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Literary Archetypes. “Archetypes are repeated patterns that recur in the literature of every age” (Sloan 48). What is an archetype?. An archetype is a term used to describe universal symbols that evoke deep and sometimes unconscious responses in a reader

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literary archetypes

Literary Archetypes

“Archetypes are repeated patterns that recur in the literature of every age” (Sloan 48).

what is an archetype
What is an archetype?
  • An archetype is a term used to describe universal symbols that evoke deep and sometimes unconscious responses in a reader
  • In literature, characters, images, and themes that symbolically embody universal meanings and basic human experiences, regardless of when or where they live, are considered archetypes.
  • Common literary archetypes include stories of quests, initiations, scapegoats, descents to the underworld, and ascents to heaven.
archetypes are
Archetypes are…
  • Primordial: That is, we, as individuals, have these archetypal images ingrained in our understanding even before we are born.
  • Universal: These archetypes can be found all over the world and throughout history. The manifestation of the idea may be different, but the idea itself is the same.
carl jung
Swiss psychologist/psychiatrist whose study of the nature of the human mind resulted in two basic concepts that are important in examining and analyzing literature.

Collective unconsciousness unconscious/subconscious mental record of all common human experiences (examples –love, passion, birth, death, anger, peace, evil, spirituality, etc)

archetypes – symbols which express our “collective unconscious,” which are our common human experiences

Carl Jung
common character archetypes
Common Character Archetypes
  • The Star-Crossed Lovers
  • This is the young couple joined by love but unexpectedly parted by fate.

example - Romeo and Juliet

  • Unfaithful wife
  • married to a man she sees as dull and unimaginative physically attracted to a more virile or desirable man
  • example - Guinevere
  • The main character leaves his or her community to go on an adventure, performing deeds that bring honor to the community
  • examples – Beowulf
  • Devil figureoffers worldly goods, fame, offers knowledge to the protagonist in exchange for possession of his soul
  • examples - Lucifer, Satan
  • Villain
  • a cruelly malicious person who is involved in or devoted to wickedness or crime
ScapegoatThe scapegoat figure is one who gets blamed for everything, regardless of whether he/she is actually at fault.
  • Example – Tom Robinson
  • Outcast
  • a figure who is banished from a social group for some crime against his fellow man
  • he/she is usually destined to become a wanderer
  • example - Gollum
  • crosses both physical and social boundaries-- the trickster is often a traveler, and he often breaks societal rules. Tricksters cross lines, breaking or blurring connections and distinctions between "right and wrong, sacred and profane, clean and dirty, male and female, young and old, living and dead“
  • Anansi
  • The innocent
  • Child/Youth

Inexperienced adult

  • Jem and Scout
The great teacher/mentor
  • wise old man
  • represents knowledge,
  • wisdom, spirituality of soul, insight
  • protects or helps main character when he or she faces challenges.
  • example -, Merlin
  • Earth mothersymbolic of fruition and abundance as well as fertility
  • example - Mother Nature
The Shrew
  • This is that nagging, bothersome wife always battering her husband with verbal abuse.
  • example - Katherine
  • Enchantress-Temptress
  • characterized by sensuous beauty usually involved in downfall of the hero or protagonist
  • examples - the Sirens, Calypso, and Cleopatra
situational archetypes
Situational Archetypes
  • The Loss of Innocence This is, as the name implies, a loss of innocence through sexual experience, violence, or any other means.
  • The Initiation
  • This is the process by which a character is brought into another sphere of influence, usually (in literature) into adulthood.
  • Ex. Jem and Scott in To Kill a Mockingbird
  • are searching for something, whether consciously or unconsciously. Their actions, thoughts, and feelings center around the goal of completing the quest.
  • example - Ahab’s quest for the albino whale
  • Task
  • A situation in which a character, or group of characters, is driven to complete some duty often of monstrous proportion.
  • example --Frodo’s task to keep the ring safe in The Lord of the Rings
  • describes a descent, usually of a hero, from a higher to a lower state of being
  • usually involves spiritual defilement and/or loss of innocence
  • also involves an expulsion from some kind paradise
  • example - Adam and Eve
  • Night journey
  • descent into earth followed by a return to light
  • usually, knowledge has been gained through the experience
  • example - Orpheus
common image archetypes
Common Image Archetypes
  • Certain images that recur in myths and other genres of literature often have a common meaning or tend to elicit comparable psychological responses and to serve similar cultural functions.
  • Water
  • Sun
  • Colors
  • Shapes, Numbers, & Other objects
  • a symbol of life, cleansing, and rebirth—represents the mystery of creation
  • Examples:

Sea—spiritual mystery and infinity; timelessness and eternity

River—death / rebirth (baptism), flowing of time into eternity, transitional phases of the life cycle

  • Represents energy, creativity, thinking, enlightenment, wisdom, spiritual vision, the passing of time, and life


Rising Sun—Birth and Creation

Setting Sun—death

  • Red—love, sacrifice, hate, evil, anger, violent passion, sin, blood, disorder
  • Green—birth / death, fertility, luck, hope, jealousy, decay, greed
  • Blue—sadness, spiritual purity, truth, religious feelings of security
  • Black—power, doom, death, darkness, mystery, primal wisdom, unconscious evil
  • White—purity, innocence, death, terror, supernatural, blinding truth

Circle (Sphere)

wholeness, unity

Egg (Oval)—the mystery of life and the forces of regeneration

  • Dark-colored bird (raven, hawk)—death, hate, corruption
  • Snake (serpent, worm)—evil, corruption, sensuality, destruction, wisdom, temptation
  • Light-colored bird (dove)—peace, love, life
  • Three (3)—represents unity, spiritual awareness, and light
  • Four (4)—cycle of life, (earth, water, fire, air) nature
  • Seven (7)—unity between 3 and 4, completion and perfect order
  • paradise, innocence, unspoiled feminine beauty, fertility
  • desert
  • lack of spirituality, death, hopelessness
Mountains and peaks
  • Highest peak is place to “see” far
  • Place to gain great insight
  • Caves and tunnels
  • Deep down where character delves into self
  • Place that character goes when “invisible” or inactive
  • At the extreme may signify death
  • Habitat of the Great Mother (Mother Nature), Fertility. The vegetation and animals flourish in this “green world” because of the sustaining power of the Great Mother. Symbolically the primitive levels of the feminine psyche, protective and sheltering. Those who enter often lose their direction or rational outlook and thus tap into their collective unconscious.
  • proliferation, life, immortality growth,
  • road or train
  • journey through life
character archetypes
The great teacher/mentor




Earth mother


The innocent








Character Archetypes
summer reading
Summer Reading
  • Think about the books you read over the summer, (The Life of Pi, Girl with a Pearl Earring, A Northern Light, Peace, Like a River, Like Water for Elephants, The Kite Runner, and To Kill a Mockingbird). What archetypes did you notice in those books? For example, water in the Life of Pi.
http www slideshare net rachaljames the psychology of color presentation


combination of red and yellow

denotes energy, warmth, and the sun

less intensity or aggression than red

calmed by the cheerfulness of yellow


wholesomeness and earthiness

represents steadfastness, simplicity, friendliness, dependability, and health

warm neutral color that can stimulate the appetite