Quilt: Drama

VCCS Litonline Introduction to Literature
English 112 (English Composition II)

page 14 of 20

Tragedy in the Information Age

Objective for this Page: To consider the viability of the term tragic hero in recent and current times.

If, in the 1950's, it looked as though tragedy might no longer be a viable concept, the outlook seems even more bleak as we approach the new century. A tragic hero must be "looked up to," but in order for us to look up to someone, there must be a certain "aura" about that person. Today, as soon as someone attains a "high" status in society, we begin prying into the most intimate details of their lives. It's difficult to hold someone in awe whom we see in photos baring his midriff to display his surgical scars (Lyndon Johnson) or hear on tapes slinging four-letter words around with a sort of phony macho toughness (Richard Nixon) or with whose sexual preferences we have become very, very familiar (you-know-who). The elimination of privacy threatens to eliminate the possibility of heroism--tragic or otherwise. Here are some examples of people who, in previous ages, might well have become tragic heroes. Click on each image for a brief discussion.


Suggested Writing Assignments:

1. Choose one of the above or any other public figure who, in your opinion, seems like a possible candidate for literary immortality as a tragic hero. Write a paper in which you point how how the person you select meets the criteria and where he or she falls short.

2. Argue that tragedy is still a viable concept, using examples from recent literature and from real life. Or, argue that tragedy today is dead, again using examples.

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