The Evolution of the American Hero

The idea to evaluate the image of American hero is interesting and educative indeed. For a long period of time, writers from different countries made numerous attempts to define what a real hero is, how it is to be a hero, and why heroes are so different in their natures, functions, and histories.

American culture is one of those cultures where much attention is paid to every single detail according to which one particular image is created. In this paper, the works of such authors like John Smith, James Fenimore Cooper, and Henry David Thoreau will be evaluated in order to demonstrate how the idea of the American hero has been developing during a certain period of time, and what challenges appeared to make the concept stronger and more powerful.

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American culture has numerous characteristics, and the definition of a true hero is one of those aspects that have to be developed both from inside and outside of society; the evolution of the American heroic personality is a unique chance to comprehend what can make people better and under which conditions.


Essence of a heroic individual. The evolution of a heroic individual in American literature deserves attention and recognition due to several reasons: first, American heroic individualism starts its development in the far Golden Age when people truly believed that it was enough to be good and fight against bad people and habits; second, heroism may be of various nature and people are not always ready to clear up the essence of heroism; and finally, there are so many authors who were ready to share their personal opinions and ideas about why it is necessary to be a hero and what can make a person a real hero.

Each piece of writing chosen for this paper has its particular impact on the process of American hero evolution. Being a British writer and soldier, John Smith introduced a clear picture of the American hero and underlined the necessity of innovations, power, and constancy.

Mr. Cooper represented Natty Bumppo with his passion to adventures and liberty and, at the same time, his obedience to nature and its laws. And, finally, the Thoreau’s attempt to describe civil disobedience and the evil side of complexity that should be inherent to every hero.

John Smith and his work. Those who still think that John Smith’s ideas about the American hero and its characteristics may be weak because it was a British writer should throw away all possible doubts and remember that this person is not only the writer but also a soldier and an adventure who knew a lot about this life and its challenges. The style that is presented in his General History of Virginia, New England, and the Summer Isles seems to be a bit lush and confident.

He saw the American hero as a person who respected his own roots and traditions; America should be the country that exists in the name of the king who takes care about its citizens but not create limits for people (Smith 105). To explain the readers how the author saw the real hero and evaluated him, John Smith introduced himself both as the fictional and as a true historical character.

The fictional perspective allows adding all those characteristics and beliefs that may create a perfect image under a proper environment that can make a person stronger as well as weaken the same person within a short period of time. However, his decision to introduce John Smith as a historical figure is one more powerful attempt to prove that his visions have a point, and this point is great indeed.

According to this author, the evolution of the American hero should begin with its roots, the Native Americans, who are ready to shoot when the time comes and ready to forgive when the heart asks for it.

James Fenimore Cooper and his ideas about heroism. The Pioneers by James Cooper is another powerful attempt to demonstrate how the evolution of the American hero took place. In this work, the idea to present a hero with a weapon seems to be weak at first because it is not that difficult to use the power of the gun in comparison to those people who cannot have a gun.

The powerful side of Cooper’s opinion is closely connected to the one introduced by Smith in his work: the idea of settlers and their wastefulness in regards to that richness available to them (Cooper 990).

At this stage of evolution of the American hero, it becomes evident that a man has to take only those sources that he is in extreme need of. True heroes should take care about everything around in order not to be killed from the inside when the eyes of dead pigeons star at them. Power is of double nature, and it is crucially important to comprehend what side is better to take right now in order not to loose personal heroic individuality.

Henry David Thoreau and his position. The political model that is described by Henry Thoreau in his Resistance to Civil Government is the final perspective that helps to comprehend the process of the evolution of the American hero. As the pervious writer, Thoreau makes use of political aspects in order to prove that heroism has a number of political issues according to which any heroic individuality may be justified.

In comparison to the above-mentioned ideas and opinion, Thoreau admits that the American hero has to be as simple as possible to be able to accept the reality and the conditions under which it is necessary to live. However, at the same time, the idea of the American hero is closely connected to all those extraordinary possibilities to evaluate the governmental actions and orders and use them without breaking down the rules and personal principles.

Thoreau’s attitude to heroism and the power of hero represents a number of contradictions to Smith’s ideas and Cooper’s suggestions. What Thoreau does is the demonstration of human emotions and attempts to become different from all those icons offered by the government. Slavery should be forgotten and changed by means of free will and wishes to become independent and worthwhile of this world.


In general, the evolution of the American hero that is depicted in the works by Smith, Cooper, and Thoreau helps to comprehend which aspects and living principles are crucial for people. It is not enough to have power, ideas, and abilities to become heroes and to be worthy of the name “a human”.

People are too complicated beings, and sometimes, it takes much time to comprehend the feeling of dignity and prosperity any person strives for. Heroism, liberty, and power are the concepts which have to go together in order to provide people with an ability to fight against the weaknesses promoted by the government and to become more powerful and free at all levels possible.

Works Cited

Cooper, James, F. “Chapter III: The Slaughter of the Pigeons.” In The Norton Anthology: American Literature, vol.1 by Nina Baym. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1998.

Smith, John. “The General History of Virginia, New England, and the Summer Isles.” In The Norton Anthology: American Literature, vol.1 by Nina Baym. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1998.

Thoreau, Henry, D. “Resistance to Civil Government.” In The Norton Anthology: American Literature, vol.1 by Nina Baym. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1998.


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