The Character Style of the Anti-Hero

Anti-hero is used for the hero in a novel or movie which contains many non-heroic qualities or attributes in him. In modern American literature and movies, there are a number of anti-hero characters, and these characters are very popular among the audience of American cinema. The reason behind this is that people find these characters closer to reality. The conventional heroes seemed to be the super-humans who got nothing to do with the lives of common man and those movies do not tell them the solution to their life problems as well. Few famous anti-hero characters are also discussed below so that readers can have a clear picture of the anti-hero figures.


The term anti-hero is a relatively new term in the modern American movies but it has been used in different works of literature from the time being. It is the term used for the main character or figure of any fiction that lacks the conventional and traditional qualities and attributes of hero, but still, that character is the main and popular. According to the dictionary, “a protagonist or notable figure who is conspicuously lacking in heroic qualities”.

So the persona of anti-hero lacks the traditional and the conventional qualities of hero which makes him someone who is superior to the other people around him. So it is said that the anti-hero lacks the qualities of the conventional hero, qualities include courage, honesty and grace. The anti-hero might be weak and confuse at the times and this truly depicts the concept of man of the modern times, who is in hurry all the time and is not satisfied with his life and career. The modern man is not much inclined towards the traditional moral and social virtues.

The concept of anti-hero in the literary world cannot be traced now but there are few evidences which show that the anti-hero existed in the world’s oldest literatures. Apollonius of Rhodes’ Argonautica contains a character Jason as a hero but this figure lacks the conventional qualities and attributes of hero. The character appears to be apprehensive, flaccid, vacillating man that contrasts sharply with the other Greek heroes of that time.

The character of Anti-Hero changed with time as the society’s inspirations of the heroic qualities changed as well. In later times, we saw the examples of Anti-Hero in the literature of Elizabethan times as well. The work of fiction “Faust” by the Christopher Marlowe and the William Shakespeare’s “Falstaff”, gives clear examples of the anti-hero characters but of course, they are different from the old Greek Literature’s anti-heroes. In the 19th century, Victorian Literature also showed a few examples of anti-hero and it demonstrated that the idea is highly appreciated by the public as well. The example of anti-hero in Victorian Literature is John Gay’s, “The Beggar’s Opera” and Philip Meadow Taylor’s “Confession of a Thug”. These characters gave the literary pattern to the contemporary perceptions to the anti-hero. The other literary characters of anti-hero type are the Leopold Bloom in James Joyce’s novel Ulysses (1922) and many others in the work of fiction of Philip Roth and Kurt Vonnegut.

In recent times, the figure of anti-hero has evolved in a sense that it is completely changed now. The heroic qualities are changed too, and the heroes are closer to reality than they were before. And the reason given to this is that the increasing popularity of anti-hero has played a great part in redefining attributes and qualities of the conventional hero. The comic books, “Batman” presents an anti-hero character and the shadowy nature of the Batman is quite opposite to the conventional hero of all the times, “Superman”. The other famous comic character is the Sub-Mariner, which also contradicts with the idea of the traditional hero.

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When comes to movie, a great actor of the time, Clint Eastwood, played a role as “Man with No Name” in “Spaghetti Westerns” by the Sergio Leone. The character of Clint Eastwood is very different from the conventional heroes and is devoid of the qualities that are needed for the traditional hero.
The reason behind the popularity of the idea of anti-hero is sometimes related to the revolutions that are taking place in the world. The World Wars and especially World War II is significantly important here and the nuclear issue that raised after World War II. The other issue that gave rise to the concept of anti-hero is the famous Cold War between the two superpowers of the world. This happened because the audience and their choice changed after WWII, due to the brutal realities that were observed during that period. The choice and interest of the audience changed completely. Like the audience, the filmmakers also changed their view in making a movie.

They tried to concentrate more on the realities of life and also to show these realities on the cinema screen. This was done to educate people about the reality and truth which are associated with the life rather than showing the fairytales love stories of the jet-set lives. And it was the time when filmmakers and producers started making the movies which were different from the conventional movies and the heroes were depicted with the anti-hero features.

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