Oakland Community College

The Role of the Nemesis


Overcoming a nemesis requires more than strength or speed or brains; it requires change. In all the stories that we love to hear and tell, central characters, real or fictional, overcome some challenge that is so difficult that it forces them to change. Easy victories do not make good stories because nothing really happens-- no one is challenged or changed. Conflict makes the story as characters grow and reach their potential, and any conflict can be seen as a nemesis. So does the nemesis create the hero? Is Superman really Superman without Lex Luther? Would there be a cold war and a space race without Joseph Stalin? Are we to thank the villains of fiction, history or our own personal lives for helping us reach our potential?

The nemesis can arrive in many forms; it does not need to be an evil super villain or a criminal or a bully; it does not even need to be a person. Your essay can be based on a personal, fictional or historical nemesis. Describe a nemesis and how he/she/it forced someone to reach their potential (even if they didn’t reach their goal).

In an essay between 1,000-1,250 words, chose a single nemesis from the options below and describe how their presence drove a change in a personal life, a fictional life or in history.
  • The personal nemesis could be your own story or that of someone you know, and how facing a challenge in life resulted in a better, stronger person. The focus should be on the opposing force and how he/she/it shaped someone you know.

  • You could even write about yourself as the nemesis. You may be the hero in your own story, but in someone else’s story you were the challenge to overcome.

  • The historical nemesis may come from any time period. Choose a villain from history and describe the impact of their policies and actions and how humanity’s opposition led to progress in science and/or culture. What good emerged through the efforts to overcome or oppose the dictators, tyrants and sociopaths that have gained power throughout human history?

The essay must take an academic approach, and your ideas and conclusions must be supported by information from outside sources. They can include books, magazines, documentaries, graphic novels, biographies, interviews or historical documents. Support your conclusions and ideas with established theory, perhaps psychology or sociology, historical facts, published character profiles, or eye witness interviews. Your essay must include four references from outside material, and your citations must be in MLA or APA format.


  • First Place - $1,000

  • Second Place - $750

  • Third Place - $500

  • 5 - $200 Honorable Mention Raiders Store Gift Certificates

$3,250 in Total Prize Money Available