The main idea of the article “Creating the Myth” is that, while there have been thousands and thousands of stories written over the course of human history, they all come from a very small number of universal stories. Whether these are “search” stories are “hero” stories, the vast majority of stories come down to one of the various types of myths. The author goes through the various stages of the myth and describes how some of our most famed stories fit the pattern. For example, the author draws heavily from the Star Wars cycle, and the Odyssey of Homer, to show that two stories written thousands of years apart actually follow a structure that is quite similar, not just in terms of plot but also in terms of theme. The author also uses the Rambo series to talk about the American myth in particular.
I would agree that there is a series of archetypes that seems to inform virtually all literature. For example, Richard Riordan’s The Lightning Thief, one of the more modern young adult novels, shares much in common with what is acknowledged as perhaps the oldest work in all of literature; the epic of Gilgamesh. They both center around one of the oldest themes of all: finding a way to cheat death. The kids in The Lightning Thief go down to Hades to rescue Percy’s mother; Gilgamesh goes to the land of the dead to find a way to bring his friend Enkidu back to life. Of course, Percy’s crew is more successful, but that may have less to do with differences in structure and more to do with the fact that, in our own time, we have a much stronger preference for the happy ending. The realities of ancient life made it quite unlikely that happy endings would happen to anyone.
Pat Conroy’s The Great Santini and Shakespeare’s Hamlet both revolve around the archetype of the difficult father. In Hamlet, the young prince has the task of avenging the death of a father who appears to have been largely absent in his life, given the prince’s closer relationship with his mother. In The Great Santini, the story is less about revenge for the father and more about revenge against the father. The abusive traits that the father shows to his family in this novel mean that, when he dies a hero’s death by taking his plane out to sea rather than risking landing it in an area where civilians might come to harm, the family’s response is conflicted. While there is grief, there is also relief. The fact that Hamlet’s mother could marry her brother-in-law so quickly after the death of her first husband indicates that there was likely some tension at work in that relationship as well. While it was not unusual for Hamlet to have taken his university studies in another country, the collection of uncle, mother and nephew/son combines to create a toxic situation. In both stories, the difficulty of relating to the father leads to trouble later in the story. Hamlet wonders, at first, whether the Ghost is really his father; the difficulty of recognition shows how distant they were in so many ways. The fact that both stories are thematically so similar, though, shows the powerful nature of the father archetype rather than a lack of originality. After all, both stories are quite different.
Conroy, Pat. The Great Santini. New York: Random House, c2009.
Seger, Linda. ”Creating the Myth.”
Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. http://shakespeare.mit.edu/hamlet/full.html