“The Real Indiana Jones” is a series that explores the man behind the fedora. Indiana Jones is many things to many people in his world, from a friend or enemy, to an esteemed professor or rival treasure hunter. As viewers of Indy’s big screen and television adventures, we have a unique perspective on the life of this hero, whose own weaknesses are often as important as his strengths.
As we’ve explored elsewhere in this series, Indiana Jones is not a fearless man. But he doesn’t overcome adversity in spite of his fears. Indy is a courageous hero because he is afraid. He isn’t a superhero with a last trick up his sleeve. There is no secret to Indy’s triumphs. He simply does not quit, and with a bit of luck (or quite a lot of it), he breaks through.
“I’m like a bad penny, I always turn up,” Indy tells the duplicitous Elsa Schneider in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. After Indy manages to trail his foes all the way to a secluded island in Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark, an exasperated Rene Belloq tells his adversary that “your persistence surprises even me.”
When a much-younger Indy becomes embroiled in a murder mystery while visiting Egypt’s Valley of the Kings, he and his companion T. E. Lawrence (the real-life “Lawrence of Arabia”) attempt to solve the crime. “Play up! Play up and play the game,” the elder Lawrence tells the hesitant boy (borrowing his line from a 19th century poem by Henry Newbolt). From Lawrence and others like Theodore Roosevelt, Indy develops confidence, even a dash of bravado.
In The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones, we see the character consider many different possibilities for his life. He might stay in the military after his World War I service, or become a diplomat, or study at Princeton University as his father wishes him to do. When Indy and his friend Remy discover a clue to an ancient diamond known as the Peacock’s Eye, they cross the globe in search of it. But when clue after clue leads them no closer to their prize, and ever closer to danger, Indy decides he’s had enough of treasure-hunting.