What is the fate of Tragic Heroes? It is said that ‘they meet an untimely and unexpected end’. They turn into tattered images, wrapped by the dust of past, everlastingly.
In literature, there are number of tragic heroes who met a downfall because of a “tragic flaw” (hamartia) in their character. The Shakespearean tragic heroes from Brutus to Hamlet to Macbeth became the sufferers of their own excesses or self-deception.
They were doomed to fail due to some error of judgment or frailty. The tapestry of time weaved a poignant adversity around them. Fading from an icon to iota, they faced an inexorable decline, though Shakespeare accentuates and maintains their nobility to the end.
Down the first-rate lit to humdrum life, we spot many tragic heroes around. More so in Kashmir, where people trail the path to downfall quite easily. We have a super tragic hero like Sheikh Abdullah who made a ‘history of sorts’ to be narrated to our generations very pathetically.
The book ‘Sheikh Abdullah: The Tragic Hero of Kashmir’ by an old hand journalist Ajit Bhattacharjea seems to be just a small window that provides a peep into Sheikh’s downfall to obscurity. Calling it a “profoundly disturbing book” may not justify the basic tragedy that this oversized tragic hero wrought not only for himself but for the whole Kashmir.
There are tragic heroes who jeopardize not only themselves. They invoke wrath for others as well. Their fall is a colossal one that brings down a lot more along with, shaking the national destinies. The leaders of Kashmir have a record of committing ‘tragic errors’, unintentionally or otherwise, many a times.
Paradoxically, such of our tragic heroes have never realized the impact of their irremediable blunders, which the tragic heroes are eventually known for otherwise. It sounds sadly strange.
So, we have tragic heroes (and accidental heroines!) who are swindled to make tragic mistakes. Incognizant of the machinations of miserable minds surrounding them, they are led into baffling situations, only to end up making grave errors of judgment.
Their stature meets a tragic downer. They lose their individuality and identity, cutting a sorry figure. From dynasty rule to family regimes, they become a butt of ridicule.
In our apolitical environs, there too is a manifestation of tragic heroes. We see men of tall claims and towering profiles, perpetrating the worst kind of culture that involves all types of incivility. In fact, their masked deportment fails to salvage their projected standing.
Of course, we all perform on the stage of life. However, not all of us enact as a tragic hero. It is not even possible. We play different roles. The main character of Tragic Hero is to be played by only a few. And those are the ones who have a potential for greatness, but are equally prone to making great mistakes.
They are the ‘heroes’ of the nation, the society, the institutions, and predisposed to draw a blank. It is not just a fluke that they earn the title of a ‘hero’ and end up as a ‘zero’. It has a genesis of its own. The Law of Nature intervenes to smash the bogus idols of such heroes to smithereens.
The commonplace characters also are not excused of a tragic end. In their own way, they play the roles, which occasionally guide them to disillusion. It is irrational to let them off the hook, for they too are mortals.
Nonetheless, what makes a big difference is the measure and magnitude of tragic end, its upshot on individual as well as collective plank. There is a rigorous but subtle reenactment of tragedy in our daily life.
Tragic heroes, non-heroes, or anti-heroes, whatever, we all ultimately chance on our own tragic end. We falter and fall. We wish and whimper. We presume and perish.
In Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman, the character Willy Loman is a salesman who is struggling to make ends meet and provide for his family. Despite his hard work, he is unable to achieve the success he desires and is plagued by regret and self-doubt. His tragic flaw is his belief in the American Dream and his inability to let go of it, even as his life falls apart.
Holden from The Catcher in the Rye by Salinger is a teenage boy who is struggling with depression and the loss of innocence. His tragic flaw is his inability to connect with others, which ultimately leads to his isolation and despair.
Likewise, there is a patriotic Brutus around; an uncertain Hamlet; a power lusty Macbeth; an obsessive Antony; a conceited Lear; and many others who are becoming the victim of their own flaws. Nobody can be blamed for their fate. It’s but perfunctory for them to hit on closing stages.
Tragic is the end of ‘heroes’. So is the end of rest of the actors. The stage is alive, the drama is on…..
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.
The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK