A hero goes forth from his familiar life into a world of the supernatural; difficulties are encountered which the hero conquers; and he returns home to celebrate with his friends. You may think you know what sci-fi/fantasy movie I’m talking about. But what I was actually describing is the book Hero With a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell. Because when it comes down to it, almost all sci-fi and fantasy movies follow the same basic pattern, the “Monomyth” described in Campbell’s book. The Monomyth is the core of all mythology; the central concept is that of the Hero’s Journey- seventeen steps/points that the plot will almost unfailingly incorporate, separated into three sections: “Departure”, “Initiation”, and “Return”. Put simply, they are clear divisions of the beginning, middle, and end of a story. Among the Monomyth’s secondary concepts is the stereotypical characterization of the “Hero” (the main character/protagonist). In contemporary Western culture, we see the Monomyth in literature and film, especially sci-fi fantasy films. The influence of these ideas is present throughout the genre, since the novel was first published in 1949. This essay will analyze George Lucas’s famous Star Wars trilogy, an ideal example of contemporary fantasy and science fiction, in order to prove that the genre was heavily influenced by Hero With a Thousand Faces.
The Hero: Luke Skywalker
The hero of the original Star Wars trilogy is Luke Skywalker, a sixteen-year-old boy who grew up on the barren planet of Tattooine. The son of legendary former-Jedi and now-Sith apprentice Anakin Skywalker, Luke was hidden from the world and separated from his twin sister at birth to keep them safe from their father. And so he grew up on his uncle’s plantation as an ordinary boy, never knowing his parents or the immense power he was born with. He is the hero of Star Wars not only because he is the main character/protagonist, but also for his innate sense of right and wrong and human qualities that make every person who knows him love him. He is kind, honest, relatable, and perseveres over all difficulties with a style that makes us want to be better people too. In his qualities and history, he fits the archetype model of a Hero defined by Campbell. Furthermore, he surpasses the positive requirements of a hero, becoming a utopian model that no other hero could live up to. Being human, he makes mistakes, but his other characteristics and decisions outweigh his flaws. Classic heroes are defined by Campbell in several ways; the hero of Myth versus a hero of Fairytale; a hero of Action versus a Supreme hero; and smaller individual details. The first category divides heroes into heroes of Fairytale and of Myth. The hero of Fairytale “achieves a domestic, microcosmic triumph…prevails over his personal oppressors” (319). This hero’s triumphs can take the form of winning princess or finding buried treasure. Contrastingly, the hero of Myth “achieves a world-historical, macrocosmic triumph…brings back from his adventure the means for the regeneration of his society as a whole” (319). He will completely change the world, affecting the lives of millions of people, and receiving little himself. Luke Skywalker is by no doubt a hero of Myth. He destroys the Sith Lord and his apprentice, ends the reign of the Galactic Empire, and brings balance to the Force. The second category in which Campbell places heroes are heroes of Action or Supreme heroes. The hero of action “accomplishes feats by arms. The characteristic adventure is winning the bride” (319). The Supreme Hero “reopens the eye” so that “the One Presence” will be seen again (319). His adventure is going to the father, often directly and literally asking the question “Who is my father?” (320). In Star Wars, Campbell’s “One Presence” is the Force. The eye Luke reopens is that of the entire world, reminding them of the Jedi’s merit and, in turn, opening their eyes to the Force. Furthermore, Luke...
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