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Seven Basic Plots [wo] man vs. nature [wo] man vs. [wo] man [wo] man vs. the environment [wo] man vs. machines/technology [wo] man vs. the supernaturall [wo] man vs. self [wo] man vs. god/religion
What is an Archetype?According to the American Heritage Online Dictionary:an archetype is an original model or type whichother similar things are patterned after, in otherwords a prototype or first model for all others.
The term Archetype can be applied to: An image A theme A symbol An idea A character type A plot pattern
Heroic Archetypes: Hero as warrior (Odysseus): A near god-like hero faces physical challenges and externalenemies. Hero as lover (Prince Charming): A pure love motivates the hero to complete his quest. Hero as Scapegoat (Jesus): Hero suffers for the sake of others. The Superheroic (Superman): Exaggerates the normal proportions of humanity; frequently hasdivine or supernatural origins. In some sense, the superhero isone apart, someone who does not quite belong, but who isnonetheless needed by society. (Mythological heroes)
The Hero’s Journey Stage 1 - Departure: The Hero is called to adventure, although he is reluctant to accept. Stage 2 - Initiation: The Hero crosses a threshold into a new, more dangerous world,eventually gaining a more mature perspective. Stage 3 - The Road of Trials: The Hero is given supernatural aid, or endures tests of strength,resourcefulness, and endurance.
The Hero’s Journey Stage 4 - The Innermost Cave: The Hero descends into the innermost cave, an underworld, orsome other place of great trial. Sometimes this place can be withinthe Hero’s own mind. Because of this trial, the Hero is reborn in some way—physically,emotionally, or spiritually. Through this experience, the Herochanges internally. Stage 5 - Return and Reintegration with Society: The Hero uses his new wisdom to restore fertility and order to theland.
Characteristics of the Hero’s Journey The Hero is naïve and inexperienced. The Hero meets monsters or monstrous men. The Hero has a strange, wise being as a mentor. The Hero yearns for the beautiful lady who is sometimes hisguide or inspiration. The Hero must go on a journey, learn a lesson, change in someway, and return home; he crosses a body of water or travels ona bridge. The Hero is born and raised in a rural setting away from cities.
Characteristics of the Hero’s Journey The origin of the Hero is mysterious or the Hero losses his/herparents at a young age, being raised by animals or a wiseguardian. The Hero undergoes some type of ritual or ceremony afterhis/her initiation. The Hero has a loyal band of companions. The Hero makes a stirring speech to his/her companions. The Hero engages in tests or contests of strength (physicaland/or mental) and shows pride in his/her excellence. The Hero suffers wounds which cannot be healed, sometimesan emotional or spiritual wound from which the Hero nevercompletely recovers.
Characteristics of the Hero’s Journey The Hero returns to the land of his/her birth in disguise or as anunknown. The Hero is special, one of a kind. He/she might represent awhole nation or culture. The Hero struggles for something valuable and important. The Hero has help from divine or supernatural forces. The Hero has a guide or guides. The Hero goes through a rite of passage or initiation, an eventthat marks a change from an immature to a more matureunderstanding of the world.
CHARACTER ARCHETYPES The Hero – In its simplest form, this character is the one who ultimately mayfulfill a necessary task and who will restore fertility, harmony, and/orjustice to a community. The hero character typically experiences aninitiation, undergoes some form of a ritual (s), et cetera. Often he orshe will embody characteristics of YOUNG PERSON FROM THEPROVINCES, INITIATE, INNATE WISDOM, PUPIL, or SON. Young Person from the Provinces – This hero is taken away as an infant or youth and raised bystrangers. He or she later returns home as a stranger and able torecognize new problems and new solutions.
CHARACTER ARCHETYPES The Initiates – These are young heroes who, prior to the quest, must endure sometraining and ritual. They are usually innocent at this stage. Mentors – These individuals serve as teachers or counselors to the initiates.Sometimes they work as role models and often serve as father ormother figure. They teach by example the skills necessary tosurvive the journey and quest. Hunting Group of Companions – These loyal companions are willing to face any number of perilsin order to be together.
CHARACTER ARCHETYPES Loyal Retainers – These individuals are like the noble sidekicks to the hero. Theirduty is to protect the hero. Friendly Beast – These animals assist the hero and reflect that nature is on thehero’s side. The Devil Figure – This character represents evil incarnate. He or she may offerworldly goods, fame, or knowledge to the protagonist inexchange for possession of the soul or integrity. This figure’smain aim is to oppose the hero in his or her quest.
CHARACTER ARCHETYPES The Evil Figure with the Ultimately Good Heart – This redeemable devil figure (or servant to the devil figure) is savedby the hero’s nobility or good heart. The Scapegoat – An animal or more usually a human whose death, often in a publicceremony, excuses some taint or sin that has been visited upon thecommunity. This death often makes theme more powerful force tothe hero. The Outcast – This figure is banished from a community for some crime(real or imagined). The outcast is usually destined tobecome a wanderer.
CHARACTER ARCHETYPES The Earth Mother – This character is symbolic of fulfillment, abundance, and fertility;offers spiritual and emotional nourishment to those who shecontacts; often depicted in earth colors. TheTemptress – Characterized by sensuous beauty, she is one whose physicalattraction may bring about the hero’s downfall. The Platonic Ideal – This source of inspiration often is a physical and spiritual ideal forwhom the hero has an intellectual rather than physical attraction.
CHARACTER ARCHETYPES The Unfaithful Wife – This woman, married to a man she sees as dull or distant, isattracted to a more virile or interesting man. The Damsel in Distress – This vulnerable woman must be rescued by the hero. She also maybe used as a trap, by an evil figure, to ensnare the hero. The Star-Crossed Lovers – These two character are engaged in a love affair that is fated to endin tragedy for one or both due to the disapproval of society, friends,family, or the gods. The Creature of Nightmare – This monster, physical or abstract, is summoned from the deepest,darkest parts of the human psyche to threaten the lives of thehero/heroine. Often it is a perversion or desecration of the humanbody.
SITUATION ARCHETYPES The Quest – This motif describes the search for someone or some talisman which, when foundand brought back, will restore fertility to a wasted land, the desolation of which ismirrored by a leader’s illness and disability TheTask – This refers to a possibly superhuman feat that must be accomplished in order tofulfill the ultimate goal. The Journey – The journey sends the hero in search for some truth of information necessary torestore fertility, justice, and/or harmony to the kingdom. The journey includes the series of trials and tribulations the hero faces along theway. Usually the hero descends into a real or psychological hell and is forced todiscover the blackest truths, quite often concerning his faults. Once the hero is at this lowest level, he must accept personal responsibility toreturn to the world of the living.
SITUATION ARCHETYPES The Initiation – This situation refers to a moment, usually psychological, in which an individualcomes into maturity. He or she gains a new awareness into the nature ofcircumstances and problems and understands his or her responsibility for tryingto resolve the dilemma. Typically, a hero receives a calling, a message or signalthat he or she must make sacrifices and become responsible for getting involvedin the problem. Often a hero will deny and question the calling and ultimately, inthe initiation, will accept responsibility. The Ritual – Not to be confused with the initiation, the ritual refers to an organized ceremonythat involves honored members of a given community and an Initiate.Thissituation officially brings the young man or woman into the realm of thecommunity’s adult world. The Fall – Not to be confused with the awareness in the initiation, this archetype describes adescent in action from a higher to a lower state of being, an experience whichmight involve defilement, moral imperfection, and/or loss of innocence. This fall isoften accompanied by expulsion from a kind of paradise as penalty fordisobedience and/or moral transgression.
SITUATION ARCHETYPES Death and Rebirth – The most common of all situational archetypes, this motif grows out of theparallel between the cycle of nature and the cycle of life. It refers to thosesituations in which someone or something, concrete and/or metaphysical dies,yet is accompanied by some sign of birth or rebirth. Nature vs. Mechanistic World – Expressed in its simplest form, this refers to situations which suggest that natureis good whereas the forces of technology are bad. Battle Between Good and Evil – These situations pit obvious forces which represent good and evil against oneanother.Typically, good ultimately triumphs over evil despite great odds. The Wound Unable to be Healed– This wound, physical or psychological, cannot be healed fully.This would alsoindicate a loss of innocence or purity. Often the wounds’ pain drives the suffererto desperate measures of madness.
SITUATION ARCHETYPES The MagicWeapon – Sometimes connected with the task, this refers to a skilled individualhero’s ability to use a piece of technology in order to combat evil,continue a journey, or to prove his or her identity as a chosen individual. Father-Son Conflict – Tension often results from separation during childhood or from anexternal source when the individuals meet as men and where the mentoroften has a higher place in the affections of the hero than the naturalparent. Sometimes the conflict is resolved in atonement. InnateWisdom vs. Educated Stupidity – Some characters exhibit wisdom and understanding intuitively asopposed to those supposedly in charge.
SYMBOLIC ARCHETYPES Light vs. Darkness – Light usually suggests hope, renewal, OR intellectual illumination;darkness implies the unknown, ignorance, or despair. Water vs. Desert – Because water is necessary to life and growth, it commonly appears as abirth or rebirth symbol.Water is used in baptism services, whichsolemnizes spiritual births. Similarly, the appearance of rain in a work ofliterature can suggest a character’s spiritual birth. Heaven vs. Hell – Humanity has traditionally associated parts of the universe notaccessible to it with the dwelling places of the primordial forces thatgovern its world.The skies and mountaintops house its gods; the bowelsof the earth contain the diabolic forces that inhabit its universe.
SYMBOLIC ARCHETYPES Haven vs.Wilderness – Places of safety contrast sharply against the dangerouswilderness. Heroes are often sheltered for a time to regainhealth and resources. Supernatural Intervention – The gods intervene on the side of the hero or sometimesagainst him. Fire vs. Ice – Fire represents knowledge, light, life, and rebirth while icelike desert represents ignorance, darkness, sterility, anddeath.
SYMBOLIC COLOR ARCHETYPES Black (darkness) – chaos, mystery, the unknown, before existence, death, the unconscious, evil. Red – blood, sacrifice; violent passion, disorder, sunrise, birth, fire, emotion, wounds, death,sentiment, mother, Mars, the note C, anger, excitement, heat, physical stimulation. Green – hope, growth, envy, Earth, fertility, sensation, vegetation, death, water, nature,sympathy, adaptability, growth, Jupiter andVenus, the note G, envy. White (light) – purity, peace, innocence, goodness, Spirit, morality, creative force, the directionEast, spiritual thought. Orange – fire, pride, ambition, egoism,Venus, the note D. Blue – clear sky, the day, the sea, height, depth, heaven, religious feeling, devotion, innocence,truth, spirituality, Jupiter, the note F, physical soothing and cooling. Violet – water, nostalgia, memory, advanced spirituality, Neptune, the note B. Gold – Majesty, sun, wealth, corn (life dependency), truth. Silver – Moon, wealth.
SYMBOLIC NUMBERS ARCHETYPES Three – Trinity (Father, Son, Holy Ghost); Mind, Body, Spirit, Birth, Life, Death. Four – Mankind (four limbs), four elements, four seasons. Six – Devil, evil. Seven – Divinity (3) + Mankind (4) = relationship between man and God, sevendeadly sins, seven days of week, seven days to create the world, sevenstages of civilization, seven colors of the rainbow, seven gifts of HolySpirit.
SYMBOLIC SHAPES ARCHETYPES Oval – woman, passivity. Triangle – communication, between heaven and earth, fire, the number 3, trinity, aspiration, movement upward, returnto origins, sight, light. Square – pluralism, earth, firmness, stability, construction, material solidity, the number four. Rectangle – the most rational, most secure. Cross – theTree of life, axis of the world, struggle, martyrdom, orientation in space. Circle – Heaven, intellect, thought, sun, the number two, unity, perfection, eternity, oneness, celestial realm, hearing,sound. Spiral – the evolution of the universe, orbit, growth, deepening, cosmic motion, relationship between unity andmultiplicity, macrocosm, breath, spirit, water.
SYMBOLIC NATURE ARCHETYPES Earth – passive, feminine, receptive, solid. Fire – the ability to transform, love, life, health, control, sun, God, passion, spiritualenergy, regeneration. Lake – mystery, depth, unconscious. Crescent moon – change, transition. Mountain – height, mass, loftiness, center of the world, ambition, goals.
SYMBOLIC NATURE ARCHETYPES Valley – depression, low-points, evil, unknown. Sun – Hero, son of Heaven, knowledge, the Divine eye, fire, life force, creative-guidingforce, brightness, splendor, active awakening, healing, resurrection, ultimatewholeness. Water – passive, feminine. Rivers/Streams – life force, life cycle. Stars – guidance.
SYMBOLIC NATURE ARCHETYPES Wind – Holy Spirit, life, messenger. Ice/Snow – coldness, barrenness. Clouds/Mist – mystery, sacred. Rain – life giver. Steam – transformation to the Holy Spirit.
SYMBOLIC NATURE ARCHETYPES Cave – feminine. Lightning – intuition, inspiration. Tree – where we learn, tree of life, tree of knowledge. Forest – evil, lost, fear.
RECOGNIZING PATTERNS IN LITERATURE Trips tend to become quests to discover self. Meals together tend to be acts of communion/communityor isolation. Ghosts, vampires, monsters, and nasty people andsometimes simply the antagonists are not aboutsupernatural brew-ha-ha; they tend to depict some sort ofexploitation. There’s only one story. Look for allusions and archetypes. Weather matters.
RECOGNIZING PATTERNS IN LITERATURE Violence can be both literal and figurative. Symbols can be objects, images, events, andactions. Sometimes a story is meant to change us, thereaders, and through us change society. Keep an eye out for Christ-figures. Flying tends to represent freedom.What do youthink falling represents?
RECOGNIZING PATTERNS IN LITERATURE Getting dunked or just sprinkled in somethingwet tends to be a baptism. Geography tends to be a metaphor for thepsyche. Seasons tend to be traditional symbols. Disabilities, Scars, and Deformities showcharacter and theme.
RECOGNIZING PATTERNS IN LITERATURE Heart disease tends to represent problems withcharacter and society. So do illness and disease. Read with your imagination. Irony trumps everything! Remember the difference between public andprivate symbols.
How to Read Literature Like a Professorby Thomas C. Foster