Hero Creation in The Right Stuff
Alan Gordon '06, English 156 (Victorians and Moderns), Brown University, Spring 2004
In the below passage, Wolfe discusses how the Gent portrays the astronauts as a homogenous collection of modest, small-town, Protestant golden boys. Life Magazine, like Thomas Carlyle, seeks heros to praise. When it finds the astronauts are fallible men, Life omits their lack of military experience, atheism, estranged families, and egoism and bakes them into a big heroic American pie to serve to its readers.
Americans seemed to be deriving profound satisfaction from the fact that the astronauts turned the conventional notions of Glamour upside down. It was assumed--and the Genteel Beast kept underlining the point--that the seven astronauts were the greatest pilots and bravest men in America precisely because of the wholesome circumstances of their backgrounds: small towns, Protestant values, strong families, the simple life. Henry Luce, Life's founder and boss of bosses, had not played a major role, other than parting with the money, in making the astronaut deal, but eventually he came to look upon them as his boys. Luce was a great Presbyterian, and the Mercury astronauts looked like seven incarnations of Presbyterianism. [p. 111]
How do the upbringings, lifestyles and religious beliefs of the heroes in
To what extent do men make themselves into heroes in
John Glenn is the closest to
Who besides the media has a hand in shaping the myth of the astronauts? Is the modern hero-myth merely a pawn to be manipulated by various forces in a cultural and political power struggle? Or does he still, like Carlyle's heroes, influence others with his vision?
Last modified 26 April 2004