What is Hubris in Literature? Definition, Examples of Literary Hubris

Hubris definition: Hubris is defined as the excessive pride or self-confidence that may consume a character.

What is Hubris?

Hubris is the extreme amount of pride or arrogance that may consume a character. Often times, this extreme self-confidence leads the character to his ultimate downfall due to blinding him of reason.

Hubris Example

A simple of example of hubris can be seen in the Aesop fable “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.” In this popular children’s story, the boy’s extreme confidence that people would come to his rescue any time he cried out for help led to his downfall. For when a wolf finally did appear, no one believed his was in danger due to his previous false alarms.

Modern Examples of Hubris

Lance Armstrong may be seen as a real-life example of hubris. A man who once was praised for surviving cancer and continuing a successful athletic career is now no longer trusted due to his dishonesty. His use of performance enhancing drugs and dishonesty regarding his career is viewed by many as examples of Armstrong’s extreme arrogance.

Another modern example of hubris is in Disney’s The Emperor’s New Groove. In this film, the protagonist, Kuzco, faces a great deal of trials due to his hubris. His excessive prides blinds him to the fact that his trusted advisor is actually planning to kill him in order to rule his kingdom. Luckily, he was turned into a llama and was able to learn the error of his ways through the help of a common villager. In the end he rids himself of excess pride and becomes charitable to the people of his kingdom.

The Function of Hubris in Literature

By including characters with hubris, the reader is able to learn the dangers of having excessive pride. Often times, these characters lose their lives or power due to this trait; therefore, it presents the reader with the dangerous consequences that may come from not retaining empathy in one’s character. While in mature pieces lives may be lost, in many children’s stories, the character’s learn the error of the ways in turn teach young readers valuable lessons.

Examples of Hubris in Literature

William Shakespeare’s Macbeth is a classic example of hubris. In this play, the protagonist, Macbeth, is filled with the desire for power. This thirst for ultimate control ultimately leads to the downfall of himself and many people around him including his wife, Lady Macbeth.

In Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita, the protagonist, Humbert Humbert, is consumed with pride and pays no heed to others around him. His desire for young girls consumes him and due to many years of escaping punishment for his pedophilia, his hubris increases until it ultimately destroys him when the young girl escapes and reports his crimes.

Summary: What is Hubris?

Define hubris in literature: In summation, hubris is the excessive pride and arrogance that consumes a character and often leads to his downfall.

Final Example:

In the children’s book Hungry Bird by Jeremy Tankard, the protagonist is a hungry bird who continues to pester his friends for a snack. While they are more than willing to share, his hubris consumes him and he gives rude responses to their snack offerings. In the end, he decides to try these new foods and rids himself of this excessive pride. This story teaches children it is important to not be too prideful to try something new.