Archetypes in Literature
An archetype is a model, or an ideal example, upon which other ideas are patterned. Archetypes are a common theme in literature, where a writer will use a device, such as a character or situation, in order to represent some universal pattern of the whole of human nature. Archetypes in literature help the reader connect with characters and plotting, with the author attempting to provide a form of realism.
There are many common archetypes used in literature. One is that of the hero. Joseph Campbell, in The Hero with a Thousand Faces, pointed out this ancient archetype. The Epic of Gilgamesh, written in ancient Babylon, is one of the first examples of the hero archetype. Other notable examples include Beowulf, the stories of King Arthur, or even Harry Potter. The hero struggles against evil in order to restore harmony and balance in the world.
A second archetype in literature, related to that of the hero, is the battle between good and evil. Moby-Dick is nothing if not an epic struggle between good and evil inside a man, represented by the external symbol of the whale. Another archetype is that of the journey, in which the hero physically travels in order to come to emotional understanding. Not only is Ishmael’s voyage on the Pequod this type of archetype, but so too is the journey of Tom Joad in The Grapes of Wrath. Archetypes abound in literature, providing richness and connection to the endless variety of stories in the human condition.