In the course of a story, no matter the type of story, the characters, especially the heroes, should undergo personal change. They should not be quite the same people that they were on the first page. They have learned something and grown since then.
This change can come about through an infinite range of possibilities. Often, it is because of things that are done to or happen around the characters. For example, Othello takes little action for most of Shakespeare’s play, but the machinations of Iago, the perceived betrayal of his wife, and so forth transform him from a man of pure nobility to a murderer.
On occasion, the change comes about because of a journey the character embarks on of his own choice. Lancelot and his quest for the grail, in most of its many renditions, is a great example. Once the quest is presented to him, he races to accept gladly, visions of greatness and destiny in his head. By the end though, he is humbled and faces his sins with Guinevere. This last example is of a more active character, but the principle of transformation remains the same.
However, to take this to true heroic proportions, by the end of a story, the character or hero must be capable of something else. He must have the power to change the world.
I know this sounds extreme. On first glance, this could sound like he must become some great leader, but this is not actually the case. “The world” does not necessarily have to refer to the entire world. It is the hero’s world: his home, his family, his community, even his own life. Over the course of his journey, he should have found or learned something that gives him power to impact and alter his reality. In essence, he should take what he learned or how he grew and apply it.
Because all of us, at some point or another, long to alter our circumstances or aspects of ourselves, through the hero, we get to live vicariously. We tend to be impressed with those who dare to and succeed at truly influencing the world around them. We are drawn to them. So too are we drawn to heroes in fiction that move their world.
What examples can you think of in fiction of such heroes?