I’ve never read Joseph Campbell, and I don’t know all that much about story archetypes – Christopher Nolan

 Carl Jung, a Swiss psychologist postulated that archetypal characters and events are etched in the ‘collective unconscious’ of mankind. [1]

So what is an archetype?

Archetype - A  thought pattern present in one’s unconscious mind based on past experiences. Realistically, everything that transpires in our lives - actions: good or bad; thoughts: fettered or unfettered; ideas: germane or unsuitable, and our collective motifs - we attribute to the archetypes that are etched in our psyches.

Arcytepal characters/events/emotions have shaped many works in literature. Here are some of the widely known examples of archetypes from both literature and history:

  1. Lovers – Romeo and Juliet – The quintessence of true love. These Shakespearean lovers continue to dominate the lovers’ archetype universally. 
  1. Genius – Who else but Einstein? Think theory of relativity and the most famous equation, E=MC²
  1. Villain – Ravana in the Hindu mythology, Ramayana, who committed the blasphemous act of abducting Sita, or Kronos, the Roman God Saturn who swallowed his children whole for fear of being overthrown by them.
  1. Mother – Medea, the sorceress, and the bad mom, or the steadfast and highly enduring Kunti, the mother of Pandavas, and an illegitimate son Karna.
  1. Stepmother – Cinderella’s stepmother. Did you think of her as well?
  1. Playboy – Casanova, the Venetian womanizer who believed that small favors should be employed to soften a woman’s heart.
  1. Hero/Heroine  – One who fights for the underdogs/situations – Spiderman who helps others using his powers; Gandhi who preached non-violence to the world and positively influenced millions around the world; Beowulf, the Scandinavian hero, from the epic poem of the same name, who conquered the monster Grendel. 
  1. Explorer/Adventurer – They sure raise our adrenaline with their adventurous spirits.Some archetypes from history –  Columbus, Vasco da Gama, Marco Polo. From literature, maybe Don Quixote, Cervantes’ eponymous knight errant.
  2. Revolutionaries  – the convention breakers! Lenin, Mandela, Gandhi, Bonaparte, Washington. 

~ Revolution: The American Revolution, The French Revolution, The mutiny of 1857. 

  1. Sage/Philosopher/Problem Solver – Aristotle, Sartre, Plato, Ayn Rand.
  1. Jester – Touchstone from As You Like It. 
  1. Visionary – Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Shantanu Narayen

What archetypal characters comes to your mind when you read these words?

The saint – 

The painter-

 The poet-

 The doppelganger –

How is archetype different than a stereotype?


2 thoughts on “Archetypes

  1. Sorry, Prachi, WordPress is forcing a password reset, and I don’t have time or sense. Thanks for adding archetypes from Hindu tradition. We Europeans need to expand our consciousness. B

    Sent from Smallbiz Yahoo Mail for iPad

    1. Thank you for reading. Your comment made me realize I should inform my readers about some, if not all of the characters I have chosen to include. Hopefully, you and some others may benefit from the links I have added.

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