I’ve been mulling over what Patti said in her comments on the April 29th post. (Sure, that was three months ago: I burn slow, but I burn hot; and haven’t been able to get what she said out of my mind.)
She said, “I've modified The Hero's Journey with its "pattern" of ordinary life being interrupted by an inciting incident with a mentor thrown in and a climatic confrontation with the antagonist, usually internal conflict. The story is propelled by rising antagonism and the active pursuit of desire. Again, the antagonism is external and internal. How to modify this for women's fiction? First, the ordinary world is not perfect but known, but then something forces the protag to decide what she's going to do about the disequilibrium. Her nest is disheveled, and the action is all about getting that nest (relationships) back into a more comfortable order.
Well, I don’t know about you but when I read Patti’s erudite comment I felt immediately intimidated because I didn’t know what the “hero’s journey” was. Don’t ask me where I was in the folklore, Bible as literature, and classics classes I took in college. I guess I missed that day. (In all the classes.) I had only a vague idea of what Patti was talking about.
Joseph Campbell explained the concept when he said, “A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.”
Campbell said that most cultural heroes such as Buddha, Moses, Osiris, and Jesus all shared this journey structure. (I’m trying to think how the real, historic, divine Jesus could be thought to begin in “the world of common day.” John 1:1 blows that theory into bits, but for someone who believes Jesus was not divine nor eternal, the pattern would hold.)
However, I do see how such a journey is a satisfying way to tell a story. It has structure -- and perhaps even the familiarity to us adults of that structure leads us to expect it to follow a certain path-- plus the excitement of conflict, and justice.
(Interestingly enough, the two traditions of Christianity --Western and Eastern -- emphasize different elements of Jesus' hero story. In most western religious art, the focus is on His suffering and atonement; so you would most often see a crucifix. In eastern iconography, His triumph over death and hell is more often emphasized: the Resurrection.)
At any rate, the journey is important to many readers. Do you look for such a journey in the novels you read? In those which have been most deeply rewarding to you, in what ways is it because of the sense of justice and “necessary structure” being satisfied?