Archetype Research Project Essay
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Archetypes are “An inherited idea or mode of thought in the psychology of C. G. Jung that is derived from the experience of the race and is present in the unconscious of the individual” (archetype). Archetypes are central in all cultures across the world and can provide important lessons and outlooks on the common aspects of human life. The journey, is an archetype in which the main character is in search of some sort of truth and typically faces many difficult trials along the way, this can be both physical and mental.
While going through these trials a kind of hell is reached and the character must attempt to make their way back to society. Though the journey is not always well liked due to its dark and serious nature, it provides self-confidence and shows society how to react to difficulties they may face in life. This archetype can be found in slightly different forms in the three novels: “Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Brontë, “The Odyssey” by Homer, and “The Plague” by Albert Camus. Each author uses the archetype, the journey, to express their own thoughts; they create an overall theme or message to influence their readers.
“Jane Eyre” was written in 1847 by Charlotte Brontë. The novel follows Jane Eyre from her childhood as the family scapegoat, through her schooling at a poorly managed charity school, and later when she becomes a governess and falls in love with her employer, Mr. Rochester. Jane’s journey is in search of the love and acceptance of others, she goes through many trials before reaching her goal. The theme that Brontë creates using the archetype of the journey is: In times of hardship you must persevere and not lose sight of yourself and your morals while striving to find happiness. This is one of the most important messages that she is sending to her readers through Jane Eyre. She does this by giving multiple examples of Jane’s strength.
One example of Jane’s strength is when she struggles to regain her since of dignity and self-worth after discovering, on her wedding day, that Mr. Rochester was already married. This is the most devastating part of Jane’s journey but her reaction to the situation is what builds the theme. “Laws and principles are not for the times when there is no temptation: they are for such moments as this, when body and soul rise in mutiny against their rigour; stringent are they; inviolate they shall be” (Brontë 369). Jane is very tempted to just give in to her weaknesses but she regains her composure and continues her struggle. Jane’s strength is also shown when she leaves Thornfield the night after the wedding. “But I was soon up; crawling forwards on my hands and knees, and then again raised to my feet — as eager and as determined as ever to reach the road” (Brontë 374). At this point Jane’s emotional turmoil has gone as far as to cause physical weakness. Which, she also finds courage to overcome. Brontë uses Jane’s strength of morals and self-respect in times of trial to get her theme across to her readers.
The importance of her perseverance throughout the novel is solidified in the fact that her suffering pays off in the end with a happy conclusion after Mr. Rochester’s wife is dead. “I hold myself supremely blest–blest beyond what language can express; because I am my husband’s life as fully is he is mine” (Brontë 522). Jane would have been very unhappy if she had given in to her weaknesses before she felt morally sound in doing so. This shows how significant her waiting was in securing her happiness in the end.
Charlotte Brontë used the archetype of the journey in Jane Eyre to impact the reader by illustrating the importance of maintaining your moral standards and since of self-worth through times of trial and hardship when you are most prone to weakness. She has exemplified this through the strength and persistence of her main character, Jane.
“The Odyssey” was written by Homer around 700 B.C. It is an epic that tells the story of Odysseus, a man who must make his way back home from war to his wife and son. His journey home however is delayed by a series of trials and while he is away suitors take over his household. Odysseus has been a role model not only in Greek culture but all around the world. Homer uses the characters reactions to the trials that are typical to the archetype of the journey to show the need for determination, hope and strength in the face of hardship.
As Odysseus goes through the many challenges of his journey his perseverance is put to the test. One of these occasions is when Odysseus and his crew are within sight of Ithaca, but the curiosity of his crew causes them to be thrown severely off course and pushed back many days in their journey. “And I woke up with a start, my spirit churning— should I leap over the side and drown at once or grit my teeth and bear it, stay among the living? I bore it all, held firm, hiding my face, clinging tight to the decks” (Homer 10. 55-58). True strength is shown by Odysseus here due to the fact that it is laden with the dramatic irony of almost reaching your goal then being set back to the beginning. Homer uses Odysseus’s will to continue on and not give up to show the determination needed to overcome a trial such as this.
Odysseus is not the only character in “The Odyssey” that the archetype of the journey applies to. Telemachus, Odysseus’s son, also goes through a journey and discovers darker truths as he searches for news of his father and watches the suitors tear apart his house. “But for me the gods have spun out no such joy, for my father or myself. I must bear up, that’s all” (Homer 3.236-238). Homer presents Telemachus much like his father, always determined to keep moving forward even when it seems all is against him.
The archetype of the journey is constantly full of challenges and often disappointment. Odysseus comments on what he has learned of the nature of life and hardship. “But then, when the happy gods bring on the long hard times, bear them he must, against his will, and steel his heart. Our lives, our mood and mind as we pass across the earth, turn as the days turn” (Homer 18. 154-157). Odysseus has learned this lesson from experience and his calm warnings and advice on the subject contribute to the theme of the necessity of strength when it comes to the archetype of the journey.
In relation to the archetype the journey Homer uses “The Odyssey” to create a theme of resilience and determination when encountering struggles and trials. This is created through the way that the characters handle hardship with their lives. Odysseus is a major role model whose success and failures can easily be learned from.
“The Plague” was written by Albert Camus in 1947; the novel relates the story of a city falling into and later recovering from an epidemic of plague. Each character has his own personal interests but as the plague progresses and the gates of the city are closed, fighting the plague becomes everyone’s main interest. The entire town goes through an archetypal journey with each characters experiences differing in their own ways. When a group of people is suffering, each person has a duty to think more of the group and less of individual desires; everyone has to try to help others. It is the few people who fulfill that duty who make the difference for the whole of the community in the end.
As the first few cases began to arise, nobody wanted to admit the high level of danger that came with them. Due to the town’s lack of experience with the plague things move slowly at first and no one really knows what to do. Despite this confusion and lack of knowledge it is important that there are a few people who are always fighting to make progress. “No, we should go forward, groping our way through the darkness, stumbling perhaps at times, and try to do what good lay in our power” (Camus 205). Camus shows the absolute need for action even when nobody is quite sure what to do. The town is urged to forget personal matters to devote themselves to following blind determination.
After months of plague it becomes obvious to the townsfolk that they are all in the situation together and that they are in the same amount of risk even though nobody wanted to acknowledge it out loud. “No longer were there individual destinies; only a collective destiny, made of plague and emotions shared by all” (Camus 151). The atmosphere of the survival situation has made personal interests unimportant and the survival and health of the community the main point of the people’s lives.
As the city of Oran attempts to regain its stability its citizens sacrifice their personal feelings such as love to go into a survival mode. “Evening after evening gave its truest, mournfulest expression to the blind endurance that had outlasted love from all our hearts” (Camus 168). People have become so engrossed in the plague and its effect on their lives that emotions like love are pushed to the back of the mind. Camus stresses the fact that in order for a community to endure, personal sacrifice is necessary.
“The Plagues” main theme in relation to the archetype of the journey is that personal sacrifice may be needed in order for a community to go through a journey and still prevail in the end. It can also be seen that hope is necessary when you are faced with hardship even if you are completely lost and in the dark.
All three novels, “Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Brontë, “The Odyssey” by Homer, and “The Plague” by Albert Camus have strong examples of the journey archetype. Each tells a story of trials, hardship, and suffering. “Jane Eyre” focuses largely on Jane’s personal development and the challenges that she faces in her everyday life. Brontë’s main theme is to not lose sight of who you are when things get tough in contrast to the ideas behind “The Plague” which call for almost an exact opposite due to the community setting in which the journey takes place. “The Odyssey” is more about a since of strength and endurance, though Odysseus’s emotions are evident and are very important in maintaining his will to continue trying to reach home, they do not dominate the scene like in “Jane Eyre” and “The plague”.
The journey archetype is very important in giving people insight to possible life situations. By reading about a characters development while going through a journey it is easy to realize their achievements and failures. This makes these types of situations easier to handle when they come up in real life later on because the reader has already been warned of what to do and what not to do. The main characters of a story focused on an archetypal journey are also inspirational and can provide the same hope and determination by giving people a “they did this so I can too” type of attitude toward life’s challenges.