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Monomyth of the Step Not Taken

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Monomyth of the Step Not Taken

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“The Step Not Taken” by Paul D’Angelo is a short story that demonstrates the archetype of monomyth, or hero’s journey. The three stages of a monomyth are separation, struggle or initiation and return and reintegration. This essay will examine how these three stages are prevalent in “The Step not Taken,” by examining the narrative and other popular stories featuring a monomyth archetype. To begin, the narrator is our protagonist and hero. The protagonist is called to an adventure in the first stage of separation. Unaware that his or her life is about to change, (“Nothing at all to indicate what was about to take place.”) the adventure begins when the protagonist is “followed onto an elevator by a well-dressed young man carrying a briefcase,” and the young man begins to cry. Ultimately, it is the hero who decides to accept or ignore the quest to help the young man, and the hero chooses not to help. (“I didn’t know what to do, so I did nothing.”) In the separation stage of a monomyth, a guide or magical being appears to assist the hero. For example, in the well-known Fairy Tale Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, the dwarves are the guide or spirit that provides Snow White with food and shelter while she is in the sacred world. Or in the George Lucas movie “Star Wars,” Obi Wan Kenobi acts as a guide for the protagonist Luke Skywalker. The guiding spirit in this case, is the own conscience and integrity of the protagonist. Reflecting on his decision to refuse help, the protagonist realizes his mistake and is overcome with dishonour, humiliation, shame and guilt. (“What I did next still shames me.”) It is then that he decides to go on a journey into his own thoughts, allowing the hero to leave the familiar social realm and enter into the unknown territory. This separation stage is complete when the narrator accepts his quest bringing the story to the second stage of monomyth, struggle or initiation. In the struggle or initiation phase of a hero’s journey into an...

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