Common Archetypes and Symbols in Literature

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Last updated: May 10, 2019

Situational Archetypes
a given experience that a hero or character must endure to move from one place in life to the next

The Quest
describes the search for a talisman/truth necessary to restore fertility, justice, and/or harmony. It includes the series of trials and tribulations the hero faces along the way.

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Usually the hero descends into a real or psychological hell and is forced to discover the blackest truths, quite often concerning his faults. Once the hero is at this lowest level, he must accept personal responsibility to return to the world of the living.

The Task
this refers to a possibly superhuman feat that must be accomplished in order to fulfill the ultimate goal

The Initiation
refers to a moment, usually psychological, in which an individual comes into maturity. He or she gains a new awareness of problems and understands his/her responsibility for solving the dilemma.

Typically he/she receives a calling or signal to sacrifice and become responsible. Often this is approached by the character with refusal, and then acceptance of the responsibility.

The Ritual
refers to an organized ceremony that involves honored members of a given community and an Initiate. This situation officially brings the young man or woman into the realm of the community’s adult world.

The Fall
describes a descent in action from a higher to a lower state of being, an experience which might involve defilement, moral imperfection, and/or loss of innocence. This fall is often accompanied by expulsion from a kind of paradise as a penalty for disobedience and/or moral transgression

Death and Rebirth
the most common of all situational archetypes, refers to those situations in which someone or something, concrete and/or metaphysical dies, yet is accompanied by some sign of birth or rebirth

Nature v.

Mechanistic World

this refers to situations which suggest that nature is good and technology is bad

Battle Between Good and Evil
situations pit obvious forces which represent good and evil against one another

The Unhealable Wound
physical or psychological, cannot be healed fully. This would also indicate a loss of innocence and purity. Often wounds’ pain drives the sufferer to desperate measures of madness

The Magic Weapon
sometimes connected with the task, this refers to a skilled individual hero’s ability to use a piece of technology in order to combat evil, continue a journey, or to prove his or her identity as a chosen individual.

Father-Son Conflict
tension often results from separation during childhood or when the individuals meet as men and the mentor is more important to the hero than the parent. Sometimes the conflict is resolved in atonement.

Innate Wisdom v. Educated Stupidity
Some characters exhibit wisdom intuitively as opposed to those “in charge”

Symbolic Archetypes
serve as a representation of a specific person, act, deed, place, or conflict. They are easily recognizable but not as common as situational archetypes.

Light v. Darkness
Light= hope, renewal, OR intellectual illumination; darkness= the unknown, ignorance, or despair

Water v. Desert
water commonly appears as a birth or rebirth symbol. Desert symbolizes loss of life, hope, or faith.

Heaven v.

Hell

the skies and mountaintops house gods; the bowels of the earth contain diabolic forces

Haven v. Wilderness
Places of safety contrast sharply against the dangerous wilderness

Fire v. Ice
Fire represents knowledge, light, life, and rebirth while ice represents ignorance, darkness, sterility, or death.

Colors
a) Black (darkness)- chaos, mystery, death, evilb)Red- blood, sacrifice; violent passion, disorder, birth, fire, anger, excitement, physical stimulationc)Green- hope, growth, envy, Earth, fertilityd)White (light)- purity, peace, innocence, goodness, Spirite)Blue- Depth, heaven, religious feeling, devotion, truthf)Violet- nostalgia, memory, advanced spiritualityg)Gold- Majesty, sun, wealth, truth

Numbers
3- the Trinity (Father, Son, Holy Ghost); (Mind, Body, Spirit), (Birth, Life, Death)4- mankind (4 limbs), 4 elements, 4 seasons6- devil, evil7- Divinity (3) + Mankind (4) = relationship between man and god: 7 deadly sins, 7 days of week, 7 days to create the world, 7 colors of the rainbow, 7 gifts of Holy spirit.

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