How do archetypes function in literary works?

1 Answer
Mar 29, 2017

Regarding the culture and social context of a group, archetypes help readers connect with the story because it is something they can relate to.


Further explanation...

Assuming you don't know what an Archetype is, it's by definition: "a typical character, an action or a situation that seems to represent such universal patterns of human nature." This means that in the stories you read or the movies you watch--every character, their actions based on their personality, and the situation is a representation of what we know in the real world--hence, "archetypes".

Carl Jung believes these archetypes derive from a "collective unconscious" which is experiences shared by a culture like religion, love, death, etc.

The characters

What kind kind of characters do you typical see in films or books?

  • Heros : When you think about a hero, you can assume that they are fighting against evil. Good vs bad. Who do we know that has this archetype? Superman, Katniss Everdeen, etc.
  • Villains: Same applies above. Bad vs. evil. Who has this archetype? Voldemort, Maleficent, etc.
  • Mentors: Who do we know has an archetype of a mentor? Haymich from "The Hunger Games", Dumbledore from "Harry Potter", etc.

There's more examples but you should get the idea. We know as a society that if you are hero, you are good and against the bad. We know that if you're a villain, it's the opposite. We know that if you are a mentor, we can trust you to guide us. We knows these things naturally because society has taught us this way--these are archetypes. They appeal to us because we can relate to them based on what we learned from society.

Sorry for the long explanation, I hope it makes sense.