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An antihero is a main character in a story who does not act like a traditional hero. The antihero does not show idealism, courage, and morality.

The antihero became prominent in early 20th century existentialist works such as Franz Kafka's The Metamorphosis (1915),[1] Jean-Paul Sartre's La Nausée (1938),[2] and Albert Camus' L'Étranger (1942) (French for The Stranger).[3] The protagonist in these works is an indecisive central character who drifts through his life and is marked by ennui, angst, and alienation.[4]

Examples of antiheroes from modern pop culture are Marvel Comics The Punisher & Deadpool, Sega's "Shadow The Hedgehog", DC's Batman, Catwoman of Batman, Sweeney Todd, Light Yagami from the Death Note manga / anime series, Billy the Kid, Robin Hood, Kratos from the God of War video-game franchise.

From English literature the classic example is Prince Hamlet from Hamlet by William Shakespeare, and from children's literature Discord from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic.

Most of the time it means a character in fiction, television, or movies. Sometimes it is used to mean a real person. Sometimes the antihero is linked to the author's social critique or message to the reader: for example, the unnamed protagonist in Fyodor Dostoyevsky's Notes from Underground.[5]

The whole concept was the subject of a book by Colin Wilson called The Outsider.[6] There the author imagines he is in the position of many of his favourite characters in fiction, such as Dostoevsky's Raskolnikov.

References[change | change source]

  1. Barnhart, Joe E. (2005). Dostoevsky's Polyphonic Talent. Lanham: University Press of America. p. 151. ISBN 9780761830979.
  2. Asong, Linus T. (2012). Psychological constructs and the craft of African fiction of yesteryears: six studies. Mankon: Langaa Research & Publishing CIG. p. 76. ISBN 9789956727667.
  3. Gargett, Graham (2004). Heroism and Passion in Literature: Studies in Honour of Moya Longstaffe. Amsterdam: Rodopi. p. 198. ISBN 9789042016927.
  4. Brereton, Geoffery (1968). A Short History of French Literature. Penguin Books. pp. 254–255.
  5. Steiner, George 2013. Tolstoy or Dostoevsky: an essay in the old criticism, p201–207. New York: Open Road. ISBN 9781480411913
  6. Wilson, Colin 1956. The Outsider. London: Gollancz.

Related pages[change | change source]