The Concept of a Hero's Journey in American Literature

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About this sample


Words: 1847 |

Pages: 3|

10 min read

Published: Sep 25, 2018

Words: 1847|Pages: 3|10 min read

Published: Sep 25, 2018

Table of contents

  1. Hero's Journey
  2. Mark Twain’s Literature
  3. Harper Lee’s “To kill a Mockingbird”
  4. Conclusions

Hero's Journey

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).

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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.

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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.

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The Concept of a Hero’s Journey in American Literature. (2018, September 14). GradesFixer. Retrieved April 15, 2024, from
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