INTRO TO HERO’S JOURNEY MOTIF
The first stage in Campbell’s description of the Hero’s Journey motif is known as the “World of Common Day.” This is the exposition of the story showcasing the hero in a comfortable setting that is familiar to him. Sometimes being referred to as “the walled garden,” this is the hero’s home. To fully be able to appreciate the challenges of the hero later in the journey, he must first be shown in an “Ordinary World,” to contrast the strange world that he is about to enter. In Inferno, the World of Common Day is shown when Dante is walking through life in the dark forest and he ambitiously sets out to climb the Mountain of Joy. At this point Dante is midway through life and knowing that he has strayed from the “true path,” he wants to climb the Mount of Joy.
The second stage is known as the call to adventure. It is here where the hero is confronted with a problem or adventure that challenges life as he knows it. This call makes it so that he can no longer remain in the walled garden and must venture into the unknown in order to restore balance to the world. In the Inferno the call to adventure is shown in Dante’s confrontation with the three beasts of worldliness that block his way up to the Mount of Joy. This represents the call to adventure as Dante must now find a way up from being driven back into the darkness of the valley and straying from God.
Third is the refusal of the call. The hero is reluctant to leave his comfort zone and cross through the threshold into the unknown, because of fear of what lies ahead. Usually at this point the hero has not yet fully committed to the journey and is expressing doubt as to whether or not he should continue to pursue the call to adventure, or to turn around and quit. In Canto 2 of Inferno, Dante expresses self-doubt as to whether or not he is worthy to travel through hell. By comparing himself to other greats who have travelled to hell, he expresses humility and questions if he is strong enough in God’s eyes to tackle what lies ahead. It is important to not that this humility is unlike other many Hero’s Journeys where the hero expresses reluctance primarily due to fear. Because however Dante wanted to portray himself as a Christian hero, he couldn’t be perceived to be arrogant and for this reason depicted the refusal of the call to be due to self-doubt.
Next comes the meeting of a mentor. Here the hero meets someone who prepares him to face what is unknown. This character serves as a wise guide and teacher for the hero so that he can learn about his quest. Virgil serves as the mentor for Dante throughout Inferno and Purgatorio. Like many mentors in hero’s journeys, Virgil has been through and experienced the unknown that the hero travels into, and for this reason can provide him with insight. Virgil helps Dante to understand what he is up against so that he can understand it and deal with it effectively.
The next step is known as the crossing of the first threshold. This is where the hero commits to his quest and accepts the consequences of undertaking the challenge brought to light in the call to adventure. By crossing the threshold the hero is now past the point of no return, and having dealt with his fear, is now able to take action.
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