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English – Monomyth Archetype Theory

In today’s society, the Monomyth Archetype is prevalent in various forms such as television, films, books, and real life. Joseph Campbell founded the Monomyth Archetype theory, it involves a hero or heroine transcending the three main stages: separation, struggle or initiation, and return and reintegration. More specifically, this theory is predominant in the short genre, “The Step Not Taken”, by Paul D’Angelo. In the first stage, the protagonist is confronted with a journey of whether to provide aid to a stranger crying in the elevator, which he initially refuses to accept.

However, the individual is persuaded to commit to the quest due to the exposure to a guide, which in this case is the character’s guilty conscience. Subsequently, in stage two the character enters a supernatural world in which he has several emotional assessments, confronts a goddess figure, and completes the final test. This enables him to transform into a new being. Finally, the protagonist embarks on the last stage in which he leaves the spiritual world and returns to the former world with the assistance of a magical being or guide.

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The protagonist in the short story undergoes a transformation into a new human being after going through these stages. He begins the journey when he confronts a crying individual in an elevator and ends when he realizes that he should have provided aid to the stranger in time of need. Moreover, the character experiences an epiphany that convicts him to aid a stranger in need, and this has a lasting impact on his life. During stage one, the protagonist is presented with a journey, which requires him to leave the ordinary reality and enter the sacred realm.

A guide or magical being often aids the character in this quest and to overcome any obstacles. In the story “The Step Not Taken,” the protagonist is in an elevator with an unfamiliar man who suddenly begins to cry as they are approaching their designated floors. The narrator ignores the crying individual and analyzes the situation after leaving the elevator. In this incident, the protagonist experiences various feelings such as fear, uncertainty, and anxiety regarding the confrontation with the stranger. As a result, the protagonist initially refuses to participate in the presented quest.

However, his guilty conscience is invoked as a guide, which leads him to accept the quest shortly after the elevator occurrence. His conscience causes him to critically examine his own actions and ideologies by entering the sacred realm. The primary reason for this journey is to rescue another individual regardless of one’s relationship to the other person. In the final part of the separation stage, his regret of refusal to aid another individual in time of need causes him to accept the quest and attain a willingness to help others.

Subsequently, stage two occurs in which the protagonist undergoes a struggle or initiation into a new sacred world. In this world, the narrator experiences feelings of uncertainty, regret, and sorrow. These three emotions trigger the formation of an emotional assessment for the protagonist. The emotional test begins when the character has to make a decision of whether or not he should help the depressed individual. As he stands in front of the closed elevator doors his guilty conscience comes into existence as his goddess figure, which helps him accomplish his quest.

He begins to ponder about what could have possibly overwhelmed the stranger to such an extent that he was unable to keep from crying out. Some of his predictions included: “Had he just visited the doctor and been told he had an incurable disease? Was he having marital problems? Was his wife ill? His child? Had someone dear recently died? Was he being laid off? ” This self-questioning nature shows the protagonist’s confusion when attempting to resolve the situation with the crying stranger.

In addition, the protagonist begins to have a sense of regret because he didn’t aid the stranger in time of need. This action led the narrator to develop thoughts of negative and positive outcomes that might arise if he had helped the individual. He asked himself, “I should have thrown caution to the winds and done the right thing. Not the big-city thing. The right thing. The human thing. The thing I would want someone to do if they ever found my son crying in an elevator. I should have given him the opportunity to unload his sadness onto my shoulder. This quotation illustrates that the protagonist acknowledges that he was wrong by not reaching out to the stranger. This acceptance of one’s own mistakes is the final test, which the author accomplishes through the assistance of his guilty conscience. Furthermore, the narrator realizes that his colleagues were also wrong in supporting his actions of not aiding the stranger. He overcomes society’s norms of ignoring and not interfering in another person’s affairs. Thus, he develops into a new human being with different ideologies and he is able to return to the former world.

Lastly, the protagonist enters the final stage, return and reintegration. This final stage involves the hero re-entering the physical realm with his newfound wisdom. Initially, he does not desire to return to the chaotic world because of the stability and peace that he has acquired in the sacred world. However, in this case reality acts as a powerful guide to convince the narrator to return to the ordinary realm with his pristine wisdom. In other words, he realizes that he will not likely meet the crying individual again.

When the protagonist crosses back over to the original world, he becomes a regenerated person who is aware of the distinction between right and wrong. As well, he becomes fully aware of his mistake of neglecting the stranger in need. He understands that he should act in accordance with what he believes is truthful instead of following society’s norms. The regeneration of the protagonist is expressed when he states, “That I hope things are looking up for him. That I hope his sorrow is in the past. That I hope he is never again burdened with such awful despair.

That I am thinking of him. That I said a prayer for him. That I was wrong, dreadfully wrong not to step forward in the time of need. ” This quotation shows that the narrator has changed into a new and more caring individual. However, the stage was not fully completed due to the fact that the protagonist had kept the newly obtained wisdom to himself and did not proceed to give it to others. Even though the cycle of the Monomyth Archetype theory remains incomplete, the narrator tends to acquire something extremely valuable, an epiphany.

An epiphany is a moment of sudden perception or insight into the essence of a change or concept. The individual will have clarity of what was wrong and discover a resolution to the problem. This results in a lasting impact on the person shaping his or her identity. As well, the protagonist transforms into a new human being. He experiences an epiphany, which is a moment of sudden understanding about the distinction between right and wrong. During the time of the elevator occurrence, the protagonist hesitated to aid the stranger.

He started to think of negative and positive possibilities of what would happen if he did help. As he did not get involved with the situation, he eventually acknowledged that he made the wrong decision and had overwhelming guilt. After a careful analysis, the narrator realizes that it is morally correct to aid an individual in need instead of being a spectator. Furthermore, this epiphany gives a relevant realization in today’s world because people have the tendency to ignore others who are in some sort of danger or experiencing some sort of difficulty.

They would act as if the individual doesn’t exist. Also, they will closely follow social norms and act as bystanders instead of escaping the crowd and becoming a leader. In addition, this concept of epiphany from “The Step Not Taken,” is also found in the real life event, Kitty Genovese murder case (Rasenberger, 2004). This is a key similarity between the two stories. The epiphany concept is similar because both stories show how people sometimes ignore others in need of help.

Kitty Genovese was a victim that was brutally murdered by an unidentified man as several citizens witnessed the tragic event (Rasenberger, 2004). The spectators did not react by phoning the police, but instead exhibited the diffusion of responsibility. Every spectator thought that someone else would inform the police. After the horrific incident, the observers stated that they did not want to get involved in the matter when questioned by authority figures (Rasenberger, 2004). People had the choice of whether or not to get involved into someone else’s problems, which led to the murder of Kitty Genovese.

Therefore, it is human nature to ignore others who face difficulties. Besides real life events, this short genre has similarities to other literature. More specifically, the journey taken by the protagonist in “The Step Not Taken,” is similar to the quests taken by characters in two famous Christmas carols: “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” by Dr. Seuss and “The Ghosts of Christmas Past,” by Charles Dickens. The characters in these carols go through the three stages of the Monomyth theory and share their new wisdom with others.

However, the protagonist in “The Step Not Taken,” does not complete the final stage because he does not share his new wisdom with others. The Christmas carols have happy endings with the main characters sharing their new knowledge with others unlike the protagonists in “The Step Not Taken” and Kitty Genovese case, which have less pleasant endings. Conclusively, “The Step Not Taken,” provides the reader with a valuable lesson that it is morally correct to help others. ‘Works Cited’ Rasenberger, Jim. “Kitty, 40 Years Later. ” The New York Times. 8 Feb. 2004. .


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