Group FIVE


A Look at the Motivations that Influence Heroes

By: Stephanie Clarke, Charley Costa, Geoff Hall, Ronni Hardison, Garrett Koster, Conor O'Neill, & Rachel Shulder


Over the past three weeks, we have discussed a multitude of hero types in both film and literature. Whether they are categorized as anti-heroes, reluctant heroes, or epic heroes, each has a commonality. Heroes are driven by a motivating factor that is vital to his or her monomyth. It can consist of desire to challenge the status quo, the idea that revenge is a meal best served cold, or the passion of romantic exploits. No matter what the reasoning may be every hero, big or small, is compelled by an underlying motive. This wiki will research six common motivations heroes use in literature and films; money and fame, politics, time of cultural crisis, revenge, religion, and love.

Money and Fame

In the movie “Patton,” the title character is United States general George S. Patton. He commanded thousands of soldiers in World War II, and was famous not only within the Allied Forces but among the Axis Powers as well. But it was desire to be the greatest general among American forces that drove him to great lengths.

Throughout the movie, Patton (played by George C. Scott) exhibits cunning as a leader while pushing his army to drive the Nazis out of Africa, Italy and eventually back to Germany. As we discussed in class, soldiers can be prime examples of heroes. Patton is no exception to the concept. He is classified in the movie as the “perfect soldier,” and often makes references to how he is a reincarnated soldier from thousands of years ago.

His motivation comes from the desire to be the greatest American general in history. His ultimate goal is to become a five-star general, something he never accomplishes. Patton has no desire to avenge a loss of life, to fight for one of the people he loves or to protect his religious beliefs. Rather, he is driven by the desire to be known by allies and enemies alike as the great general who defeated the Nazi power.

In the movie, this obsession is Patton’s key to success as much as it is his tragic flaw. After securing great victories in Northern Africa and Italy, he is relieved of his command because he slaps a soldier whom he believes is unfit to serve in his army. His drive to have the perfect fighting force, which would make him the most renowned general in the world, forced him to push his soldiers to the point that they either loved him or loathed him.

Regardless of how Patton’s soldiers felt about him, he was reassigned after D-Day, and his desire for fame and glory shown brighter than ever. His army constantly had to delay its advances because his soldiers fought harder and won more victories than the other Allied armies, and Patton’s armies were too far ahead of the rest of the Allies. At one point, Patton’s tank battalions literally ran out of gas on the front lines because he has ordered them to continue advancing into enemy territory.

Through Patton, we can see that heroes can be inspired to search and drive for fame with relentless pursuit. The general, although he never is given the five-star general rank, becomes as famous as Dwight D. Eisenhower and George C. Marshall, who were given the title, because of his unrelenting search for fame.

In American society more so than others, it seems that fame and wealth go hand-in-hand. Those who are wealthy are famous, and those who are famous are wealthy. But the difference lies in the motivations of each factor. Whereas Patton and other heroes could achieve wealth and notoriety through a pursuit of fame, the traditional mobster of American movies achieves fame through the motivation of money.

Traditional gangster movies of the 1970’s only start with the “Godfather” trilogy. Later, the closely related “Goodfellas” and “Casino” made the mafia image even more transparent. But the most recent movie that shows a hero who is driven by money has to be “American Gangster.”

Denzel Washington plays Frank Lucas, a historically accurate figure who created an enormous drug ring in Harlem in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s. As an African American, Lucas goes head-to-head with the Italian mafia of New York City and effectively puts them out of business because of his ability to lower prices of his heroin. He was quoted in a magazine as saying that he wanted to be “Donald Trump” rich, and it is rumored that he made $1 million per day.

Shown below is a clip from the movie, where Lucas approaches another drug lord of Harlem. Previously in the movie, the man told Lucas that he would be in trouble if he continued to sell drugs on his turf. In this scene, Lucas addresses the issue.

The other main character in the movie is Detective Richie Roberts, played by Russell Crowe. While one of the subplots of the movie is a focus on corruption in police departments, Roberts maintains that he is one of the few clean cops in the department, and is in fact incorruptible. While many of his peers are bought off by Lucas and the other mobsters of New York, Roberts stays true to his integrity. He is able to withstand being dragged into political and shady acts of corruption.
In this respect, we can see that dirty politics can give rise to being a motivating factor for a hero to emerge.


There are many kinds of heroes that we have examined over the past few weeks. Each has unique characteristics tha separate them from the others, and each also has different motivations or reasons for becoming a hero. One hero commonly seen is a hero who is motivated by politics. Political issues, trying to overthrow an oppressor, or disagreements over political beliefs all fall under the idea of politics motivating heroic actions. We can see political reasons in many modern day pieces of film and literature, as well as some from the past. 1984 and Animal Farm by George Orwell, along with Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury are all contemporary pieces of literature with strong political stories. Besides these novels, V for Vendetta and Robin Hood are recent film examples of politically motivated heroes. We can look at pieces of each of these to examine exactly how politics have formed the hero.

We will start with the literature that involved politics. There are many examples, from ancient Greek stories to Shakespearean plays to contemporary stories, because of the importance that politics has always held in society. Looking at 1984, Animal Farm and Fahrenheit 451 will help us understand the exact role that politics play.

1984 by George Orwell is the story of a man by the name of Winston living in London, in a skewed reality. In this world, a seemingly omnipresent leader known as Big Brother constantly watches everyone. Big Brother is the leader of the Party, the political group that has total control of this society.

Big Brother allows no rebellious thought of any sort, and the society is strictly controlled by officials who enforce the rigid rules. Winston is a low level official, but he does not agree with the rules of the society – the story opens with a story of him hiding his actions from this omnipresent force. Just as the story begins, we see the ruling force of the Party and how much Winston despises it. The rest of society seems content to allow life to continue inside the status quo, but Winston wants to change his life. As Winston struggles to create the life he wants to live, he is caught by officials who imprison him and torture him to try to make him part of the normal society again. Though Winston is an unsuccessful hero, and in the end is pushed so far that he caves into the Party, his struggles throughout the novel show him pushing against the norm; against the political powers that try to oppress him. Though unsuccessful as a true hero, the actions that Winston takes are heroic, as he tries to make a better world free from political pressure.
Animal Farm deals with some similar issues, even though the story is different. Instead of looking at the issues between different groups of people, the characters are split between the farm animals and the humans that oppress them. The animals do not like the farmers that treat them as inferiors. The animals, led by three pigs, overthrow the farmers and instate their own rules.

Once the farmers are overthrown, though, the pigs are rapidly corrupted by the power that they have gained and in the end, become just as bad as the humans they once despised.

The heroes in this story once again become villains, but when we look at the initial motivation, we see that the animals feel that they are treated unfairly by the humans. They are worked hard hours for little reward, and the humans prosper without giving anything back to the animals. The initial battles are fought for freedom against the oppression of humans, to make an equal society.

Fahrenheit 451 is one more piece of literature that we can look at to see a hero motivated by political issues. The main character, Guy Montag, lives in a skewed society not much different than the one formed in 1984. Montag is a fireman who helps oppress the society by burning books; the people in this society spend their time in technological bubbles and do not think independently. Books can inspire people, so they are burned, and the owners are punished.

Montag never questions his job, until he meets Clarissa, a young girl who explains to him the more idealistic, free and independent past and begins to question his actions. When he meets a professor who gives him the idea of a better future, Montag rebels against the society he is in. He burns those who are trying to force him to conform, and he runs away from normal society to join the group of outcasts who believe in the importance of reading. In the end, Montag’s life as he knew it has been destroyed and he is ready to work with the outcasts to form a new society when the warfare in the city is over.

Montag gives up all of his comforts and normal life to stand up for what he realizes is right. He understands that the society he lives in is much less than ideal and he is willing to do whatever it takes to make a better world. Many of us would not be able to do the same in his situation, and he is an ideal example of a hero motivated by political reasons.

After looking at many examples in literature, we can look at contemporary examples of politically motivated heroes.
V in V for Vendetta is one such example. V lives in a world where the government has complete control over the people. Oppressed and scared, the people have no chance for a better life, until V comes along. He was a victim of government testing, and he uses his anger at the government and the skewed world it has created to fight back for the people. Without the government’s role in his life, V never would have become the hero that he is, as he gives up his life to make the society change for the better.

With V’s heroic actions, the people come together in the end, even after his death, to work for a brighter future. Although V has other motivations as well, his goal is to fight against the corrupted totalitarian government for the sake of the people in the society.

Robin Hood is another film hero whose has political motivation. He is a simple man in the king’s army who is only trying to do what is right. He is honest to a fault, even telling the King things he does not want to hear – like that the Crusades done in the King’s name are only going to send them all to hell. He is a man of his word, as he vows to take the sword of an ambushed noble back to his dying father in England. Robin could have easily gone on his own way and left those around him to fend for themselves. He sees the rulers as unjust, though, and instead of allowing the status quo, he fights against it. Robin fights against the King of England, against French forces and all others who he sees as leaders unfit in their position. Though he does not want power of his own, Robin is willing to do what is necessary to remove as many corrupt officials as possible from society.

Robin Hood is a complex character, from his stories in literature to the real person to the film character that we see portrayed, but he is a man that was willing to fight against those in power to do what was right.

Many characters from film and literature of the past to the present are complex characters. Often not motivated by any one single factor, many have some political reasoning behind their actions, as we have just looked at. Heroes are plentiful in popular novels, films and other pieces of history and entertainment, and we can analyze all of them for the reasons explaining their actions.
Political problems often lead to time of struggle and strife. Political change and uprising leads to change, which does not often come easily. Characters like V from V for Vendetta obviously are struggling to change the political framework of their society, leading into a time of crisis. Many of the other characters with strong political reasons for their actions are further motivated by the time of crisis that they are in.

Outside of film and literature, there are real people who have been motivated by the need for change in a time of strife and crisis.

Time of Cultural Crisis

As we journey through this class over the semester we have learned, the characteristics of hero, and different types of heroes. Most people believe that heroes are destined, either because of a special power given to them, or because they are the offspring of a well-o-d family. But what we have learned is that it doesn’t take special powers to become a hero; an ordinary person can do extraordinary things. A hero can be any common person who steps out of the normal life and achieves something extraordinary. But what makes a hero become a hero? What are the motives for such heroes? One of these motives is living in a time of cultural crisis. Throughout our history there have been many moments where the world was in terrible crisis. An example of this is Hitler's rise to power. Through these tough times there have been many great people that wanted to make a change. These men and women are our everyday heroes. These types of heroes were not given any special powers, and were not destined to become a hero, but because of how they lived their life through these cultural crises, these men became heroes!

Martin Luther King Jr. was born on Jan. 15 1929. Mr. King was not given any special powers, but is known today as one of the great men of his time, and to some Martin Luther King Jr. is considered to be a hero. Dr. King lived in a time where injustice was the way of the world in America. Dr. King lived in the time of segregation; this was a time where whites and blacks were separated, from the schools they attended even to the water fountains used at a local park. Dr. King was a preacher who saw that the time he lived in must be changed. So he joined the African American civil rights movement where he became a prominent leader. Similar to Gandhi, Dr. King preached nonviolence. He believed that the world could become a greater place to live in, that there could be peace between everyone. Dr. King lived his life as a humble man who believed the unthinkable; he marched many times and stood up against the injustice society. He was willing to lay his life on the line for what he believed. While marching through Alabama he was hit with rocks, but continued to march on saying we shall overcome, he continued to tell his followers to not use violence. Dr. King achieved many great things in his lifetime, but his ultimate goal was to lead his people to freedom from slavery and injustice.

On August 28th Dr. King led one of the greatest days in history. The March on Washington is said to be the largest civil rights demonstration in history with nearly 250,000 people in attendance. On this day from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, Dr. King delivered one of the greatest speeches in the world, titled "I Have A Dream." In this speech, he advocated for freedom, peace and justice. This speech was a defining moment for the American Civil Rights Movement. Heard around the world Dr. King inspired a nation. Dr. King was a man of great respect, duty, and honor who stood up for something that he believed, and because of how he lived his life, this ordinary man helped changed the world and the culture that he was born in.


Mohandas Gandhi was born on October 2, 1869. Gandhi was also just an average man. Gandhi was a lawyer who graduated from the University of London. While on his way to Africa Gandhi was thrown off a train because he would not give up his seat in 1st class. There is no better man that displays the traits of a hero more than Mohandas Gandhi. Gandhi was not born a hero, but because of the life he lived he was considered one of the greatest men in the world, and became known as a hero. Gandhi devoted his life to lead his people to freedom from the British. Like MLK Gandhi was devoted to nonviolence, he would rather die than to see people use violence. At one point when Indians were fighting amongst each other Gandhi choose to fast until all the violence amongst each other and on the British would stop. Gandhi was a great man who never boasted about anything he achieved, he even believed that he had done nothing. No matter the situation Gandhi always did the right thing, never shying away from the good soul he had.

Gandhi always told his people that to achieve freedom, you must not be violent, there are ways to protest, there are ways to speak out and stand up for what you believe in without being violent. Gandhi was so impactful that even MLK read his books and used his methods while following his teachings, to lead his people to freedom. The things Gandhi did most men would not, and I think that this is what makes someone be a hero. Gandhi was also assassinated for what he stood for. Amazingly it was by one of the people that he had helped free. It was an Indian.

"Love never claims it ever gives; love never suffers, never resents, and never revenges itself. Where there is love there is life; hatred leads to destruction".
Mahatma Gandhi
"An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind."
Mahatma Gandhi

These men were heroes because of the things they did in their life, when they woke up they did not expect to be heroes, they just believed in something and stood up to fight for it. But no one could ever imagine this could be done without violence. These men devoted their life to a great cause, even were killed because of what they believed. They were not destined to become heroes, they did not have any special powers, but these men lived a life that a normal man did not. These men did an extraordinary thing. And what was there motive? Were these men seen as rebels? Well I would say that these men lived in a time period that was like no other. For MLK to be a black man in America during segregation was like being and Indian in the time of British rule for Gandhi.


There are many different factors that contribute to a hero’s motivation. One of the most prominent factors seen in both movies and literature is the theme of revenge. At the beginning of class this semester, one of the characteristics we talked about heroes possessing is a sense of justice and always doing the right thing. This idea becomes very complicated when considering revenge. Is it justifiable to kill someone to avenge a murder they committed? Two of the examples of heroes who strongly motivated by revenge are Hamlet and V from V for Vendetta. Both of these characters are driven in their actions by atrocities that were committed against them, yet both feel very differently about killing other people.

Hamlet is a perfect example of how strongly a protagonist can be motivated by revenge. At the very beginning of the play, Hamlet encounters the ghost of his murdered father, who requests that Hamlet avenge his death by killing his murderer. One of the reasons why Hamlet is such a great example of motivation through revenge is because the reader sees the effect that revenge can have on a person. After seeing his father’s ghost and hearing his instructions, Hamlet struggles greatly with the thought of having to kill his uncle, his father’s murderer. The idea of taking revenge through murder weighs so heavily on Hamlet that he becomes depressed and borderline suicidal. The reader sees this depression through Hamlet’s two famous soliloquies, including the famous “to be or not to be” soliloquy.

Both of these speeches show how strongly Hamlet feels about extracting revenge, but also how hard it is for Hamlet to break the commandment of “though shall not kill.” Ultimately, Hamlet does avenge his father’s death by murdering his uncle, but dies in the process. By actually murdering his uncle, Hamlet shows that the desire for revenge is so strong that he is willing to do something he would not be willing to do under any other circumstance.

Another hero who demonstrates how strongly revenge can motivate a hero is V from V for Vendetta. Early in his life, V was held hostage as part of a government-run medical experiment at a detention facility. This experiment resulted in the government creating a terrible disease that killed thousands of England’s people. From his experience in the detention facility, V has decided to lead a vendetta against all of the most prominent figures involved in the detention center. These people that V begins to kill also happen to be the most powerful people in England, including the High Chancellor. While much of his Vendetta is aimed at convincing the people of England to revolt against the corrupt government, V also has a very personal vendetta that serves as the true motivation for his revenge. The great part about V’s character is the audience sees, through his speeches and his actions, that V feels he is justified in everything that he does. Unlike Hamlet who is driven crazy by the thought of having to kill to avenge a death, V has no problem murdering anyone who he feels harmed him in the past. He explains his feelings to Evey when he says “every action has an equal and opposite reaction,” (V for Vendetta) in reference to the vendetta he is leading against prominent part members. This sentence shows that V has no mercy for the people that he plans on killing. Another scene from V for Vendetta that demonstrates V’s motivation is when V murders Delia. When V and Delia are talking after V has poisoned her by injection, V states “I have not come for what you hoped to do. I've come for what you did” (V for Vendetta). This quotation shows that V has never recovered from his painful past, even though Delia has attempted to repent for her sins. The scars that were formed at Lockhill serve as V’s relentless motivation to kill everyone who was in any way involved in the detention facility.

From both Hamlet and V, it is apparent that revenge is a very strong motivational factor for heroes. In both stories we see how revenge takes two seemingly ordinary people and forces them into action. We also see the different ways in which the idea of vengeance effects different characters; it makes Hamlet go crazy and second guess all of his actions, and it propels V on a murdering spree for which he feels no remorse. While both of these characters act very differently, their actions are strongly motivated by revenge.

Similar to Hamlet’s vision of his father’s ghost, many heroes have been motivated by a form of a vision. Heroes such as Joan of Arc had visions as a young girl to free France from England. These visions often times are religious symbols that direct heroes and heroines to a path of action. Some of the more famous heroes that have been motivated by religion are Joan of Arc, Constantine and Antigone.


There are many motivations that can be found at the root of heroes. Religion has been used for centuries as both an excuse for war, and an ally of peace. Joan of Arc, believed to be a messenger of God, helped to unite France in the battle of Orleans. Antigone, on the other hand, feared the gods and defied the governmental laws in order to obey the laws of a higher power. We can also see religion’s presence in heroes such a John Constantine, who exemplifies the concept of a reluctant hero. While glory and riches are highly influential, when you believe God is on your side anything is possible.

The story of Joan of Arc has been told in many different fashions. While they all depict details differently, the history remains the same. She was believed to be a messenger from God who spoke his word. As a child she received her first visions that, “simply advised her how to behave, and told her to be good and go to church” (Frances Gies pg23). The visions supply Joan with the first steps of her heroic path. They begin the monomyth of Joan the Maid, Joan the savior of Orleans, Joan of Arc.

The heroic tale of Joan of Arc is as follows. Joan was given a message by God to free France of her enemies, the English. She was seen by the Dauphin of France and examined for her purity, because they wanted to be certain she was a messenger of God. He gave her an army and she led them to victory in Orleans. They then took control of Rheims and the Dauphin was coroneted king of France. She wished to continue her campaign against the English by freeing Paris, but the Dauphin wanted peaceful negotiations. She was eventually captured and sold to the English. After being tried as a heretic she was burned at the stake at the age of 19. Almost 500 years later the same Church that had burned her for heresy canonized her a saint.

Joan is a cultural hero in part due to the heavy influence religion had on her actions. It was not oppression by the English, or a passionate loyalty to her country that drove her into battle. It was the belief that she was a messenger sent by God, which lead her to greatness. She was an ordinary girl provided with an exceptional opportunity to make an impact. She is also a tragic hero, in that her “gift” is also her hamartia. She is tried as heretic and ultimately burned at the stake for her crimes. Her faith in God, the Catholic God, actually gets her killed by the Catholic Church. Below is a transcript that demonstrates this in the film The Messenger.
Cauchon: Jeanne, be careful, you’re not helping yourself by refusing to submit to our judgment.
Jeanne: You who claim to be my judges, you be careful! For you too one day will be judged.
(The Messenger)

The film does a decent job at portraying the way in which Joan inspired the army to fight. It also, however, paints her almost as a lunatic. At times she appears to be out of control and slightly crazy. The director of the film incorporates a very unique character into the plot called the conscience, which challenges the belief that she is a messenger of God. I have included a clip below, which depicts how she begins to question herself. The conscience is a very important ancillary character because he changes the audience’s perception of Joan. When the film is over it can be difficult to decide if he is good or evil and if Joan was truly a messenger of God. It is an important portion of the film because it makes Joan a more realistic person. She retains her heroic presence because of the victories, but brings into question her true motivation for killing the English.

(The Messenger)

Joan of Arc is just one example of a tragic hero motivated by religion. It was religion that fueled her passion and inspired the French army to fight. While Joan viewed religion positively, other heroes are forced into faith, not by choice, but by destiny.
The movie Constantine is by no means a great movie. While it does provide entertainment for its duration, it is not a movie that provokes some deeper philosophical meaning. The main character, also one of our heroes, is John Constantine. He was born with the ability to see angels and demons on Earth and spends his days deporting demons back to Hell with the hopes that he can purchase his way into heaven. Unfortunately, as a teenager he attempted to commit suicide which guarantees his future life in Hell. Below is a dialogue he has with Angela, another important character in the film.

John: When I was a kid I could see things. Things humans aren’t suppose to see. Things you shouldn’t have to see. My parents were normal. They did what most parents would do. They made it worse. You think you’re crazy long enough you find a way out.
Angela: You tried to kill yourself.

John: I didn’t try anything. Officially, I was dead for two minutes. But when you cross over time stops. Take it from me, two minutes in hell is a lifetime. When I came back I knew all the things I could see were real. Heaven and hell were right here. Behind every wall, every window. The world behind the world, and we’re smack in the middle. Angels and demon’s can’t cross over onto our plane. So instead we get what I call half-breeds. The influence peddlers. The can only whisper in our ears, but a single word can give you courage or turn your favorite pleasure into your worst nightmare. Those with the demon’s touch like those part angel, living alongside us. They call it the balance. I call it hypocritical bullshit. So when a half-breed breaks the rules I deport their sorry ass straight back to hell. I don’t get them all but I’ve been hoping to get enough to ensure my retirement.

Angela: I don’t understand
John: I’m a suicide Angela. When I die, the rules say I’ve got just one place to go.
Angela: You’re trying to buy your way into heaven.
John: What would you do if you were sentenced to a prison where half the inmates were put there by you?
Angela: I guess God has a plan for all of us.
John: God’s a kid with an ant farm, lady.

This quotation sums up the very essence of John as a reluctant hero. He fights for the sole purpose of obtaining a pardon and hopefully getting into heaven. He also mentions that he did not choose this “gift” and would have been happier had he never received it. I have included two pictures from the movie below that help to distinguish the heroic figure that he is made out to be, and the life that he chose to lead. It also helps the show how he fills the role of a reluctant hero.

external image moz-screenshot-9.jpgexternal image constantine-reeves1_sm.jpg external image constantine_cover.jpg
(Constantine 1) (Constantine 2)

Both John and Joan of Arc share a common ground. Their world is filled with war and violence. Others who are inspired by religion are not heroic because of their valor and glory on the battlefront, but because of their strong will..
Antigone, like most tragic heroes, was born under unusual circumstances. He father was also her uncle, and had exiled himself after realizing his incestuous ways. Her brothers killed one another in a war for the city. She finds herself in a difficult position because the king, Creon, declares that one of her brothers is not to be given a proper burial. Motivated by fear of the gods’ laws she disobeyed Creon's proclamation and buried her brother. She was brought before Creon and he asked if she understood that she had broken the law. Her response is as follows.

“Yes. Zeus did not announce those laws to me. And justice living with the gods below sent for such laws for men. I did not think anything which you proclaimed strong enough to let a mortal override the gods and their unwritten and unchanging laws. They’re not just for today or yesterday, but exist forever, and no one knows where they first appeared. So I did not mean to let a fear of any human will to lead to my punishment among the gods. (From Blackboard)”

The quotation above reveals her decision to abide by the laws of the god’s before the laws of man. Culturally her decision is heroic because the laws of the gods should always be upheld. More importantly, though, is the message of civil rights. As a woman se was not considered be capable of moral thought or behavior. Ancient Greeks viewed women as property and did not allow them to be seen in public frequently. Antigone challenged the gender laws by burning her brother. She revealed that women have the capacity to think and are courageous beings. The audience must have been astounded by her behavior, and also confused if they should admire her. She chose the gods’ laws over mans which is righteous, but as a woman how could she possess intellect and courage?
In modern day we do not see such gender discrimination, although it does still exist. Modern audiences would pull a completely different heroic message from this drama. While there is no doubt Antigone was motivated by religion, her actions speak more politically. In modern times Antigone is heroic because she challenged an unconstitutional government decree. As Americans we believe every human has specific rights. The idea that a dead man could not receive a burial because of a law is outrageous in our eyes.

Love as Motivation

Just as Antigone was motivated by her love for her family, characters heroic actions are often motivated by their love for another character. More specifically, heroes can be motivated to face challenges and test their courage in order to win the love of another character. This theme is seen countless times throughout history, starting with the Ancient Greeks and lasting all the way until modern times. Though the way the hero may approach winning other’s love and affection is presented differently in different stories, the overall motivation remains the same.

This theme can be traced back to ancient times to Greek mythology. The story of Pereus and Andromeda is one such example. According to this myth, while flying over Ethiopia after having conquered Medusa, Perseus spotted a young woman chained to rock at sea guarded by a fierce sea monster. He discovers that her name is Andromeda and that she is daughter of Cepheus and Cassiepeia. She received her grim fate after her mother proclaimed her more beautiful than the Nereids, or sea nymphs. This proclamation enraged the sea god, Poseidon, and he punished her by chaining her to the rock. Perseus, having immediately fallen in love with her after noticing her immense beauty, goes to Cepheus and states that he will save Andromeda from the sea monster if he can have her hand in marriage, to which Cepheus agrees. Perseus battles the great monster to the monster’s death, and is able to take Andromeda as his wife.

This myth is perhaps one of the earliest documented stories wherein the hero is motivated by his love for another character. As it is a myth, and a quite simple one at that, Perseus’ true and innermost feelings and motivations are not explicitly described in the writing. However, based on his actions following his discovery of Andromeda, it can be assumed that his love for her, however shallow it may be, was his main motivation for conquering the sea monster. In the absence of Andromeda on the rock, it is very likely that he would have passed over the sea monster and continued on his journey.

The myth of Perseus andAndromeda is often depicted in works of art, as seen in the painting below.
Titian, Perseus and Andromeda

When one thinks about a hero rescuing another in the name of love, there is no image more common than the “knight in shining armor”. This image is used extensively in literature in films, and is most commonly portrayed as the heroic male character saving the weak damsel in distress from grave danger. Fairy tales are rife with this theme. One prime example of such is the tale of Briar Rose as told by the Grimm brothers, most famously retold in Disney’s 1959 film, Sleeping Beauty.

This classic fairytale tells the story of a young princess, named Briar Rose. Briar Rose received a curse upon her birth that she would prick her finger on a spindle on her fifteenth birthday which will cause her to fall into a deep sleep for a hundred years time. As much as the King and Queen tried to prevent this curse from becoming reality, Briar Rose stumbles upon an old woman spinning in the castle, and pricks her finger on the needle; immediately falling into a deep sleep. Many years pass when a young prince hears of her plight, he becomes interested in being the one who rescues her from her fate, though many men before him had died in the process. He expresses his feelings on the matter, stating, “I am not afraid. I am determined to go and look upon the lovely Briar Rose”. With this courage, he is able to easily make his way to the castle where he awakens the princess by a kiss. Shortly thereafter, the prince and Briar Rose are married.
Disney’s version of this story is not as simple, and includes more challenges for the prince (who has been named Prince Phillip) on his journey to save Briar Rose (who has been renamed Princess Aurora). In this version, Prince Phillip battles the evil Queen Maleficent, who tries everything in her power to stop him from succeeding, including turning into a dragon. However, Prince Phillip prevails and is able to claim his love.

This video depicts the obstacles that Prince Phillip faced when journeying to the castle where Princess Aurora was sleeping. By facing the challenges with courage and bravery, he shows his heroism and great motivation to win the love of the Princess.

Despite the differences between the fairytale and the film, the overall motivation for the prince remains the same. He is determined to be the knight in shining armor and to save his damsel in distress, thereby winning over her love. The same ideas can apply to a number of fairytales in which the male character saves the female character who is in trouble. These fairytales share many traits with ancient Greek myths such as that of Perseus and Andromeda.

Sometimes, the knight in shining armor is not a knight nor royalty. As with many of the heroes we have discussed, sometimes the knight in shining armor is just a normal person who is thrown into extraordinary circumstances, often with the aid of mythical and magical figures. This was the case of Will Turner in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. At the beginning of the film, Will is just an ordinary blacksmith with an unrequited love for the governor’s daughter, Elizabeth Swann. However, when pirates capture Elizabeth, he steps into save her, even making allies with another pirate, Jack Sparrow. When Jack asks him how far he would go to save Elizabeth, Will says, “I would die for her”, exemplifying both his immense love for Elizabeth as well as his extreme courage and determination. Though he is faced with many obstacles on his journey, including coming to terms with the fact that his own father was a pirate, Will perseveres. In the end, thanks in large part to Jack, Will rescues Elizabeth and they proclaim their love for one another.

It is clear from the very beginning of the film that most of Will’s actions are done with Elizabeth in mind. He is motivated to go after the cursed pirate ship because of his love for her. He makes many moral sacrifices, particularly because he must live like a pirate for some time while he is working with Jack. Just like any other classic hero, he shows courage and bravery in the face of danger and prevails over evil in the end, all for the sake of Elizabeth.

This clip (beginning at the 2:40 mark), shows how Will is ready to sacrifice himself in order to secure Elizabeth's freedom. Many heroic tales feature the theme of sacrifice, as it shows how far the hero is willing to go to achieve his or her goals. When the main motivation for the hero is love, the hero will often sacrifice him or herself for the benefit of the one they love.

Many times, a hero’s love for another character may not be as prominent as that in ancient myths or fairytales; however, it is a main motivation nevertheless. An example of such a hero is Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice. On the surface, Mr. Darcy does not appear to be a hero, and certainly does not show the heroic qualities that the aforementioned heroes possess. He is often characterized as a romantic hero, the characteristics of which include both rejecting and having been rejected by society or social norms as well as being extremely egotistical. These are generally not favorable qualities for a hero. However, as the story progresses, Mr. Darcy’s character changes for the better, making him a true hero.

Mr. Darcy’s transformation arguably begins after his first proposal to Elizabeth, which she brazenly rejects. Her rejection makes him realize his great many faults. His love for her is clearly established by this point, as he states, “In vain have I struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you” (Austen, p. 125). It is this love for her that influences him to make changes in his life. In order to make up for his wrongdoing, he assists Elizabeth’s family in several ways, including saving her family from immense disgrace after Elizabeth’s younger sister runs off and gets married. Social status was of utmost importance during this time period, therefore Mr. Darcy’s actions can be seen as equivalent to saving their lives. Though Elizabeth suspects that Mr. Darcy played a role in her family’s social salvation, he does not explicitly tell her until his second proposal, in which he states, “If you will thank me let it be for yourself alone. That the wish of giving happiness to you, might add force to the other inducements which led me on, I shall not attempt to deny. But your family owe me nothing. Much as I respect them, I believe, I thought only of you” (Austen, 239). Though his actions may not have been as overt as those of the heroes in myths and fairytales, they are motivated by his love for Elizabeth, and are committed with the hope of winning her over in the end.


Throughout history, films and literature have depicted varying types of heroes, each having a motivation for their heroic actions. This motivation can be both internal and external. Political motivations, love, religion, money, revenge, and times of crisis are all things which motivate people to do things that may make people think they have “super” or inhuman powers. Through our research on heroes' motivations, we have found that, though the hero may have one main motivation, such as those we examined, they oftentimes use a combination of motivating factors. Despite which motivation a hero may have, there is no doubt that without motivation to influence peoples actions there would be no heroes.

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Group Five: Motivations of Heroes

– good overview to the entire theme (all segments)
nice introduction to both group members and their topic – clear division
- several members dressed up (nice!)
Start with Patton – quotes from the film – perhaps better to have an excerpt – George C Scott has such a presence – use it!
American Gangster (Frank Lucas, based on a real person) motivated by money – brutality as a result of the rise to power

Fahrenheit 451 – excellent literary addition into your theme!
Understanding that following the rules is sometimes isn’t the right thing to do – solid connections to the hero themes in V for Vendetta too – the idea of rebuilding/creating a new society/structure (overthrowing a corrupt dictatorship)
Oppression as motivation – you can only push so much against the human spirit

revenge as motivation – nice connection to audience (HUMAN emotions, not necessarily a HERO emotion) compare and contrast between V and Hamlet – excellent!
Hamlet as a reluctant hero – we are reluctant as readers to love him because he appears so wishy-washy – we LONG to see Hamlet become a man of more direct action where the audience is not sure how to feel about the brutality of V (whose actions are no-less supported by intellect and calculation as Hamlet’s) who uses a full frontal attack on those he sees as corrupt. (Both actually use poison in creative ways, though…)

Joan of Arc – good history versus the modern interpretations of it Religious Motivations
Usually people who see visions are not acceptable reasons to commit acts (good or bad) we lock these people up (LOVE Dustin Hoffman in this BTW)

Constantine – religiously motivated (sort of) because he’s reluctant hero
Condemned to deport demons in the slim hope that he can tip the balances in his favor
Gabriel’s faith versus Constantine’s state of limbo – slow down and perhaps explain this a bit more thoroughly (assuming a catholic/religious background of your audience)
Antigone – political and religion were one and the same in Ancient Greece – nice connections

LOVE as motivation:
saving or winning a love through actions – good solid connections(NICE transition of Greek literature/narratives) women as prizes for heroic actions
very creative connection to Pirates of Carribbean!
monomyth of Will Turner – very nice insertion of the film clips

Conclusion with its own slide summary – but the quote there was very nice (more time on this)
plenty of time to make these connections - ??

Body language – very nice overall – nervous but that’s OK
uh/um – awful lot of these

Some Class Notes:
Nice tie, Geoff
American Gangster clip showed a strong emotional element, left an impression
Good overall presence for group
some looked bored – hands in their pockets
OK movement from piece to piece
American gangster clip good x7
Good body language e- seemed involved in presentation
really good examples for each motivation
speech was way too long – no editing? X5
no one used notes – well rehearsed
Picked good books and films X6
good eye contact
I think you chose a really interesting topic – and used good sources too
Hamlet & V comparison was best speaker - perfect/cool/good X10
Joan of Arc was a good connection – very interesting/best part X3
everyone was involved and spoke well
Like the Pirates clip X6
some speakers had too many hand motions (nerves?)
they were all paying attention to one another
Charlie was captivating
too many words in the LOVE slides – too much to read/pay attention to
final person was terrible – just read us the slide X6

What about a crisis/time of disaster as motivation?
Good use of artwork AND film clips (not just the latter)
Summaries needed to be briefer, but they were good – speaker obviously worked hard
good connections between characters