Construction of the Hero in a Piece of Writing

Construction of the Hero in a Piece of Writing

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Construction of the Hero in a Piece of Writing

The construction of the ‘Hero’ is one every writer should consider. The hero or protagonist is designed to keep the narrative moving and whose actions create progress for the plot (Morrow et al, 1997). Pearson (2001, p. 101) defines hero’s as “fearless protagonists who realise their own special power and go on to take great personal risks in order to change their reality. In day-to-day life, these powerful archetypes provide a structure that can release the ability of ordinary people to rise to challenges, take risks, break rules, and transform their lives”. There are many ways of defining what a hero is and what a protagonist is. A hero is usually the protagonist but this is not always the case and vice versa. For clarification purposes within this analysis a protagonist or hero is a character who drives the narrative and plot and who embarks upon a learning journey that changes them. A writer’s construction of the hero will be analysed using examples from Kate Grenville’s Lilian’s Story, Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code and Stephen King’s Carrie in comparison to Joseph Campbell’s (1949, p. 36) “destiny of Everyman” by firstly illuminating who the hero’s and protagonist’s are, how the character of the hero has been portrayed and how their journey’s compare.

Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code construction of the hero is by no means a clear one as Lilian’s Story is. There are three main characters, Jacques Saunière, Robert Langdon and Sophie Neveu. Jacques is a protagonist, despite the fact that he is dead for majority of the novel, his puzzles and codes left for his granddaughter drive the narrative. However Robert and Sophia’s actions upon these also drive the narrative. Jacques could be seen as a previous hero, as he indeed goes through self sacrifice in his journey but the narrative focuses on Robert as the hero as it is ultimately he who experiences the learning journey and is transformed. Sophie embarks upon this journey also but her journey of self discovery is not noted as well as Langdon’s journey for truth and self development.
Langdon’s hero journey when compared to Campbell’s “destiny of Everyman” begins with his “call to adventure” in the form of a quest for the holy grail, at first he wants nothing to do with this disruption to his life “refusal of the call”, until he “meets” Jacques who comes to his aid with clues.

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It is then that he proves worthy to take on the journey, what Campbell coined “the crossing of the first threshold” and moves on so a series of tests in the form of a cryptex or a key, puzzles and codes and anagrams, “the road of trials”, this entails meeting the “goddess” (Sophie, also known as “princess Sophie”), “woman as temptress” and “atonement with the father” with Teabing. Through this he is transformed, making himself a worthy finder of the grail his “apotheosis”. In accordance to Campbell’s outline, Langdon returns home with his new found knowledge “return” and instead of more obstacles and puzzles he returns to reality “rescue from without” to “the crossing of the return threshold” in which he discovers the truth, accomplishes his quest and becomes “master of two worlds” and receives what Campbell calls “freedom to live” where Langdon is at one with himself and his newly found knowledge.

Carrie written by Stephen King is an eclectic narrative told by newspapers, first person accounts, published books about the aftermath, third person, autobiographies, Reports and Recorded Testimonies. Stephen King’s Carrie also utilises first person and third person accounts. Carrie is the protagonist and hero in this anti-Cinderella story. This is due to her ability to drive the plot and embark upon her journey. Sue Snell might also be seen as a protagonist and hero as she embarks on a journey that required self sacrifice and as a result experienced change. The construction of Carrie begins with a description from other’s points of view, it is here that her voice is described as “strangely froggy sound, grotesquely apt” (King, 1974 p. 5), her stance described by “Carrie stood dumbly… like a patient ox,” (ibid, p. 6) and her actions as “flailing her arms and grunting and gobbling,” (p.8). Right from dripping with menstrual blood to snot bubbles her description leaves the reader with the impression that she is not much more than a dumb animal. In fact it is not until much later when Tommy asks her to the Spring Ball that we receive a different opinion from Tommy, “But he saw for the first time (because it was the first time he had really looked) that she was far from repulsive” (p. 84). King shows the reader Carrie’s thoughts which expose how she thinks and feels, by doing this he enables the reader to finally empathise with her and come to an understanding of why she’s like she is and why she does what she does. This characterisation is in fact done for many of the characters in the narrative but predominantly from Carrie’s and Sue Snell’s point of view.
Carrie’s hero journey is also in alliance to Campbell’s “destiny of Everyman”. She begins her journey with the “separation” as she rouses from her denigrating life to seek equality and understanding, though her shortfall is failing this she seeks vengeance. She then as Langdon did, receives her “call to adventure” upon realisations of her weak telekinesis ability. Unlike Langdon, Carrie does not refuse the call nor seek or receive a “protective figure” and proceeds to “crossing the first threshold”. This threshold is crossed when Carries thoughts appear to be “Flex,” (King 1974p. 24) in third person. It is when she begins to utilise the power that she begins on “the road of trials”. Upon this road she has a “meeting with the goddess” which in this case was Sue Snell, and many a “Woman as Temptress” with characters such as Chris Hargenson. Carrie’s “atonement with the father” is with her Mother but this is where Carrie’s journey changes to seeking vengeance when the atonement is not received and thus she reaches her climax. With the utilisation of her telekinesis she strengthens it and hence makes herself a worthy receiver of her “apotheosis”. Carrie “returns” with her talent to her classmates and town and mother and finally her “temptress” and goes back to mortality when she is worn out; “Rescue from without”. Similar to Langdon once her quest was complete she crosses “the return threshold”. At this point, Carrie shares her return with Sue, as an attempt to be the “master of two worlds” she dies, a self sacrifice where upon she receives her “freedom to live” at least after death enlightened and at peace.

Grenville’s Lilian’s Story begins with Part One of the three act structure in third person, “Lilian cried and was fed, cried and was changed” (Grenville, 1987 p.3), then changes to first person within pages to give a first hand account of Lilian’s life, Lilian becomes the sole voice and narrator. It is Lilian’s actions that drive the plot. Lilian’s Story is a character’s life portrait constructed from a real life character as an eccentric, non-conforming social outcast. Her voice is strong which gives the character a full identity and creates verisimilitude within the narrative. Lilian’s mental illness is developed from the abuse by her father and is portrayed well through voice and the change that occurs in it. When Lilian is first belted she comforts herself saying “It is only skin”(Grenville, 1949 p. 27) but this soon turns into defiance “The sound of Mother’s old belt had become resonant against so much flesh” (p.30) and “there is too much flesh for him now,” (ibid, p.30) and although she sounds defiant she is also accepting her fate. This voice is still consistent up until her father forces himself on her, “The house gave back only silence, and the panting of the desperate machine that was Father” (ibid, p.223).
Lilian’s journey begins with her separation, as outlined by Campbell, to go on to he “call to adventure”. She goes on to “cross the first threshold” and begin her “road of trials” this road encompasses much of Lilian’s life. Upon this road she meets Joan (her “meeting with the goddess”) and seeks “atonement with the father”. As with Langdon and Carrie, Lilian is disappointed when the father fails to atone and proceeds regardless. This realisation earns her “apotheosis” which she uses to “return”. Her “rescue from without” is after being institutionalised and begins to live her life as she sees fit. The “return of the threshold” is when she becomes content with her life and earns her right to be “master of two worlds” and her “freedom to live”.

The hero serves as our vehicle throughout the novel. King’s, Grenville’s and Brown’s hero’s, although they differ greatly, take the reader on a ride that is not forgotten lightly. In each narrative the hero’s take a journey, learn from it and change, this is a concept they all share despite the differences; a concept typical for the hero archetype. They each follow Campbell’s “destiny of Everyman” and receive their freedom to live. This is the ultimate commonality of the writer’s constructions of their heroes. What their heroes consist of and the journey they embark upon is where they differ. “Whether it is divine quest, the search for enlightenment, the desire for vengeance or fulfilment, the hero is a necessary catalyst for our consciousness” (Bartlett 1998 p. 130).


Reference List

Bartlett, Sarah 1998, The World of Myth and Mythology, Blanford, London.

Brown, Dan 2003, Random House Australia, Sydney.

Campbell, Joseph 1949, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Princeton University Press, New Jersey.

Grenville, Kate 1987, Lilian’s Story, Australia Large Print, Melbourne.

King, Stephen 1974, Carrie, New English Library, London.

Morrow, Daniel G, Stine-Morrow, Elizabeth A L, Leirer, Von O, Andrassy, Jill M, Kahn, Jack 1997, ‘The role of reader age and focus of attention in creating situation models from narratives’, The Journals of Gerontology: Series B: Psychology sciences and social sciences, Volume 52B, Issue 2, pp. 73-80, Viewed 24 March 2008, ProQuest 5000, Document ID: 11212376, .

Pearson, Carol and Mark, Margaret 2001, The Hero and The Outlaw: Building Extraordinary Brands Through the Power of Archetypes, McGraw-Hill, New York.
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