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Question : Write a compare and contrast analysis of how culture shapes the heros in The Heart of a Samurai

16 May 2024,4:51 AM

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Write a compare and contrast analysis of how culture shapes the hero’s in The Heart of a Samurai and Black Ships Before Troy. Use transitions words to clarify relationship of ideas.

 

 

DRAFT/STUDY TIPS:

In comparing and contrasting how culture shapes the heroes in "The Heart of a Samurai" by Margi Preus and "Black Ships Before Troy" by Rosemary Sutcliff, it becomes evident that cultural contexts significantly influence the development, actions, and perceptions of heroes. These two novels, despite being set in different time periods and cultural backgrounds, both explore themes of heroism, honor, and identity. However, the heroes in each story are shaped by distinct cultural values, traditions, and societal expectations. Through an analysis of character development, moral dilemmas, and heroic actions, this essay will delve into how culture molds the heroes in both novels, emphasizing their similarities and differences.

 

 Introduction

 

In both "The Heart of a Samurai" and "Black Ships Before Troy," the portrayal of heroes reflects the cultural contexts in which they exist. While both stories feature protagonists embarking on epic journeys and facing formidable challenges, their identities and actions are profoundly influenced by the cultures they belong to. By examining the cultural backgrounds of Manjiro from "The Heart of a Samurai" and Achilles from "Black Ships Before Troy," we can explore how cultural norms, values, and expectations shape their heroic roles. This essay will compare and contrast the cultural influences on the heroes in these two novels, highlighting the nuances of heroism within different cultural contexts.

 

 Cultural Foundations of Heroism in "The Heart of a Samurai"

 

In "The Heart of a Samurai," the protagonist Manjiro is shaped by the cultural values and traditions of 19th-century Japan. As a fisherman's son from a small island village, Manjiro is instilled with values of honor, loyalty, and humility from a young age. These cultural foundations influence his perception of heroism, which is closely tied to notions of duty and sacrifice. Manjiro's journey from a humble fisherman to a samurai-in-training is a testament to his adherence to these cultural values. For example, when Manjiro is faced with the decision to save his crewmates from a shipwreck, he risks his own life to ensure their survival, demonstrating the importance of selflessness and courage in Japanese culture.

 

Furthermore, Manjiro's interactions with American culture during his time in the United States reveal the clash between his Japanese upbringing and Western ideals of individualism and independence. Despite being exposed to new customs and technologies, Manjiro remains rooted in his cultural identity, emphasizing the importance of preserving one's heritage in the face of external influences. This cultural resilience shapes Manjiro's understanding of heroism, which is deeply intertwined with his sense of belonging to the Japanese community.

 

Cultural Influences on Heroism in "Black Ships Before Troy"

 

In contrast to "The Heart of a Samurai," "Black Ships Before Troy" is set in ancient Greece during the Trojan War, where heroism is defined by concepts of glory, prowess in battle, and divine favor. The protagonist Achilles embodies these cultural ideals, being the greatest warrior among the Greeks and a central figure in the epic poem "The Iliad." Achilles' heroism is characterized by his exceptional skill in combat, his unwavering determination to achieve kleos (glory), and his complex relationship with the gods.

 

The cultural context of ancient Greece places a strong emphasis on honor and reputation, driving Achilles to seek immortality through heroic deeds on the battlefield. However, Achilles' tragic flaw, his excessive pride (hubris), ultimately leads to his downfall, highlighting the moral complexities of heroism within Greek culture. Unlike Manjiro, whose heroism is defined by selflessness and humility, Achilles' heroism is fueled by his desire for personal glory and recognition, reflecting the cultural values of ancient Greece.

 

Heroic Actions and Moral Dilemmas in "The Heart of a Samurai"

 

Throughout "The Heart of a Samurai," Manjiro is faced with numerous moral dilemmas that test his commitment to his cultural values. One such dilemma arises when Manjiro must decide whether to betray his Japanese identity and serve as a translator for the American expedition to Japan. Despite the potential benefits of embracing Western customs and technology, Manjiro ultimately chooses to remain loyal to his homeland, prioritizing his duty to his people over personal gain.

 

Additionally, Manjiro's encounters with discrimination and prejudice in the United States further underscore the challenges of navigating cultural differences while staying true to one's principles. Despite facing adversity, Manjiro's resilience and integrity ultimately contribute to his heroic journey, demonstrating the transformative power of cultural identity in shaping one's actions and beliefs.

 

Ethical Complexity and Divine Intervention in "Black Ships Before Troy"

 

In "Black Ships Before Troy," Achilles' heroism is marked by ethical complexity and divine intervention, reflecting the cultural beliefs of ancient Greece. Achilles' conflict with Agamemnon, the leader of the Greek forces, highlights the tension between individual honor and communal duty. When Agamemnon dishonors Achilles by taking his prized concubine, Briseis, Achilles is faced with a moral dilemma: whether to prioritize his personal vendetta or the collective interests of the Greek army.

 

Furthermore, Achilles' interactions with the gods, particularly his mother Thetis and the god Apollo, emphasize the role of divine intervention in shaping his heroic fate. Despite his extraordinary abilities as a warrior, Achilles is ultimately subject to the whims of the gods, underscoring the limits of mortal agency in the face of divine decree. This portrayal of heroism as both glorious and tragic reflects the cultural worldview of ancient Greece, where mortals are beholden to the will of the gods.

 

Conclusion

 

In conclusion, "The Heart of a Samurai" and "Black Ships Before Troy" offer compelling insights into how culture shapes the heroes within their respective narratives. While both Manjiro and Achilles exhibit qualities of courage, resilience, and determination, their heroic journeys are profoundly influenced by the cultural contexts in which they exist. Manjiro's heroism is defined by his adherence to Japanese values of honor, loyalty, and humility, while Achilles' heroism is shaped by the Greek ideals of glory, prowess, and divine favor. By comparing and contrasting these two protagonists, we gain a deeper understanding of the diverse manifestations of heroism across different cultures and time periods. Ultimately, the cultural influences on heroes highlight the dynamic interplay between individual agency and societal norms in shaping heroic identity and action.


 

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