An Irish Airman Foresees His Death: Complication of the Concept of Heroism in the Traditional Sense

With Yeats' definition of the 'best person' being one who lacks conviction, the Irish airman is considered within those ranks. He lacks conviction entirely. 'An Irish Airman Foresees His Death' highlights why he's in a warplane, flying in the clouds. He states, 'Those that I fight I do not hate, Those that I guard I do not love.' He is clearly not fighting to defend his country, or even to attack his opponents. He later states that, 'A lonely impulse of delight Drove to this tumult in the clouds.' He is flying that plane, accepting his death, only for him. Peace will be brought to only the Irish airmen once he dies. He differs from a traditional hero, in the sense that he's not fighting any kind of evil. He is, though, a modernist hero who lacks conviction.

Prufrock would also be considered one of the 'best people' according to Yeats. Throughout the story, Prufrock is rejecting any action of talking to a romantic interest of his. He thinks much more than he should, and he pays for it dearly, since he has no drive to socially interact with her. In this sense, he may be fighting himself to find happiness in romance, since he's the only thing stopping this social exchange. Due to his lack of conviction and tortured, intelligent soul, he stays emotionally distant from her, and, presumably, the people in his life.

The characteristics of the modern world make it very difficult to be heroic in a traditional sense. Traditionally, a hero is someone who vanquishes evil to protect a person or a group of people. However, both of these stories deal with expressions of the self. The modernist world has very complex characters with even more complex emotions. In the case of Prufrock, he can't be a traditional hero, since he can only save himself from himself (which he does not). There isn't a 'courageous' and 'evil' category that modern world characters fall into. There is a large amount of grey area between. Additionally, characters willingly admit their flaws and troubles. It isn't hidden in modernist world literature. Knowing the story's 'hero' has flaws could tip the scale as to whether he really is the hero. For example, the Irish airman was a soldier. In traditional writings, he would be the explicit hero. However, in this modern world piece, his flaw of selfishness and lack of conviction shows that he's neither evil or courageous.

01 August 2022
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