Modern day heroes compared to the ancient Greek heroes share many
similarities. They are seen as extraordinary, “god- like”, brave, noble,
powerful, invincible; the list is endless. There is one defining factor that
these heroes have in common, most of them have one fatal flaw.
The Greek hero Achilles, is a demi- god who is dipped in the river
Styx by his mother. His mother accidentally holds him by his heel and his heel
becomes his weakness. Achilles is the strongest and most heroic soldier in the
The modern-day hero Superman, shares many similarities with the
mythic hero, Achilles. Superman’s home planet is Krypton and he came to Earth before
his home planet, Krypton, destructed. Superman has a vast amount of powers, but
his fatal flaw is Kryptonite. Kryptonite takes away all of Superman’s powers
and if he is exposed to it for too long, it can kill him. Both heroes endure
life changing journeys that give them their heroic qualities.
Joseph Campbell, an American mythologist, believes that for a
character to be considered a hero, they must go through certain stages of “the
hero’s journey” (Campbell). They must be called to adventure, refuse the call, and
have supernatural aide (Campbell). Modern- day authors still use this theory to
base their hero stories off because Campbell’s theory is based off the
successful and well- known Greek mythology epic hero stories. Superman and
Achilles both get a call for an adventure and are both put in a situation where
they can refuse it. Achille’s mother had a vision of him dying in war, and also
Achilles had a feud with Agamemnon about refusing to go into battle. Achilles
obtains supernatural aide from the goddess, Athena. Athena’s help is a turning
point in the war and aides Achilles as he defeats Hector of Troy. When Campbell
was composing his theory, he intended the stage of having supernatural aide for
the Greek heroes, causing it not to imply as much to Superman. Superman’s aide is
not as direct but can be implied as his invincible powers and his knowledge. These
adventures that they go on play a key role in their hero status. Superman
performs heroic actions when stopping Lex Luther and also when protecting
civilians from the earthquakes. These events aid and support Superman’s
deserved title of hero. Like Superman,
Achilles goes through an episode where he fights Hector and defeats him, making
him qualify as a hero.
Both the heroes portray amazing strengths but the modern- day hero
story has an underlying difference when compared to an ancient Greek hero myth.
Superman is self- aware and knows his limits or weaknesses. Achilles did not.
He is brave and bold but his lack in awareness leads him to his death by a
poisonous arrow to his one weak spot, his heel.
Superman is sometimes claimed as the modern- day Achilles. With
many similarities linking the two hero stories together, they also have a
difference. Even though they both go through the stages of a “hero’s journey”, it comes down to which
hero knows themselves better and their own limits.