Three weeks ago, if had you visited Oscar Pistorius’ Wikipedia page, you would read about a hero. His story was a noble tale of overcoming the odds. Pistorius, a double-amputee athlete, participated in the world’s biggest athletic events (most notably the 2012 Summer Olympics) alongside “able-bodied” competitors.
Pistorius was born with fibular hemimelia, a disease characterized by a “congenial absence of the fibula,” bones located in the lower extremity of the leg. At 11-months-old a large portion of his legs were amputated. Despite his physical limitations, Pistorius excelled at athletics inevitably gaining the nickname “the fastest man on no legs.”
This write-up reads like an obituary and in a way it is. Pistorius’ tale borrows many characteristics from the structure of a Greek tragedy. He is indeed a “tragic hero” and within this thought lies the clue as to why some people are so devastated that he committed this crime.
In a Greek tragedy, the hero “is a good, respected man who acts out of good intentions. He has much to lose.” Pistorius was a hero for disabled and able-bodied people alike. Everybody likes a good inspirational story, whether they’d like to admit it or not and Pistorius’ tale is hard to top.
In all Greek tragedies, the hero has a “tragic flaw.” “In spite of his good intentions, the hero makes a tragic error which causes his reversal. The error usually stems from a character flaw, usually pride.” Though the charges are still alleged, most believe that Reeva Steenkamp’s death was no accident. His flaw may first be pride, but it was undoubtedly rage as well early that Valentine’s Day morning.
From the beginning did Pistorius think he could get away with murder? Or was his attempt to make his girlfriend’s violent death look like an accident some shoddily post-homicide plan hatched between Pistorius and his handlers? He did first phone an “administrator of his estate” before calling the proper authorities for an ambulance. His words and court appearances have made it all too clear that he is too prideful to admit any wrong doing other than manslaughter.
The third element of a classic Greek tragedy is always the catastrophe. “Because of his tragic error, the hero suffers a downfall from his happy, envied position to suffering and misery.” In the case of Pistorius, that tragic role reversal from hero to villain will surely result in one thing: infamy. Whether he receives a “get out of jail free” pass or not, the reputation for being a murderer will follow him around for the rest of his days. Even if he does not go to jail the name “Oscar Pistorius” will forever be synonymous with names like Casey Anthony, O.J. Simpson, Joran Van Der Sloot and Lizzie Borden.
The Greek tragedy typically ends in catharsis when the hero “realizes that his own flaw or error has caused his reversal. This recognition always occurs too late for the hero to prevent or escape this reversal.” Pistorius has not fully arrived at this point of the tragedy and it is possible that he never will. He is aware that his actions cannot be undone, but refuses to take responsibility for them. He appears to lack remorse over the killing of his girlfriend (he hasn’t even admitted to it). Rather, he appears to be upset that he has been caught.
Because of Pistorius’ numerous accolades it is implausible to many that he was even capable of committing such a heinous crime; implausible to many including himself. The Blade Runner has foolishly subscribed to the superhuman qualities his fans and supporters attributed to him long ago. People cannot believe that someone with Pistorius’ capacity for achievement could do such a thing. However, being a high achiever does not translate into having good character.
It is undeniable that Pistorius has done some amazing things, but all the glory that precedes the violent gun death of Reeva Steenkamp will never outweigh this tragedy. Despite God-like idolatry by his biggest fans Pistorius is a mere mortal who perfectly exemplifies the old adage “the bigger they are, the harder they fall.” It is time for Oscar Pistorius to step down from his podium.