anti-hero, principal character of a modern literary or dramatic work who lacks the attributes of the traditional protagonist or hero. The anti-hero's lack of courage, honesty, or grace, his weaknesses and confusion, often reflect modern man's ambivalence toward traditional moral and social virtues. Literary characters that can be considered anti-heroes are: Leopold Bloom in James Joyce's novel Ulysses (1922), Willy Loman in Arthur Miller's play Death of a Salesman (1949), the bombardier Yossarian in Joseph Heller's novel Catch-22 (1961), and the protagonists of many of Philip Roth's and Kurt Vonnegut's novels.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.