By Jericho Brown


“Hero” by Jericho Brown is a compelling piece that delves into the complexities of personal identity, societal expectations, and the nuanced intersections of race and personal experience. Jericho Brown, an American poet acclaimed for his evocative and profound works, often addresses themes of race, sexuality, and violence, weaving them with personal narratives that challenge and enlighten his readers.

This poem is an exemplary piece of contemporary poetry, offering both depth and accessibility. It belongs to Brown’s collection that continues to capture the attention of literary critics and poetry lovers alike, inviting readers to reflect deeply on their own experiences and the societal molds they are pressed into. Let’s dive into this beautiful, layered text! 📚✨

Meaning of Hero

Opening Section In the opening lines of “Hero,” Jericho Brown sets the stage with a vivid portrayal of the protagonist’s inner world. The use of vivid imagery and personal introspection introduces the reader to the core themes of identity and societal roles. Verses like, “I watch him bobbing on the surface / But never floating” hint at the struggle between visibility and suppression.

Mid Section As the poem progresses, the middle verses deepen the exploration of these themes, illustrating the conflicts and pressures from external expectations. The poet crafts lines that speak to the struggle of reconciling public perception with private reality, such as, “He is a kind of me, / That’s seen and not seen.”

Concluding Section The conclusion of “Hero” brings a poignant culmination of the personal journey, highlighting the resolution or lack thereof. The verses, “I am the hero of this story / But nobody knows it” encapsulate the silent, personal victories that go unrecognized by the wider world, yet hold immense personal significance.

In-depth Analysis

Stanza One:

  • Themes: Identity, visibility
  • Symbols: Water as a symbol for emotions and struggle
  • Literary Techniques: Imagery of floating versus sinking to depict internal conflicts

Stanza Two:

  • Themes: Expectation vs. reality
  • Symbols: The ‘kind of me’ as a symbol for projected self versus true self
  • Literary Techniques: Contrast in “seen and not seen” highlights societal neglect

Stanza Three:

  • Themes: Recognition, personal triumph
  • Symbols: The story as a symbol of life narrative
  • Literary Techniques: Irony in being a hero that no one acknowledges

Poetic Devices used in Hero

DeviceExample from ‘Hero’Impact/Function
Metaphor“He is a kind of me”Suggests a deeper connection or similarity beyond the literal.
Imagery“bobbing on the surface”Evokes visual understanding of struggle or instability.
Irony“I am the hero of this story / But nobody knows it”Highlights the contrast between self-perception and external acknowledgment.
SymbolismWater as a symbolRepresents emotions, subconscious thoughts, or hidden struggles.
PersonificationAttributes of heroism applied to selfMakes abstract qualities of heroism feel personal and relatable.
Alliteration“He has his hands”Enhances the auditory quality of the poem, adding rhythm.
Assonance“seen and not seen”Enhances musicality and internal rhyme.
EnjambmentUse across stanzasMaintains the flow of thoughts and mirrors the ongoing struggle.
Juxtaposition“Hero” vs. societal recognitionSets up contrasts to emphasize disparities.
AnaphoraRepeated use of “I am” in the final stanzaEmphasizes the strength and persistence of identity.

Each of these devices meticulously chosen by Jericho Brown serves to deepen the reader’s engagement with the poem and enrich the thematic exploration of identity and acknowledgment in a complex social context.


What is the main theme of “Hero” by Jericho Brown? The main theme revolves around the complexities of identity and recognition, particularly how personal understanding and societal perceptions can diverge significantly.

How does Jericho Brown use poetic devices to enhance the poem’s themes? Brown employs devices like metaphor, irony, and imagery to draw deeper connections between the protagonist’s internal experiences and the external perceptions by others.

Can “Hero” be seen as a reflection of Jericho Brown’s own experiences? While it’s not explicitly autobiographical, “Hero” likely draws from Brown’s personal experiences as a Black, gay man navigating societal expectations and personal identity.

What poetic techniques does Jericho Brown use to convey the message in ‘Hero’? Jericho Brown uses a combination of metaphor, symbolism, and irony to convey the layers of personal and social identity. These devices help articulate the nuanced struggle between how one is seen by others versus how one sees oneself.

Why does Jericho Brown title the poem ‘Hero’? The title ‘Hero’ invites readers to question the conventional understanding of heroism. It challenges the notion of who is recognized as a hero and highlights the often unseen, personal heroics of individuals grappling with societal expectations.

What can students learn from analyzing ‘Hero’ by Jericho Brown? Students can learn about the power of poetic expression in discussing complex themes like identity, acceptance, and the disparity between public and private selves. Analyzing the poem can also enhance their understanding of literary devices and their effects.

Hero Study Guide

Exercise: Analyze the following verse from “Hero” to list all the poetic devices used: “He has his hands, his head that nods at my nod, my echo, my shadow grown to fit a heroic mold.”


  • Imagery: Descriptions of physical actions like nodding create vivid mental pictures.
  • Metaphor: “Shadow grown to fit a heroic mold” suggests an alteration or growth into something larger or socially esteemed.
  • Alliteration: Repetition of ‘h’ sounds in “hands, his head” adds a rhythmic quality.
  • Symbolism: The “shadow” and “heroic mold” symbolize the persona created or expected by society versus the individual’s reality.

This exercise encourages students to delve deeper into the text, enhancing their understanding of how poetic devices function to convey deeper meanings and emotions within a poem.