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In the article mentioned here, "What Makes a Hero?" by Philip Zimbardo, the general question that is being considered is found in the article's question. The general answer is that heroism is difficult to define. It takes place based upon the choices of an individual for the benefit of others over self: but it has many different faces.
Should you watch several different movies (or read books) that present the conflict between good and evil, it is usually easy to find the hero and the villain. M. Night Shyamalan's Unbreakable is all about good versus evil, and David is clearly the hero (the story's primary theme regarding his heroism and strength), while Elijah is the villain. Each movie you watch, or book that you read, can present many different kinds of heroes.
In terms of how the author writes the article, there are several literary devices. Note the metaphor, comparing "two lines of research." The author points out that they are "two sides of the same coin."
Personification is used when the author describes "hostile imagination." The imagination is not a person therefore it cannot be hostile.
Inference is used as Zimbardo tells us what the artist M.C. Escher is trying to convey in a picture that shows demons (from one perspective) or angels (from another perspective) floating across the face of the illustration. The author explains what "Escher" is "telling us:"
...the world is filled with angels and devils, goodness and badness, and these dark and light aspects of human nature are our basic yin and yang. That is, we are all born with the capacity to be anything.
Unless there is an article that states specifically what the artist's purpose or message is, Zimbardo can only draw an inference, judging what he believes the artist is trying to "say."
Zimbardo also uses allusion, a reference to a famous person, place, idea, etc. In the article, he alludes to George Bernard Shaw's play, Major Barbara, quoting:
Every reasonable man and woman is a potential scoundrel and a potential good citizen. What a man is depends upon his character, what's inside. What he does and what we think of what he does depends upon his circumstances.
Zimbardo uses this allusion to highlight his perceptions of heroism and what defines it. He alludes also to the poet John Donne, quoting the portion of his essay, "No man is an island..."
Zimbardo ends with another metaphor:
Each person's pulse is a part of humanity's heartbeat. Heroes circulate the life force of goodness in our veins.
This is, specifically, an extended metaphor (also known as a "conceit"). The initial comparison showing connectivity between the part a person plays (the "pulse") with regard to humanity as a whole (the "heartbeat") is "extended" to show that hero's continued influence referring to his deeds as a "life force" traveling through "our veins" (like blood).
These literary devices are all forms of imagery—figurative language (specifically, "figures of speech"). The comparisons are not to be taken literally: with regard to the "life force," no blood is involved. Referring to "hostile imagination" does not literally speak of a dangerous or threatening thing, but of a concept, and idea. Literary devices are used to make writing more engaging to the reader. Zimbardo uses several devices to better make his point.
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