In this article you will learn about the archetypes in literature, including the most common examples of archetypes seen in literature throughout the ages.
What Are Literary Archetypes?
The concept of the archetype originates with the research and writings of psychologist Dr Carl Jung. Jung believed that archetypes are part of humanity’s collective unconscious or memory of humanity’s universal experiences.
As such, he believed that all humans would therefore recognise these archetypes and being able to tap into them could reveal something to each person about their own nature.
A literary archetype is a literary device used by writers when they are creating characters or plots whereby they use a set of identifiable qualities or traits which are familiar and identifiable to the readers in order to help them relate to the content of the work.
In literature, characters, plots, symbols, images and themes can all be archetypal and as a result embody universal truths, meanings and human experiences.
29 Archetypes in Literature
- Archetypes In Beowulf
- Archetypes In The Odyssey
- Archetypes In Lord Of The Flies
- Archetypes In Hamlet
- Archetypes In Frankenstein
- Archetypes In Macbeth
- Archetypes In Romeo And Juliet
- Archetypes In The Great Gatsby
- Archetypes In Gilgamesh
- Archetypes In Of Mice And Men
- Archetypes In The Alchemist
- Archetypes In Fahrenheit 451
- Archetypes In The Scarlet Letter
- Archetypes In The Hobbit
- Archetypes In Fairy Tales
- Archetypes In Lord Of The Rings
- Archetypes In Jane Eyre
- Archetypes In The Hunger Games
- Archetypes In Sir Gawain And The Green Knight
- Alice In Wonderland Archetypes
- Archetypes In The Hero’s Journey
- Archetypes In Othello
- Archetypes In Harry Potter
- Archetypes In Huck Finn
- Archetypes In The Kite Runner
- Archetypes In Brave New World
- Archetypes In The Once And Future King
- Archetypes In A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings
- Archetypes In Wuthering Heights
Literary Archetypes of Your Favourite Books
One of the most common literary archetypes is the hero.
Almost all stories have a hero, and their qualities can be illustrated by examining the hero of Jane Austen’s famous novel ‘Pride and Prejudice’, Mr Darcy. The hero is almost always the central protagonist of the novel, as Darcy is.
He possesses numerous heroic qualities – bravery, courage, determination, endurance, morality, a sense of justice – and puts others before himself.
He usually goes on some form of journey, quest or task in order to achieve his destiny – this can be in physical form, such as a literal journey, or as in Darcy’s case a mental transformation.
Darcy is required to lose his pride in order to win the heart of the woman he loves – the hero almost always gets the girl too!
Another character in Pride and Prejudice personifies another typical literary archetype – the villain.
This is the character of Lady Catherine – an individual who will stop at nothing to get her own way and to stop the hero of the novel from achieving happiness and success.
Also present in the novel is the literary archetype of the rake, or the temptress in female form – in this case Wickham.
This archetype is the character lacking in morality and acting purely from selfish means with a determination to use their beauty and allure in order to seduce others if it will help them achieve what they want.
Elizabeth Bennett, Darcy’s love interest, is an archetypal rebel. She will not conform to society’s expectations of her as a woman of the period.
Another literary archetype which features heavily in the novel is that of the innocent – in this instance Elizabeth’s sister, the practically perfect in every way Jane. Naive and believing the best of everyone at all times, Jane seemingly never entirely grows up.
Also featured are the archetypal ‘wicked stepsisters’, albeit in this case they are actually Mr Bingley’s sisters, Mrs Hurst and Miss Bingley.
The two are determined to interfere in the lives of those around them, utterly focused on class and as a result use manipulation and cruel slights in order to try to undermine the likelihood of Bingley and Darcy marrying the Bennett sisters.