Every hero is a protagonist. But not every protagonist is a hero.
Some characters start out as heroes, while others are just the focal point of the story. Pure heroism is a rarity in our world, so when we see a Superman or a Captain America or an Obi-Wan Kenobi, we’re a bit in awe of the sight. It also makes us appreciate the likes of Batman, Iron Man and Luke Skywalker all the more, because they didn’t start as heroes, they had to discover their heroism.
Chuck mentioned John McClain which got me thinking on the subject. There’s nothing obviously heroic about John. He’s a hard-working, street-smart, somewhat abrasive but endearing kind of guy. Only when the building gets locked down and he goes into high gear to find out what’s happening as well as stay alive does he reveal the aspects of himself that make him a hero. He starts as a protagonist – likable but not all that remarkable. He becomes a hero – selfless, cunning, courageous and unwilling to give up or stop while there’s still villains to be fought.
What other examples can you think of, when it comes to a protagonist growing into the role of hero?