Heroes

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A galaxy of legendary figures from the annals of Western history

In this enlightening and entertaining work, Paul Johnson, the bestselling author of Intellectuals and Creators, approaches the subject of heroism with stirring examples of men and women from every age, walk of life, and corner of the planet who have inspired and transformed not only their own cultures but the entire world as well.

Heroes includes:

Samson, Judith, and Deborah • Henry V and Joan of Arc • Elizabeth I and Walter Raleigh • George Washington, the Duke of Wellington, and Lord Nelson • Emily Dickinson • Abraham Lincoln and Robert E. Lee • Mae West and Marilyn Monroe • Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, and Pope John Paul II

Curriculet Details
77 Questions
78 Annotations
3 Quizzes

This digital curriculum for high school students contains interactive videos exploring heroic characteristics, as well as annotations comparing art and literature, as well as giving context. Students will explore the themes of contradiction and the complexity of heroism. The Common Core aligned questions, answers and quizzes in this online unit will increase student engagement in the book while supporting reading comprehension.

The curriculet is being added to your library

Introduction

Did you know that you can look up any word in the text of the book or the text of the questions and answers? Just click (or press on mobile devices) the word you want to define and hold until the blue text selector pops up. When you release, a define option will appear. Since it's so easy to look up words, make sure you use this feature frequently.  
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Do you think one form of commemoration is more valuable than another? 
Rupert Brooke's war poetry was highly esteemed for its patriotism. As people grew weary of the war and its purpose, people began to view Brooke's poetry as naive or as mere propaganda.  (This annotation contains a video)

Chapter 1

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All of the following is true of the Hebrew people at the beginning of recorded history, EXCEPT 
Below is a map of the Middle East in the early Iron Age  (This annotation contains an image)
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What does the author mean when he describes their resources as being 'metaphysical'? 
There is a long history of women dressing up as men in order to fight as soldiers. What do you think motivated them to do so? Do you consider these women to be 'heroes'? (This annotation contains an image)
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What literary device is used in this stanza? 
Apocryphal books in the Bible are not part of the canon. These books are either excluded completely, or are included in a separate section in some publications. You can investigate some of these apocryphal books here.  (This annotation contains a link)
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What heroic qualities does Judith possess? Are these qualities still considered heroic today? 
Below is Caravaggio's painting entitled Judith Beheading Holofernes. (This annotation contains an image)
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What does the author find astonishing about biblical heroes? 
A hero figure in literature, tragic or not, is a kind of archetype. Would you say that the heroes included so far are developed characters? (This annotation contains a video)
Here, you can see Salomon's famous painting.  (This annotation contains an image)
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David is considered to be a great leader for all of the following reasons EXCEPT 

Chapter 2

This author uses the abbreviations BC (Before Christ) and AD (Anno Domini, 'in the year of our Lord) when referring to dates. You should note that a lot of scholars now prefer to use the terms BCE (Before Common Era) and CE (Common Era) instead. Why do you think this is? 
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How would you describe the author's tone here?  Is he truly amazed at the lack of first hand information, or is he suspicious? 
The most significant library in antiquity was created by Alexander's successor, Ptolemy, in Alexandria, Egypt. It is still a functioning library today! (This annotation contains a link)
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What was the most significant factor in Alexander's success? 
Here is the span of Alexander's empire. Why was it a smart tactic to willingly dress, eat, and speak like the different cultures he conquered? (This annotation contains an image)
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What's the difference between a good leader and a dictator?  How does Alexander walk the line between the two? 
So, this begs the question -- was Alexander the Great really 'great'? Where did that appellation come from? 
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What did Caesar and Alexander have in common? 
"New Men" were those men who were the first in their family to serve in the senate. This could be the first step in elevating one's family in the class system. 
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This highlighted phrase, which has come to mean passing a point of no return, is an example of a(n) 
Antony and Cleopatra were perhaps most famously portrayed by Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor in the 1963 movie 'Cleopatra.' (This annotation contains an image)

Chapter 3

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What is the purpose of the author's comparison of Boudica and Margaret Thatcher? What does this imply about these two women and how they were perceived? 
There is a story that some spectators brought picnic lunches to watch the first battle of Bull Run in July 1861. Read the following article to learn more about why people were drawn to observe this battle. Can you imagine people doing something similar today?  (This annotation contains a link)
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What ultimately quashed the Briton rebellion? 
In the image below, you can see a photograph of Thornycroft's statue of Boudica. (This annotation contains an image)

Chapter 4

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What is the main difference between Christian art of the Middle Ages and the Renaissance? 
Henry V has a reputation of being one of the most popular monarchs in British history. According to a newspaper poll, he was ranked 5th (behind Henry VIII!). Who do you think should be number 1? (This annotation contains a link)
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Based on Henry's credits as a young prince and king, what is the difference between what was expected of leaders in the Middle Ages and what is expected of leaders today? 
Why do you think Shakespeare chose to depict the young Henry as a carouser and an irresponsible teenager? 
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What might be another reason for Henry's risky undertaking? 
Due in no small part to Shakespeare's play, Henry V is best remembered for his success at the battle of Agincourt. Watch this movie parody of the battle to learn more about how Henry V bested the French. (This annotation contains a video)
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Why did the French favor Henry as king over their own dauphin? 
What is the author's opinion of Joan's contemporaries? What is his repeated complaint about the records of these (historically) early heroes? 
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What was remarkable about Joan's situation? 
In this book, the author writes about real-life heroes. Take a moment to consider how these figures relate to the literary heroes you have read about in other texts. This video explains the literary hero's journey and will help you understand similarities and differences. (This annotation contains a video)

Chapter 5

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Which literary element does the author use here to describe the Tower of London? 
Sir Thomas More also wrote 'Utopia' in 1516.  (This annotation contains an image)
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To whom does the author compare Henry VIII? 
This conflict between More and Henry is dramatized in Robert Bolt's play, "A Man for All Seasons."  (This annotation contains an image)
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What was extraordinary about Jane's situation? 
The 1986 movie "Lady Jane" is a highly romanticized account of the events that led to Lady Jane Grey's death.  (This annotation contains a video)
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What is the effect of the author's description of Knox as the "ayatollah of Edinburgh"? 
It is difficult to determine how much of the cattiness between Elizabeth and Mary is true or apocryphal.  (This annotation contains an image)
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At a time when monarchs were not squeamish about executions, why do you think it took so long for Elizabeth to order the execution of Mary? 
Was this one of the reasons you gave earlier as to why Elizabeth waited so long to execute Mary? 
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What is the great contradiction regarding the execution of Mary, Queen of Scots? 
A somewhat similar misunderstanding resulted in the murder of Thomas a Becket, the Archbishop of Canterbury, in 1170. The knights who committed the act also similarly fell out of favor with the sitting monarch, Henry II. (This annotation contains a link)
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What is perhaps the most astonishing aspect of Elizabeth's 44 years on the throne? 
Consider the point of view of the author in his depictions of these real life heroes. What can we infer about his point of view by the people he has chosen to write about? What about the people he has not included in this book?  (This annotation contains a video)
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An example of Elizabeth's strong conviction can be seen through her 
Make note of these nine principles. Do you think that all of them are applicable to women leaders today (as the author somewhat suggests in this paragraph)? 
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How is principle number six also a weakness? 
Raleigh was also a notable poet. Read his poem, "The Nymph's Reply to the Shepherd," which is a response to Christopher Marlowe's poem, "The Passionate Shepherd to His Love." How does this poem illustrate Raleigh's reputed gallantry? (This annotation contains a link)
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Raleigh is a good example of how a hero is 
Quiz 1 
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What is the author's main point about heroism as shown through his example of Sir Walter Raleigh? 
'El Dorado' originally referred to the legendary leader of a New World society who was cloaked in gold. The legend then also came to refer to the city this leader ruled over - a place that was also made of gold.  (This annotation contains an image)

Chapter 6

In addition to covering up the true horrors of war, cliches are also a less artful form of writing.  (This annotation contains an image)
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Cromwell is a notorious and divisive figure for many reasons.  Are the author's reasons for not including him in this volume of 'Heroes' sufficient? Why or why not? 
Mount Vernon, in Virginia, is open to the public. While there, you can tour the house and grounds, including recreated slave quarters.  (This annotation contains a link)
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What might "interest" mean in this context? 
Many myths about Washington have been passed down, including the legend of the cherry tree. What might be the moral purpose of this legend? Watch this video to find out. (This annotation contains a link)
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In George Washington's estimation, what was the key component in the colonists' success against the British? 
Is having a charismatic personality a necessity of being a hero? 
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How did both Washington and Nelson choose to distinguish themselves?  
This letter illustrates Nelson's humility, but it also reveals his strong religious convictions. 
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In light of what the author wrote about Washington's personality, would you say that Nelson has a heroic personality? 
These parting words of Nelson's have become infamous. As you can see in the video below, even the British comedy group Monty Python adapted these words for a sketch. (This annotation contains a video)
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Are there any other heroes included in this book that have been similarly humanized by weakness? Do you agree with the author's estimation that weakness can sometimes make a hero more humane? 
By creating dialogue, the author of this Nelson biography is writing a piece of creative nonfiction. In order to find out more about the genre itself, read the article in the link below. (This annotation contains a link)
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How would you describe Wellington's beginnings? 
In addition to "Sepoy General," Wellington had other nicknames including "The Beau," "The Peer," and "The Iron Duke."  (This annotation contains an image)
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If Wellington was a better general and strategist, why is Napoleon more widely remembered? 
The term "Waterloo" has become synonymous with the idea of a final or decisive act. This is popularly illustrated through ABBA's 1974 single.  (This annotation contains a video)
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What sets Wellington apart from most generals of his time? 
It is interesting to note that while his leadership skills were extremely successful on the battlefield, these skills did not transfer well to politics. 
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What is the point of painting these heroes numerous times? 

Chapter 7

Here is a picture of the Geddington Eleanor cross. It is the best preserved of the surviving three crosses.  (This annotation contains an image)
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So far, the women mentioned in this chapter are known through 
The expectations of women in the Victorian period were pretty limiting. They were given very little freedom and independence. If women were so unhappy in their marriages, why did they never divorce? Based on the article below, what was the reason for this? (This annotation contains a link)
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This is an interesting comparison.  Why do you think the author chose to compare Carlyle to a polar bear and not another animal? What is the effect of this metaphor? 
Even without reading Jane Carlyle's prose, do you agree with the author's estimation of her writing ability? Could her strengths in letter writing (talking to the recipient, etc.) transfer to novel or essay writing? 
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What two seemingly contradictory forces was Dickinson preoccupied with? 
Dickinson has become almost as well known for her neuroses as for her poetry. What makes her so neurotic?  (This annotation contains a link)
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What metaphor does Dickinson use in this poem to describe school? 
The three Bronte sisters all used noms de plume - Currer Bell (Charlotte), Acton Bell (Anne), and Ellis Bell (Emily). Why do you think they did not publish using their real names?  (This annotation contains an image)
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Which of the following answers best describes the tone of this poem and the speaker's attitude about books? 
Define the word "Demijohn." How does this fit in with the other metaphors of encouragement? 
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What is Dickinson's opinion of fame? 
Contrast this poem with one of her more famous poems, "Hope is the Thing with Feathers."  (This annotation contains a link)
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Summarize in your own words how Jane Carlyle and Emily Dickinson are heroic. 

Chapter 8

Abraham Lincoln was indeed a tall man (he was 6' 4"), but the author is speaking metaphorically here.  (This annotation contains an image)
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What characteristic trait does Lincoln exhibit through this example? 
Lincoln's lack of religion was a highly contentious issue. Why do you think many people like to debate this aspect of Lincoln's life?  (This annotation contains a link)
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This is an example of which literary device? 
It is interesting to note that it is not Lincoln's counterpart in the south, Confederate president Jefferson Davis, who is best remembered. Instead the most famous man in the Confederacy is General Lee. (Some of that fame might also be the result of the TV show 'The Dukes of Hazzard, though.) (This annotation contains a link)
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Explain the possible meaning behind this nickname, "The Marble Model." What does this name illustrate or signify about his character? 
"It is magnificent, but it is not war." This is an allusion to what French Marshal Pierre Bosquet said about the futility of the Charge of the Light Brigade during the Crimean War. How does this relate to General Lee?  (This annotation contains an image)

Chapter 9

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What separates Wittgenstein and Socrates from most other philosophers? 
Here is a photograph of Ludwig Wittgenstein in 1947. (This annotation contains an image)
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How is Wittgenstein's philosophy described? 
According to the text, Wittgenstein "despised intellectuals." Who, then, did he like? Would you call Wittgenstein a misanthrope? 
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What do Wittgenstein's religious beliefs reveal about him? 
Here is Bertrand Russell talking about his influence on Wittgenstein. How would you characterize their relationship?  (This annotation contains a video)
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How does Wittgenstein's personality differ from some of the other heroes that the author has written about so far?   
Here is a dramatization of one of Wittgenstein's lectures. What do you think is the main point of this "lecture"?  (This annotation contains a video)
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What other heroic figure does the author compare Wittgenstein to in this section? 
As with most of the figures included in this book, the perception of Wittgenstein's heroism is entrenched in the myths surrounding him. 

Chapter 10

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The women who ran these French salons actually  
Lady Holland (1771-1845) is also known for introducing the dahlia to the UK.  (This annotation contains an image)
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Explain in your own words how something so seemingly frivolous as hosting parties and gatherings makes these women heroic. 
In Virgina Woolf's 'Mrs. Dalloway,' the title character places a lot of importance on the success of the party she is hosting that evening. Why do you think she puts this pressure on herself? Watch the video below to help inform your answer.  (This annotation contains a video)
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How would you characterize the author's approximation of "femininity" here? 
Watch the first minute of this video of the Prime Minister's Question Time to see the liveliness of the House of Commons.  (This annotation contains a video)
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In this section, the author actually focuses on 
Lady Pamela Smith on the cover of 'The Sketch,' a popular periodical for ladies at the beginning of the last century.  (This annotation contains an image)
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What literary device is this highlighted phrase an example of? 
Quiz 2 
Consider how Pamela fits in with the other women heroes in the book. What characteristics does she share with the biblical heroines? The Elizabethan heroines? Joan of Arc? Conversely, what characteristics make her stand out? 

Chapter 11

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As with most of the other people profiled in this book, this section proves Churchill to be a man of  
What would you say is the general theme of this book regarding heroes and heroism?  (This annotation contains a video)
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What makes Churchill a somewhat controversial leader/hero? 
A pieta is a painting or sculpture of the Virgin Mary holding the dead body of Jesus. What do you think the author means by using it in this context?  (This annotation contains an image)
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How did Churchill earn the respect of those who worked under him, even those who did not like him very much? 
This video clip will give you a snippet of Churchill's lifestyle during the war (though it somewhat contradicts what the author stated at the beginning of the chapter about his alcohol intake). The video also contrasts his lifestyle with that of the everyday person living in wartime Britain.  (This annotation contains a video)
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What stroke of luck did Churchill have in the publication of his memoirs? 
This translates to "Then, Soustelle, change your friends."  (This annotation contains an image)
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 How would you characterize the author's attitude toward de Gaulle and France in general? 
Based on this quote, what was de Gaulle's vision for Europe? 

Chapter 12

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What role (if any) does the place where one is born or grows up have on one's achievement?  Would Mae West have become a famous movie star if she had spent her formative years in a rural town? 
Compare this to similar lists of resolves, such as James Gatz's, written in the back of a copy of "Hopalong Cassidy" in F. Scott Fitzgerald's 'The Great Gatsby': "GENERAL RESOLVES No wasting time at Shafters or [a name, indecipherable]; No more smoking or chewing; Bath every other day; Read one improving book or magazine per week; Save $5.00 [crossed out] $3.00 per week; Be better to parents." 
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What was the key to Mae's sexuality and allure? 
Mae West in 'Belle of the Nineties.'  (This annotation contains an image)
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Why can most heroes also be seen as controversial figures? 
Click on the link below to listen to this short interview with Mae West from 1949. In this clip, you can hear her characteristic lilt and candor.  (This annotation contains a link)
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How would you characterize Marilyn Monroe's childhood? 
What do Marilyn Monroe and Emily Dickinson have in common? 
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What do you think Marilyn was hoping to achieve by associating herself with intellectuals and Method actors? 
Watch the movie trailer for "Some Like it Hot" (1959). How is Marilyn portrayed in the promotion of this movie? (This annotation contains a video)

Chapter 13

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This highlighted section of the sentence is an example of which literary device? 
Carter fostered a very homespun, folksy image to appeal to certain demographics. Can you think of any other politicians who have recently done the same (or attempted to do so)?  (This annotation contains an image)
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The description of Reagan as being both "superficially" and "profoundly" ignorant is an example of 
In a popular Saturday Night Live skit, Phil Hartman portrays a Ronald Reagan who only acts dumb, but is, in reality, a political mastermind. What do you think of this satirical portrayal of Reagan? (This annotation contains a video)
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How did Reagan masterfully deflect criticism? 
Margaret Thatcher is another controversial figure. Those who were negatively affected by her policies (mainly the lower and working classes) were very vocal in their vitriol. Listen to this song by Elvis Costello titled "Tramp the Dirt Down" (1988). How would you characterize its tone?  (This annotation contains a video)
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Considering that England has had female monarchs (including Queen Elizabeth II, who was queen at the time Thatcher was PM and is still queen), what is the disconnect here?  Why did her sex matter? 
Yikes. This is a derogatory term that should never be used when referring to a person or group of people. And Gale was a respected journalist! 
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What strength did Thatcher exhibit that Reagan did not? 
Below is a photograph of Pope John Paul II (1920-2005). (This annotation contains an image)
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In what contradictory terms is John Paul II's heroism described? 

Epilogue

Many modern dictators (like Saddam Hussein, Kim Jong Il and his son Kim Jong Un) present themselves as heroes to those under their power. Sometimes, they also present themselves as gods.  (This annotation contains an image)
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What should everyone understand about heroes? 
Quiz 3