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Archetypes In Literature Essay Sample

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The Archetypes of Outcasts as a Window into Society Anonymous 12th Grade

Archetypes are an important foundation for building literary work. As “reoccurring patterns, images, or descriptive details” (Crisp 2), they not only define the identity of an author’s characters, but the course of the plot, the journeys and the tragedies. Archetypes are utilized as a useful tool in order to convey the author’s beliefs as well as bring important issues regarding society or the human condition to light. The archetype of the outcast is one of those tools, albeit far more complex then the usual models of tragic heroes or femme fatales. The outcast lives outside of the norms of society, either being cast out or leaving of his own volition, often coping with feelings of anger towards that world or continuing to rebel against normalcy while unable to function in daily life (Crisp 1). This gives these characters a unique vantage point and, suddenly freed by the constraints of social behavior, they can then scrutinize the details of lives with their “alternative processing” (Crisp 3) and uncover the tribulations developing within society which would otherwise not be noticed with a limited perspective of proper conduct.

19th century Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky understood the importance of this particular.

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Archetypes in Literature Essays on Connecting Characters and Plot

Archetypes in Literature

Archetypes in Literature essays discuss the literature model, in which other ideas are patterned after, that helps the reader connect with characters and plotting.

An archetype is a model, or an ideal example, upon which other ideas are patterned. Archetypes are a common theme in literature, where a writer will use a device, such as a character or situation, in order to represent some universal pattern of the whole of human nature. Archetypes in literature help the reader connect with characters and plotting, with the author attempting to provide a form of realism.

There are many common archetypes used in literature. One is that of the hero. Joseph Campbell, in The Hero with a Thousand Faces. pointed out this ancient archetype. The Epic of Gilgamesh. written in ancient Babylon, is one of the first examples of the hero archetype. Other notable examples include Beowulf. the stories of King Arthur, or even Harry Potter. The hero struggles against evil in order to restore harmony and balance in the world.

A second archetype in literature, related to that of the hero, is the battle between good and evil. Moby-Dick is nothing if not an epic struggle between good and evil inside a man, represented by the external symbol of the whale. Another archetype is that of the journey, in which the hero physically travels in order to come to emotional understanding. Not only is Ishmael’s voyage on the Pequod this type of archetype, but so too is the journey of Tom Joad in The Grapes of Wrath. Archetypes abound in literature, providing richness and connection to the endless variety of stories in the human condition.

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Cinderella Archetypes

Cinderella Archetypes

A repetitive pattern in many different literary stories is widely known to many but actually recognized by few. This type of pattern is referred to as an archetype. An archetype is a complex literary term that can be found and understood by examining literature.

The first place that archetype can be examined is in Cinderella stories. The Traditional Cinderella story that we have all heard sets our standard for archetype in different cultural stories having Jewish, Indian, Chinese, and modern-day settings. In the Indian Cinderella story, "The Rough Faced Girl," there are many archetypes that are seen but the Cinderella archetype stands out. The girl, referred to as the rough faced girl, is an archetype in the Indian's cultural story. This general character, a girl wanting to gain more respect and happiness, is seen throughout different cultural stories of the Cinderella sort.

Along with characters in stories, archetypes can also be recognized in main plots or ideas in stories.

The death archetype is seen in different myths throughout history, being shown in the "Coyote and the Origin of Death" and "The Origin of Death." When humans tried to find the reasoning for things, they made up myths that seemed to make sense. Different people created different myths, thus making way for the archetypal patterns. Death is in stories and poems that we have read. In "Coyote and the Origin of Death," the coyote is the trickster that makes death present in the village. In "The Origin of Death" the hare's mistake causes death to be present in today's world. The idea of the trickster in the myths of death formed the end result of death being present in the world today. The repetitive pattern of the concept of death is an archetypical pattern.

Finally, creation stories.

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Archetypes in literature essay sample

Nebo Literature Archetypal Approaches to Literature

Myth is ubiquitous in time as well as place: it is a dynamic factor everywhere in human society;

it transcends time, uniting the past (traditional modes of belief) with the present (current values) and reaching toward the future (spiritual and cultural aspirations).

In sum, to quote Professor Schorer, “ it is the essential substructure of all human activity”

Although every people has its own distinctive mythology which may be reflected in legend, folklore, and ideology—although, in other words, myths take their specific shapes from the cultural environments in which they grow—myth is, in the general sense, universal. Furthermore, similar motifs or themes may be found among many different mythologies, and certain images that recur in the myths of peoples widely separated in time and place tend to have a common meaning or, more accurately, tend to elicit comparable psychological responses and to serve similar cultural functions. Such motifs and images are called “archetypes.”

Stated simply, archetypes are “universal symbols.” As Professor Wheel Wright explains in Metaphor and Reality (Indiana, 1962), such symbols are those which carry the same or very similar meanings for a large portion, if not all, of mankind. It is a discoverable fact that certain symbols, such as the sky father and earth mother, light, blood, up-down, the axis of a wheel, and others, recur again and again in cultures so remote from one another in space and time that there is no likelihood of any historical influence and causal connection among them.

Examples of these archetypes and the symbolic meanings with which they tend to be universally associated are listed below:

1. Water: the mystery of creation; birth-death-resurrection; purification and redemption; fertility and growth. According to Carl Jung, water is also the commonest symbol for the unconscious.

a. The Sea: the Mother of all Life; spiritual mystery, and infinity; death and rebirth; timelessness and eternity; the unconscious.

b. Rivers: also death and rebirth (baptism); the flowing of time into eternity; transitional phases of the life cycle; incarnations of deities.

2. Sun (fire and sky are closely related): creative energy;

consciousness (thinking, enlightenment, wisdom, spiritual vision); father principle (moon and earth tend to be associated with female or mother principle); passage of time and life.

a. Rising Sun: birth; creation; enlightenment.

b. Setting Sun: death.

a. Black (darkness): chaos (mystery, the unknown); death; the unconscious; evil; melancholy.

b. Red: blood, sacrifice; violent passion; disorder.

c. Green: growth; sensation; hope.

4. Circle (sphere, egg): wholeness; unity;

God as Infinite; life in primordial form; union of consciousness and the unconscious— for example, the yang-yin of Chinese art and philosophy, which combines in the circle the yang (male) element (consciousness, life, light, and heat) with the yin (female) element (the un conscious, death, darkness, and cold).

5. The Archetypal Woman (including the Jungian anima):

a. The Great Mother, Good Mother, Earth Mother: as sociated with birth, warmth, protection, fertility, growth, abundance; the unconscious.

b. The Terrible Mother: the witch, sorceress, siren—associated with fear, danger, and death.

c. The Soul-Mate: the princess or “beautiful lady”—in carnation of inspiration and spiritual fulfillment.

6. Wind (and breath): inspiration; conception; soul or spirit.

7. Ship: microcosm; mankind’s voyage through space and time.

8. Garden: paradise; innocence; unspoiled beauty (especially feminine) ; fertility.

9. Desert : spiritual aridity; death; nihilism or hopelessness.

These examples are by no means exhaustive, but represent some of the more common archetypal images that the reader is likely to encounter in literature. He should also realize that the images we have listed do not necessarily function as archetypes every time they appear in a literary work; the discreet critic interprets them as such only if the total context of the work logically supports an archetypal reading.


1. Creation. this is perhaps the most fundamental of all archetypal motifs; virtually every mythology is built on some account of how the Cosmos, Nature, and Man were brought into existence by some supernatural Being or Beings.

2. Immortality. another fundamental archetype, generally taking one of two basic narrative forms:

a. Escape from Time: the “Return to Paradise,” the state of perfect, timeless bliss enjoyed by man before his tragic Fall into corruption and mortality.

b. Mystical Submersion into Cyclical Time: the theme of endless death and regeneration—man achieves a kind of immortality by submitting to the vast, mysterious rhythm of Nature’s eternal cycle, particularly the cycle of the seasons.

3. Hero Archetypes (archetypes of transformation and redemption)

a) The Quest. the Hero (Savior or Deliverer) undertakes some long journey during which he must perform impossible ( tasks, battle with monsters, solve unanswerable riddles, and overcome insurmountable obstacles in order to save the \ kingdom and perhaps marry the princess.

(b. Initiation: the Hero undergoes a series of excruciating ordeals in passing from ignorance and immaturity to social and spiritual adulthood, that is, in achieving maturity and becoming a full-fledged member of his social group. The initiation most commonly consists of three stages or phases:

(1) separation, (2) transformation, and (3) return. Like the Quest, this is a variation of the Death-and-Rebirth archetype.

c. The Sacrificial Scapegoat. the Hero, with whom the welfare of the tribe or nation is identified, must die in order to atone for the people’s sins and restore the land to fruitfulness.

Finally, in addition to appearing as images and motifs, archetypes may be found in even more complex combinations as genres or types of literature which conform with the major phases of the seasonal cycle. In Fables of Identity (Harcourt, 1963), Northrop Frye provides the following table of archetypal phases with their correspondent literary types. (The reader may wish to consult Frye’s Anatomy of Criticism for an extended explanation of these categories.)

1. The dawn, spring and birth phase. Myths of the birth of the hero, of revival and resurrection, of creation and (be cause the four phases are a cycle) of the defeat of the powers of darkness, winter and death. Subordinate characters: the father and the mother. The archetype of romance and of most dithyrambic and rhapsodic poetry.

2. The zenith, summer, and marriage or triumph phase. Myths of apotheosis, of the sacred marriage, and of entering into Paradise. Subordinate characters: the companion and the bride. The archetype of com and idyll.

3. The sunset, autumn and death phase. Myths of fall, of the dying god, of violent death and sacrifice and of the isolation of the hero. Subordinate characters: the traitor and the siren. The archetype of tragedy and elegy.

4. The darkness, winter and dissolution phase. Myths of the triumph of these powers; myths of floods and the return of chaos, of the defeat of the hero. Subordinate characters: the ogre and the witch. The archetype of satire.

Professor Frye’s contribution takes us into the mythological approach to literary analysis. As our discussion of mythology has shown, the task of the myth critic is a special one. Unlike the traditional critic, who relies heavily on history and the biography of the writer, the myth critic is interested more in prehistory and the biographies of the gods. Unlike the formalistic critic, who concentrates upon the shape and symmetry of the work itself, the myth critic probes for the inner spirit which gives that form its vitality, its enduring appeal. And, unlike the Freudian critic, who is apt to see the hawk-chicken phenomenon cited in our introduction as symbolic of some form of sexual neurosis (perhaps the hawk is a father-image, and the coop a womb symbol), the myth critic assumes a broader perspective (he will seek to discover the prototypal hawk in whose image the model was carved and will look beyond our chicken to the primordial egg itself).

Yet, despite the special importance of the myth critic’s contribution, this approach is, for several reasons, relatively new and poorly understood. In the first place, only during the present century have the proper interpretive tools become available through the development of such disciplines as anthropology, psychology, and cultural history. Second, many scholars and teachers of literature have remained sceptical of myth criticism because of its tendencies toward the cult and the occult.

A Handbook of Critical Approaches. Wilfred Guerin, Earle G. Labor, Lee Morgan, John R. Willingham. Harper Row, 1966.

Women Archetypes in Greek Ancient Pantheon

Women Archetypes in Greek Ancient Pantheon

The notion of an archetype is rather complicated and has multiple layers, since it is widely used in many spheres of modern psychology and culture. The definition of the term has undergone several changes in the course of the cultural evolution. Within the frames of the current essay, it is possible to define an archetype as a generic, cumulative image, possessing some certain characteristic features.

Before our civilization switched to the patriarchal social systems with male gods, there existed a single and united image of a Woman – the Great Goddess. who was the symbol of life and death, closely related to the nature and fertility. She was responsible for the creative power of life, as well as for the destructive forces.

In the Greek pantheon there existed 7 goddesses, who represented the most common archetypical models of female behaviors. Aphrodite, Demeter and Hera were the most powerful ones. They had more deep connection with the Great Goddess archetype, than the other four. Aphrodite is a weaker variant of the Great Goddess in her fertility avatar. In Demeter we can easily find her Mother feature, whereas Hera is the echo of the Great Goddess as the Heaven Empress. Altogether they represent irresistible forces in every woman’s soul that make her such a unique creature as she is.

Artemis, Athena and Hestia are so-called Virgin goddesses. They represent female independence. They are not apt to love or emotional attachment, considering these outpouring to be distracting for their major activities, and express female need for independence and social life. Persephone is the personification of a Daughter – a young woman, who is still on her way to emotional maturity.

Thus, all these archetypes are inevitable components of the psychical structure of a woman.

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