An antihero or antiheroine is a main character in a story who lacks conventional heroic qualities and attributes such as idealism, courage and morality. Although antiheroes may sometimes perform actions that are morally correct, it is not always for the right reasons, often acting primarily out of self-interest or in ways that defy conventional ethical codes.
Literary Romanticism in the 19th century helped popularize new forms of the antihero, such as the Gothic double. The antihero eventually became an established form of social criticism, a phenomenon often associated with the unnamed protagonist in Fyodor Dostoyevsky's Notes from Underground.:201–207 The antihero emerged as a foil to the traditional hero archetype, a process that Northrop Frye called the fictional "center of gravity". This movement indicated a literary change in heroic ethos from feudal aristocrat to urban democrat, as was the shift from epic to ironic narratives.
The antihero entered American literature in the 1950s and up to the mid-1960s was portrayed as an alienated figure, unable to communicate.:294–295 The American antihero of the 1950s and 1960s (as seen in the works of Jack Kerouac, Norman Mailer, et al.) was typically more proactive than his French counterpart, with characters such as Kerouac's Dean Moriarty famously taking to the road to vanquish his ennui.:18 The British version of the antihero emerged in the works of the "angry young men" of the 1950s. The collective protests of Sixties counterculture saw the solitary antihero gradually eclipsed from fictional prominence,:1 though not without subsequent revivals in literary and cinematic form.:295
^ ab"Antihero". Merriam-Webster Dictionary. 31 August 2012. Retrieved 3 October 2013.
^Laham, Nicholas (2009). Currents of Comedy on the American Screen: How Film and Television Deliver Different Laughs for Changing Times. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Co. p. 51. ISBN9780786442645.
^ abcdSteiner, George (2013). Tolstoy Or Dostoevsky: An Essay in the Old Criticism. New York: Open Road. ISBN9781480411913.
^ abc"antihero". Encyclopædia Britannica. 14 February 2013. Retrieved 9 August 2014.