A pair of heroes within the scientific discipline is the combined intellectual power of James Watson and Francis Crick. In 1953, these men discovered that deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) is held together by hydrogen bonds between nucleotide bases to form a double helix structure between two complementary strands. Called “one of the most important of biological riddles,” the discovery of the DNA structure was a huge leap in the fields of genetics and biology, especially concerning heredity, developmental biology, and evolution.
But, let’s be honest. Watson and Crick were jerks.
What isn’t often mentioned is that Watson and Crick stole the idea of the double helix from an x-ray crystallographic picture produced by Rosalind Franklin. In fact, Watson and Crick’s first hypothesis was a triple stranded form. Despite the fact that she provided evidence for the double-helix structure, Franklin wasn’t given any credit when the pair won the Nobel Prize in 1962 due to her death a few years earlier.
Put mildly, Watson and Crick borrowed information without asking. In the opinion of some scientists (mostly biologists), they stole information and cheated their way to an honor while lying to keep the fame for themselves.
And these are our scientific heroes.
This brings me to Robby’s statement that we don’t always have to admire our heroes. One of the main reasons that I’ve been struggling in this class is that I don’t always admire the heroes of the stories that we’ve been reading. I’ve been trying to squeeze these characters into spaces of my personal definition where they don’t fit. Confession: I’ve been drawing the heroic arc for every main character to prove to myself that I am indeed reading about heroes. (This is not a slight on your teaching at all, but rather my inability to see heroic characteristics in people).
It came to my attention that I’ve been looking in all the wrong places. Take a mythical hero like Prometheus, for example. Although he was able to bring fire to human kind, he disrespected divine authority by stealing from the gods. As punishment, he was chained down as an eagle ate his ever-regenerating liver (or heart, based on some interpretations). Likewise, I could also consider the Biblical Eve. Eve is never considered a hero, despite having a similar story as Prometheus. Didn’t she also disrespect divine authority by eating the fruit? As punishment, mankind and the physical world was cursed. Upon first glance, I wouldn’t consider Eve a hero.
However, it makes sense. When Eve is first introduced, she is in her ORDINARY WORLD in the Garden of Eden. The CALL TO ADVENTURE is introduced by her admiring the fruit. The SHADOW and SHAPESHIFTER both are personified by the serpent. God acts as the THRESHOLD GUARDIAN since he warns her not to eat the fruit and pass into the SPECIAL WORLD (which is represented as the knowledge of good and evil, as well as the cursed world as a result of her choice). Adam is her ALLY and companion. She PASSES THE FIRST THRESHOLD when she wrestles with her doubts about eating the fruit in her conversation with the serpent. The ORDEAL is experienced when Eve is reprimanded and cursed with the rest of humanity. There is no ROAD BACK, but the RESURRECTION could be suggested through Eve’s seed whose heel will crush the serpent’s head. If anything, this could considered a heroic lineage where Jesus is the RESURRECTION of the promise who RETURNS WITH THE ELIXIR to save humanity from the curse of sin.
All things considered, Paul from Paul’s Case does fit into the hero archetype as tightly as Eve does. He is first introduced within the ORDINARY WORLD, where it is painfully obvious that he doesn’t belong. The CALL TO ADVENTURE is more or less repeated by his ushering at Carnegie Hall since the music is calling to his imagination more than his life at home and school. I think the SHADOW would be the negative energy that Paul receives from observing his father and neighbor’s lives. His MENTOR, actor Charley Edwards, helped him envision his eventual escape to the SPECIAL WORLD, New York City. He steals money to PASS THE FIRST THRESHOLD just to get to the city and set up in a hotel. The freshman from Yale could be both an ALLY in the pursuit of pleasure or a SHAPESHIFTER because the pleasure replaced by a hangover the next morning. Although the ORDEAL is encountered when Paul finds out that his father is coming for him, I don’t think that any REWARD is acquired other than the romantic satisfaction of a dramatic suicide. Although he starts on THE ROAD BACK, he never achieves his heroic RESURRECTION. Likewise, there is no RETURN WITH THE ELIXIR.
Oddly enough, Eve, who originally seems like the antithesis of a hero, is more heroic than Paul. Of course, this is only due to her production of the heroic seed, Jesus. Jesus is the one who completes her heroic character arc. That being said, it seems fair to conclude that heroes don’t often come across as heroic material. More often than not, heroes seem to be defined by the journey they took, fulfilling certain goals along the way and interacting with certain people.
Some heroes are born, some heroes are made, and sometimes, some heroes are just jerks.
The Discovery of the Molecular Structure of DNA – The Double Helix”. Nobelprize.org.Nobel Media AB 2014. Web. 17 Sep 2015.
All words capitalized like THIS were taken from the concept of the “Heroic Quest.”