From Academic Kids

In literature and film, an anti-hero is a central or supporting character that has some of the personality flaws traditionally assigned to villains but nonetheless also has enough heroic qualities or intentions to gain the sympathy of readers or viewers. Anti-heroes can be awkward, obnoxious, passive, pitiful, or obtuse; but they are always, in some fundamental way, flawed or failed heroes. Comic books feature anti-heroes (also known as "dark heroes") who are characters fighting for the side of good, but either with some tragic flaw (such as a tormented past) or by using questionable means to reach their goals. A good working definition of the anti-hero is a paradoxical character who is, within the context of a story, a hero but in another context could easily be seen as a villain or simply as unlikable.

The concept of the anti-hero has grown from a tendency of modern authors to present villains as complex, even sympathetic, characters whose motivations are not inherently evil and sometimes even good. The line, therefore, between an anti-hero and a villain is sometimes not clear.



One type of anti-hero feels helpless, distrusts conventional values and is often unable to commit to any ideals, but he accepts and often relishes his status as an outsider. The cyberpunk genre makes extensive use of this character-type.

Another type of anti-hero is a character who constantly moves from one disappointment in his life to the next, without end, with only occasional and fleeting successes. But he persists and even attains a form of heroic success by steadfastly never giving up or changing his goal. These characters often keep a deep-seated optimism that one day, they will succeed. But in the end they still meet failure, the ultimate fate of a traditional villain. A popular example of this is the director Ed Wood from Tim Burton's famed film of the same name.

Another example of this secondary type of anti-hero is F. Scott Fitzgerald's Jay Gatsby. Gatsby's one true aim was to gain the love of a woman, Daisy Buchanan, who was beyond his social status. He, through what Fitzgerald alludes to be illicit means, amasses a fortune in order to make himself acceptable to the married Daisy. He does, for a time, have an affair with her but in the end his character flaws and illusions that he could turn back time destroy him. But through the whole experience, even after Daisy's husband puts an end to her illicit affair, Gatsby still has hope that he would one day prevail.

A third type of anti-hero is an individual with the same end goals as a traditional hero, but for whom "the ends justify the means". This character type is popular in comic books: for example by day Matt Murdock seeks to bring evil-doers to justice as a lawyer. But when the judicial system fails, he dons a mask and instead exacts revenge as Daredevil. Another popular example is Frank Castle, an ex-Marine whose family was murdered in an act of gang violence. Castle takes the name "The Punisher" and begins exacting vigilante justice by any means necessary, often slaughtering dozens of adversaries at a time, but he never kills an innocent.

There is also a type of anti-hero who starts the story with a few unlikeable traits such as prejudices, self centeredness, immaturity, cockiness, or a single minded focus on things such as wealth, status, or revenge. Thus, the hero may actually begin the story as a not-so-likeable character, but through the course of events, as we get to know the character, he grows and changes and may actually become sympathetic. A well known example of this is Han Solo of the Star Wars trilogy. The actor Clint Eastwood became famous by playing the anti-hero in movies such as The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, A Fistful of Dollars, and For a Few Dollars More.

Occasionally the central character in a work has no redeeming features at all. He seems to be a complete villain but for the fact that the story's focus is entirely upon this character and other characters are so insignificant, weak or flawed that they offer no respite. The reader or viewer is forced to sympathise or relate to a wholly unlikeable character and to directly confront his feeling for this kind of hero. Pinkie Brown from Graham Greene's novel Brighton Rock, and Richard III in Shakespeare's play of the same name, are examples of this type of anti-hero.

See also


External links

ja:アンチヒーロー nl:Antiheld pt:Anti-heri sv:Antihjlte


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