What Is a Comic Hero in Literature?

In literature, a comic hero is the protagonist or main character of a comedy. They are often more complex, or at least more difficult to neatly define, than tragic heroes, who may be thought of as their literary counterparts. Often, comic heroes have a less-than-perfect or even below-average moral character, and this is how Aristotle defined them.

Despite moral shortcomings, the comic hero always has some redeeming value capable of winning over the reader or audience. Often, this is charm or personality. “Likeable rogue” and “fun-loving scamp” are terms often applied to the comic hero.

Comic heroes can also be described as underdogs, particularly when they come from a lower social class than might be expected of the more classical, archetypal hero. This social disadvantage often highlights a quality of innate, rather than inherited, nobility, along with an air of innocence.

One of the most frequently cited examples of the comic hero in literature is Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn. The reader is typically won over by his happy-go-lucky, innocent attitude, which he maintains despite his socioeconomically deprived background. Huckleberry Finn also satisfies the criterion of being somewhat less than virtuous.

By contrast, tragic heroes are almost two dimensional in their classical piety. This guides their actions in a predictable, straightforward way.