Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Reluctant Hero and Heroines

By Celia Yeary

The reluctant hero is typically portrayed either as an ordinary person thrust into extraordinary circumstances which require him to rise to heroism, or as a person with extraordinary abilities who nonetheless evinces a desire to avoid using those abilities for the benefit of others.
In either case, the reluctant hero does not initially seek adventure or the opportunity to do good.

In many stories, the reluctant hero is portrayed as having a period of doubt after his initial foray into heroism. This may be brought about by the negative consequences of his own heroic actions, or by the achievement of some position of personal safety - leaving the audience to wonder whether he will return to heroism at the moment when he is needed the most.

The movie High Noon is one of the best examples of a reluctant hero.  Will Kane (Gary Cooper) the longtime marshal of Hadleyville, New Mexico Territory, has just married pacifist Quaker Amy (Grace Kelly) and turned in his badge. He intends to become a storekeeper elsewhere. Suddenly, the town learns that Frank Miller—a criminal Kane brought to justice—is due to arrive on the noon train.

Miller had been sentenced to hang but was pardoned on a technicality. In court, he had vowed to get revenge on Kane and anyone else who got in the way. Miller's three gang members wait for him at the station.

Kane and his wife leave town, but fearing that the gang will hunt him down and be a danger to the townspeople, Kane turns back. He reclaims his badge and scours the town for help, even interrupting Sunday church services, with little success. During this time, Amy begs Kane to leave with her, but Kane has strong beliefs that he must defend the town...even alone.
Yes, he is a Reluctant Hero, but he stands his ground, finishes the job, turns in his badge again, and leaves with Amy.

But what about Amy? She does not leave as she threatened, and in the end grabs a gun to shoot a gang member who was in the process of trying to shoot Kane. The gang member grabs her as a hostage, but she fights him off, giving her husband a clear shot.
Once the gang members are dead, the town residents emerge to cheer for him. But Kane will have none of it. He throws his badge in the dirt with contempt, and rides out of town with his wife.

I see both Kane and Amy as reluctant heroes. Not one review site or blurb gives credit to Amy for being a strong heroine. It's all about Kane.

Amy foregoes her religious beliefs for a few moments, in order to save the life of the man she loves. Did she do that easily? Or quite reluctantly? I believe she had to grit her teeth and blank out her Quaker teachings in order to perform her deed. Absolutely, yes, she is reluctant. Just as reluctant as Kane, or more so.

I like reluctant heroes. In fact, I'd say more men...and women...are reluctant to act heroic than set out to be the hero.
In Texas Promise, Dalton King has not a heroic bone in his body. He can carry out difficult jobs as a Texas Ranger, but when it comes to protecting his wife from harm, he has to overcome his suspicions of her that she's deceived him. He is reluctant all the way, but in the end, does the right thing.

In Texas True, Sam Deleon has no intention of acting as a real husband to True Cameron. He  has other plans and believes he can accomplish his goals without falling in love with her. In fact, he doesn't even know what love is. But she teaches him, and in doing so, he opens his heart and his eyes and understands what he must do to makes things right.  To do that, he must act heroically, something he had no intention of doing.

In my newest release, Texas Dreamer, Lee King does not use his fists nor his gun to act the hero. His type of heroism is more subdued, but highly effective. He stands loyally beside his friend who is accused of trying to kill Lee; he uses the law to make a situation right; and he silently waits for Emilie to come to the correct conclusion concerning lies told about him. He never sees himself as a hero.
I should have titled this novel "The Quiet Man."

Texas Promise, Texas True, and Texas Dreamer can be found under  "Celia Yeary" on Amazon, Barnes and Nobel, Sony, iTunes, and Smashwords.
Thank you!
Celia Yeary-Romance...and a little bit 'o Texas


  1. Celia, I love the reluctant hero. I have written several of them, as have you. Enjoyed your post. High Noon was a great movie, wasn't it? Speaking of reluctant heroes, "The Quiet Man" was a reluctant hero who wanted only peace and quiet, but had to fight to defend his wife's dignity.

  2. It's more fun with a reluctant hero. The heroism means more then.

  3. There is an aura around powerful people, even if they aren't using their skills or instincts at the time. That mystique is there because it is an essential element of their personality.

    To me as a romance reader, the reluctant hero is someone who doesn't throw his weight around to get his way. Instead he only reacts when danger knocks on his door in the form of a threat to life and limb. Even if he's lost his way, we know that in a bad situation, his true character will shine.

    I love your topic. It's a perfect prompt for the scene I'm writing today. Thanks for the jog!

  4. I agree, Celia. Reluctant heroes are the best kind, just as reluctant leaders are the most effective. Nice post. :-)

  5. Caroline--High Noon is just about the top of my all-time favorite movies. I get chills if I hear that song.
    I remember the movie The Quiet Man--when I wrote that title, I saw John Wayne--who I believe was in the movie with Maureen O'Hara?
    Thanks for your note.

  6. You're so right, Morgan. I don't care for a man who rushes into a situation without learning if there really is a "situation."

  7. Well said, and very nicely thought out. The best kind is as you mentioned..a man who has lost his way and seem somewhat useless, but rises to the occasion if necessary.
    I'm thinking of John Wayne in the Seekers--he fights it all the way, but in the end he knows he must rescue the lost sister and overlook her dress and new life. And then he rides away without waiting for praise.

  8. LK--I hadn't thought of a reluctant hero being the most effective.
    Good thought. Thank you.

  9. I think true heroes must be somewhat reluctant. If not, they come across as show-offs who throw their weight around, as someone else said.

    Great topic, Celia! The Quiet Man is one of my all time favorite movies. The scene at the end where Wayne's character finally fights back, dragging Maurine O'Hara's character back home, while fighting off her brother, is unforgettable.

  10. LYN--we think alike, dear heart! I don't like any kind of show-off, especially a man. That's why I love my husband..he is so low-key and quiet. Doesn't talk much, just waits.
    I need to see that old movie, The Quiet Man. I used it in the blog, picturing both John Wayne and Maureen O-Hara, but could not recall the story.
    Thanks for coming by.

  11. Celia, as always, a thoughtful, interesting blog! A reluctant hero...hmm. Have I EVER written one of those? LOLLOL

    Most of my heroes I write always know the score and what is waiting--and while they don't rush out and engage it, they deal with it when it happens, just as they know it's going to.

    Heroines...I don't think I've ever written one who begged her guy to run. Rather, she stands with him and does what she can to try to head off the situation or bring it to a quick end.

    My mom used to sing Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darling around the house--she loved that movie, High Noon. BTW, that theme song was written by Dmitri Tiomkin, who also wrote The Green Leaves of Summer from The Alamo (John Wayne's production of it).

    Great post, Celia, and I always enjoy your heroes and heroines so much!

  12. Cheryl--I remember that Do Not Forsake me, Oh, My Darling was written by Dmitri Tiomkin--he did a lot of very good pieces during those years. I absolutely adore that song.
    A good story is one which you describe, that the hero is reluctant, and the heroine is there by his side...or somewhere...standing by her man...uh-oh, sounds like another song.
    I know what you mean. And I love stories like this where the hero AND heroine are engaged in a battle together..that is the best.

  13. Excellent post. Brings back memories and now I have to watch the movie again as it's been a while. I think with a reluctant hero it gives him/her a lot of room to grow within a story.

  14. Ciara--Most movies involve more subplots, but High Noon was about that one event--the shootout--and the clever part was how the story revealed the citizens' true natures--all cowards who were willing to let one man put his life on the line to save them. I always wondered about the people in that town--would we like to know any of them?
    Thanks for your comment.

  15. I think this is one of Grace Kelly's best films. She was so elegant.

  16. Tessa--Grace Kelly and Gary Cooper--the perfect pair, weren't they? I had watched this movie a few times when younger, but watched it not too long ago and fell in love with it again. I adore the music. Thanks for you comment.


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