Heroes Have to Do Bad Things Sometimes
Not all heroes in fiction are the same. Some wear white hats, others black hats, and still other a gray hat. But where is the line that separates such characters?
The world is not always a nice place. Our history is layered with wars and other atrocities. Our daily news brings the latest tragedies directly to us. Murder, terrorism, rape, carnage, vast greed beyond reckoning that can destroy lives … all of it is out there, and for some of us it can hit close to home.
Those who survive such awful events find their own ways to deal with it. Some remain quiet, stoic, though possibly burning inwardly. Others lash out at their tormentors, and sometimes anyone else who is in their vicinity. Some few buck up and get on with their lives as best they can. The possible reactions are as endless as the number of human beings on the planet.
Fiction commonly explores conflicts and tragedies, and often enough the results and responses to such. Once more, the reactions of fictional characters can be as broad as those of real individuals, only limited by the imagination of the author.
The hero, however, is a character who must in some manner stand up to the wrongs of the world. He or she might do so boldly, raising a weapon high and charging into the face of an enemy. Other tales might have a different breed of hero, one who is heroic merely by surviving awful events. Heroes can come in many different shades, and the form of heroism they take can vary on a vast scale.
In true tragedy, often enough the hero becomes as bad or worse than the original opponent, the original tormentor. Fiction teems with characters who go too far or who walk up against the line. Edmond Dantes of The Count of Monte Cristo is one of the most obvious of such characters. But what of Hamlet? Of Batman? Even poor Frodo ultimately had to choose between good and evil, though his choice was a more blatant ones.
Even the most true-blue hero sometimes has to do seemingly bad things. Justifications can be made, of course. For example, killing during warfare is generally accepted as necessary by most of the civilized world, though it can be regretted. Those who rise up to throw off the shackles of oppression are usually cheered by all but the oppressors, but even this can conceivably go too far, as the French Revolution showed.
Often enough in fiction there is a point of no return for a hero. He or she is faced with a crisis or a situation, one which will determine their own future and how they are viewed by the outside world, whether real or fictional. A line is drawn, one which the character must not cross. It can be a thin line, but it is there. This line can press upon the hero, questioning his or her motives, making the hero look inward and asking the question, “Just how far am I willing to go?”