What does this story say about heroes in modern society? 

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think that Allen's overall statement about modern individuals is that there is a tendency to romanticize that which we cannot have.  Kugelmass romanticizes or places Emma on a pedestal.  He seems to worship her for all the wrong reasons.  At the same time, Emma is enamored with Kugelmass because he represents an escape from Charles and her life.  In this, one can see how each character has a tendency to romanticize or make heroes out of frail individuals who cannot meet such large proportions.  There is a natural romanticizing of individuals as featured in the story.  The tendency to glamorize or romanticize another is what compels us to make heroes out of them.  Allen seems to be suggesting that our own weaknesses in our own being, and refusing to acknowledge them or reflect upon them in our own lives, drives us to project onto others the title of "hero."  We create heroes out of our own lacking.  Our need for heroes is more of a reflection of ourselves than anything else.  It is in this where a statement about heroes is present in the work.  For Allen, Kugelmass and Emma are characters who construct heroes because of their own failures in their own being.  Like Emma Bovary herself, our need to create heroes becomes more of a reflection of our own flawed condition than anything else.

Read the study guide:
The Kugelmass Episode

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