Monday, July 23, 2018

Newer Archetypes in Modern Literature

Why we need to open up the old model in which sixteen archetypes were deemed to sum up human character

When I went to writing school, not too long ago, there were sixteen hero archetypes, eight for men and eight for women. Let’s see if I can list them:
Eight Hero Archetypes / Eight Heroine Archetypes
The Chief / The Boss
The Bad Boy / The Seductress
The Best Friend / The Spunky Kid
The Charmer / The Free Spirit
The Lost Soul / The Waif
The Professor / The Librarian
The Swashbuckler / The Crusader
The Warrior / The Nurturer

I think we have to add some more from our present world. How about the following who have achieved heroic status or cult following: the serial killer, the serial shopper, the rabid consumer, the nerd, the corporate lackey, the drug addict, the serial married man (or woman), the single mom (or dad), the battered wife (or husband), the senior citizen sidelined by society after her purported contribution to society is deemed over, the welfare case (or is this similar to the drug addict?), the immigrant who no one wants to hire or the fifty-plus guy who falls into the same bracket, the abandoned child who could turn out into any of the above, the mentally ill person, the obese one fed on too many hamburgers and pop, the cancer patient, the religious fundamentalist, and the mad poet? I am sure there are more, but I thought I would list those that are symptomatic of our times. I am also sure that if we try real hard we can fit them into one or more of the sixteen master archetypes – maybe they are all in the “lost soul” category. However, there is so much written about these newer “types” that I think they warrant their own status within the pantheon of archetypes.

I think our problem is that we want to categorize everyone into an archetype. We feel safe that way. The world is predictable and everyone fits into a known box. And as the world gets more globalized and standardized, why not? But that seems to be the paradox. The more we standardize the larger society, the more diversity we seem to create within in its component parts.

Is it time then to open up the old box of sixteen and add some more?

About the Writer

Shane Joseph is a writer for BrooWaha. For more information, visit the writer's website.
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4 comments on Newer Archetypes in Modern Literature

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By TonyBerkman on April 02, 2012 at 03:51 am

really enjoyed this article

im into the "entitled" archetype being added

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By Notumbus Bumbus on April 02, 2012 at 03:26 pm

I think its more realistic to think in terms of amalgams, rather than singular types. We are all some mix of at least a few, and more likely, of many, but might respond to a specific one depending on our immediate circumstances. After all, whatever hits the windshield first gets the most attention, so to speak!

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By TonyBerkman on April 02, 2012 at 08:21 pm

Whatever hits the windshield first gets the attention :-) haha

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By John Nelson on April 11, 2012 at 09:39 am

In my dystopian thriller Against Nature, the female main character (hero) is an egalitarian in a world of greed and deception. Though the storyline is more complicated and complex than a standard good versus evil tale.

Too often in literature, film, etc we have the good versus evil and good truimphs... or what is most appealing in America is the tired old delusional "rags to riches" story where the hero gets rich in the end.... or the boy meets girl boy gets girl (or vice versa.)

I like tales that don't wrap it all up with a bow in 300 pages or in 92 minutes. I know Hollywood likes the feel good story (because it feels good to feel good), but life isn't so neat and tidy and art (film or literature) shouldn't be made with a cookie-cutter.

Some recent films (this decade) that I liked because they broke the mold was the Irish film Once and George Clooney's Syriana.

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