The second element: Character and character archetypes – Exercise 2

Key concepts and definitions

Archetype: the original pattern or model of which all things of the same type are representations or copiesFrom the Greek archetypos, formed from the verb “archein” (“to begin” or “to rule”) and the noun “typos” (“type”).  The ancient Greek philosopher Plato, believed that all things have ideal forms of which real things are merely shadows or copies. And in the psychology of C. G. Jung, “archetype” refers to an inherited idea or mode of thought that is present in the unconscious of the individual. In everyday prose, however, “archetype” is most commonly used to mean “a perfect example of something.”

(Merrian-Webster, 2016)

In literary criticism, a primordial image, character, or pattern of circumstances that recurs throughout literature and thought consistently enough to be considered a universal concept or situation. Term adopted from psychologist Carl Gustav Jung, further developed in a literary context by critic Northrop Frye (Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2016)

Stereotype and cliché: both words come from French and were originally printers’ terms, and both have come to take on somewhat negative meanings in modern use. Their original meanings are essentially synonymous, referring to printing blocks from which numerous prints could be made. Today cliché refers to something hackneyed, such as an overly familiar or commonplace phrase, theme, or expression. Stereotype refers to an often unfair and untrue belief that many people have about all people or things with a particular characteristic.

(Merrian-Webster, 2016)

Examples of character archetypes

Taking as an example the book I’ve recently mapped to the Hero’s Journey, Matilda by Roald Dahl, Matilda, the Protagonist, has also combined features of several Jungian character archetypes: the Hero, the Rebel, the Magician and the Explorer. I think of Miss Trunchball, which in the book is the Antagonist, as an Ugly Witch and a Terrible Mother.

In the same novel I can see some other character archetypes. Miss Honey, the Mentor, can be considered according to C.G. Jung the Orphan, the Caregiver as well as the Sage, being a teacher.

Some character archetypes with examples

The petty bourgeois hero: Giovanni Vivaldi, the main character played by Alberto Sordi in An Average Little Man (1977), film directed by Mario Monicelli

The strong warrior: Beowulf, Achilles

The tortured hero: Odysseus, the mathematician and Nobel prize Nash played by Russel Crowe in A Beautiful Mind (2001), film directed by Ron Howard

The simple young man: Renzo Tramaglino, the male hero in The Betrothed (Italian: I promessi sposi), an Italian historical novel by Alessandro Manzoni (1827)

The innocent young girl: Lucia Mondella, the female hero in The Betrothed (Italian: I promessi sposi), an Italian historical novel by Alessandro Manzoni (1827)

The unaware princess: Cinderella and Snow White

The antihero: Donald Duck, Forrest Gump

The self-destructive artist: Amedeo Modigliani, Kurt Cobain

The tragic lovers: Orpheus and Eurydice,  Romeo and Juliet

The rebel: James Dean, Che Guevara

The evil stepmother: Miss Trunchball in Matilda by Roald Dahl, the Evil Queen in Snow White fairytale

The mermaid: Anita Ekberg in La dolce vita (1960), film directed by Federico Fellini

The faithful friend: doctor Watson for Sherlock Holmes

The interior enemy: Mr Hyde in the Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde (1886) by Robert Louis Stevenson

The little naughty kid: Pinocchio, the protagonist of the children’s novel The Adventures of Pinocchio (1883) by Italian writer Carlo Collodi

The evil (negative) hero: Richard III

The wise old man: Merlin the wizard

It seems that there is virtually no end to archetype generation. Perhaps, like plot, through which we organize events in a meaningful connected way, this is our spontaneous (human) way to organize things, concepts, people in categories, and so, again, to put order to chaos. This is a concept that I would like to explore in more depth.


Merrian-Webster. (2016) ‘Archetype’ definition [online] At: (Accessed 17.11.16)

Merrian-Webster. (2016) ‘Sterotype’ definition [online] At: (Accessed 17.11.16)

Encyclopaedia Britannica (2016) ‘Archetype’ article [online] At: (Accessed 17.11.16) (Accessed 17.11.16) (Accessed 17.11.16) (Accessed 17.11.16)


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