Archetypal Theory - Monomyth

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Monomyths are dominant archetypes found in many narratives around the world. They usually have an underlying purpose and teach a lesson about society. “The Step Not Taken,” by Paul D’Angelo, is a short story that follows the story of a man on a personal quest to discover how to rightfully respond to the suffering of other people. The short story follows the three stages of the monomyth: separation, struggle or initiation, and return and reintegration. The narrator can be seen as a hero who takes part in a journey in which he gains great knowledge that he will carry with him for the rest of his life. Unlike other monomyth narratives, such as The Lord of the Rings series where the stages are much clearer since the story is adventurous, in this short story, the monomyth stages are underlying and not as obvious. In “The Step Not Taken,” the protagonist progresses through the three stages of the monomyth, allowing him to gain a greater understanding of the importance of sympathy in today’s world. Firstly, in the beginning of the story, the protagonist’s adventure begins when he notices a young man with him in an elevator. This begins the separation stage, in which the protagonist is first called to adventure and experiences an emotional test. The narrator thinks that it is going to be a normal day, until the young man next to him suddenly drops his briefcase and begins to weep. This is established in the story when the narrator states, “Then it happened. A sudden strained gasp. Turning toward the noise, I was astonished to see the young man drop his brief-case and burst into tears” (D’Angelo). This signifies the beginning of the hero’s quest. The protagonist gets off the elevator and leaves the young man to cry, ignoring him. He immedi... ... middle of paper ... ... and reintegration stage, the hero acquires new wisdom, ultimately completing his quest. Overall, in “The Step Not Taken” by D’Angelo, the protagonist progresses through the three stages of the monomyth, which lead to his understanding of the importance of sympathy and compassion in modern society. Specifically, the three stages that the hero goes through are: separation, struggle or initiation, and return and reintegration. Hence, this monomyth cycle leads the protagonist to his epiphany, which has a lasting impact on him. His epiphany is that helping others in their time of need is the moral thing to do. Once the narrator realizes this, it shapes his identity for the future. He recognizes that next time, he must take action to help someone in need. Thus, this epiphany is significant because it depicts that compassion and sympathy remain important in today’s world.

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