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Character Archetypes Commonly Seen in Literature

l.p. albert

on 15 April 2016

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Transcript of Archetypes

photo (cc) Malte Sörensen @ flickr
A universal theme that manifests itself differently on an individual basis.
They typically fall into two major categories: characters and situations/symbols.
In other words, an archetype is the mold from which all other copies are made. Think of a cookie cutter: The cutter itself is the original pattern, the type, and each cookie is a copy.
There are several recurring archetypes found in literature, cinema, and society. The following are some of the most common:
The Hero
The Villain
The Martyr
The Sage
The Villain
The Villain is usually the evil character in a story; the character who has a negative effect on others in the story.
As defined by the Random House Unabridged Dictionary, the villain is "a cruelly malicious person who is involved in or devoted to wickedness or crime; scoundrel; or a character in a play, novel, or the like, who constitutes an important evil agency in the plot"
Characters Commonly Seen in Literature
William Harmon and C. Hugh Holman, A Handbook to Literature 8 ed. (1999).]—adapted from Dave Crew’s handout on Archetypal Criticism.
The Child
The Trickster
The Damsel in Distress
The Star-Crossed Lovers
The Hero
Perhaps the most universal, the hero is a construction built to illustrate "a deep psychological aspect of human existence": a search for self-knowledge.
William Harmon and C. Hugh Holman, A Handbook to Literature 8 ed. (1999).]—adapted from Dave Crew’s handout on Archetypal Criticism.
Characteristics of a Villain
Characteristics of The Hero:
Unusual circumstances surrounding birth
Is forced to leave home and live among others
Traumatic events lead to quests
Wields a special weapon
Has supernatural help
The Antihero
The antihero is characterized by his lack of heroic qualities such as courage and morality and possession of those associated with the villain. This character is corrupt, oppressive, and is generally unglamorous.
The Tragic Hero
The protagonist of a tragedy, the tragic hero is one who is majorly flawed and evokes feelings of pity, sympathy, compassion, and empathy from the audience.
Examples of Tragic Heroes:
Maximus (Gladiator, 2000)
William Wallace (Bravehart, 1995)
Kratos (God of War Series, 2005)
Boromir (Lord of the Rings, 1956)
The Martyr
The Martyr is one who is persecuted and put to death for refusing to renounce, or accept, certain societal ideals, usually religious in nature.
Other examples of martyrs:
Joan of Arc
Frodo Baggins
Peter the Apostle
Optimus Prime
Jesus Christ
The Sage
A wise old man or woman, the sage is a source of profound philosophical insight often offering guidance and wisdom to others. This person has vast knowledge of both the world and people that surround him or her.
Examples of The Sage:
Mr. Miyagi
The Child
Present in all humans, the child is considered a survival archetype. Characterized by "childish to childlike longing for the innocent, regardless of age"
Sub-archetypes include:
The Wounded Child
The Abandoned or Orphaned Child
The Dependent Child
The Magical or Innocent Child
The Eternal Child
The Divine Child
The Nature Child
The Trickster
Simply put, the Trickster is one who delights in practical jokes, tricks, and otherwise displays complete disregard for normal rules and behavior.
Other characteristics of the trickster:
Not physically intimidating
Use psychological warfare (brain ninjas)
Generally nonviolent
Some tricksters, such as The Joker or Loki, are known as trickster villains as they employ violent, and often deadly, means to attain their goals.
The Damsel in Distress (D.I.D.)
Perhaps the oldest female archetype, the DID is always beautiful, vulnerable, and in need of rescue. Once rescued, she is lavishly provided for by her prince or knight. When the plan does not unfold as she'd hoped, she is forced to face the world on her own and grow into an empowered, self-sufficient woman.
Other Damsels:
Bella Swan
Lois Lane
Snow White
Princess Fiona*
The Star-Crossed Lovers
Star-Crossed Lovers are those individuals who are deeply in love, but whose relationship is impeded by an outside force, usually fate.
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