Archetypes

archetypes characters heroes Feb 06, 2021

Even the most innovative, outlandish, unique characters will fit into certain archetypes. The best characters in fiction will clearly have two archetypal roles. This blog, like our blog about Genre and SubGenre, will help our authors identify the two archetypes their characters each possess.

Much of what we understand about archetypes in literature comes from Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jung, who identified 12 major archetypes in people. We’re going to look at some well-loved characters of fiction who fall under the archetype of “Hero”.

The Hero is a common character in fiction because they represent the idealism of the conflict within. It is the Hero who casts the most ambitious goals, who encounters the greatest challenges, and who often undergoes the most significant change as a result of their ordeal.

 

Batman is an example of the Hero. Batman strives for justice; his crusade began after his parents were murdered; he must fight many foes who are in conflict with his desires, and he is forever changed by his journey.

But Batman isn’t just a Hero. He is also an Orphan, an Investigator, and a Mentor. But really, I would say that Batman – despite his extraordinary powers – is really an Everyman. His desires are those of us all – to live in a world where everyone is treated fairly, where those who do bad are punished, and those who do good are justly rewarded. The Hero, simply put, wants to change the world. Don’t we all?

Another Hero from the world of fiction is Atticus Finch, from To Kill a Mockingbird. Although Mockingbird’s sequel, Go Set a Watchman, revealed details about Finch that challenges whether he was really a hero, most of us have read Mockingbird (or seen the 1962 film) and think of Atticus as a Hero. Atticus Finch stands up against racism and injustice, defending a black man against false charges and helping to protect him against a violent mob, as well as raising two children as a single father, trying to share with them his strong moral code.

But in addition to being a Hero, Atticus is also a Caregiver and even a bit of an Outlaw.

Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games is also a Hero, who cares for her sister when her mother cannot, and volunteers to participate in the deadly games to protect her younger sister. Katniss manages to survive the challenges she faces, and her many opponents. She suffers as a result of her challenges and is forever changed by them. She makes choices to save others, demonstrating an inner strength and wisdom, far beyond her years.

But Katniss is also a Rebel, and eventually, a Sage.

Every character will have an archetype that describes them at the start of the story, and perhaps another that defines them at the conclusion of the story. It doesn’t always mean that their archetype has changed, but rather that the circumstances of the story will reveal more detail and nuance than the reader saw at the beginning.

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