This started as a comment below Hannah's article, The Tragic Flaw, but it kept expanding and adding so many links that leaving it there seemed more like an abuse of the comment box than anything else. The part that acted as focal point is this:
In fact, it seems as if the greater a man is, the more simple and accessible must be his tragic flaw, the better to let far lesser men hope for overcoming him. A Bovary in his simpish surmountability succumbs to the blind trust of puppy love, but a peerless warrior of Achilles' caliber must have a literal inch or two that offers his demise.
It's a search, of course, for balance, more practically the attempt to find a cause for fighting, rather than following, the hero.
I doubt it even gets as far as any sort of fighting or as deep as actually looking for a tragic flaw. It's just a cheap cop-out in the vein of imagining metaphysical cause for phenomena as an excuse to resist and avoid having to change oneself. Such avoidance is also quite all of the "fighting" going on, at best at times. So yes, it's no surprise to me that all of the flaws others imagined from a distance and then tried to pin on (their own image of) MP had nothing to do with MP himself. Lacking the substance of actual experience and interaction, all that remains to such proffered flaws is the non-substance of imagination or psychogenic noise by its proper name. As a result, all imagined flaws will turn out by necessity more revealing of the one imagining them than of the target and so quite hysterical at times, for sure. But all this is precisely why an account of actual experience living with the man is so much more descriptive of who he was and as a result so much more welcome to have and so much more worth reading than all the imagined flaws, insults and praises put together. And I for one am quite glad to read these sharp glimpses of experienced unusual set out in Hannah's piercing and evocative writing style.
Back to the supposed search of a tragic flaw though and its modern apparent transformation into an approach of resisting change through finding faults with the (correctly perceived) agents of change: given that the very goal of this sort of smearing others with imagined faults is simply avoidance, the smearing itself can't be looked at and named directly as such, either. Hence, it always tries to pass for something else entirely and, preferably, whenever possible, for a still standing, actual bridge of painstakingly built-up meaning, namely the presence of a tragic flaw in this case as that's what the smearing will be framed as and preferably called, too. And never mind that such misuse of the term is effectively squandering (and quite quickly at that) the meaning of it - the smearer will gladly squander quickly what others accumulated slowly, as that's the most he can do with it anyway, he doesn't have any other use for it.
Squanderers, smearers and avoiders aside for a few paragraphs, the tragic flaw is quite literally fatal in that it stands for a human's mortality and as such it is indeed, as Hannah says, "the world's own flaw". All the stories (one could say from Achilles' on, but I don't think that's necessarily the start) say as much and simply illustrate over and over again the many ways in which this fundamental flaw of the world is observed in specific instances.
Whether or not one illustration of a tragic flaw picks a plainer or fancier detail to hang it all on is more a matter of the context and perhaps the story's or the writer's style. I don't see it as having all that much to do with the greatness of the hero or even with the depth of the story itself. It's not as much that Achilles had to have a "literal inch or two that offers his demise" but simply that even the nymphs' attempts to protect from death their own sons are ultimately doomed to fail for they can only ever offer partial protection at best, never full protection. For all of Koscei's power, he was doomed to lose it at some point, for all the gain of youth without old age and life without death, the hero was still doomed to have his own mortality catch up with him in the end, for all of Achilles' invincibility, he was doomed to lose that one last battle of his life and so on and on, forever and in each instance because that's what and how life is, containing in itself right from the start the one single certainty of death.
If those currently imagining flaws in the perceived agents of change may be indeed conceived in any way as touching at all on the fundamental concept of tragic flaw, then it's merely through their following (more like parasitising), even if unknowingly, of the old model of marking the heroic death as a major issue:
The problem of heroic death is marked for the exact same reason menstruation is a major issue. It is a very early understanding of "the hole through which the night comes", a fundamental and irreparable breach of the cosmic order.
Such marking is not meant though to balance anything, nor to equalise anything, it's just the marking of an existing, quite unbalanced reality. Moreover and most importantly, in such marking there is no prescription at all as to the course of action or even of interaction with the said hero. All the balancing and purposing attempts have nothing to do with the notion of tragic flaw and this is the surest sign that those looking frantically for flaws in anyone better than them that they encounter are not at all looking for anything as deep as it might seem at a first pass, on the strength of superficial similarity with the people of long ago.
What the modern are frantically looking for is not at all the tragic flaw but merely the cancel button. Or at least the undo button, if it comes to that.
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