Today on Writer’s Glossary…
An anti-hero is not a flawed hero because all heroes are flawed, by definition. An anti-hero
is a protagonist who lacks the attributes that we associate with a traditional hero. Whilst a hero is courageous, beautiful, loyal, strong and driven to uphold justice and protect the innocent, an anti-hero may be ugly, cowardly, selfish, weak and manipulative, but remain the central character in a story.
Walter White from Breaking Bad is a great, modern example of an anti-hero. He sacrifices everything to serve his own ego to be the best meth cook in the business. He lies to his family and kills anyone who stands in his way, showing no loyalty and a lack of empathy. We don’t really want to be Walter because he’s a pretty nasty character, but he’s still hugely popular. But why?
People are drawn to the anti-hero because we can relate to them better than the square-jawed, perfect hero, who always gets the girl and wins the day without a hair out of place. The anti-hero wears her struggles on her sleeve and doesn’t always do the right thing, which gives us a sense of glee in the escapism. She can also be a mirror to society, humanity or modern culture. She’s an outcast on the road to redemption or ruin and that keeps readers hooked.
Examples of anti-heroes: Patrick Bateman (American Psycho by Brett Easton Ellis), Holden Caulfield (Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger), Becky Sharpe (Vanity Fair by William Makepeace Thackeray).