Labels like “hero” or “villain” are things that can only be given to someone by someone else, and are therefore based on outsider’s perceptions of those people. Novels like Deliverance or movies like Bad Day at Black Ridge show us that people don’t stop being people if no one is watching, and that someone that might be considered a hero in the light of day might behave quite differently when in more isolated circumstances. This leads one to consider what exactly makes a hero, if someone who seems like one on the surface can so surely disappoint.
The link between Deliverance and Bad Day at Black Rock as lenses by which to observe heroic traits is isolation. The cut-off community of Black Rock as well as the truly wild northern Georgia offer little in the way of a public audience. In this way we, the unseen viewer, can see traits of characters that might otherwise be hidden to us in the name of propriety. Macreedy when put under the pressure of a town that largely wants him dead shows defiance and an unbreakable will to persevere in the face of Smith’s paranoia driven blood-lust. Most of the people of Black Rock, when caught up in a murder, were more concerned with either staying out of the way or keeping the act under wraps. My point is that Macreedy behaved more like a hero without any social pressure to do so, while many of the townsfolk took advantage of the remoteness of the area to get away with murder. Similarly in Deliverance Lewis, Ed, Bobby and Drew are put into a situation where they are cut off from any larger society, however rather than maintaining the moral high ground as Macreedy does, they become little better than the pack of murders pursuing them.
What a hero does among other people is important and is part of what makes a hero. Lewis seems quite like a hero to us at the beginning of the novel, but given an isolated area and a strenuous situation, shows himself to be less than that. Macreedy is the opposite, showing a resolute desire to find out what happened to the father of the man that saved his life. Macreedy is committed to doing what is right regardless of the dangers that the townsfolk present. Macreedy shows that a person can be a hero regardless of other’s opinions, while Lewis shows that a hero is not necessarily that behind closed doors.