Mark Twain stated, “Our heroes are men who do things which we recognize, with regret, and sometimes with a secret shame, that we cannot do.” He believed that heroes would only disappear if everyone admired their own character. In contrast, Alfred de Vigny believed that heroes and monsters alike completely ceased to exist regardless of someone’s satisfaction. Written after and influenced by the French Revolution, de Vigny’s statement reflected a particularly pessimistic tone. Beowulf, the first great English poem translated by Seamus Heaney, follows the exploits of the warrior with mythical strength and heroic abilities Beowulf. Beowulf embodies the typical hero that de Vigny refers to in his bleak claim, the hero that should only be called so by children. By the depressing and misleading events of the French Revolution, De Vigny misunderstood how people or beings deserve to be deemed heroes or monsters. While the fictional portrayal of heroes or monsters do not and never have existed in the world, de Vigny’s statement is misleading because both exceptional and abhorrent people deserve the terms of heroes or monsters.
Real people cannot match the description of a hero or monster as depicted by epic stories and movies. While fantasies may contain the tales of deadly dragons or similar monsters, the beasts do not exist in reality. The heroes in epic stories also exhibit strengths and powers only obtainable in fiction. For example, Beowulf had the ability to swim down a mere to Grendel’s mother’s lair for “the best part of a day,” (1495) an impossible task not only for normal humans, but also for heroes. People cannot match the unfeasible strength or feats achieved in fictional stories. Stories greatly exaggerate human capabilities beyond the physical realm to separate the reader from the real world and bring them into a fantasy realm. Humans may perform heroic or evil deeds, but will not fly or transform into green, hulking creatures when angered. A select amount of people are able to complete heroic deeds that stand above the common person without possessing fictional powers. These heroes deserved recognition as heroes because they complete tasks that most other people do not. As noted by Twain, heroes