The Hero’s Journey and Archetypes

We learned in class about Joseph Campbell and “The Hero’s Journey”.  Basically Campbell created a concept of a basic story structure that was found in many stories around the world.  The structure can be found in many narratives, both classic and new.  Here is a link to an outline of the Hero’s Journey:’s_journey.htm

We also learned about archetypes.  These are character types that are found in many stories, and they always have the same basic characteristics.  Here is a link to a list of some classic archetypes:

These concepts can be combined to create a blueprint for your story, and can be altered accordingly to bring an element of unpredictability to it.  For instance, steps in the Hero’s Journey can be moved, combined, or deleted altogether.  Another alteration is for the characters to have the aspects of more than one archetype.  For instance, the Hero could also be a Shapeshifter, as well as have the aspects of a Mentor.  This is a good starting place to make characters unique and more interesting.


For another class I am taking, we have been assigned the task of describing how the Hero’s Journey is applied to movies we like.  Since it relates so closely to the subject of this blog post, I will post my answers to the assignment, as well as analyze some of the archetypes in the movie.  The movie I chose for this assignment was The Matrix:

Stage 1: Ordinary World – Film Component: The Ordinary World for Neo is when he is still Thomas Anderson living unknowingly in the Matrix.  He is a programmer by day, computer hacker by night.  He is aware of something called “The Matrix”, but does not know what it is.

Stage 2: Call to Adventure – Film Component: Neo is summoned by Trinity at a night club, where she warns him of the danger he is in.  The next day, he is chased by men in suits and implanted with a tracking device.  Here is where Neo’s journey really begins.

Stage 3: Refusal of the Call – Film Component: When the Agents are chasing Neo through the office, he is being guided by a mysterious voice on a cell phone.  The voice guides him past the guards and out onto a ledge outside an office.  The ledge no doubt leads to a rendezvous with Morpheus and the crew. However, Neo refuses to continue out of fear of falling, and gives himself up to the Agents.

Stage 4: Meeting With the Mentor – Film Component: Neo meets Morpheus, who convinces him to accept a “red pill” and enter into his world. He promises that Neo will learn what the Matrix is. Morpheus becomes a mentor Neo throughout the story.

Stage 5: Crossing the First Threshold  – Film Component: Neo is exported from the Matrix into the Real World, which is a desolate planet where humans are enslaved by machines. In essence, the Real World becomes the “Ordinary World” for our hero once he learns what has happened to the human race. The Matrix program becomes the “Special World” for the story when it’s defrauded. Therefore, Neo really crosses the first threshold once he is thrust back into the Matrix program and takes on the Agents.

Stage 6: Test, Allies, Enemies – Film Component:  In the Real World, Neo meets his allies, which are Morpheus’ crew. They hook Neo up into training simulations. Neo learns what the Matrix is, and he fights Morpheus unsuccessfully. He also attempts to make an impossible jump across too buildings, only to plummet to the ground. He learns about the Agents, who are his threshold guardians, and meets with his other ally, the Oracle.

Stage 7: Approach – Film Component: Neo enters the Matrix with the rest of Morpheus’ crew on a mission, and they are all betrayed by Cypher. Morpheus sacrifices himself for the rest of the crew, and is captured by the agents. Cypher also takes out several members of the crew. Back in the real world, Neo and Trinity must rally the remaining crew members to go back into the Matrix and save Morpheus.

Stage 8: Ordeal – Film Component: Neo and Trinity save Morpheus, and they escape to a phone. Neo allows Trinity and Morpheus to export back to the Real World, but Neo gets left behind and chased by the agents. Instead of running, Neo faces Agent Smith and battles him one on one, and beats him.

Stage 9: Reward – Film Component: Though Agent Smith can re-form over and over, Neo finally believes in himself as the One, and understands his importance in Morpheus’ cause. He now knows the importance of making it back to the real world.

Stage 10: The Road Back – Film Component: With his newfound insights and courage, he understands that he must escape to a telephone to be exported back to the Real World. He runs from the Agents in dramatic fashion.

Stage 11: Resurrection – Film Component: Neo is stopped by the Agents and shot. All indications are that he is dying. Back in the Real World, the machines are about to capture the crew and destroy their mission. Trinity tells the unconscious (Real World) Neo that she loves him, and tells him the truth about the Oracle. Neo is resurrected by this speech. Together with the belief in himself, and his now realized love for Trinity, Neo is transformed into an almighty being inside the Matrix program.

Stage 12: Return With Elixir – Film Component: With this new power as the One, Neo defeats the Agents and destroys Agent Smith. He returns to The Real World with this power, which Morpheus and the rest of humanity can use to defeat the Machines.

Archetypes in the Matrix

Hero: Neo, Mentor: Morpheus, Trickster: The Oracle, Shadow: Agent Smith, Shapeshifter: Cypher, Agents, Herald: Trinity, Threshold Guardians: Agents


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