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Introduction to the Monomyth

Is there a collective human subconscience? Why do the same archetypes occur in the
myths, legends, and dreams of people separated by geography, language, and even
time?

Carl Jung, a Swiss psychologist, believed archetypes exist as reflections of the human
mind. Perhaps all human groups seem to share universal archetypes because we all
share a common human experience. This would account for the recurrence of universal
concerns like "Why am I here?," "What is the meaning of life?," or even "How can I find
happiness?"

The term monomyth, as used by Joseph Campbell in The Hero With a Thousand Faces,
refers to "one story" that all cultural groups seem to share regarding a hero's journey.
Numerous authors and scholars analyze and apply the monomyth to literature and film of
the modern era. Our exploration of the monomyth and analyses of its application to
various works will focus on simplified version of the hero's journey:
1. Unusual birth circumstances (royalty, danger, orphan, etc.)
2. Call to Adventure (which the hero initially resists)
3. Appearance of Mentor or other helper
4. Test/Challenge in which the hero proves his/her worth under the guidance of the
mentor or with assistance from "helpers"
5. The Solo Battle in which the hero must triumph alone
6. The Return to the hero's home or family as a transformed individual

Advanced studies of the monomyth will reveal many more stages of the hero's journey.
UC Berkeley's ORIAS1 website describes at least ten stages of the journey in African,
Indian, and Japanese myths. Maricopa (Arizona) Community College2 identifies twenty-
three steps on a hero's path. Finally, Kal Bashir's3 analysis includes more than 188
stages of the hero's journey for would-be screenwriters.

1
http://www.ias.berkeley.edu/orias/hero/index.htm
2
http://www.mcli.dist.maricopa.edu/smc/journey/ref/summary.html
3
http://www.clickok.co.uk/ClassicHero.html
But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Turn this sheet over and let's examine the hero's
journey in a modern film (The Matrix) and a classic Greek myth (Perseus).
Stages of the Hero's Journey The Matrix Perseus
1. unusual birth circumstances At first we do not learn the true
nature of Neo's birth, but later we find
out that Morpheus believes that Neo
is "the chosen one." By the way,
"neo," which means "new," is also an
anagram of "one."
2. call to adventure Neo receives a message via his
computer to "follow the white rabbit,"
which is a reference to one of Alice's
guides in Through the Looking Glass.
3. appearance of mentor Trinity is actually only a "helper"
archetype. Morpheus fits the
"mentor" archetype.

4. guided test/challenge Neo and Morpheus battle in the


matrix.

5. solo battle Neo finally fights Agent Smith without


assistance and without running away.
6. return Neo and his crewmates prepare for a
triumphant return to Zion.