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)


Research point: Pulp Fiction, postmodernism

Pulp Fiction

I absolutely love Pulp Fiction and I did some research on the Internet to delve into later, in connection with Part Three of this course.

Some useful resources:

On Wikipedia there is a particularly well written article on Tarantino’s film at: (Accessed 16.11.16)

I also found an interesting article on a website on script writing,, at: (Accessed 16.11.16)

Among the reviews of this film, there is some material in The Guardian, and an especially good one in The York Times at: (Accessed 16.11.16)



I bought the Kindle edition of the book suggested, Postmodernism: A Very Short Introduction (2002) by C. Butler and have so far read the first three chapters.

Main topics dealt:


Chapter 1 – The rise of postmodernism

Discussion of Carl Andre‘s work Equivalent VIII (1966) in connection with Duchamp‘s readymades and modernist works.

Introduction to deconstructive and post-structuralist theory, relationship between postmodernism and philosophical, political, and sociological thought of the time.


Chapter 2 – New ways of seeing the world

Resistance to master narratives (or metanarratives) and postmodernist fundamentally sceptical attitude: La condition postmoderne by J.-F. Lyotard (1979).

Jacques Derrida: Deconstruction of metanarratives and relativistic attitude

Signs as systems: all words are meaningful only inside their relationships to systems (—> De Saussure)

Playing with the text: ‘new novelists’ in France and American experimental writers (W. Abish, D. Barthelme, R. Coover, R. Federman)

R. Barthes and M. Foucault: the death of the author

Language in its whole seen as a metaphor that can be deconstructed.

Culture and history considered as a number of perpetually competing stories.

Very self-conscious reflexivity of artists with frequent recourse to metalanguages. The work is seen as text even if it is a film, or a painting or a fashion show and every text, from philosophy to the newspapers, involves an obsessional repetition or intertextuality.

Postmodernist novel Il nome della rosa (The Name of the Rose) by Umberto Eco (1980).

Rewriting history: history as just another narrative, whose structures are fundamentally fictional and enslaved to its own myths, metaphors, and stereotypes.


Chapter 3 – Politics and identity

Relationship between discourse and power, ‘discourse’ meaning ‘a historically evolved set of interlocking and mutually supporting statements’ (page 44).

The power of words (Michel Foucault) and contemporary lessening of individual responsibility: the individual is not considered not so much as a ‘self’ but as a ‘subject’ because moved ‘by the ideologically motivated discourses of power which predominate in the society’ (page 49).

‘The postmodernist notion of human identity as essentially constructed like a fiction is also to be found in the visual arts, as is to be seen in Cindy Sherman‘s series of photographs, Untitled Film Stills (1977-80)’ (page 54).

Relationship between postmodernism and feminism in that ‘women are excluded … from the dominant male discourse … are subjected to a Derridean ‘false hierarchy’ by being assigned weak values, opposite to the strong ones invested in masculinity’ (page 56).

‘The postmodernist self, then, is very differently conceived from the self at the centre of liberal humanist thought, which is supposed to be capable of being autonomous, rational, and centred, and somehow free of any particular cultural, ethnic, or gendered characteristics’ (page 58).

‘Postmodernists therefore seem to call for an irreducible pluralism, cut off from any unifying frameworks of belief that might lead to common political action’ (page 60).



‘Matilda’ by Roald Dahl mapped to The Hero’s Journey – Exercise 1

I choose a short novel by Roald Dahl, Matilda, to map onto the Hero’s Journey first because I love this author and my kids simply adored this particular story,  it does not look too complex for a first attempt and last but not least because the heroin of the story is a voracious reader and this makes her a perfect choice for a section about creative reading I think!

So here is my attempt.

Act I (Beginning: the hero’s decision to act)

1. Ordinary World

Matilda, a very clever and precocious child of only five years, lives with her horrible stupid parents who do not understand, value, or even notice her and her incredible talents. She is totally neglected and ignored by them.

2. Call to Adventure

After teaching herself to read at three, one day she goes to the local library where she meets Mrs. Phelps, a sympathetic and kind librarian, who introduces her first to the children books and then to adult literature.

3. Refusal of the Call

Matilda does not refuse the call, instead she immediately and enthusiastically answers to it. For her the discovery of books is a total turnaround, she gains more and more knowledge and control of her life at home, starting to play terrible tricks on her stupid parents.

4. Meeting with the Mentor

On her first day at school she meets her teacher, Miss Honey, a very special person who understands Matilda’s nature and exceptional talents and who courageously sets out to help her in any way she can. At the same time Matilda and her school mates are told that they must beware of Miss Trunchball, the scary and evil headmistress.

5. Crossing of the First Threshold

Matilda shows to a bewildered Miss Honey how good she is at math (she knows all the multiplication tables and beyond), how she has already read an incredible number of difficult books and even makes up a limerick  about Miss Honey. The teacher has no more doubts, this little girl is a true genius and she must convince the headmistress to move her up from the first class.

Act II (Middle: the action)

6. Tests, Allies, Enemies

The terrible headmistress does not even listen to what the teacher has to say and absolutely refuses. Miss Honey does not give up and she presents Matilda with advanced textbooks that she can study during regular school time. Miss Honey also goes and visits Matilda’s parents to speak about their exceptional daughter and find with them a way to help her. But to her dismay they are both very rude and incredibly stupid and, like the headmistress, don’t pay her the slightest attention.

Matilda meets other children and makes new friends: her best friend Lavender, the older and brave children Hortensia and Bruce Bogtrotter who both dare to defy Miss Trunchball.

Her worst enemies are her parents, Mr and Mrs Wormwood, and above all her antagonist Miss Trunchball.

7. Approach to the Inmost Cave

Through the stories told by Hortensia about the headmistress and the terrible experiences lived by other children and especially by Bruce, Matilda prepares herself to tackle her enemy.

8. Ordeal

And finally comes the day of the ordeal and Matilda defeats Miss Trunchball through her newly acquired telekinetic powers.

9. Reward

Miss Honey invites Matilda to have tea in her little fable-like cottage and tells her the painful story of her life. Now it’s Matilda’s turn to help.

Act III (End: the consequences of action)

10. The Road Back

Matilda leaves Miss Honey and goes back to her Ordinary World, but only to get prepared to a final confrontation with the headmistress and save Miss Honey from her sad situation.

11. Resurrection

The final trial is extremely difficult, the battle is harsh and Matilda uses her telekinetic powers for the last time and to the best of her capacity. Miss Trunchball is defeated and leaves the village and her house to Miss Honey who was the legitimate heir to it.

12. Return with the Elixir

Matilda’s parents make a hasty departure to Spain because the police are after his father and with all her enemies out of the way Matilda can finally live with Miss Honey in her new house.

The first element: Plot

Key concepts and definitions

(from Creative Arts, page 72-72)

Story/narrative/plot: story is the ‘what’ (the subject), narrative is the ‘how’ (the structure), plot is the ‘why’ (the causality)

Aristotle defines plot as “the arrangement of the incidents” into three parts: a beginning, a middle and an end linked by necessity or causality —-> three-act drama


Examples of templates of dramatic structure in 3 parts (acts)


  1. The Pyramid template by Gustav Freytag. Freitag, a German novelist and playwright (1816-1895), analyzed the structure of ancient Greek and Shakespearean drama.

Figure 1 At: (Accessed 11.11.16)


2. The Monomyth, a concept developed by Joseph Campbell, (1904 – 1987) an American mythologist, writer and lecturer, in his book The Hero with a Thousand Faces first published in 1949. I have read this book a long time ago and found it extremely fascinating for the study of comparative mythology.

Figure 2 At: (Accessed 11.11.16)


3. The Writer’s Journey template by Christopher Vogler, a Hollywood development executive who was inspired by Joseph Campbell’s writings to write a very successful book aimed at screenwriters.



Campbell, J. (1968) The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Princeton, NJ : Princeton University Press

Vogler, C. (1999) The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers (3rd edition). Studio City, CA: Michael Wiese’s_journey



Research point: Aristotle’s first four elements in The Light of Day by Eric Ambler

I find interesting the concept put forward in the introduction to Project 2 The Hero’s Journey that humans make stories ‘to transform the chaos of life into a narrative that makes sense of it all’ (page 71 of the Creative Arts handbook). I had not thought of that before, that our compulsion to create might be explained as an attempt to make meaning out of a disconnected series of events. That basically a plot is a way of connecting facts in a causal way and that characters live that plot in our place, that they are our projected selves.

Having thought that it seems clearer to me what E.M. Forster really wanted to say with his words

“The king died and then the queen died” is a story. “The king died, and then the queen died of grief” is a plot. (Forster, p. 87)


I have recently read a novel that I thoroughly enjoyed, The Light of Day (Topkapi) by Eric Ambler, in an Italian version that I received as a gift. It is basically a crime or spy story with a very brilliant and engaging plot, rich in twists and reversals and set up in a wonderful exotic scenario in the Bosphorus, but it is also more than that. I think that its characters are well-rounded and convincing and the protagonist in particular, Arthur Abdel Simpson, an insignificant but clever small-time thief with an humorously disenchanted view of the world, is absolutely masterful and unforgettable. It seems to me that plot and characters strike a very good balance in this novel.

Also the language and the general tone of the story are of a delightful quality, as far as I can judge from the translation that in any case looks excellent. The theme that perhaps emerges from the story is that appearances are deceitful and that things and people are more often than not different from what they appear. But the tone is never moralistic or embittered, it is rather disillusioned and witty, and seems to say that the world is as it is and we better learn to cope with it.

A wonderful novel.




Forster, E. M. (1956) Aspects of the Novel. [pdf of Forster, E. M. (1956) Aspects of the Novel San Diego, New York, London: Harcourt Inc.]

At:,%20E.%20M.%20-%20Aspects%20of%20the%20Novel%20(1927).pdf  (Accessed 09/11/16)

Ambler, E. (2016) Topkapi. Translated by Mariagrazia Gini. Milano: Adelphi Edizioni S.p.A.