Discuss the concept of hero in the play Billy Bishop goes to War by John Gray.

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durbanville eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Billy Bishop is a most unlikely hero in Billy Bishop Goes to War. Billy himself explains how the military must be "scraping the bottom of the barrel" in allowing him to enlist as he has the record of being the worst student "in history" at the Royal Military College from where he was likely to have been dismissed had it not been for the outbreak of war. Billy is quite a reluctant recruit.

After he realises that he could even die in the trenches, in the mud, Billy dreams of becoming a pilot after having witnessed a fighter plane and what appears to be some "good , CLEAN fun." It is not from any serious desire to serve his country or England. Billy's greatest thrill is "tumbling him....I win! I win!"

It is only by luck that Billy becomes any kind of hero as his initial efforts are anything but impressive and he crashes his plane. However, he is a crack shot with "tremendous" eyes and soon manages to accumulate many "kills" earning himself a reputation and a string of medals. The military realise his value as he becomes a symbol and improves morale. It is not, as it would usually be with a hero , a measure of respect!  

Billy Bishop is a hero based on results. It is his barefaced enthusiasm once in the air where it is "glorious" that makes him feel invincible and his foolhardy approach is what makes him a hero. There is no plan of attack. There is no strategy session. After initially showing no particular pressing interest in accompanying the great Albert Ball on a life-threatening mission, Billy decides to do it anyway, after Ball's death. For this he receives the VC and remains in the hearts of Canadians thereafter.