Monday, April 29, 2013

Heroes and Symbols of Greatness

What struck me most about this text so far is the romantic descriptions of the men on Shackleton's voyage. Lansing emphasizes their charm and masculine demeanor at multiple points in the book. "Temperamentally, Shackleton and Worsley had some of the same characteristics. Both were energetic, imaginative, romantic men who thirsted for adventure" (Lansing 21). Lansing really builds these characters up as idealized heroes, not quite gods, but more than men. These men, especially Shackleton, are the only men capable of surviving this journey. Lansing goes as far as to compare Shackleton to a Napoleonic figure. He lists off men who have been heralded as great leaders of entire societies; Shackleton is obviously a far cry from this group. "But the great leaders of historical record--the Napoleons, the Nelsons, the Alexanders--have rarely fitted any conventional mold, and it is perhaps an injustice to evaluate them in ordinary terms" (Lansing 13). This idealized description of Shackleton, the leader and hero, provides an inspiring force for both his men and the readers of this book to look to. It may be corny, but this description makes the reader want to believe in Shackleton. I read this more of a children's adventure than most other texts so far in this course. Children would be swayed by such a grandiose description of Shackleton. They would be immediately won over and would want to see him succeed.

The depiction of Shackleton made it easier to root for him rather than Albanov. Shackleton shows compassion where Albanov always seemed to be lacking that. Shackleton has his hand in every little task because he wants to make sure that the person can do it. His concern for the group's overall health seems sincere and more fatherly. These fatherly characteristics add to his hero and leader image. "Shackleton suddenly remembered Blackboro's feet. In the excitement of the landing he had forgotten, and he felt ashamed. How and Bakewell jumped overboard and pulled Blackboro farther up the beach" (Lansing 174). Here Shackleton makes a mistake and feels remorse for it. He also shows genuine concern for the young man in a fatherly way. These instances of concern and his long conversations over the viability of rescue allow Shackleton to shine as an admirable character.

Aside from the positive, heroic qualities Shackleton possesses, I found the rest of his life intriguing. As a constant adventurer, he felt a sense of restlessness. He constantly had to be on the move and he was unsatisfied by a normal life. Sometimes heroes have a fatal flaw, like we talked about in class. A common trope for this flaw may be recklessness combined with restlessness. Adventure heroes desire to push themselves until they can push no more. Shackleton did something similar, dying on an expedition. Shackleton's Achilles heel may be his unwillingness to step down from a challenge.

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