Sarah Hannah Poetry

The concept of a hero and the characteristics that one person feels are embodied
by a hero are explored in the short story "Ride, Fly, Penetrate, Loiter" by

Barry Hannah. Everyone wants to be a hero, but in reality few are. There are
many people who consciously and unconsciously undermine their attempts to become
a hero. Ned Maximus, the protagonist in Hannahís story is just such a person.

Ned states that he "wants some hero for a buddy" (page 36). Hannah has
definite ideas of the way a hero should act and communicates these through Ned.

Ned, on the other hand, seems to act in a manner contrary to these ideas. Ned
believes that a hero should never lie, but should always be truthful. In being
an honest person a true hero should be appalled by fakes and frauds. Ned, a
drunk would like to believe that he is truthful but reveals himself as a liar
when he states "I have been sober ever since. I have just told a lie" (page

42). He is indeed a liar; therefore, according to his own definition he is not a
hero. In his dissertation on the qualities of a hero, Ned mentions that a true
hero could possibly be a writer and he, Ned is a writer. In "Ride, Fly,

Penetrate, Loiter" Ned is stabbed in the eye by an acquaintance, Billy Six

Fingers. Since this incident Ned insists that he can "see things more clearly
through his one good eye" (page 37). From this clarity Ned states that "I
will write some times and my bones will hurt" (Page 38). Ned insists that he
now writes with a passion that he never had before he was able to see things
more clearly. He asserts that he writes from inspiration, from what he observes
and comprehends in his world. This inspiration has occurred because of the
clarity with which he now views things. Another heroic quality is the ability to
love and to place someone elseís needs and desires above oneís own. The
author notes this when Ned states that "I drank and smiled and tried to love,
wanting some hero for a buddy, somebody who would attack the heart of the night
with me" (Page 36). Ned feels that he is capable of the love that a hero
should possess but in actuality he does not possess this ability to love or
place someone elseís desires above his own. Through Ned, Hannah asserts that
the love of a hero should be pure and from the heart. Ned does not possess this
trait and probably never will. According to both the author and Ned, a hero is
sober and virtuous. Ned certainly is not sober, he is drunk throughout most of
the story and demonstrates his need of alcohol repeatedly. An example of this is
seen at the hospital, "I remember wanting a drink terribly in the emergency
room. I had the shakes." (Page 37). Nedís need for a drink and experiencing
of the shakes demonstrates his dependence on alcohol and his inability to remain
sober. Websterís definition of person who is virtuous is one that is chaste
and upright. Ned is neither chaste nor upright; he talks about people being bad
when he himself is not. He fires a gun into the night after being stabbed in the
eye. This is not something that a hero would do. According to Hannah, a hero
possesses the qualities of honesty, sobriety, ability to love, virtuousness, and
is possibly being a writer. Ned Maximus fails to incorporate these qualities
into his own character, even though he wishes that he could have these qualities
and be a true hero. Ned would have to make major changes in his attitudes
towards people and his treatment of them. Since this is unlikely to happen, Ned

Maximus will never be a shining example of a hero as described by Barry



1.) Hannah, Barry. "Ride, Fly, Penetrate, Loiter." Captain Maximus. New

York: Penguin Books, 1985. 2.) The New American Webster Handy College

Dictionary. New York: Penguin Books, 1995.