Tuesday, August 9, 2011

How to Read Literature like a Professor Assignment 6

Part 1: Archetypes

Quintessentially, an archetype exists as an element in a story, ranging from a character type to a plot development style, which for some reason or another has resisted oblivion and became prevalent in many different stories. One of the most basic archetypal plots I have noticed goes as follows;

1. Boy and Girl meet.

2. Girl is kidnapped/possessed/etc. by an Evildoer.

3. Boy saves Girl.

4. *They fall in love.

5. They live happily together, usually having a child or two.

*This can occur at any spot in the sequence, usually not first or last though.

Perhaps thousands of stories exhibit this chain of events. For starters, there is Harry and Ginny from the Harry Potter series. They meet, and nothing spectacular occurs, after all, we are all still rooting for Hermione and Harry (I never quit). In the second book, as most people know, Ginny falls under the influence of Tom Riddle (AKA Voldemort) and, lo and behold, Harry saves her! Somewhere much later in the series, they do fall for each other, and in the epilogue of book seven it is revealed they had a few children. The end. Another example can be found in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series. In order; Percy meets Anabeth (and they really get off on the wrong foot), Anabeth is kidnapped in the third book (yes, it took that long), Percy saves her (go figure), their mutual affection becomes more apparent, and I assume children will be involved later, but Percy is currently missing. But you can’t kill of a character that popular, right? Digressing on my frivolous concerns, perhaps another example is warranted. Jumping into the one of the most popular and significant video games ever created, The Legend of Zelda series portrays this archetype in basically every game—with the same people! Link, the male protagonist, eventually meets Zelda, the princess and female protagonist, who is going to be kidnapped/forced into hiding/possessed/turned to stone/whatever by Ganondorf/Vaati/Zor/Belum/another antagonist, but by collecting mystical items from dungeons (usually eight), Link is able to defeat the antagonist of the day and rescue Zelda. Implications of them becoming a couple run high.

Part 2: Marked for Greatness

The heroes of literary works, from the Beast (Beauty and the Beast) to Luke Skywalker (missing a hand), often have some physical malformation or disability that set them apart. Possibilities are endless, ranging from limps to scars. Even more so, each can have a deeper meaning than simply setting apart the hero. For instance, Harry Potter’s lightning bolt shaped scar is definitely more than a scar. Simply the shape indicates so much. Lightning is powerful, energetic, quick, unpredictable, deadly, unstoppable, and—most importantly—electricity. Electricity also allows modern civilization to exist, considering it powers lights, coffee makers, stoves, air conditioners, computers, televisions, motors, telephones, satellites, and countless other overlooked objects. Harry too will possess all those characteristics and will keep society running—by stopping Voldemort from rising to power again. Another layer of meaning lies in the fact that the scar is on his forehead, often hidden by his hair. This suggests that, despite his great destiny, he is still an ordinary person. He may have survived the death curse simultaneously taken Voldemort down, but human he still is. The situation is almost like he can hide the feats of his past, like a scar behind his hair, assuming the papers did not keep track of his every move. Another level of symbolism lies in how he actually got the scar. Voldemort came to kill Harry one night, but Harry’s mother sacrificed herself to save him. In doing so, her love formed a protective charm that would follow Harry in further fights with the Dark Lord. Could the message encoded here be, “Love conquers all?” Perhaps something along the lines of, “Evil acts by selfish people cannot stand in comparison by good acts made by the selfless,” would be more fitting. Honestly, I think both are appropriate.

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