English - Monomyth Archetype Theory

Topics: Kitty Genovese, Bystander effect, Christmas Pages: 5 (1666 words) Published: October 20, 2011
In today’s society, the Monomyth Archetype is prevalent in various forms such as television, films, books, and real life. Joseph Campbell founded the Monomyth Archetype theory, it involves a hero or heroine transcending the three main stages: separation, struggle or initiation, and return and reintegration. More specifically, this theory is predominant in the short genre, "The Step Not Taken", by Paul D'Angelo. In the first stage, the protagonist is confronted with a journey of whether to provide aid to a stranger crying in the elevator, which he initially refuses to accept. However, the individual is persuaded to commit to the quest due to the exposure to a guide, which in this case is the character’s guilty conscience. Subsequently, in stage two the character enters a supernatural world in which he has several emotional assessments, confronts a goddess figure, and completes the final test. This enables him to transform into a new being. Finally, the protagonist embarks on the last stage in which he leaves the spiritual world and returns to the former world with the assistance of a magical being or guide. The protagonist in the short story undergoes a transformation into a new human being after going through these stages. He begins the journey when he confronts a crying individual in an elevator and ends when he realizes that he should have provided aid to the stranger in time of need. Moreover, the character experiences an epiphany that convicts him to aid a stranger in need, and this has a lasting impact on his life.

During stage one, the protagonist is presented with a journey, which requires him to leave the ordinary reality and enter the sacred realm. A guide or magical being often aids the character in this quest and to overcome any obstacles. In the story "The Step Not Taken," the protagonist is in an elevator with an unfamiliar man who suddenly begins to cry as they are approaching their designated floors. The narrator ignores the crying individual and analyzes the situation after leaving the elevator. In this incident, the protagonist experiences various feelings such as fear, uncertainty, and anxiety regarding the confrontation with the stranger. As a result, the protagonist initially refuses to participate in the presented quest. However, his guilty conscience is invoked as a guide, which leads him to accept the quest shortly after the elevator occurrence. His conscience causes him to critically examine his own actions and ideologies by entering the sacred realm. The primary reason for this journey is to rescue another individual regardless of one’s relationship to the other person. In the final part of the separation stage, his regret of refusal to aid another individual in time of need causes him to accept the quest and attain a willingness to help others.

Subsequently, stage two occurs in which the protagonist undergoes a struggle or initiation into a new sacred world. In this world, the narrator experiences feelings of uncertainty, regret, and sorrow. These three emotions trigger the formation of an emotional assessment for the protagonist. The emotional test begins when the character has to make a decision of whether or not he should help the depressed individual. As he stands in front of the closed elevator doors his guilty conscience comes into existence as his goddess figure, which helps him accomplish his quest. He begins to ponder about what could have possibly overwhelmed the stranger to such an extent that he was unable to keep from crying out. Some of his predictions included: “Had he just visited the doctor and been told he had an incurable disease? Was he having marital problems? Was his wife ill? His child? Had someone dear recently died? Was he being laid off?” This self-questioning nature shows the protagonist’s confusion when attempting to resolve the situation with the crying stranger. In addition, the protagonist begins to have a sense of regret because he didn’t aid the stranger in...
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