Thursday, June 21, 2012


The reluctant hero is typically portrayed as an ordinary person thrust into extraordinary circumstances which require him to rise to heroism.  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 for the noon train.

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 cannot stay away, and in the end, she 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. Case in point--our own soldiers

In Texas Blue, Buck Cameron is a reluctant hero. He doesn't like his mission to find a young woman who has been described to him as "wanton" and "worthless." He's been paid to find her, though, but the main reason he must carry follow through is because he will go to jail if he doesn't. Since he has plenty of money, he cares nothing for that, but he does not want to go to jail for something he didn't do. In the end, Buck is transformed from the town's fair-haired boy to a hero worthy of the title.

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.

Texas Promise and Texas True will soon be back on the market with a new publisher, new covers, and now available in both eBook and print.

Thank you!

Celia Yeary-Romance...and a little bit 'o Texas
My Facebook Page 


  1. Celia, I think the most important trait a hero should have is one a reader can relate to. Nice Post!

  2. Excellent post, Celia. I totally agree about what makes a true hero. I think their reluectance is what makes them a real true hero. Those who parade their bravery are just looking for admiration in my opinion. I'll take the strong silent ones any day!

  3. Texas Blue is a favorite of mine. And you just ruined what I thought was my "original twist" to a plot line by reminding me of High Noon. Oops. Not my original idea after all. ☺

  4. I think a distinction needs to be made between a lead male character and a true "hero". We tend to use the terms interchangeably when they're not.

    Clint Eastwood has often portrayed great Western lead characters, but how many of the roles would be considered hero roles?

    Gary Cooper often played hero roles as a lead male character (probably due to the era the films were made). In "High Noon" he played a man with a set of core beliefs which he was willing to set aside for his and another's happiness, only to realise that his core beliefs were what made him the man he was, the man his new wife admired.

    It was Amy's realisation of the same that made her choose between her strict upbringing and what she, as a core belief,knew was right.

    And I loved the moment Will Kane told the townspeople to "shove it".

    Totally off topic, isn't it great to see a male lead looking both dressed and scrawny. Yeah.

    Great post, Celia.

  5. Celia,

    I love the natural story arc that occurs with a reluctant hero. That character must rise above what they want to do and do something else to keep dire consequences from happening.

    And I think that the most appealing part about a reluctant hero (or heroine!) is that he or she is an everyman, just like us, and it gives us wings to think that we could act just as heroic.

    I'm so thrilled about your Texas books and I can hardly wait to see the new covers.

  6. Thanks, Neecy--Yes, relating to the hero is all important in a movie or a story. Sometimes authors get off the track and give us a hero we just can't relate to.
    It's a good lesson.

  7. Ah, yes, the strong silent type is always the most appealing, isn't he? I know what you're talking about when referring to some who parade around, strutting and acting like a bigshot, when he's actually no real hero at all.
    Thanks, Linda.

  8. Caroline--what a nice compliment! Thank you!

  9. Good point, Linda. And oh, my yes, we love the male lead clean and scrawny--or I'd say "lean." Very appealing, indeed. Thanks so much for you insight!

  10. Maggie--You have said it so eloquently. I'd never have thought of the Everyman angle, but you're right about that.
    I can't wait to see the new covers, either. But I need to decide what I want on them to go much further.
    Thanks so much.

  11. I agree with your post Celia. Reluctant heroes are people the reader can connect with and hope that perhaps if they were faced with a similar situation they'd do something similar too.

  12. Hi, Sherry--I haven't seen you in a while! How are you??
    Yes, I agree-that's why we like heroes who don't brag and act with bravado--we want them to be like us...
    Nice to see you.

  13. Great post, Celia. I am just portraying a reluctant hero in my current manuscript. I guess any one who has to defend a loved one becomes a hero.

  14. Mona--I hadn't thought of that, but yes, it's true. Don't we call our dear husbands our heroes? And he's really never done anything outstanding like shoot a gun or anything. But I feel so safe and secure with him, knowing if he had to...he'd risk life and limb for me. I know he would, without a doubt.

  15. Thinking on this, I believe most every hero I've ever created has been reluctant. LOL Some more than others, of course, but none of them ever see themselves as a "hero"--they are just doing what they have to do to satisfy their moral compass. My "hero", Jacobi Kane in my Kane series, really wants nothing more than to just be left alone. But Will Green, with his 10-year-old enthusiasm and wit, won't allow that. And Jacobi IS Will's hero, after he rescues Will from an Apache camp singlehandedly. This is a very thought-provoking post, Celia. I love this!Can't wait to see your new covers--I bet they are going to be gorgeous.

  16. My grandmother said: A brave man isn't one that's unafraid. He's a man that overcomes his fear to do what's right.
    My grandfather said: A real man never starts fights, he ends them.
    They were my heroes.

  17. Cheryl--yes, your heroes are reluctant. A little different from mine, but have the same wish to be left alone to do their own thing. I suppose, in reality almost all heroes never looked for any such thing. However, we do see people on the news every day who go out to "catch" the bad guy to be the hero, and end up killing someone they shouldn't.
    We never want to see anyone like that in our books.
    Thank you, Cheryl, for adding to the conversation--you always so much wise words to say.

  18. Sandra--I love your grandparents and their beliefs. How perfectly wonderful and true. I especially like how your grandmother thought. Now, that's the kind of hero we love.

  19. There are three movies that share a position as my favorites -and the movies that have profoundly affected my life. They are HIGH NOON, CASABLANCA, and IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE (The GODFATHER saga ranks pretty high on my favorites, but purely for its artistic merit as a great tragedy, not as an inspiration.)

    Those three movies, of course, all have a reluctant hero. Will Kane, Rick Blain, and George Bailey- each of them are essentially decent men who ultimately do what's right -even though it is very hard, and may in fact cost them everything- and, in Will Kane's case, even though no one seems to support him. My lesson from these stories, seen as a child, were: Do What's Right, No Matter What. I could also add in Atticus Finch from TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. I think those are the best sort of heroes; not the superheroic action figure brimming with confidence. That's also why I like PREDATOR II better than PREDATOR; you can't really believe Arnold Schwarzenegger will fail, but you can't really believe Danny Glover can even survive, let alone win out... and as a result you feel a lot more for his character, and cheer a lot harder when he does the impossible by sheer will. Much as I like John Wayne, this is also why I like Gary Cooper and Jimmy Stewart westerns better.

  20. Troy: except for John Wayne in "The Searchers". I can watch that again and again (and I do). It was a fantastically nuanced performance of a man whose love of his life had been murdered (his brother's wife)and there was no one he could share his pain with. Even at the end of the film, when he's come round from would-be revengeful murderer, he's still alone and beyond a closed door, bearing his secret alone.

  21. Wonderful blog, Celia. The reluctant hero theme speaks to us because it's a hero who doesn't seek fame, fortune or gratitude--they just do what's right. I like how you added our US military and, I might add, the US Coastguard, police, firemen and emergency medical personnel.

  22. Gives us a lot to think about, Celia. I think these kinds of heros come out braver than someone with the bravado personality, because of the depth of their convictions.

  23. Troy--I agree that Kane and Blaine fit the description of a Reluctant hero. George Bailey?I would not have placed him there, but I see your point.
    Atticus Finch, yes, of course.
    We do agree on one thing--John Wayne doesn't fit, and I've been chastised more than once for saying his characters were one-dimensional--designed to portray him--not the character.He was good, though, in The Searchers.
    Thanks for your comment...

  24. Sarah--yes, I agree about our military. I added that, even though I'm really talking about fictional heroes. But I couldn't leave them out. God bless them.

  25. Ilona--depth of conviction is by far the more noble cause than the crash and burn kind of hero--the super action heroes just leave me cold. But I'm not of this generation!
    Your comment is very thoughful...thanks!

  26. Hi Celia, I like reluctant heroes far more than those intent on being a hero. ;-) Yes, most of the old stories neglect to give credit to the women. Many still do, actually - they're the ones screaming their heads off in need of rescue. Either that or super tough and hard. There is an in-between, after all, which most of us are.

  27. Loraine--yes, so true. I've read many true stories of our Texas pioneers settling the land and fighting Indians. Since all these stories were put together as rememberances by those early women, we get her perspective on taming Texas. Believe me, these women performed many of the same herois tasks as the men, but they had babies and children tagging along, as well.
    Very brave women.

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