The Hero With A Thousand Faces
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In Joseph Campbell's The Hero with a Thousand Faces, the author provides a comparative examination of heroes as presented in a wide range of myths and religions from various time periods, cultures and geographical regions. Campbell proposes a definition of the hero that is common to these different heroic ideals and based upon a cycle of adventure. This paper will include the following:
- Begin with a discussion of the common definition of heroism.
- Give an analytical examination of Campbell's definition of heroism as expressed in The Hero with a Thousand Faces.
- Your analysis will demonstrate that common, modern definitions fall short of Campbell's concept of heroism, which provides a great deal of insight into myth and man's common quest for understanding the world around him.
Campell's Hero with a Thousand Faces
The common, modern concept of heroism involves a key figure in a story or actual event that is often distinguished by exceptional bravery and virtue. Contemporary society includes a wide range of co-called heroes who have earned their titles for a variety of reasons. In many cases, a person who has a large following is considered a hero for having an exceptional talent, when there is no specific act of bravery, but an overall sense of perseverance and ability. For example, a modern hero can be a rock musician with adoring fans, a feminist leader who has moved generations of women, or a fireman who succumbs to death while attempting to rescue the victims of a disaster. While these may be heroic acts in some respects, the proceeding discussion will demonstrate that they do not fit Campbell's definition of heroism. Moreover, it will propose that to consider those who have a following or exceptional talent as heroes is to degrade the ideal of heroism, which should be reserved for those who exhibit the traditional characteristics of heroism as described by Campbell.
Several Hero Characters
The hero, and has been represented by many different characters in the mythologies of various ages and cultures. However, Campbell proposes that whether heroes are presented in tales from the orient, narratives from the ancient Greeks, or legends of the Bible, their adventures follow a very similar pattern. This heroic pattern of adventure includes "a separation from the world, a penetration of some source power, and a life-enhancing return" . Examples of this heroic cycle may be found in the wealth of knowledge that Buddha brought to the Orient, the commandments that Moses brought back to the Occident, and the fire that Prometheus brought back to the Greeks, according to Campbell.