“Many literary critics are of the opinion that archetypes, which have a common and recurring representation in a particular human culture or entire human race, shape the structure and function of a literary work” (LiteraryDevices Editors). I believe that the presence of these archetypal characters in literature helps readers understand the identity of the character represented by the archetype as well as provide a sense of familiarity. In the novel, Without Grace by Carol Hoenig, and the movie, Cinderella, archetypal characters of the hero, the mentor, and the sidekick are compared to illustrate how they are used to help shape the literary work and how the archetypal similarities are consistent to the character universally defined in the “collective unconscious” (“Collective Unconscious”).
Vicky, who begins her life on a farm in a small town in upstate New York, represents the archetypal character of hero as a traumatic event leads her on a quest to find her mother, hoping to learn about her true self as she transitions to adulthood. “The hero is after some ultimate objective and must encounter and overcome obstacles along the way to achieving this goal,” (Scribendi, Inc.). The discovery that her mother left when she was a baby initiates her quest, and Vicky’s family are the obstacles she needs to overcome since her father and grandparents refuse to reveal any details about her mother even getting rid of pictures and her clothes. Vicky, as the hero “undertaking a long journey during which she must perform impossible tasks” (Barker), eventually uncovers pieces of information about her mother to help her on her quest. “It was also in those woods, a season or two later, that I found out Grace hadn’t always been a Finley; she had begun life as a Dormand,” (Hoenig, 77). Vicky’s quest is symbolic of the hero archetype and is
also represented in the character of Cinderella. Cinderella as the hero archetype is on similar journey of self-discovery resulting in her transformation from slave to princess. The death of her father after remarrying her evil stepmother was the traumatic event that led Cinderella on her quest. Just like Vicky, the obstacles she needed to overcome were initiated by her family, such as the tearing of her mother’s dress that she was going to wear to the ball. Vicky and Cinderella in their heroic journey, begin their life in the “Ordinary World” in a disadvantaged state receiving the “Call to Adventure” for their quest from their inner self as a result of a traumatic event. As the hero archetypes in their respective literary works, the reader now has insight into how Vicky and Cinderella will fulfill their journey resulting in their transformation into their true self.
Kevin, as Vicky’s older brother, serves as the mentor archetype as he provides guidance to Vicky on her quest to find her mother and ultimately discover who she truly is. “The mentor character must display enough expertise and wisdom to be able to support the protagonist or hero through their external or internal journey, or both,” (Emkay). Kevin advises Vicky not to discuss her quest with their father or grandparents as he knows they will stop her in her quest to find her mother. “Even Kevin, who had always liked teaching me things, whispered that we weren’t allowed to talk about her, which made me all the more curious,” (Hoenig, 22-23). The archetypal character of mentor will also provide gifts to the hero on their journey, such as when Kevin “…gingerly slipped out a 3 by 5 Polariod holding it out for me,” (Hoenig, 36) revealing a picture of their mother.
Kevin’s representation of the mentor archetype is also represented by the Fairy Godmother in Cinderella. The Fairy Godmother too provides guidance to the hero, Cinderella, when she advises her to maintain hope and that she will be successful on her journey to be transformed from slave to princess. The Fairy Godmother also provides gifts to help Cinderella on her journey including a gown for the ball, glass slippers and a coach which is representative of the mentor archetype. Kevin and the Fairy Godmother as the mentor archetypes provide the hero with the motivation, tools and wisdom they need to complete their quest. Their presence gives the reader an understanding of their role in helping the hero on their journey as well as their purpose in the literary work.
In the novel, Brenda represents the sidekick archetype to the hero, Vicky. “The sidekick as [an] archetype, also has a set of reasons for being: to support the main hero on their journey. A sidekick must have a purpose, and that purpose is to be with the main hero,” (Emkay). Brenda supports Vicky in her quest to find her mother and transform herself from the family cook to a famous chef in Montreal. In her supporting role as the sidekick archetype, Brenda has similar external goals to the hero, Vicky, as she too dreams of living in Montreal. “The moment Brenda had found out that Mrs. Fitz, my home economics teacher, planned to recommend me for an apprenticeship at a major restaurant in Montreal, she grabbed on to my apron strings, intending to come along for
the ride…,” (Hoenig 81). However, Brenda’s main purpose as the sidekick archetype is to act as Vicky’s confidant and loyal friend. In the movie, Cinderella, Jaq and Gus serve as the sidekick archetypes to Cinderella. Jaq and Gus support Cinderella in her quest to go to the ball by re-designing her mother’s dress so that she may be transformed into a princess. They also serve an important role in aiding Cinderella’s transformation when they get the key to the room where Cinderella was locked away allowing her to try on the glass slipper. Brenda and Jaq and Gus are representative of the sidekick archetype which allows the reader to appreciate their importance as faithful supporters existing to assist the hero on their journey.
The novel, Without Grace, and the movie, Cinderella make use of the archetypal characters of the hero, the mentor and the sidekick to provide the reader with insight into the characters. A comparison of the characters in the novel and fairy tale highlighted the similarities of the different archetypes represented by Vicky and Cinderella, Kevin and the Fairy Godmother, and Brenda and Jaq and Gus confirming their common representation across literary works. Since archetypal characters are based on common world experiences across the human race, I believe that they have a consistent universal definition in a person’s “collective unconscious” giving readers a sense of familiarity resulting in a better understanding of the literary work.
Barker, Danika. “Archetypal Literary Criticism.” Scribd. Scribd, n.d. Web. 12 July 2017.
“Collective Unconscious.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 03 July 2017. Web. 12 July 2017.
Emkay, Hunter. “Character Archetypes–F for Fallen Mentor.” Word Hunter. Word Hunter, 14 June 2016. Web. 12 July 2017.
Emkay, Hunter. “Character Archetypes–S for Sidekick.” Word Hunter. Word Hunter, 14 June 2016. Web. 12 July 2017.
LiteraryDevices Editors. “Archetype – Examples and Definition of Archetype.” Literary Devices. LiteraryDevices.net, 11 Mar. 2015. Web. 12 July 2017.
Scribendi, Inc. “5 Common Character Archetypes in Literature.” Scribendi Editing and Proofreading. Scribendi, n.d. Web. 12 July 2017.