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A hero is different to every person. However, societies normally have similar views when it comes to a hero. Two American heroes, Edward Bloom and Chris McCandless are to some extent viewed the same way the Greeks viewed their own ancient Greek hero, Odysseus. These 3 heroes all have characteristics, traits, and projected ideals admired and pursued by their societies and for this very reason when both are compared, Chris McCandless is the better American hero when compared to Edward Bloom.
The strive to become the great, powerful ancient Greek empire we came to know reflected in the choice of their heroes. Take Odysseus for example, he fought hard during the war of Troy, ultimately coming up with the master plan to win the war. But that wasn’t it, Odysseus faced even greater dangers and obstacles on the journey back home to Ithaca. For instance, he had to face the treacherous Polypehmus which threatened him and his men. This giant Cyclops was eventually outsmarted by Odysseus, which led to the escape of Odysseus and his men. The author states: “So they spoke, (…) Cyclops, if any mortal man ever asks you who it was that inflicted upon your eye this shameful blinding, tell him that you were blinded by Odysseus (…) ”.(Book 9) All the obstacles overcome by Odysseus were really for the prize of coming home to glory and power of his kingdom. This is similar to the rise to power of Greece after the Dark Age in which they faced many difficulties. Greece often found itself in wars. (most among themselves) This included wars such as the Greco-Persian war, Peloponnesian war, and the Corinthian war.
Greece overcame these conflicts and later reached success, becoming a global empire. Ancient Greeks also believed that everything in their life was being controlled by the Greek gods, so it was no wonder that they tried their best to honor and obey them. Odysseus did his best to obey Helios the sun god by not eating his sacred cattle. Odysseus states: “Let us mind, therefore, and not touch the cattle.” (Book 12) Even though in the end his men DID eat the cattle, Odysseus stayed obedient and was spared. In a different occasion after winning the Trojan War, he pays honor and gratitude to the Greek gods for giving them victory. This gratitude pays off, since Odysseus is protected and helped later on. This makes Odysseus an even more qualified hero since in numerous occasions he honored the gods, something the Greeks often tried to do. Odysseus is also a great athlete and fighter; he proves that by fighting a 10 year war and surpassing the problems he faces on the journey back home which lasted added another 10 years. In fact, Odysseus successfully fights off his suitors which greatly outnumbered him and his companions when he arrives back home to Ithaca. Through athletics and combat, it was believed, perfection could be achieved.
The ancient Greeks valued physical conditioning as greatly as they did the mental state of mind. Odysseus without a doubt has traits, characteristics and ideals often pursued by ancient Greece, which easily makes him a hero for that society. Chris McCandless is just a person trying to change his own world, which qualifies him as an American Hero. America was founded on the revolutionary idea of change, on bettering the living conditions. McCandless believed that society was a corrupt and evil institution. McCandless tried as hard as he could to distance himself from the limits that he thought society placed on people’s lives. This included evading people themselves, since they were under the limits of the corrupt and evil institution. The author states: “McCandless was thrilled to be on his way north, and he was relieved as well—relieved that he had again evaded the impending threat of human intimacy, of friendship, and all the messy emotional baggage that comes with it.”(Pg. 55) He believed he needed to start a new lifestyle in order to free himself from of his family and friends, he wanted to revolutionize his own life. This can be compared to the American ideal of “freedom’, or a better life for oneself.
This country was founded because of unfair treatment and wanting of liberty from it. The people wanted freedom, and they were willing to risk their lives in order to go up against the mighty Great Britain, something many people weren’t willing to do, and this greatly reflects in McCandless. McCandless was willing to go against the flow; he was willing to risk his life in order for a better life for himself. On another note, McCandless also agreed with people such as Henry David Thoreau, who believed that we needed to simplify our lives and just then can we live with the most happiness and meaning. McCandless saw material things as unnecessary and tried to live his life without them. He did this by burning his money, and living with the least possible amount of things. The essence of analyzing Chris McCandless however is to show how he shows the common ideal of change, revolution, and independence, which to some makes him a hero, but especially to an American. Edward Bloom is no different; he shows the determination that is needed to pursue the “American dream” or in other words, to succeed in today’s world. Bloom demonstrated this when he spent years tracking down the love of his life, (which he didn’t even know at the time!).
Bloom worked a horrible job with no pay, just to discover vague details about his love. Someone with no determination would easily give up. Bloom without a doubt showed determination as he did his best to get home quick after going to war. Bloom was determined to get home and risked his life by doing special missions, such as infiltrating Japanese Intel, just to get home to his wife. Successful people in today’s America endlessly mention the need of determination in order to succeed. Determination is needed to go after the endless opportunities out there, and normally when the going gets tough people start quitting, Bloom is a strong case against this; and this is one of the reasons he is an American Hero. McCandless and Bloom are great examples of American Heroism, but McCandless exceeds over Bloom in almost all levels. The truth with Bloom is that he wants be an epic hero so bad that he never stays home and strengthens his family or personal bonds.
Every story he tells is grand and far-fetched and shows all the typical qualities of an epic hero–bravery, cleverness, self-control, ability to speak well, devotion to family and friends, concern for others, and determination but in reality he abandoned his family for his need to see himself as more than a hero than he really was in the end made him a failure as a man. Of course he showed his heroic traits, but in stretched out stories. On the other side Chris truly lived a life worth living, and died doing what he wanted. Many people today never consider leaving everything they have and trying something new, or they think but never get it done since in reality they are too afraid to do It. Chris came from a rich family and could have lived a nice life to most American standards, but he chose to give that life up for his dream something that people admire. That makes him a hero for some, and certainly for me. Heroism is different to everyone, but a society’s ideals and admired traits are highly shown in their choice of heroes. This is proved by the analysis of Edward Bloom and Chris McCandless traits and ideals to modern American traits and ideals. And the same goes for Odysseus to ancient Greece.