How is it that some stories endure far beyond the lifetime of their author? Shakespeare is a prime example. His plays not only endure, they adapt to modern settings, and yet people still recognize Romeo and Juliet even when it’s called West Side Story because the idea behind it is unchanged. Ideas are the questions the story raises, and the answers it chooses to provide. In Romeo and Juliet the idea centers around two people who wish to be together, but social/cultural forces oppose them, man vs. society.
Stories frequently show how characters grow to become heroes, or demonstrate and prove that a character is a hero. A hero represents an ideal, the ability to set aside selfish desires and work for the sake of others, sometimes sacrificing personal goals in the process. In a word, altruism. Heroes live by a moral code, with the will to endure, resist temptation, and help others.