Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The hero and the monomyth

The Clash of the Titans, Star Wars, Back to the Future, Gladiator, Harry Potter…they all have something in common: a hero.
Joseph Campbell writes about this (he refers to it as a monomyth) in his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces.
“In the monomyth, the hero starts in the ordinary world, and receives a call to enter an unusual world of strange powers and events. If the hero accepts the call to enter this strange world, the hero must face tasks and trials, and may have to face these trials alone, or may have assistance. At its most intense, the hero must survive a severe challenge, often with help earned along the journey. If the hero survives, the hero may achieve a great gift or "boon." The hero must then decide whether to return to the ordinary world with this boon. If the hero does decide to return, the hero often faces challenges on the return journey. If the hero is successful in returning, the boon or gift may be used to improve the world. The stories of Osiris, Prometheus, Moses, Buddha, and Christ, for example, follow this structure very closely.
Campbell describes a number of stages or steps along this journey. Very few myths contain all of these stages — some myths contain many of the stages, while others contain only a few; some myths may have as a focus only one of the stages, while other myths may deal with the stages in a somewhat different order. These stages may be organized in a number of ways, including division into three sections: Departure (sometimes called Separation), Initiation and Return. "Departure" deals with the hero venturing forth on the quest; "Initiation" deals with the hero's various adventures along the way; and "Return" deals with the hero's return home with knowledge and powers acquired on the journey.” source

The Hero's Journey has 12 stages. They are:
1.Ordinary World - The hero's normal world before the story begins
2.Call to Adventure - The hero is presented with a problem, challenge or adventure
3.Refusal of the Call - The hero refuses the challenge or journey, usually because he's scared
4. Meeting with the Mentor - The hero meets a mentor to gain advice or training for the adventure
5. Crossing the First Threshold - The hero crosses leaves the ordinary world and goes into the special world
6. Tests, Allies, Enemies - The hero faces tests, meets allies, confronts enemies & learn the rules of the Special World.
7. Approach - The hero has hit setbacks during tests & may need to try a new idea
8. Ordeal - The biggest life or death crisis
9. Reward - The hero has survived death, overcomes his fear and now earns the reward 10. The Road Back - The hero must return to the Ordinary World.
11. Resurrection Hero - another test where the hero faces death – he has to use everything he's learned
12. Return with Elixir - The hero returns from the journey with the “elixir”, and uses it to help everyone in the Ordinary World

The heroes also share some common characteristics:
Unusual circumstances of birth; sometimes in danger or born into royalty
Leaves family or land and lives with others
An event, sometimes traumatic, leads to adventure or quest
Hero has a special weapon only he can wield
Hero always has supernatural help
The Hero must prove himself many times while on adventure
The Journey and the Unhealable Wound
Hero experiences atonement with the father
When the hero dies, he is rewarded spiritually

While many people consider Joseph Campbell’s work the definitive writing on the monomyth, there are also many criticisms of his approach.

Think about any of the movies you have seen or any books you have read. Is there a hero? How does that hero function? Do you find flaws in Campbell’s approach to the archetypal hero? Why do we have heroes/do we really need them? Are heroes harmful? Have heroes changed over time?

Back up your answers with research. Be sure to cite your sources.
Comments due by Monday 10/15.


artperson said...

The last big movie i saw was trasformers. Even in this movie (based off a popular cartoon from when I was a child) there was a hero.The hero happens to be the human even though there are 30' tall machines whith automatic weapons and missiles.
Alot of movies with a hero usually do follow campbells approach, not exactly, but generally they do. Heros in the real world are usually life savers and i think its great when we have a real-life hero, because without them another life would be lost.
Also I think heros have pretty much stayed the same over time. Not much has changed about how they go about their heroic acts.

retroclide said...

The concept of hero has changed over time. Sadly, the concept of hero has changed. Often people revere people who do little than other play a sport well. There was a time when a person was considered a hero because of a good works that he did, the high moral standard with which he conducted his life. With the hero, came a sense of duty, obligation, humility and betterment for others.
I believe that there is a shift with some, not all, toward heroic reverence of somebody for his temporal abilities and his cache--both financially and name value. As for me, I support a return to the heroic reverenge of a person based on the good works that he does, the benefits for others he creates and ensures.

livefish said...

I find that the definition of a hero was never really set. How do we know a hero if we don't know what it means? Couldn't a hero be some old lady who saved a child or a child who looked into the eyes of a cold killer and changed his life. I believe that there are many definitions of a hero but really it's what that hero has done to certain people that those people must then decide whether he/she is a hero. I have many heros but that doesn't mean that they are some one elses heros. A hero will change that person's life forever... That is what a true hero is to me. Like Nelson Mandela to some people all over the world. Like Sadam Hussein to his followers. Like Jesus to the world. All have a hero and live to follow them.

nwalker said...

Heroes back then were actual people that other people viewed as heroes because they were much more extraordinary, athletically or mentally compared to the average person. Heroes now are more of a fantasy because we know that no one can actually fly or whatever "power" that they have.

Luis said...

many movies, books, games, and other media sources has a hero, a hero can be anyone that saves or do something in order to protect or defend someone or something, it doesn't have to be brave to do it although that helps a lot, one of my heroes, that many of you may have read about it and seen him in action is the terror of criminals in Gotham city, Batman.

different from many heroes in other books and movies and his comrades superheroes he is an alone defendant of justice (with some exceptions)he may not have superpowers as some heroes, but that doesn't matter as long he brings terror in the villains hearts, I like most of his comics and cartoons when they were broad casted, now I watch mostly his movies, in his latest movie he shows how he was transformed from the day he fell in the well and had a vision of his future mission.

exquisitedesign said...

I would have to agree with retroclide on the concept of a hero. I think that the outlook as to what makes a hero has changed a significant amount. A hero doesn't have to have super powers to be considered a hero, but rather someone that makes a positive impact on others' lives. I haven't seen any movies recently because I haven't had the time, but Campbell's steps are kind of accurate when comparing it to such characters like Harry Potter or even Shrek. When I did a search for what makes a hero, I got websites like this:

Basically I found websites that could not define what a hero was, but they wanted students to try and put a definition to it. I don't think that you can define what a hero is entirely, but I think that certain qualities can help distinguish who a hero is. This next website relates to the hero's of 9/11, but I think it's a good reference.

big bad teacher said...

Excellent points everyone.

tnap said...

A lot of people are posting things like "how can you define a hero?" and "hero's are just ordinary people." But in the movies, a hero is extraordinary, usually good looking, and definetly not an "ordinary person." I find that Joseph Campbell's theory hit the nail on the head. I can't really think of a movie that doesn't use the "hero plot" he describes

Marc said...

One aspect I didn't notice that was touched on was many hero stories have the outward challenge to be faced. This is usually represented by various villains or tasks. But, usually what is more compelling is the hero has an innate character flaw that he/she must overcome. This is typically achieved as a prerequisite to completely their outward challenge, but sometimes accomplished at the same time as their main objective.

jpayne said...

I agree with a few of the other posts that how we define a hero has changed and that everyone has their own idea of what a hero really is. What makes someone a hero in one person's eyes might not be the same to another. I think that a hero is someone that puts others feelings and needs before their own and does things to make a positive impact on their lives. A hero is someone that is not selfish and would do anything to help someone else in need. The movies and stories often refer to a the hero as someone that is big and strong and typically has some sort of "powers." Although in some cases they could be looked at as a hero, most of the time the heros in movies are quite fictional and they do things that would never really happen. This website gives the different definitions of what a hero is and gives some examples within different texts.

Kaitlin said...

Heroes are definitely created to fulfill the want in humans to feel like things are in control. A hero makes people feel safe and good about their world. I think that we will always look to someone as a hero in our lives...that is just natural. In a way we do need a hero figure in our lives as a support. Heroes can be people in our family, religious symbol, etc. An example of a hero is Nancy Drew in a way. She is a hero every time she solves those oh so impressive mysteries.:)
Most times a hero is an individual that has good character and does selfless things for the people around them. I would like to think that our heroes still posses admirable qualities today.

James A. said...

Almost all T.V shows, Movies etc.. have a hero, although it may not seem like it. Most stories have a main character and they have to overcome adversity and opposition and although sometimes they arent as "epic" of quest, they still are quests to reach a goal.

aydin1107 said...

I read that some people thought that the idea of hero hasn't changed over the years, and so I looked it up. Here's what I found :"the original hero in early literature was probably based on the king who died for his people, or the warrior who defeated the tribe's enemies." "In the 18th century there were individuals who took a stand for what was right and proper. They fought for freedom or reformation of society around them. All of them where men who saw a need for change and attempted to do something about it." And they said of the 20th century hero for Americans specifically: "a person that provides a positive role model for Americans and also holds a system of morals that American citizens aspire to reach," but they also mentioned what a few of you said about today's hero basically just has to be rich or famous.

VictorVonDoom said...

As I write this Im watching Heroes, a show about 9 individuals who have special powers and are finding others like them. These are ordianry people with extraordinary abilities, alot like some of the people who are heroes in my life. I wont get into this here but i donit think that the idea of "heroes" has really changed that much from the old days. Not all heroes are basketball players or actors, they could be ordinary people in our lives who do extraordinary things for others. I think that heroes are good to have around, as I said they are role models for the younger generations...and other stuff! so yea...

bigbadteacher said...

This post has been graded