on Wednesday, September 26, 2012
The heroes of modern day are vastly different than those of classic hero stories such as The Odyssey. Because of this, heroes have evolved with the times, and the hero stories of today still follow the archetypal pattern of the Hero’s Journey. Take, for example, the 2012 superhero movie The Avengers, which was based on the Marvel comic books. Upon analyzing both stories, it is possible to find many similarities as well as differences between the heroes and environments of the Avengers, and that of Homer’s heroes.

Odysseus, the hero of the Odyssey, has few, if any flaws – he is brave, strong, and wise. Homer wrote his heroes to be personifications of all the admirable qualities of his society. In modern stories, like the Avengers, the heroes are more often obviously flawed. Tony Stark (also known as Iron Man), one of the heroes of the Avengers, is openly known to be, “volatile [and] self-obsessed,” and all of the heroes have issues getting along with one another. In modern times this is common. By showing that even characters with superhuman abilities have legitimate faults, it makes the heroes seem human, and more relatable than those of Homer.

However, both the heroes of the Avengers and the Odyssey
have demons and inner conflicts aside from the main plot of the story. For example, while Odysseus is forced to stay on the island of Calypso, he is constantly tortured with a longing for his home and for his family. Each of the Avengers has their own internal struggle as well. Natasha (the Black Widow) feels that she has, “red in [her] ledger,” and is determined to cancel out her past wrongdoings, and Bruce Banner grapples with keeping his anger – and by extension his transformations into the Hulk – in check.

Upon closer examination, it is possible to find parallels between other major elements of the plots of these two stories. These parallels can largely be attributed to the Hero’s Journey, an archetypal pattern that every hero story follows. For example, Olympic gods and goddesses play a major role in the story of the Odyssey, as they both help and hinder Odysseus, the hero of the story. In the Avengers, the secretive council that Nick Fury (the head of SHEILD) consults with mirrors the involvement of the Greek gods in the Odyssey, with Fury playing the role of Athena, who comes to the gods pleading the case of the hero. The gods and the council look on the hero[s] of the story positively – for the most part. However, when the council doubts the ability of the Avengers (and, similarly, when Odysseus harms a relative of Poseidon), the heroes of the story fall out of their favor.

The Odyssey and the Avengers can be compared and contrasted in even more ways than those aforementioned. The eternal archetypes of the hero and the Hero’s Journey make comparing stories from different times easy and the possibilities endless. However, each story has managed to remain unique, a fact that pays tribute to the magic that the Hero’s Journey creates.
on Wednesday, September 19, 2012
Odysseus has been gone for eighteen years now. My brave, strong husband, off to fight in the ten-year-long war, promising to return to our newly born son and me as soon as he could. It has been eight years since the end of the war, with no word from Odysseus. Everyone has said he must be dead, but I hold out hope, both for myself, and for my son.

Poor Telemachus was only a baby when his father went to fight the Trojans. Growing up without a father was hard enough for him, and then the war ended and the other men came home, and what were people to think? I hid Telemachus away from the vicious words of some of the citizens of Ithaca as best I could, but I know in my heart that he heard anyway.

And then the Suitors started pouring in. I wanted none of it, but I hardly told them so, and they wouldn’t have listened regardless. So I made up a story about weaving a shroud, and how after I had finished, only then would I engage their courtship. Unbeknownst to them, however, each night I unwound the work I’d done that day.

That is what my life became, day after day, weaving and unweaving, avoiding the Suitors and caring for young Telemachus. But alas, Telemachus is a man now, as I can tell from the broadness of his stature and the forceful gravity of his words. It is times like this that I wish he were still a child.

And now he is off on his own, searching for his long-lost father. I will not deny that I fear for him. I shan’t know what to do if I lose my son as well as my husband – and to the same fate! Eurycleia tells me that there is a hand of a god in the matter, so I shall stay strong in Telemachus’s absence. But heed my words: I may be alone save for my servants, but may the immortal gods have mercy on any of my so-called ‘Suitors’ if they try to seduce me in his absence. My husband is alive, and he will return to me – as will my son.
on Saturday, September 8, 2012
An archetype, in essence, is a universally recognized and used symbol or figure that appears in stories throughout the entire world. These figures transcend cultural boundaries, and can be found virtually everywhere. Archetypes, contrary to how one might suppose, do not only appear in works of complicated literature. In fact, archetypes themselves are simple, and appear in even them most popular media of the current day. Carl Jung, a Swiss psychologist and psychiatrist, has suggested that archetypes come from the human subconscious, and that they are built into the minds of all mankind. This theory certainly explains the prevalence of nearly identical archetypes all over the world since ancient times.

The Self is one of the most common archetypal patterns, and according to Jung, is a God symbol. It represents the physical and the divine being as one, and exists everywhere. According to some, the Self is a spirit which descends to the mortal world to deliver a truth. In other instances, the success or failure to achieve a quest has been seen to be a metaphor for a success or failure to discover the Self.

The archetype of the Self is present in the British science fiction television show Doctor Who, in the character of the Doctor. The Doctor is a time traveler, and last remaining of an ancient race known as the Time Lords. He bears the burden of being the reason his entire species is dead, and he constantly wrestles with the question or whether or not he made the right decision in doing what caused their death. Similar to the actions of other representations the Self, the Doctor descends upon the Earth in his blue box of a time machine, saving humans from extraterrestrial peril, and then flying away. The Doctor, at times, could be – and in fact, is – accused of “playing God”. Funnily enough, he has even been referred to on the show as “the Lonely God,” perhaps a gibe at the symbol he embodies.

This embodiment of the Self in the Doctor is central to several parts of the show. Without the darker aspects of his personality, the Doctor would be merely a silly alien with access to a highly advanced time machine. What makes Doctor Who such a spectacular television show is not just its mind-mangling plots, but also its emotive main character. Simultaneously, the Doctor is a fun-loving, internally tortured, and mentally hardened soul. He embodies the Self, but not in the most expected way. The Doctor is a god with faults, for which he consistently pays the prices.