It is non fiction prose.
Treatise on Mahabharata
One thought which had always come to my mind from my childhood who was better Arjuna or Karna both as a warrior and as a person. Let us analyse their characters and we can come to a conclusion.
Arjuna was the hero of the epic Mahabharata, he won the battle of Kurukshetra singlehandedly. He possessed Gandiva his bow received from lord Shiva himself and a quiver which never became empty. He was “Sabyasachi” , i.e. he could shoot arrows with both hands. The only friend of lord Krishna he was only the recipient of Bhagvad Gita, the discourse given by Krishna to Arjuna before the war started. Singlehandedly Arjuna defeated all the Kauravas in Virat Yudh by sammohan astra. For the total 18 days of Kurukshetra war Arjuna fought against all the great fighters Bhishma, Drona, Karna and all the maharathis of the Kauravas.
It can be said undoubtedly the Pandavas won the war due to Arjuna. Arjuna had never lost any battle in his life time. He was the greatest archer, he had mastery in all forms of archery. He was raised as a prince and had got all the privileged education and training.
Arjuna was epitome of current alpha male. He enjoyed his status as the greatest archer and enjoyed female attention. He had married four times, Draupadi, Subhadra, Chitrangada and Ulupi. Every young boy wants to be like Arjuna. Famous, successful and having a way with the women.
Now let us analyse the prowess of Karna.
With all of the above qualities as a warrior and as the greatest archer still Arjuna could not defeat Karna in a fair fight. Karna was born with kabach which he gave away to Indra before the war. He defeated all the Pandavas except Arjuna in the war still let them live as a boon given to his biological mother Kunti. Karna could match Arjuna with every skill weapon by weapon. Lord Krishna did not let Arjuna face Karna in the first few days after Karna joining the war. He knew if in the whole world there is one person who could kill Arjuna he was Karna.
If Arjuna was the hero Karna was the tragic hero. He was a man among men. His fate was doomed from his birth. Raised by childless Radha and Adhirath who was the charioteer of King Dhritarashtra Karna grew up in poverty, at least he did not had any privileged upbringing. Whatever he had achieved he achieved on his own, a true self made person. He had to find his own guru Parshuram who had cursed him. Karna was unaware of his birth and unaware that he was a Kshatriya. So he was cursed for no fault of his own.
All along his life he had to hear that he was that he was from a lower caste, untouchable. No princess married him for he was not born of any lineage of any kings , he married a Padmavati a dasi a slave girl and was very happy with her.
All men are not born equal in terms of pedigree and family. Karna overcame all his obstacles by his own talent and will power. It is true that after becoming king of Anga he led a life of luxury but he had always in his mind that he was indebted to Duryodhana, it is a fact he never really enjoyed the luxury.
Karna was daanveer, no body ever came empty handed from Karna. He refused to join the Pandavas before the war as he was indebted to Duryodhana. The only blot in the character of Karna was the insult of Draupadi and the killing of Abhimunya by seven warriors. The killing of Abhimunyu was orchestrated by Duryodhana after his beloved son Laxman was killed by Abhimunyu. Karna had refused to kill Arjuna in the 16th day of the battle after defeating Arjuna as the sun had set in. He even forgave his biological mother Kunti who had left him after birth in a basket in on a river.
Concurrence: So as warriors both Arjuna and Karna were equals but if we consider the privileged upbringing of Arjuna then we find that Karna had to work harder to gain everything in his life. Arjuna had lord Krishna as his charioteer in the war still he could not defeat Karna. He decapitated Karna while Karna was trying to pull his chariot wheel up, un armed. That even after Karna had forgotten the weapons “ divastrya” as the result of curse of his guru Parshuram , such was the might of Karna. Karna knew that Arjuna was his younger brother and that he was fighting his brother while Arjuna was merely fighting with his enemy.
In such perspective Karna was better warrior than Arjuna.
As persons Karna gave away everything in his life to others whatever wealth he had as the king of Anga. He even gave away his life, knowing fully well that his end was near still he did not leave Duryodhana, such was his sense of gratefulness. If the insult of Draupadi and the killing of Abhimunyu had defamed him well we can safely say even “moon has its black spots”.
So as human being Karna was also far better than Arjuna, Arjuna did not have any vice but simply Karna was too good to be true. They do not make such men any more.