Why are some stories “great” and other stories “shite”?
The answer is simple to understand, and difficult to use. Great stories pull us in (they make us feel part of the tale) and crappy stories do not.
So, what pulls us in? This has to do with whether the story opens our senses to something we crave. Something that we always want more of. Like heroism. Hero stories are perhaps the oldest story form around. And we can’t get enough of them, even today.
Of course, as Jung and Campbell observed in the last century. heroism takes many shapes.
From Achilles to Hemingway, one shape is the courageous hero, battling against the slings and arrows that the real world tosses our way. Hamlet’s great soliloquy is a reflection on the choice to take that role
The pathos here is that the call to heroism may be a fool’s errand. BTW, in Elizabethan times, it was better understood that the ghost of Hamlet’s father was an agent of the devil. Where does one summon up the courage to act knowing that the action is meaningless or worse?
But fear not! Even here, we can be drawn into the story. For heroism is found as well in the call to duty. Loyalty to a cause, even if the cause is a lost one.
Loyalty, for example, to a king, even if the king is a personal disgrace. Think of Richard Burton playing King Henry II’s chancellor in Becket. Becket finds a higher meaning in serving the Lord, which gives him the strength of ten men. This scene depicts the sort of heroism that we might all aspire to
So, dear reader, where do we find ourselves now? What sort of heroism do we crave in the year of our Lord 2020? Or does this all seem a bit old fashioned. Something that no longer touches us? And if that is so, what does touch us now?