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In literature and film, an anti-hero is a central or supporting character that has some of the personality flaws and ultimate fortune traditionally assigned to villains but nonetheless also have enough heroic qualities or intentions to gain the sympathy of readers. Anti-heroes can be awkward, obnoxious, passive, pitiful, or obtuse - but they are always, in some fundamental way, flawed or failed heroes.

The concept of the anti-hero has grown from a tendency of modern authors to present villains as complex, even sympathetic, characters whose motivations are not inherently evil and sometimes even good. The line, therefore, between an anti-hero and a villain is sometimes not clear.


One type of anti-hero feels helpless, distrusts conventional values and are often unable to commit to any ideals, but they accept and oftentimes relish their status as outsiders. The cyberpunk genre makes extensive use of this character-type.

Another type of anti-hero is a character who constantly moves from one disappointment in their lives to the next, without end, with only occasional and fleeting successes. But they persist and even attain a form of heroic success by steadfastly never giving-up or changing their goals. These characters often keep a deep-seated optimism that one day, they will succeed. But in the end they still meet the ultimate fate of a traditional villain, failure.

For example, the one true aim of F. Scott Fitzgerald's Jay Gatsby was to gain the love of a woman beyond his social status, Daisy. Gatsby, through what Fitzgerald alludes to be illicit means, amasses a fortune in order to make himself acceptable to then married Daisy. He does, for a time, have an affair with her but in the end his character flaws and illusions that he could turn back time destroy him. But through the whole experience, even after Daisy's husband puts an end to her illicit affair, Gatsby still had hope that he would one day prevail.

See also: List of anti-heroes


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