The Concept of a Hero’s Journey in American Literature
Literature can be basically referred to as the term which is used to describe some spoken materials but majorly to give an extensive description of written materials. The hero’s journey definitely without any doubt is the basic template for most of the great stories. The story was described in depth by Campbell in “The Hero with a Thousand Faces” whereby he described various stages through which one has to go to become a hero (Campbell, & Edward p. 108). Hero’s journey basically includes a pertinent call to adventure, whereby there is involvement of supernatural mentor, many difficulty trials that are meant to harden the Hero and prepare him adequately to face tough enemy ahead and an ultimate win at the end. Literary many fiction and writing courses usually focus on hero’s journey on one aspect or the other. Have you ever noticed that most stories have a beginning, middle then finally an end? Well, the stories conform to the context of the Hero’s journey. This essay will extensively discuss the “A Hero’s Journey in American Literature”
Most folklorists including some narrative scholars will agree that the hero’s story without any possible doubt forms the basis of most stories ever taught. Campbell described the “Hero’s journey” very extensively in his book “The hero with thousand faces” he portrays “Hero’s journey” to be most recurring every creature’s tale. Hero’s journey includes the explanation of the path, the calling to venture, an inclusion of a supernatural helper or maybe guide, occurrence of challenges as well as, return and victory (Baym, & Levine p. 450). Most influential American screenwriters including fiction usually emphasize very much on the Hero’s Journey this becomes evident because, its universality can be noticed in their works quite often. Hero’s journey is therefore a meshwork like template from where broad categories of tales derive their origin, particularly the tales that have a hero going for a journey and them making some vital decisive actions that finally guarantees him to win and eventually come back to the society as a transformed or a changed man (Robbins, & Ruth 767).
Most American founding writers had their works confining within the precepts of the Hero’s journey, whereby they followed greatly the pertinent steps in any folktale that was well explained by Campbell. However, some writers deviated from this and went their own way, by setting up stories that did reflect any aspect of “The Hero’s journey” as explained by Campbell. Normally every tale usually have a beginning, a body and an end, narratives in most cases have usually this one determined person who sets himself/ herself on a mission to achieve something in after having some aspiration then he/she starts his/her mission by encountering challenges and averting them then finally he ends up being successful and therefore returns home as a hero. In other instances, someone becomes a hero after accomplishing a given mission but does not come out alive. According to (Campbell, p.260) “Hero’s journey” includes standard form of edifice that was taken from the Campbell’s Monomythic particularly in the volume “A Thousand Faces” which Vogler derived 12 stages of Hero’s Journey “Stated in the terms already formulated, the hero’s first task is to experience consciously the antecedent stages of the cosmogonic cycle; to break back through the epochs of emanation. His second, then, is to return from that abyss to the plane of contemporary life, there to serve as a human transformer of demiurgic potentials. (296.1)”. Generally, the twelve steps in “The Hero’s journey” include stage one; the ordinary world. This is a stage where the hero’s life is just normal; and includes call to adventure, refusal meeting the mentor and crossing the threshold. Stage two; the special world, trials and challenges, approach to inmost cave and the ordeal. Last stage includes the ordinary world; the stage entails the road back to the society, the resurrection and the grand return.
Examining closely some of the founders of American literature you will realize that, the context of the hero’s story has been reflected in so many instances. Themes of some of their work borrow mostly the pertinent steps through which the Hero has to undergo to become victorious (Serafin, et al p.124). Nevertheless the some of the literature works do not necessary include all the pertinent steps but examining them from a wide point of view you will realize they borrowed the “Hero’s journey” significantly as analyzed in the context below;
Mark Twain’s Literature
It’s unarguable that Mark Twain was one of the prominent writers that America has ever produced. Logically looking at the journey of America’ literature journey we can find a lot of aspects of the Hero’s journey, in his work, Mark Twain who is considered as one of the America’s greatest writers as well as humorists, his works particularly about his novels which explained his boyhood life reflects greatly the Hero’s journey (Blair, p.205). He had been in a small village; Florida at Missouri and expended his boyhood life on the Mississippi’s River bank something that influenced much the person he finally came to be. From there he undertook little training that further prepared him for the challenge ahead among his greatest and most controversial included “The Adventures of Huckleberry” it was greatest because it showed some of the social issues that faced America, and borrowed the context greatly from the Hero’s journey story. This book was surrounded was surrounded by many controversies because of use of many obscene terminologies (Twain, et al 145). Twain put a logical flow of ideas that is to some extent similar to the Hero’s journey. The story starts by familiarizing us with the occasions of the novel that heralded it. Just like in Hero’s story where we have the hero as just but an ordinary person, Twain introduces us to Tom Swayer who is like any other boy in the society. His journey to victory starts by facing several challenges. First the boy I raised in a poor background by a very drunkard father who never bothers about the welfare of the boy. He, therefore, sets himself on a mission to fulfill his passion for adventure. On the journey, he collects a stash of gold. The adventure results to be fruitful for him but his drunken father always seem to pull down any effort and fortune made by the boy (Twain, et al 145). The story highlights the racism that is prevailing in the society “here was a free nigger there from Ohio—a mulatter, most as white as a white man. He had the whitest shirt on you ever see, too, and the shiniest hat; and there isn’t a man in that town that’s got as fine clothes as what he had, and he had a gold watch and chain, and a silver-headed cane—the awfulest old gray-headed nabob in the State. And what do you think? They said he was a p’fessor in a college, and could talk all kinds of languages, and knew everything. And that isn’t the wust. They said he could VOTE when he was at home. Well, that let me out. Thinks I, what is the country a-coming to? It was election day, and I was just about to go and vote myself if I weren’t too drunk to get there; but when they told me there was a State in this country where they’d let that nigger vote, I drawed out. I says I’ll never vote agin. (6.11)”. In conjunction with “the hero’s journey” the Mark Twain’s story takes the following stages, innocence, initiation, chaos and resolution as the ultimate victory (Twain, et al. p. 145)
Harper Lee’s “To kill a Mockingbird”
Another influential pacemaker in literature is un-doubtfully Harper Lee. Just like some of his predecessors who work had an aspect of the hero’s story, Lee’s work “To kill the mockingbird” greatly reflected the Hero’s journey story in the sense that he used an intelligent a girl that awakened the prejudice and racism in South America. Jean Louise “Scout” hi portrayed as the hero who sets herself on the mission to achieve an ultimate success; ending the prejudice and racism that characterized her society “ Scout,” said Atticus, “nigger-lover is just one of those terms that don’t mean anything—like snot-nose. It’s hard to explain—ignorant, trashy people use it when they think somebody’s favoring Negroes over and above themselves (Lee p.65). It’s slipped into usage with some people like ourselves when they want a common, ugly term to label somebody.” “You aren’t really a nigger-lover, then, are you?” I certainly am. I do my best to love everybody… I’m hard put, sometimes—baby, it’s never an insult to be called what somebody thinks is a bad name. It just shows you how poor that person is, it doesn’t hurt you.” Just like in the hero who has to face numerous challenges, scout she had to fight against all odds to see her dream come true. The girl has a short temper and she is often engaged in fights to defend her identity. Harper Lee also modeled his hero; scout to be tough and be ready for any challenge. Through the constant fights that harper lee was engaged in she finally developed a tomboyish behavior and did not fancy girls things like dolls and pretty dresses, in fact, she insisted in wearing pants just like a boy (Lee p.56).“Aunt Alexandra was fanatical on the subject of my attire. I could not possibly hope to be a lady if I wore breeches; when I said I could do nothing in a dress, she said I wasn’t supposed to be doing things that required pants. Aunt Alexandra’s vision of my deportment involved playing with small stoves, tea sets, and wearing the Add-A-Pearl necklace she gave me when I was born; furthermore, I should be a ray of sunshine in my father’s lonely life”. As time passes Scout at times is overwhelmed by fear especially during the Boo’s saga but still carries on with her mission. She realizes the imminent danger ahead of her but still does not relent. Though she is a small girl scout is fully aware of the ugly racism, the injustices, and prejudice that is prevailing everywhere including in court this stands as her enemy and tries all she can to kill the enemy “Atticus, you must be wrong….How’s that? Well, most folks seem to think they’re right and you’re wrong….” Harper Lee based the work on some of his childhood experiences as the same turn of events prevailed when he was a small boy. He also incorporated the Hero’s journey context into his story so as to be effective in passing his intended message.
In conclusion, “The Hero’s journey” continues to be very significant in influencing the literature not only in America but in most parts of the world. The context of Hero’s journey is very ideal and that’s why its influencing action in literature is dominant (Campbell, et al p.340). Since it give the true representation on the follow of any tale something which gives author a better perspective of modelling his story to achieve significance.
The Hero’s Journey in a Disney Movie “Toy Story”
In the Disney movie Toy Story, Woodie, Andy’s cowboy toy, is an example of an universal hero who follows the twelves steps of The Hero’s Journey. The journey all begins with the introduction of the ordinary world, the toys’ life in Andy’s room. Everything is peaceful and all of the toys get along with each other. Then Woodie receives “a call to adventure” with the addition of Buzz to Andy’s toys. At first, Woodie “refuses the call” by rejecting the idea that Buzz would replace him and become Andy’s favourite toy. However, it can be seen through the transition of Andy’s room becoming more “spacey,” replacing the cowboy theme with an astrospace ranger theme, that Buzz is becoming Andy’s favourite. This transition signifies the “cross the first threshold.” With Woodie’s attempt to get rid of Buzz, they both go on a journey after being knocked outside from the car. Woodie encounters tests, allies, and enemies (mainly Sid and his dog), with Buzz as they try to get back to Andy. However, with Buzz still believing that he was a space ranger and not a toy, the journey becomes riddled with difficultes for Woodie. At the pizza place, Woodie and Buzz approach the second threshold when they get grabbed by the crane from an arcade game. The winner was Sid, a horrifying child with a passion to torture toys. At Sid’s house, Woodie and Buzz face their supreme ordeal, escaping Sid and his dog.
Through their time together trying to escape their doom from Sid’s experiments and toy torture, they take possession of their reward, their new friendship. With this, they are able to work together with Sid’s toys and return back to Andy safe and sound. The resurrection and the return with the elixir is signified through Andy’s reacceptance of Woodie and the new friendship with Buzz.
A Hero’s Journey in “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” and “The Odyssey”
Many modern and old stories are being analyzed and categorized as a Hero’s Journey story if they follow a set template for what it means for there to be a hero’s journey. Both stories, The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain and The Odyssey by Homer, show almost complete example of the hero’s journey, but The Odyssey shows a more clearly developed hero’s journey, because the Odyssey actually follows all the constraints of the hero’s journey, while Huck Finn does not.
In today’s day and age many people are incorrectly labeling stories as a hero’s journey. People believe that if only some of the aspects of the hero’s journey are shown, or even if the aspects are shown out of order, the story still counts as a hero’s journey, but that is false. If the order of events isn’t correct, then the story does not count as a hero’s journey, this ideal is shared by the author James R Hull, in his article Not Everything Is A Hero’s Journey, where he goes over what does and does not count for a hero’s journey, and he says “Contrary to what many Hero’s Journey enthusiasts believe, the order of events has meaning” (Hull 4). When the order of events for the hero’s journey is crucial, Huckleberry Finn fails to deliver a story with a hero’s journey. When looking at the text of Huckleberry Finn, we can find some of the events don’t correlate correctly with the hero’s journey, for example, in Huck Finn it can be argued that the threshold, which is Huck finally realizing that slavery is wrong, came before the training and discipline stage, which is when Huck is going through his adventures with Jim and begins to realize how morally incorrect his society is. Having the training and discipline come before the threshold makes Huck Finn’s story not be a true hero’s journey, and makes Huck not count as a valid hero going on a hero’s journey.
Contrasting from Huckleberry Finn, The Odyssey shows a clearly laid out and chronological order of the hero’s journey, and doesn’t sway from the definition of what it really means to be a hero’s journey. In The Odyssey we can clearly the order of events coinciding with the hero’s journey throughout the story, with Odysseus’ Journey beginning with a conventional slumber, which is when he is trapped on an island for 10 years and spends everyday doing the same things. The call to adventure follows and is also quite obviously shown when Calypso literally tells Odysseus he must embark on his adventure now “Now I am willing, heart and soul, to send you off at last. Come, take bronze tools, cut your lengthy timbers, make them in a broad reamed raft” (Homer 157). The “in your face” undeniable hero’s journey aspects are shown throughout all of Odysseus’ journey and back up the claim that The Odyssey shows Odysseus going on a true hero’s journey, while Huck Finn only shows some examples, and even then they are weak examples of the hero’s journey.
The hero’s journey also must not be vague or broken off from, but Mark Twain’s Huck Finn breaks off from the template in one of the most crucial parts of what makes the hero’s journey the hero’s journey. In the start of Huckleberry’s story, Huck is sharing what his normal everyday life is and says “The Widow Douglas she took me for her son, and allowed she would sivilise me; but it was rough living in the house all the time” (Twain 4). Huck flat out tells the audience what his everyday life is, and this is a recognizable example of the hero’s journey, and is the conventional slumber stage. The audience recognizes the Widow Douglas’ home as Huck’s home, and this is where Huck should return to when he is done with his adventure and ends with the return and contribution stage, but he doesn’t. In the end of Huckleberry Finn’s story, when he has finished everything, it is expected he will go back to his hometown and finally lock in the fact that he went through a hero’s journey, but instead Huck ends his story by saying “But I reckon I got to light out for the Territory ahead of the rest, because Aunt Sally she’s going to adopt me and sivilize me, and I can’t stand it. I been there before” (Twain 407). With Huck deciding not to go back home he can’t accomplish one of the important aspects of the hero’s journey, the returning stage. Adhering to all the points of the hero’s journey is crucial to prove that a character is going on a hero’s journey, and as James R Hull says in his article “For a paradigm to be accurate, there should be no need to warp it or bend it to fit stories” (Hull 2). Not following all the conditions for the hero’s journey doesn’t make someone qualify as a hero who goes on a hero’s journey, and Huck doesn’t follow the hero’s journey.
Both stories, Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, and The Odyssey by Homer are powerful stories in which a character goes through a great journey and finds a change in their life, but only one of the stories follows the correct ruling for being a hero’s journey, so only one of the stories truly shows a hero going on a hero’s journey. Following all the aspects of the hero’s journey in correct order, and not missing any of the prerequisites is crucial in solidifying the hero’s journey, and The Odysseys’ Odysseus is an example of someone completing all the steps in order, and having them all shown, which makes him a hero going on a hero’s journey.
Heroe’s Departure, Initiation, and Return in Back to Future
The Hero’s Journey is a theory discussed in Joseph Campbell’s non-fiction book The Hero with a Thousand Faces. At its most basic level, this theory states that most stories and myths are divided into three parts – the hero’s Departure,Initiation and Return. In this essay, I will break down Robert Zemeckis’classic Back to the Future into those 3 acts and point out stages from each one.
The first act of the hero’s spiritual journey is called the Departure. Usually at the beginning of the story, “the protagonist is removed from the known and journeys into the unknown”(as stated in the class slides). In Back to the Future, we see a clearly established Home Culture – the protagonist, Marty McFly is living with his family, attends a high school and lives a relatively normal life. However, a Call to Adventure soon breaks his normal routine: Marty’s friend, Dr. Emmet Brown, invents a time machine and shatters the conventional image of this world. Things quickly go awry and Marty is forced to Cross the First Threshold by traveling 30 years back in time, all by himself.
This is where the second act, the Initiation, begins. As discussed in class, this is the part where the protagonist’s world is forever changed and he has to undergo a physical and spiritual journey. In the first few minutes of his time in the past, Marty starts his Road of Trials. He has to figure out a way to come back home and get his parents to fall in love with each other. As this is not a task he can accomplish by himself, Marty seeks the aid of the 30 years younger Dr. Brown. Doc explains the necessity of getting the teen’s parents back together and pushes Marty to succeed. By doing this, he establishes himself as the Soul Mate that the protagonist meets. However, Marty is struggling with an important task. He has to Overcome the Temptation and accept his supporting role in this particular story. Marty guides his father and helps him entice his mother (god this is so confusing, what even), therefore saving his own existence and accomplishing one Ultimate Goal.
By the end, Doc and Marty figure out a way to get the teen back home and thus begins the third and final act – the Return. As usual, things don’t work out quite the way they planned and Dr. Brown has to come to Marty’s Rescue by fixing things before it’s too late. Ultimately, he succeeds and the protagonist returns to his own time safely. This way, Marty becomes a Master of Two Worlds – he has successfully time-traveled, saved the future and seen a time before he was even born. Marty understands that his past actions have saved Doc’s life and has to adjust to some other changes he unknowingly made. The teen finds Freedom in these facts and is confident enough to travel through time and change the future once again, this time with his girlfriend Jennifer and Dr. Brown.
To sum up, Back to the Future is a great example of the Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey. It has a clearly defined Departure, Initiantion and Return, as well as each of those acts’ defining stages.
Analysis of “The Hobbit” by the Example of Bilbo Baggins
Throughout the novel Bilbo Baggins is on a voyage of self-discovery, uncovering unknown talents to conquer the dangers throughout his quest. The Hobbit is an adventure story that embodies the classic hero’s journey, first defined by author Joseph Campbell in 1949. The hero’s journey is a 12-step literary template through which a character is transformed from an everyman to a hero. In the traditional template the hero starts with an ordinary life in an ordinary place—like the Shire—a place that will be left behind in the journey. The character is given a call to action, or a reason to leave the aforementioned home (like helping retrieve the treasure from Smaug). Along the way the hero meets a mentor (Gandalf) and is tested by enemies.
For Bilbo the journey starts with complete trust in Gandalf and a desire to stay with the team (the dwarves) for safety and support. Through each battle, however, he learns independence and courage, eventually transforming enough to save the dwarves for a change. In the climax of the hero’s journey, the hero must encounter the mission—that is to say, the hero must face the reason for the call to action. In The Hobbit Bilbo must face the dragon hoarding the gold and ultimately emerge victorious. The hero then collects the reward (treasure), journeys home, and in the final step realizes that life will never be the same.
Greed is a central theme in The Hobbit. Nearly every character demonstrates greed—including Bilbo when he keeps the Arkenstone and ring. Thorin Oakenshield demonstrates greed the worst. He has a great treasure in front of him, a treasure so massive he couldn’t spend it in 100 lifetimes, yet he still wants to keep it for himself. He is even willing to go to war or starve to death to keep the gold all for himself. The Elvenking greedily wants to build his reputation and add more treasure to his already respectable hoard. The Master of Lake-town is exceptionally greedy, even to the extent of trying to steal the treasure from his people, who need it to rebuild their homes and lives. Even the simple hobbits are greedy. They sell Bilbo’s furnishings and want his home.
Bilbo Baggins is the epitome of loyalty. He sticks by the dwarves although they continue to disrespect and criticize him. He is loyal to them to the end, even when it almost gets him killed.
The dwarves also exhibit loyalty, although the motivation at times might be more about greed, but they save Bilbo on a number of occasions early in the story. Beorn demonstrates great loyalty when he comes to help the dwarves, men, and elves in the Battle of Five Armies. Likewise, the eagles demonstrate their loyalty to Gandalf and save the group not once, but twice. Loyalty was a huge influence in the time of the Anglo-Saxons, and Tolkien is certainly influenced by his love of Old English tales.
The influence of prior generations on their current descendants emerges in several ways in this novel. Thorin Oakenshield initiates the dwarves’ quest because he is a descendant of the King Under the Mountain and wants to reestablish that kingdom. Bilbo is influenced in two ways: first, he is often torn between his adventurous Took side and the more careful Baggins instinct. Also, at several key junctures in the novel, he remembers the wise advice of his father, which leads him to success. Bard, too, uses his heritage in claiming a portion of the hoard and uses his connection to rebuild Lake-town.
Luck and Destiny
Luck and destiny are ever present throughout The Hobbit. It is unclear whether luck or divine intervention is at work in every chapter. Bilbo is lucky enough to find a sword that lights up when goblins are around; he is lucky enough to find the invisibility ring; he is lucky to be near enough the gray stone to hear the thrush, to remember the key for the secret passage to the dragon’s lair; he is lucky enough to find the Arkenstone—but is it luck, or is it destiny? Regardless, Tolkien includes the idea in almost every chapter, and whether it is that everyone needs a little luck or that everyone needs to follow their destiny, all will work out in the end.
The Hero’s Quest: Comparison Between “The Wizard of Oz” and “The Epic of Gilgamesh”
In relatively every book you read, you will find that somebody generally needs to go on a type of journey or quest. Usually most of the quests have many similarities with each other so at some point they are created from a model example. The journey on which all these hero’s go on is alluded to as the original mission. The quest on which all these heroes go on is referred to as the archetypal quest. The hero figure in “The Wizard of Oz” Dorothy is a girl from a small town in Kansas. In the other story Gilgamesh is the hero figure. The king of Uruk, but at the same time arrogant and brutal with the people in the city. Even if the two quests were from different periods of time both “The Wizard of Oz” and “The Epic of Gilgamesh” contain similar components that make them archetypal quests. There are different stages in each of the hero’s quest.
Just about every journey it begins with character building. Introducing the protagonist while showing how they live their day to day life. One can develop a sense of understanding and appreciation for each character. Whether they are on a quest for fame, pleasuand self-fulfillment or even forced unwilling. At this point of the journey both characters are showing their everyday life in their hometown.
The character leaves his or her world and enters a new world. In the “The Epic of Gilgamesh” starts when Gilgamesh decides to fight Humbaba. It is at this point that he sets out on his journey to make himself more liked by his city. Dorothy on the other side leaves her world unwilling when a tornado sweeps her house up and she lands in the Land of Oz. During this point, their adventure has started and there is no turning back for them.
In both stories the heroes had their own mentors which usually were more superior to the hero with supernatural powers. At this point the mentors help the heroes by giving them useful advice along their journey like in Dorothy’s case or by aiding them in battle like they did with Gilgamesh. Shamash the sun god was the Gilgamesh’s mentor who with his advice help him to defeat Humbaba. On the other side Dorothy’s mentor was Glinda (Good Witch of the North) helped Dorothy since she landed in Oz. Glinda is more powerful than Dorothy and serves as a huge help throughout her quest. If it weren’t for the help of their mentors, the heroes probably wouldn’t make it through their quests.
As the heroes continues their mission they are always being tried to vanquish numerous troublesome impediments. During their way they gain some allies which help them to complete their quest. The main points of these two stories can be categorized as trials and obstacles. Gilgamesh comes across various mental and physical tests and difficulties. He must walk a dreadful four-day long journey to see Utnapishtim. Also, during his quest he must go to the bottom of the ocean to regain the sacred plant. After Gilgamesh realized that he couldn’t gain the immortality like Utnapishtim he then was tested with loaves bread from the Utnapishtim’s wife. Whereas Dorothy is tested by the Wicked Witch of the West. The witch kidnaps her and uses poppies to try to prevent Dorothy from arriving to Emerald City. Once Dorothy gets to Emerald City she is faced with an unfavorable situation when she must kill the witch of the west, only to find out the wizard of Oz is a lying crook. Throughout her journey Dorothy benefits from three main followers, the Lion, tin Man, and scarecrow. They help Dorothy get to Emerald City and by that each of them gained what they sought out for in their journey. The wizard decides to take Dorothy back home.
The hero must now travel on a different journey called the road back. Usually this road is filled with additional complications. Gilgamesh travels on his road back when he departs for his homeland of Uruk. He must take a long journey across the ocean to get back home. Now that Dorothy discovered that the Wizard doesn’t have mystical powers, she must find some other way to get back home. The heroes must now overcome additional challenges to complete their quest.
Both heroes must bring at home the treasure that they have been through all the quest. Most of the time the treasure is a physical object, but in these cases consist in life experiences and knowledge that they have gained during their journey. Gilgamesh returns to his city with new knowledge, the story of the flood and much less arrogance. Dorothy returns to her home in Kansas with great amounts of experience and knowledge. Everyone tells her she was dreaming, but she claims that it felt too real to be a dream. This is usually the point in which the story comes to an end and the mission has been accomplished.
The story of Gilgamesh is still used because it’s still a good moral story. He was a bad man then he found a friend who kind of completed him which allowed them to have a good relationship together. Then Gilgamesh’s journey made him realize that people and things pass, everything leaves, and everything dies. The quest made him a better man. For example, a good lesson he learned to overcome his superior attitude. Dorothy on the other hand despite of many trial and troubles that she continuous encounters showed her kindness to her friends and family. Her idea of helping and welcoming everyone allowed her to meet wonderful people which became her friends and helped her during her journey. Dorothy learned that our home doesn’t have to be a place it also can be some people.