Archetype

Entertainment / Literature / Archetype: An original model or pattern from which other later copies are made, especially a character, an action, or situation that seems to represent common patterns of human life. Often, archetypes include a symbol, a theme, a setting, or a character that some critics think have a common meaning in an entire culture, or even the entire human race. These images have particular emotional resonance and power. Archetypes recur in different times and places in myth, literature, folklore, fairy tales, dreams, artwork, and religious rituals. Using the comparative anthropological work of Sir James Frazer's The Golden Bough, the psychologist Carl Jung theorized that the archetype originates in the collective unconscious of mankind, i.e., the shared experiences of a race or culture, such as birth, death, love, family life, and struggles to survive and grow up. These would be expressed in the subconscious of an individual who would recreate them in myths, dreams, and literature. Examples of archetypes found cross-culturally include the following: (1) Recurring symbolic situations (such as the orphaned prince or the lost chieftain's son raised ignorant of his heritage until he is rediscovered by his parents, or the damsel in distress rescued from a hideous monster by a handsome young man who later marries the girl. Also, the long journey, the difficult quest or search, the catalog of difficult tasks, the pursuit of revenge, the descent into the underworld, redemptive rituals, fertility rites, the great flood, the End of the World), (2) Recurring themes (such as the Faustian bargain, pride preceding a fall, the inevitable nature of death, fate, or punishment, blindness, madness, taboos such as forbidden love, patricide, or incest), (3) Recurring characters (such as witches as ugly crones who cannibalize children, lame blacksmiths of preternatural skill, womanizing Don Juans, the hunted man, the femme fatale, the snob, the social climber, the wise old man as mentor or teacher, star-crossed lovers, the caring mother-figure, the helpless little old lady, the stern father-figure, the guilt-ridden figure searching for redemption, the braggart, the young star-crossed lovers, the bully, the villain in black, the oracle or prophet, the mad scientist, the underdog who emerges victorious, the mourning widow or women in lamentation), (4) Symbolic colors (green as a symbol for life, vegetation, or summer, blue as a symbol for water or tranquility, white or black as a symbol of purity, or red as a symbol of blood, fire, or passion) and so on. (5) Recurring images (such as blood, water, pregnancy, ashes, cleanness, dirtiness, caverns, phallic symbols, yonic symbols, the ruined tower, the rose, the lion, the snake, the eagle, the hanged man, the dying god that rises again, the feast or banquet, the fall from a great height). The study of these archetypes in literature is known as archetypal criticism or mythic criticism. Archetypes are also called universal symbols. Contrast with private symbol.

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