Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Hero's Journey

I recently listened to the audio version of Bill Moyers interviews with Joseph Campbell discussing the Hero's Journey and the important place myth holds in our lives. It wasn't my first time for exploring the topic.


Last December, I tried to read Campbell's original Hero With a Thousand Faces for a special lecture MT Anderson was giving at the Vermont College residency. Sadly, between creative thesis deadlines and holiday madness, I didn't make it through the whole thing. But, I did enjoy Anderson's talk – he did just what speakers should do: get you excited enough about the topic that you want to go learn more about it yourself.

In May, I attended another talk on the Hero's Journey given by Max McCoy at the Oklahoma Writers Federation Conference in Oklahoma City. He talked about how the hero structure shows up in lots of familiar stories: The Wizard of Oz, Star Wars and Indiana Jones.

Now, I was right on board with McCoy about Dorothy and Luke – I could see the call to action, the journey and the realization that the power lies within themselves. But I wasn't too sure about Indy. I could see how the greed of the Nazis spelled their doom when they opened up the Ark, but how did that translate into Indy finding power within himself? I ended up watching Raiders of the Lost Ark again, keeping that question in mind.
I found this trailer that illustrates just a bit of what I discovered.


Early in the movie, when the suits are meeting with Indy at the University, we see how much he wants to find the Ark. His excitement shines through as he is working on the chalkboard, explaining it to them. Then there's the gleam in his eye when he uses the staff to reveal the Ark's location. His motives may be "pure" compared to the Nazis, but he wants to uncover the secrets of the Ark every bit as much as they do.
So then, when the Ark is opened, Indy finds the power within himself to keep his eyes closed. He has realized that some secrets are best left concealed. He and Marion are spared.
And I found the famous melting Nazi clip that shows what happens when your curiosity gets the better of you.

2 comments:

stevenewedel said...

Joseph Campbell was easily one of the most fascinating people of the 20th century. But, for an easier breakdown of his Hero's Journey, try Christopher Vogler's book The Writer's Journey.

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