I looked up the word archetype the other day. I thought the word just referred to broad types of characters in literature. Boy did I have a few surprises. Seriously, some of what I read bored the tar out of me. I didn’t care about the ways that some of the heroes were developed, and I didn’t need to delve too deeply into the life and times of the philosophers who created the categories. But I loved the psychology behind the project.
Four Main Categories of Heroes
Classical – special background, fantastic abilities, focused on his task, external battles – usually tragic, character unbalanced toward perfection with one fatal flaw, seldom changes through the story.
Romantic – every man, engaged in community, focused on those around him, more internal than external battles – seldom tragic, balanced character with realistic flaws and positive attributes, active character arc with growth during the story.
Modern – anti-hero, isolated, focused on himself, both internal and external battles – often tragic, character unbalanced toward negative attributes, active character arc but not always with positive growth during the story.
Medieval – can be noble or not, isolated or grouped, with honor-bound external battles – some internal battles and a balance between tragic and victorious elements, character unbalanced on the surface with pure and righteous attributes.
I have to tell you, just learning about these main categories stimulates my imagination. I can identify heroes of each of these types in the books I read and movies I watch. So I have a little quiz. What category of hero is each of these?
- The men of Oceans 11
- Tom Hanks character in Saving Private Ryan
- Fitzwilliam Darcy
- Prince Charming
- Luke Skywalker
- Captain Ahab
- King Arthur
- Forrest Gump
Okay, here are the answers I came up with:
Your turn! Reveal my take. Are yours different?