I'm in the habit of jokingly giving assignments to my beta readers. See Gita's book report for an example. Well, Theo has furnished me with an excellent essay on my hero, Jesse Dawson, and with his permission, I am posting it here. Everyone have a good weekend!
“A hero is no braver than an ordinary man, but he is braver five minutes longer” -Ralph Waldo Emerson
Dawson: The Five Minute Man
For Dawson, he lives in those five minutes all the time. He is that guy that each of us finds ourselves being at some given point in our life when we are called upon to don the mantle of a hero even for the briefest of moments. Dawson is both an example of an extraordinary person and an ordinary person, not because he's the typical poet-warrior that classical literature explores, but because he dwells within that five minutes of super-normality that everyone experiences at some point. He just does it better than most.
The archetype is familiar to us, not just because of its relationship to our own moments of heroism but also because its closeness to the modern interpretation of the hero. We know this five-minute man. We've seen him thrive in characters like Han Solo, the space-opera anti-hero who through a brief encounter with someone of more innate goodness than themselves forces them into the five minutes which they will spend the rest of their lives in. We know him in the western hero Shane, who despite being a gunslinger, finds himself attracted to the notions of a normal happy life even if such a thing is denied to him by virtue of...that's right....his five minutes that he lives in. Dawson is aware he lives in those five minutes. We know he does when he asks himself “Am I the only person who gets paranoid when life is going too good?”
So where is the religion? The higher calling? The fate and destiny and supernatural aspects of being heroic that we often crave in our heroes? It's there like it is in each of us but it's grounded in the practical good. Does a man become a samurai because he can memorize the code of Bushido or does he become a samurai because he addresses a commonality of goodness that can exist in your everyday person? Dawson seems to do a pretty good job answering that question. The markers of higher ideals are all around him, the trappings of Bushido and the placement of a Buddha in his garden. However, he is no Buddhist and he's not exactly a samurai either and yet we find him bowing because of “Courtesy, you know.” Dawson bypasses the pomp and circumstances of honorific titles or codes but bypassing such, he comes to the heart of it. In this we celebrate with him the irony of a noble existence; sometimes if we are simply true to ourselves and believe in doing the right thing our of common decency, we become much more sublime in our inherent goodness and the codes to which we adhere ourselves exist independently in themselves, free of any forced regulation or sublimation. By no means do they lose their meaning for us or for Dawson but he doesn't need to force them upon himself. He embodies them without knowing it.
But that's getting complicated. And Dawson is uniquely noble in his simplicity. It's also what makes him loveable. And we love to love the sardonic everyday hero. We love to love ourselves after all while we pray for that five minutes when we get to put our base character to the test.
In Live Free of Die Hard, the latest installment of the adventures of another five-minute man John McClane, he asks the question any sane person would “Why does this always happen to me?”. The answer is as practical as the question “Because you're that guy”. Even the choice of words underscores the inherent normality of the everyman hero we find in Dawson. Dawson is also that guy.
We wonder when Dawson had those five minutes and we wonder why he stayed. But we only wonder for a moment because we're drawn into the time and space he lives in because it is so very familiar to us, not just because it is a popularized archetype but because we wonder if our own five minutes are coming and if and when they do, if we would find a hauberk dreadfully uncomfortable or not.