Who is the real hero of "The Lagoon" by Joseph Conrad?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As with much by Conrad, the answer is complex.  I think that a good case could be made for Arsat's brother as being the hero for the short story.  Arsat's characterization is complex enough that he can be seen as both hero and antihero.  He certainly does not see himself as a hero by the end of the story, rather being filled with an immense longing and sense of guilt for both the choices made and those not made.  At the same time, Diamelen could not really be seen as a heroine, for she is one that finds herself victim to circumstance and the actions of others.  Arsat's brother is the most heroic, primarily because he is the individual about whom there is the least amount of question.  He is loyal to his brother. He counsels Arsat to have patience in terms of his love with Diamelen, seeking to pivot him away from conflict.  Yet, when it is evident that conflict is inevitable, he does his duty as a brother, helping out Arsat in his time of need.  He decides to sacrifice himself so that Diamelen and Arsat can escape, and does not flinch at the brutal death he must have experienced.  His characterization is the only one where there is nobility and a sense of maintaining the social order, even surrendering his life for it.  I would consider him to be the real hero of Conrad's short story.