The Classic Hero Vs The Modern Hero In Esperanza Rising

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Heroes have been around for centuries, “...with Homer’s The Odyssey serving as the prototypical example ” (Brackett 1). But the way that we characterize heroes now is very different from the way we used to. Our perspective of the hero has changed over time and the word hero brings to mind different things to different people. The classic hero Odysseus and the modern hero Esperanza, in the book Esperanza Rising both demonstrate the characteristics of a hero, they both go through their heroic journey, but because of gender norms, one is portrayed somewhat differently.

Even though it may seem that classic and modern heroes have nothing alike, they have many similarities. They both demonstrate the great things man can achieve with a bit of work and the right attitude. This was very important in Greek culture, to show what man can achieve without the help of gods. The idea of helping people overcome evil is true for both classic and modern heroes. Even though we have different definitions of the classic and modern hero, all heroes go through some sort of heroic journey and they demonstrate the characteristics of a hero.

There are many differences between the classic hero and modern hero. Back then it was considered polite to let random strangers into your home and let other people bathe you, but we would consider these things very odd now. Even though classic and modern heroes both go through a heroic journey, they are not portrayed the same way. “In a classical quest, the male hero completes a journey focused on winning a prize through the application of wits and daring. As the plot developed, females also became hero figures, and, beginning in the latter half 19th century, the quest could focus on an internal, or psychological, journey toward self-realization or actualization, generally signaled by an epiphany on part of the protagonist” (Brackett 1) Many Classic heroes like Odysseus have failed to put the lives of others before their own. This is an idea that is very important now but back then no one really thought about this, they just thought about the fame and glory they would achieve. “The modern hero is not the god-like, extra-strong superhero like Hercules, Beowulf or Odysseus. The modern hero is usually a normal person with realistic problems” ( We can usually relate to the modern hero, but it would be very difficult to relate to a classic hero like Odysseus.

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Gender roles play a significant part in all literature, especially in classic and modern hero stories. When you think of a classic hero, some brave and strong man usually comes to mind, like Odysseus. Older literature usually characterized women by their marriage and their beauty. In the Odyssey, the suitors want to marry Penelope because she possesses great wealth and she is beautiful. Gender roles in literature have changed over time significantly. According to a study done by Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University, and her colleagues, “...the use of female pronouns in books began rising in the late 1960s. By the mid-1970s, the male-to-female ratio of pronouns in American books dropped to 3 to 1. And by the 2000s, it was 2 to 1” (Gannon). As you can see, the use of females in literature has increased over time and it will still continue to increase over time.

All heroes go through a heroic journey, but not all of them are portrayed the same way. Odysseus’ heroic journey includes fighting off monsters and long journeys across the sea while Esperanza’s journey includes fighting off her evil uncles and fleeing to California. “In The Odyssey, Homer illustrates that, despite all of his human frailties, he is ultimately a heroic character due to his bravery and sharp intellect” (Tartell 1). Even though Odysseus embodies many characteristics of the hero, he uses selfish deeds to survive and he doesn’t care much about his companions. His goal was not to help people, but rather to achieve fame and glory. This is one of the many differences between classical and modern heroes.

(Odysseus:) 'Of all creatures that breathe and walk on the earth there is nothing more helpless than a man is, of all that the earth fosters; for he thinks that he will never suffer misfortune in future days, while the gods grant him courage, and his knees have spring in them. But when the blessed gods bring sad days upon him, against his will he must suffer it with enduring spirit. For the mind in men upon earth goes according to the fortunes the Father of Gods and Men, day by day, bestows upon them.' (18.130-137)

Esperanza in Esperanza rising may not seem heroic at all but the author clearly demonstrates her heroic journey throughout the story and all of her accomplishments. Esperanza’s journey starts off when

In conclusion, classic and modern heroes both have many similarities and difference. Odysseus and Esperanza both demonstrate the characteristics of a hero and go through a heroic journey and gender norms play a significant role in classic and modern hero stories. But gender norms affect the way the characters are portrayed in the stories.  

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