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Revisionist Western films commonly feature antiheroes as lead characters whose actions are morally ambiguous. Clint Eastwood, pictured here in A Fistful of Dollars (1964), portrayed the archetypal antihero called the "Man with No Name" in the Italian Dollars Trilogy of Spaghetti Westerns. Clint Eastwood - 1960s.JPG
Revisionist Western films commonly feature antiheroes as lead characters whose actions are morally ambiguous. Clint Eastwood, pictured here in A Fistful of Dollars (1964), portrayed the archetypal antihero called the "Man with No Name" in the Italian Dollars Trilogy of Spaghetti Westerns.

An antihero (sometimes spelled as anti-hero) [1] or antiheroine is a main character in a story who lacks conventional heroic qualities and attributes, such as idealism, courage, and morality. [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] Although antiheroes may sometimes perform actions that are morally correct, it is not always for the right reasons, often acting primarily out of self-interest or in ways that defy conventional ethical codes. [6]



U.S. writer Jack Kerouac and other figures of the "Beat Generation" created reflective, critical protagonists who influenced the antiheroes of many later works Kerouac by Palumbo.jpg
U.S. writer Jack Kerouac and other figures of the "Beat Generation" created reflective, critical protagonists who influenced the antiheroes of many later works

An early antihero is Homer's Thersites. [7] :197–198 The concept has also been identified in classical Greek drama, [8] Roman satire, and Renaissance literature [7] :197–198 such as Don Quixote [8] [9] and the picaresque rogue. [10]

The term antihero was first used as early as 1714, [5] emerging in works such as Rameau's Nephew in the 18th century, [7] :199–200 and is also used more broadly to cover Byronic heroes as well, created by the English poet Lord Byron. [11]

Literary Romanticism in the 19th century helped popularize new forms of the antihero, [12] [13] such as the Gothic double. [14] The antihero eventually became an established form of social criticism, a phenomenon often associated with the unnamed protagonist in Fyodor Dostoyevsky's Notes from Underground. [7] :201–207 The antihero emerged as a foil to the traditional hero archetype, a process that Northrop Frye called the fictional "center of gravity". [15] This movement indicated a literary change in heroic ethos from feudal aristocrat to urban democrat, as was the shift from epic to ironic narratives. [15]

Huckleberry Finn (1884) has been called "the first antihero in the American nursery". [16] Charlotte Mullen of Somerville and Ross' The Real Charlotte (1894) has been described as an antiheroine. [17] [18] [19]

The antihero became prominent in early 20th century existentialist works such as Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis (1915), [20] Jean-Paul Sartre's La Nausée (1938) (French for 'Nausea'), [21] and Albert Camus' L'Étranger (1942) (French for 'The Stranger'). [22] The protagonist in these works is an indecisive central character who drifts through his life and is marked by ennui, angst, and alienation. [23] [ ISBN missing ]

The antihero entered American literature in the 1950s and up to the mid-1960s as an alienated figure, unable to communicate. [24] :294–295 The American antihero of the 1950s and 1960s was typically more proactive than his French counterpart. [25] :18 The British version of the antihero emerged in the works of the "angry young men" of the 1950s. [8] [26] The collective protests of Sixties counterculture saw the solitary antihero gradually eclipsed from fictional prominence, [25] :1 though not without subsequent revivals in literary and cinematic form. [24] :295

See also

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Fyodor Dostoevsky Russian author (1821-1881)

Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky, sometimes transliterated as Dostoyevsky, was a Russian novelist, short story writer, essayist, and journalist. Dostoevsky's literary works explore human psychology in the troubled political, social, and spiritual atmospheres of 19th-century Russia, and engage with a variety of philosophical and religious themes. His most acclaimed novels include Crime and Punishment (1866), The Idiot (1869), Demons (1872), and The Brothers Karamazov (1880). Dostoevsky's body of works consists of 12 novels, four novellas, 16 short stories, and numerous other works. Many literary critics rate him as one of the greatest novelists in all of world literature, as multiple of his works are considered highly influential masterpieces. His 1864 novella Notes from Underground is considered to be one of the first works of existentialist literature.

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Picaresque novel Genre of prose fiction

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Protagonist Main character of a creative work

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