Best hero: Samson, Israeli Judge and warrior.
Best villain: Delilah, Phillistine spy and Samson's lover.
I've always been fascinated by this Old Testament biblical tragedy of how a man of such strength and determination was so easily taken down by a woman whose destructive designs should have been obvious. Delilah was perhaps the archetypcial 'femme fatale', with her only weapons being her beauty and persistence. I guess the old saying that "love is blind"--in so far as what it sometimes keeps you from really seeing--is what drove Samson to his downfall.
Best hero: Atticus Finch (To Kill a Mockingbird)
Best villain: Kurtz (Heart of Darkness)
Though based on Harper Lee's father, how can Atticus Finch not be at least the template of morality and decency--two generally time-honored attributes of heroism. And this quote best sums up his worldview and why he risks his life and family to seek justice in a mostly racist town: "If you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you'll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it." Priceless.
Kurtz, on the other hand, exemplifies some of the most base, vile aspects of antagonism. The saying "power corrupts; and absolute power corrupts absolutely" applies to Kurtz. Though he starts out in life as a cultured European businessman who is multi-talented; generally revered abroad; and well-financed. He becomes the head ivory trader for a seedy Belgian mercantile company in Africa. When he sends a rather unnerving report, the novel's hero Marlow is sent to check on his state of physical and mental well-being.
Without giving away the novella, suffice it to say that Kurtz strives to be more than human because he seemingly has everything any man could want--money, rank, and access to any material possession he wants. But it isn't enough. In a sense, what Kurtz now seeks the most sets him on a path akin to that of the fallen angel, or demond (perhaps the oldest, most ubiquitous symbol of villainy in the world).
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