Joseph Campbell Essay

2209 words - 9 pages

American writers tend to ply their trade in one of many genres; murder mystery, biography, and true crime are some of the most popular. Mythologists, on the other hand, are far rarer. Joseph Campbell represents one of the best examples of an American mythologist to ever have written. Particularly prominent among Campbell’s many works was the idea of the hero’s journey. Author Campbell believed that many hero’s go through similar stages before they reach their ultimate outcome. The most interesting part about Joseph Campbell’s journey of a hero is that it so accurately describes many of the journeys taken by mortal heroes whether fictional or true. There are twelve distinct stages of the hero’s journey according to Joseph Campbell, and each holds a unique and significant importance both by themselves and in the context of the others. This hero’s journey is a fascinating path for Campbell’s characters to follow, and makes for entertaining as well as enlightening reading.
In his last book, Hero with a Thousand Faces, author Campbell specifically spells out the nature of each of his twelve steps. The first step relates to the rather ordinary environment surrounding the hero which tends to be boring, and contains not a small amount of suffering. (Campbell, 2008) Described in “Hero with a Thousand Faces”, this initial step is present in many works of fiction both in the past and more recently. One good example which comes to mind is “the Patriot” starring Mel Gibson. Prior to his becoming the fictional leader of a larger part of the Continental Army, Gibson’s character Benjamin Martin is shown engaging in a variety of rather boring farming activities that precede his heroic actions later in the film. This modern day adaption of the first step in Campbell’s journey of hero is commonplace in both literature and cinema, and speaks volumes about the respect afforded Joseph Campbell and his perceptions of the role of a hero.
The second stage in the hero’s journey is a call to action where the hero aims to escape the confines of his common life and move on to bigger and better adventures. In mythology this boredom often drives many classical hero’s to attempt to reach the limits of their bravery and heroism. In addition, this step is often noted in many religious stories. Jesus Christ, for instance, set out from his humble career as a carpenter in order to spread the news of God and the Holy Spirit. (The Bible) While driven by a confluence of factors, it is clear that Jesus felt like he could do more with his life than merely toil away at woodworking. In many instances of Greek mythology this step is especially prevalent as well. A good number of Greek mythologies deal directly with mortals interacting with the God’s on some level. Whether the interaction is benign, a form of punishment, or sexual in nature, the mortal hero of the mythology tends to come up from rather humble beginnings. The push for change and a challenge outside of...

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