Hero Cycle Word Document

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Noelle Cipollini
Professor Simmons
ENC 1102
The Strenuous Ways of Earning Your Cape
How many times have you been called on an adventure? Now, how many times have
you accepted the call to adventure? Refusing the call is easy to do because all adventures
initially seem dangerous and difficult. Have you ever thought about the rewards of going on the
adventure compared to the boring, repetitive routine of refusing the call? Call to adventure and
refusal of the call are stages one and two of mythologist Joseph Campbell’s seventeen-stage hero
cycle. Campbell believes that the hero must experience every stage of the cycle to complete the
adventure. He also states that the hero must go through all seventeen stages in order. Stages of
the hero cycle exist in all kinds of media, from songs to poems, from short stories to films, from
the tales of ordinary people to those of fictional characters.
In order for a hero to start an adventure they must be inspired by a herald. Inspiration
best describes what it takes for a person to start an adventure. Lynne Cox wrote “A Dip in the
Cold” where she was inspired to do what Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen had done in
1960. She wanted to successfully swim portions of the Northwest Passage. Amundsen was the
first successful captain to sail through the Northwest Passage, and Cox relied on Amundsen’s
accounts of his journey to guide her through the Northwest Passage. Christopher Gilson was
also inspired in his writing “Flunking Out, Then Flying” where he explains how he flunked out
of college, and then he was inspired by a community college teacher who was able to explain a
poem that Gilson felt explained him. Cox and Gilson were both inspired by other people to start
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their adventure. They both had supernatural aid which helped them to begin their adventure.
Supernatural aid is stage three of Campbell’s seventeen-stage hero cycle. The supernatural aid
provides the hero with advice that the hero must have in order to begin the adventure. Cox had
Amundsen guiding her from waterway to waterway: “I had traveled through the same Artic
world as Amundsen has… but first I need to turn south, as Amundsen had”. Amundsen was not
physically present, but the journals he kept gave her advice and knowledge to help her on her
journey. Gilson’s community college professor helped him realize that he could do well in
college: “Not the poet’s words, but rather, the teacher’s words…this was my second wakeup call
in my college experience”. Gilson realized that he was a good student, and that finishing college
was a feasible option. Gilson’s community college professor gave him the tools he needed to
realize his ability to be a good college student. Gilson then reapplied at the University of
Connecticut, and was later accepted. Inspiration from a supernatural aid significantly helps the
hero in the adventure to begin his journey.
In the short story “Eveline”, James Joyce writes about Eveline, a girl who has taken care
of her family her whole life. Eveline has the opportunity to leave the life she has led for the past
twenty years and embark on a new adventure to Buenos Ayres. Eveline, at the last moment,
decides not to leave with her boyfriend, Frank. Joyce shows that Eveline refuses the call.
Refusing the call is stage two of Campbell’s seventeen-stage hero cycle. All heroes initially
refuse the call to adventure, but they eventually realize the benefits of the adventure will
outweigh the dangers. Eveline refuses to board the ship with Frank.
Eveline makes up the
excuse “he would drown her. She gripped with both hands at the iron railing. ‘Come!’ No! No!
No! It was impossible” (Joyce). Eveline makes herself believe Frank will smoother her, but in
reality Eveline doesn’t have the strength to leave a place she has known her whole life. Eveline
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knows deep down that it is easier to stay where she is comfortable than to leave and experience a
new, unexplored world. Eveline refuses her call to adventure.
Refusing the call doesn’t necessarily mean verbally refusing because refusal can come in
different forms. In the film The Devil Wears Prada Andy Sachs gets hired at a highly
competitive fashion magazine. She accepts the job and is looked down upon because of her lack
of fashion. People at work make fun of her outfit and her hair. She returns to work the second
day and has not changed her look at all. Sachs arrives in the same type of clothes and same hair
style. Sachs has refused the call. Sachs is shown refusing the call because even though she was
hired for the job, her coworkers do not accept her and make fun of her clothes and hair. Rather
than prove them wrong on the second day she returns in the same type of fashion she wore the
previous day. Sachs has yet to change in anyway. This is Sachs still refusing the adventure
because she doesn’t change anything about herself. She stays in the same, boring clothes she is
comfortable wearing. Sachs has not made any change.
In the poem “We Real Cool” Gwendolyn Brooks writes about a group of boys who
dropped out of high school and are acting very mischievous. Brooks shows that these boys have
refused the call to adventure because they stay in the same comfortable environment they have
known their whole life. The boys refuse the call to adventure because the town they live in is
safe for them. They do the same behavior, and they will be protected in their town. The town is
their comfort zone, and they don’t want to venture off into the unknown which is what all heroes
need to do in order to start their adventure. The narrator shows that the boys dropped out of
school and continue to do the same things when she writes, “[w]e real cool/ [w]e [l]eft school/
[w]e [l]urk late” (lines 3-5). In order for a hero to go on an adventure he must leave his comfort
zone, and enter a new environment that the hero is not familiar with. Brooks shows that these
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boys continue day after day to do the same activities which are harmless to them. The boys are
not heroes because they have refused the call to adventure and continue to go through the
motions of their repetitive, rebellious life. In all three cases of refusal of the call, the potential
heroes refuse their call in their own way. In order for a hero to begin their adventure they must
change in some way. Eveline, Sachs, and the boys from “We Real Cool” have not made a
change because they are scarred of leaving a life they have become so comfortable in.
After refusal of the call the hero then receives supernatural aid which helps the hero to
cross into the first threshold. In the song “Give Me One Reason” Tracy Chapman is about to
cross the first threshold. Crossing through the first threshold is stage four in Campbell’s hero
cycle. Crossing the first threshold means the hero is traveling from an environment she has
never left into a new and challenging environment. The hero is nervous for this journey, but she
is still going to embark on it. Chapman is the hero who sings, “Give me one reason to stay
here—and I’ll turn right back around… you got to make me change my mind” (lines 2-4). The
hero is going on the journey even though she is unsure what it may hold. Chapman realizes that
there is more out there that she needs to explore, and she is going to have to leave to find out
what it is. The song depicts Chapman crossing into the first threshold and moving from a place
she’s known all her life to an unknown and unfamiliar journey. She knows it will be hard, but
she says, “there ain’t no more to say” (line 27), but she has made up her mind of continuing on
this unknown mission. Chapman expresses her worries about crossing though the first threshold.
Moving on in the hero cycle, the film The Devil Wears Prada Andy Sachs has quit
working for the extremely difficult Miranda Priestly. Sachs applied at a newspaper to be a writer,
and when her interviewer called Priestly for a reference, she told him Sachs was her biggest
disappointment, and he would be crazy not to hire her. Priestly telling the interviewer both
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positive and negative things about Sachs is referred to as magical flight. Magical flight is stage
thirteen of Campbell’s seventeen-stage hero cycle. Magical flight is when the hero is either
helped or hindered by supernatural powers. In Sachs’ case she was both, hindered and helped,
by Priestly, who was the supernatural power. Priestly lets the interviewer know that Sachs did
disappoint her. However, because Sachs was a hard-working employee the interviewer would be
crazy not to hire her. Priestly’s opinion is respected so highly that Priestly telling the interviewer
he would be crazy not to hire Sachs gave Sachs’ the job. Priestly is the supernatural power that
helped and hindered Sachs to eventually successfully complete the adventure. This is Sachs’
magical flight in her adventure.
The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King also depicts magical flight. In one scene, Sam
and Frodo, two hobbits that just destroyed the ring, are stranded on a rock while lava is rushing
by them. They realize there is nowhere they can go, and they believe there is no hope. Sam and
Frodo start reminiscing about normal hobbit life, and of times they remember before starting
their adventure. Both Sam and Frodo believe they are going to die. Then, out of the sky three
eagles emerge, and swoop down to rescue Sam and Frodo. The eagles are able to bring Sam and
Frodo to safety. This scene depicts magical flight because the eagles are the supernatural beings.
They flew down into lava covered land to rescue the exhausted hobbits. Sam and Frodo would
surely have died if it had not been for the eagles picking them up and carrying the hobbits to
safety. Without the help of the eagles, Sam and Frodo would have died and not been able to
complete the adventure. Due to the eagles picking up the hobbits, the heroes were able to arrive
home safely and complete the cycle. The eagles helped the hobbits return home to complete
their adventure.
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The final stage of Campbell’s hero cycle is depicted Eudora Welty’s short story “A Worn
Path” which portrays the main character Phoenix as the master of the two worlds. Master of the
two worlds is stage seventeen. Being the master of two worlds means the hero is able to travel
between home and the adventure with great ease. The hero possesses the skills to pass between
the two worlds. Phoenix is the hero in “A Worn Path” who makes very long trips to retrieve
medicine for her sick grandson. Phoenix explains that she makes multiple journeys between the
two worlds when she says, “So the time come around, and I go on another trip for the soothingmedicine” (Welty). Phoenix shows that she has previously been on the trip between home and
the doctor’s office. Phoenix is an elderly woman but is able to make the long journey. Earlier in
the story she speaks of encounters she has had on the path in previous journeys, “a pleasure I
don’t see no two-headed snake coming around that tree, where it come once. It took a while to
get by him, back in the summer” (Welty). Phoenix shows the hardship she encountered in
previous trips, and she now has tools that she has learned on how to prevent future
hardships. Phoenix in “A Worn Path” shows that she is the master between two worlds when she
makes her long journey to town but is able to foresee trouble along the way. This is a successful
finish in a hero’s adventure.
The hero cycle is certainly all around us in anything we do. The call to adventure happens more
frequently than you realize, but the call is refused quite a bit. Inspiration helps the hero to stay
on track and complete their adventure. Along the way, the hero will encounter numerous
hardships which are preparing the hero for the ultimate completion of the adventure: the ability
to travel between normal life and adventure life. Not everyone has what it takes to complete or
even start their adventure, but the real test comes when your herald is trying to lure you on an
adventure. Will you accept his call? That is what it takes to earn your cape.
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Works Cited
Brooks, Gwendolyn. “We Real Cool.” Academy of American Poets. Web. 23 Feb. 2010.
Chapman, Tracy. “Give Me One Reason.” New Beginning. Elektra Records, 1995. CD.
Cox, Lynne. “A Dip in the Cold.” The New Yorker 21 April 2008. Web. 23 Feb. 2010.
The Devil Wears Prada. Dir. David Frankel. Twentieth Century Fox, 2006. DVD.
Gilson, Christopher. “Flunking Out, Then Flying.” The New York Times 24 July 2009. Web. 23
Feb. 2010.
Joyce, James. “Eveline.” Read Print Publishing. Web. 23 Feb. 2010.
The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King. Dir. Peter Jackson. Miramax, 2003. DVD.
Simmons, Robin. “The Hero Cycle.” 2010. Valencia Community College. PowerPoint. Web. 14
Jan. 2010.