Quotation by Paul Zweig

By hero, we tend to mean a heightened man who, more than other men, possesses qualities of courage, loyalty, resourcefulness, charisma, above all, selflessness. He is an example of right behavior; the sort of man who risks his life to protect his society's values, sacrificing his personal needs for those of the community. Virgil's Aeneas is a hero in this sense of the word. He devotes his warrior skills, his pleasures, and finally his life to the historical destiny of founding Rome. Dante climbing to heaven in the Divine Comedy is a hero. Sergeant York risking his life to "end all wars" is a hero.... There is, of course, another sort of heightened man who bulks large in the popular imagination.... He is not "loyal," not a model of right behavior. Quite the contrary, he fascinates because he undermines the expected order. He possesses the qualities of the "hero": skill, resourcefulness, courage, intelligence. But he is the opposite of selfless. He is hungry; "heightened," not as an example, but as a presence, a phenomenon of sheer energy. One thinks of certain sports heroes, who boast and indulge their whims; who cannot be relied on, not because they are treacherous, but because the order of their needs is purely idiosyncratic.
Paul Zweig, U.S. educator, critic. The Adventurer: The Fate of Adventure in the Western World, ch. 3, Princeton University Press (1974).
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