISBN 9780275953645. 
  24. ^ Ousby, Ian (1996). The Cambridge Paperback Guide to Literature in English. New York: Cambridge University Press. p. 27. ISBN 9780521436274. 
  25. ^ Edelstein, Alan (1996). Everybody is Sitting on the Curb: How and why America's Heroes Disappeared. Westport, Conn.: Praeger. p. 1. ISBN 9780275953645. 
  26. ^ Hardt, Michael; Weeks, Kathi (2000). The Jameson Reader (Repr. ed.). Oxford, UK ; Malden, Mass.: Blackwell. p. 295. ISBN 9780631202707. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Simmons, David (2008). The Anti-Hero in the American Novel: From Heller to Vonnegut. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 0-230-60323-8. 

External links[edit]