Heroes: What They Do and Why We Need Them

Heroes: What They Do and Why We Need Them

Heroes: What They Do and Why We Need Them

Heroes: What They Do and Why We Need Them

Synopsis

Abraham Lincoln, Princess Diana, Rick in Casablanca- - why do we perceive certain people as heroes? What qualities do we see in them? What must they do to win our admiration? In Heroes, Scott T. Allison and George R. Goethals offer a stimulating tour of the psychology of heroism, shedding light on what heroism and villainy mean to most people and why heroes - both real people and fictional characters - are so vital to our lives. The book discusses a broad range of heroes, including Eleanor Roosevelt, Walt Kowalski in Gran Torino, Senator Ted Kennedy, and explorer Ernest Shackleton, plus villains such as Shakespeare's Iago. The authors highlight the Great Eight traits of heroes (smart, strong, selfless, caring, charismatic, resilient, reliable, and inspiring) and outline the mental models that we have of how people become heroes, from the underdog who defies great odds (David vs. Goliath) to the heroes who redeem themselves or who overcome adversity. Brimming with psychological insight, Heroes provides an illuminating look at heroes - and into our own minds as well.

Excerpt

At the end of the movie Casablanca, one of Hollywood’s most memorable love triangles is resolved. The setting is a fog-bound airport in North Africa during World War II. Quick decisions have to be made before Nazi villains arrive to arrest all three characters. The three are the leading man, Rick Blaine (played by the charismatic Humphrey Bogart), the love of his life, Ilsa Lund (portrayed luminously by Ingrid Bergman), and Ilsa’s husband, the suave and heroic Victor Laszlo. We’ve learned that Rick and Ilsa had an affair in Paris at the beginning of the war, and that they had planned to escape together. Unknown to Rick, Ilsa had recently married Victor Laszlo, a courageous resistance leader, but she had been told that he had been killed in a German concentration camp. Just before she and Rick are to leave Paris, Ilsa learns that Laszlo is alive. Waiting in the rain for their departing train, a distraught Rick receives a hurried note: “I cannot go with you or ever see you again. You must not ask why. Just believe that I love you. Go, my darling, and God bless you. Ilsa.” It is one of cinema’s most wrenching moments.

How do these three characters get to the final scene at the airport, fleeing from the Nazis? Early in the film, Rick and Ilsa encounter each other again, by accident. Not knowing that Rick is the owner, Ilsa and Victor walk into his nightclub in Casablanca. Ilsa and Rick tensely greet each other, and Victor soon learns that they had had a relationship while Ilsa believed that Victor was dead. As the plot unfolds, Ilsa decides to stay with Rick in Casablanca while Victor flies to the United States to continue his fight against the Nazis. However, at the critical moment, instead of telling Victor that Ilsa is not going with him, Rick tells Ilsa that she must. There is a lump in our throats as Rick explains: “Ilsa, I’m no good at being noble, but it doesn’t take . . .

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