We share in the life journey of growth, development, and transformation

“All of us have similar experiences. We live the same stories, whether they involve the search for a perfect mate, coming home, the search for fulfillment, going after an ideal, achieving the dream, or hunting for a precious treasure. Whatever our culture, there are universal stories that form the basis for all our particular stories. The trappings might be different, the twists and turns that create suspense might change from culture to culture, the particular characters may take different forms, but underneath it all, it’s the same story, drawn from the same experiences” (Linda Segar, Creating the Myth, 1).

Every day, we as individuals seek to live the best story we can. We love good stories, and this is why the most successful television shows, movies, and books are based on these universal stories and bring in hundreds of billions of dollars each year. They involve the same basic journey that everyday people take in life, and we identify with the heroes in these films and novels either because we were at one moment in our lives heroic, or because we wish we could do what the hero does.

Characters, as depicted in films and literature, often must overcome the same obstacles the common man must overcome and learn the same lessons, but their actions, reactions, and events are magnified to mythic proportions. It seems the common man and the mythic hero both follow what the widely respected American philosopher Joseph Campbell calls ‘The Hero’s Journey,’ or “The Monomyth”, which is a tool used to describe the framework for many of the most famous movie scripts and novels of all time.

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Some notable films that have taken a deep inspiration from Campbell’s story structure are Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and Harry Potter. In today’s age, it appears there is an infinite number of stories, and I have always been told that all of these stories are different, but I am curious to know if they are all structurally the same. I want to know the formula to effective storytelling, and why Joseph Campbell’s Monomyth still resonates in Hollywood and affects our culture today.

The origin of “The Hero’s Journey” begins with its creator Joseph Campbell. Campbell was born into an upper-middle class Irish Catholic family in New York on March 26, 1904. During his childhood he was involved with the boy scouts and took tradition from his religious family. During his time as a boy scout and a catholic, he noticed similarities between allegories of Christ and Native American folktales that predated Christ and that had no way of being touched by Christian culture, so he started his career and life work in comparative mythology. He concluded that effective storytelling, no matter the historic time, race, or religion, all share distinct characteristics. From this, Joseph Campbell proposed that every story ranging from novels, stories around a campfire, pop music, movies, to even art, all share the same basic structure of storytelling which he coined as the Monomyth. This is a very powerful observation because basically everything is a story, and from my observations the human race and our society is run on stories by creating our reality and the way that we see the world.

Most of these stories are about a hero. They stem from our own experiences of everyday life, as well as our desires. We cheer and hope for the hero to overcome their obstacles and celebrate when they are victorious because we know that ‘The Hero’s Journey’ is in many ways like our own journey. We call these stories myths. Myths are literally what our universal existence stems from. They’re found in all cultures and in all literature, ranging from the Greek myths to fairy tales, legends, and stories drawn from all of the world’s religions.

A myth is a story that is more than true. Many stories are true because at least one person, somewhere, at any given time, lived it and is based on fact and the experiences of that person who was there, but a myth is more than true because it is lived by all of us. It’s a story that everybody can relate to and speaks to us all. “Some myths [however] are true stories that attain mythic significance because the people involved seem larger than life, and seem to live their lives more intensely than common folk. Martin Luther King, Jr., Gandhi, and Sir Edmund Hillary personify the types of journeys we identify with, because we’ve taken similar journeys, even if only in a very small way” (Linda Segar, Creating the Myth, 2). There are a few outliers in our society who go above and beyond the rest to heroic proportions, like Martin Luther King, Jr., who may as well be a hero in one of our myths. Some people live their day-to-day lives as being real-life hero, and others will look up to them as they do to fictional characters from films and novels.

Joseph Campbell’s Monomyth has been implemented in various ways throughout the years, and especially in Hollywood, but the most notable adaptation of the monomyth was George Lucas’ coveted Star Wars in the 70’s. Star Wars, along with many more of our culture’s most beloved films, follow the monomyth and Campbell’s philosophies very meticulously. ‘George Lucas suggested that, were it not for Campbell he might still have been writing Star Wars. Lucas’ infamous indebtedness to Campbell has introduced film-makers, screenwriters and movie buffs the world over to Campbell’s mythological tome, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, which distils all stories down to a monomyth—‘The Hero’s Journey’. The Hero with a Thousand Faces is, undoubtedly, Campbell’s most famous work, with the ideas it espouses becoming a twelve-step program in mythic story structure for Hollywood screenwriters in recent years’ (Tristan Bancks, Beyond The Hero’s Journey, 32). Campbell’s “The Hero’s Journey” is broken down into twelve steps or stages that a hero goes through during the film or novel, and Luke Skywalker is the perfect result of the Hollywood screenwriter, George Lucas, being under the influence of Campbell.

The Hero’s Journey begins with what Campbell described as “the world of common day”, the normal or mundane environment in which the hero resides. It is a familiar state of being and an existence that carries its own comforts and stresses. Into that life, Campbell stated, ‘comes an awakening or an occurrence that causes an unbalancing in the hero’s worldview, an alteration that allows the hero to consider the possibility of something more’ (Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, 23). This relates to Star Wars when Luke Skywalker is living on moisture farm with his aunt and uncle on Tatooine. This is simply known as the “ordinary world”.

A call to adventure marks the second stage of The Hero’s Journey and ‘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’ (Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, 48). The call may appear as an internal force such as a need for change within, an external force such as an ally or enemy, or a drastic event that changes the hero’s normal life. This stage of “The Hero’s Journey” is known as the “call to adventure”, and happens in Star Wars when R2-D2 gives Luke Skywalker a message from Princess Leia, asking Obi-Wan Kenobi to help her. Afterwards, the third stage of “The Hero’s Journey is implemented, known as the “refusal of the call”, when Luke is at first reluctant to accept Obi-Wan Kenobi’s offer and help him in his quest.

The fourth step in “The Hero’s Journey” occurs when Luke’s farm is destroyed by imperial forces and he feels helpless and goes back to meet with Obi-Wan Kenobi. This stage is known as the “meeting with the mentor”. Upon accepting the call to adventure, the hero encounters supernatural aid, a mentor or helper who can connect the hero with the resources needed to continue the journey. In this case for Star Wars, this is when Obi-Wan Kenobi gives Luke his father’s lightsaber and offers to train Luke to become a Jedi. In fairy tales, this being is often seen as a fairy godmother or a wise old man; in professional realms, the aid may come from a therapist or a counselor. With their guidance, the hero crosses the first threshold and leaves behind what is familiar to them in order to step into the unknown. The hero seems to disappear from the world and the hero begins to engage in self-reflection.

The next and fifth stage is known as “crossing the threshold”. It is at this stage where the hero crosses into the unknown world and reaches a point of no soon return to the original common world where they started at. This happens in Star Wars when Luke accompanies Obi-Wan Kenobi to Alderaan to deliver the plans for the Death Star to Princess Leia’s father. Moving along into the next phase of “The Hero’s Journey”, the hero faces a period of tests and challenges along what is known as “the road of trials”, an ordeal Campbell described as “a deepening of the problem of the first threshold” (Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, 89). Each obstacle serves to strengthen the hero, who learns to rely upon allies as well as their own developing characteristics to overcome obstacles. “Reaching the point of apotheosis, the hero has broken free of the limitations of their original worldview, gaining a semblance of control over their impulses and attaining a state of insight. The ultimate boon, whether it’s in the form of something tangible’ (Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, 91). This ensues when Han Solo and Chewbacca agree to take Luke and Obi-Wan Kenobi to Alderaan.

The seventh step in “The Hero’s Journey” is recognized as the “approach to the innermost cave”. This insidious sounding step is rightfully named, for this is when the hero delves deeper into the root of the problem, and the previous step is exacerbated. This arises in Star Wars when the Death Star destroys the planet of Alderaan, preventing Luke and his party to deliver the plans to Leia’s father who at the time was residing on Alderaan along with most of the Rebel population. This then leads to the group invading the Death Star and rescuing Princess Leia. The eighth step is accepted as “the ordeal”, and is when a drastic change or event happens to the hero while or in response to the previous step. In this case for Star Wars, this is when the group rescues Leia, but Darth Vader murders Obi-Wan Kenobi in the process.

The ninth step for “The Hero’s Journey” is known as “the reward”. At this stage, after overcoming his obstacles, initial failure, and the hero’s greatest inner demons, the hero is finally transformed into a new state, emerging from their experiences as a stronger character and often with a prize. The prize the hero receives from this stage can come in various forms such as an object of great power, a secret allowing greater knowledge or insight, or even reconciliation with family or loved ones. In this case, the reward comes in the form of Luke deciding to join the rebel forces to destroy the Death Star.

The next and tenth stage is referred to as “the road back”. This stage in “The Hero’s Journey” is the opposite of “the call to adventure” where the hero has to cross the first threshold leading back to what they knew as the normal world. Now he must return home with the reward he acquired from the last stage, but this time the anticipation of danger is replaced with acclaim or absolution. In Star Wars, this is when Luke refuses Han Solo’s offer to leave and abandon hope, and instead chooses to help overcome the Galactic Empire with the remaining Rebel forces.

The next stage is known as “the resurrection”, or the climax of the story. This is what all of the previous stages have been leading up to where to hero most prove themselves in this final and most dangerous encounter with death, where failure is not an option for it represents something greater than just the hero’s own life. This fact not only puts the hero under more pressure, but really hooks in the audience and lets them feel the hero’s emotions and intensity as well. Almost always, however, the hero will emerge victorious while the enemy is defeated and order is restored both to the unknown world, and the world the hero had left behind in the beginning. In the case for Star Wars, this occurs when Luke remember Obi-Wan Kenobi’s advice and used the force to help him destroy the Death Star.

Afterward, the story finally concludes with the final stage known as “the return with the elixir”. This is where the hero returns to where he came from, but as a changed person. This return may bring fresh hope to those he left behind, or perhaps a new perspective for everyone to consider. The reward that his obtained after all of this may be literal or metaphoric, but no matter what it is, it will always represent change, success, and proof of a journey. Inevitably, Campbell stated, “life will come calling, and the hero will engage in the crossing of the return threshold. At this point in the story, the hero must survive reentry into the ordinary world, while maintaining the acquired sense of self-assurance and learning to accept as real, after an experience of the soul-satisfying vision of fulfillment, the passing joys and sorrows, banalities and noisy obscenities of life” ( Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, 189). This occurs during the last few scenes of Star Wars when Luke is rewarded a medal during the celebration and takes his first steps to becoming a Jedi.

In conclusion, Joseph Campbell’s ideas and structures that came from his magnum opus, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, were deep rooted inspirations for widely respected writer and director George Lucas for his making of Star Wars, along with many other Hollywood classics. However, the ideas and archetypes presented by Joseph Campbell can be applied universally for any story on any medium, regardless if it is a novel, comic book, or movie script, while Star Wars was only a single example. Campbell’s philosophies can also be applied to life in general and the way that our society and culture perceive and view the world and other people. “…It is Campbell’s personal observations on the operation of the human psyche in his journals and lecture notes that give valuable insight into the artistic process, steeling the director/screenwriter for the tumultuous journey of bringing a film to the screen, and providing clues as to why characters do what they do in our stories. Campbell beautifully articulates hunches that the reader may have had about human behavior, based on their own observations’ (Tristan Bancks, “Beyond the Hero’s Journey”, 32).

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We share in the life journey of growth, development, and transformation. (2021, Dec 03). Retrieved from https://paperap.com/we-share-in-the-life-journey-of-growth-development-and-transformation/

We share in the life journey of growth, development, and transformation
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