Joesph Campbells Hero Journey Essay

2265 words - 9 pages

A quick note to any who read this; this essay was based on a response, that said I had to ask a question and "possibly" come up with an answer In Joseph Conrad's 1906 classic, Heart of Darkness, the main character of Marlow, partakes of a quest into the deepest part of the jungle, losing much of what he holds dear while gaining a glimpse of the deeper recesses of his own conscious. With an overly simple, yet deeply philosophical plot line, Conrad gives Marlow's journey, what seems to be many of the basic attributes of what Joseph Campbell calls the "Hero's Journey." My question is this - Is Conrad's writing following the criteria of the "Hero's Journey," or does Heart of Darkness have a scheme all its own? Joseph Campbell (1904-1987) is one of the premier mythologists who wrote a great deal of books in the 40s up through the 80s, on the hero as an archetypal image and its place in modern day society. His first, and probably most famous piece, The Hero With A Thousand Faces, outlines the basic aspects of the archetypal "Hero Journey." In it, Campbell describes the journey as consisting of three major sections; the departure, the initiation and the return. This basic outline, each with their own subcategories, should pertain to almost all hero quests in ancient writing. But, does it pertain to modern literature, particularly Heart of Darkness? The first stage of the Hero Journey is the Departure and consists of 5 steps; The Call to Adventure, Refusal of the Call, Supernatural Aid, The Crossing of the First Threshold and the Belly of the Whale. The first step, The Call of the Adventure, is the point in the hero's life in which a notice is given that something is to change. Campbell says that "This first stage of the mythological journey signifies that destiny has summoned the hero and transferred his spiritual center of gravity from within the pale of his society to a zone unknown" (58). The "zone unknown" can have many facets, but in Heart of Darkness, for Marlow, our story's supposed hero, this is represented by "a place of darkness," or Africa. His call to adventure is the "snake" of the Nile, with its tail "lost in the depths of the of the land." He claimed it "charmed him" (Conrad 5-6). At this point in history, Africa was still many unexplored and gives Marlow the chance to go to an "zone unknown." This obviously marks the beginning of his journey (it also happens to be the beginning of the book, which tends to be the start of something ).The second part of the Departure, is a Refusal of the Call. This is usually because of one's culture, dignity or hard work. Campbell says this is the time when "the subject loses the power of significant affirmative action." (59) This step, however, is not represented in HofD. Marlow claims that he was excited about the trip and anxious to proceed. One possible reason this is not present is the fact that Marlow is not the writer. We see him through the author's eyes, giving way to the possibility that there...

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