A Hero's Journey: A Literary Analysis

Words: 1933
Pages: 8

King Arthur, Jesus Christ, and even Superman all possess qualities worthy enough to each be deemed heroes of their time. Since the dawn of humanity, humans have been entrenched in a culture that extols those capable of achieving “greatness”. However, how does one become a hero? What qualities are required to obtain this status? In the late twentieth-century, Swiss psycho-therapist Carl Jung developed a list of characteristics that heroes share in common in the form of the “hero’s journey”. One of the most crucial aspects of this journey is that the hero must overcome unsurmountable obstacles and emerge victorious. In Philip Reeve’s Mortal Engines, Hester, Katherine, and Thomas’ journey to prevent the conquest of an invading army is marked with …show more content…
Analysis of these texts reveals that only one story has characters that fit the hero archetype. True heroes are those who are able to overcome the pressures of their society and environment in order to do the “right thing”.
A true hero is distinguished by his or her ability to do the “right thing” through self-sacrifice In Reeve’s Mortal Engines, three youth, Katherine, Thomas, and Hester each independently uncover a plot in which London, a dystopian Traction City, plans to conquer a rival city through the use of forbidden science and endanger the lives of thousands of innocent civilians. Each must abandon their comfortable lifestyles and embark on a journey to prevent the imminent crisis. Upon beginning his quest, Thomas dreads that “everyone he had ever known was aboard that dwindling mountain [London]” (Reeve 30). This initial sacrifice distinguishes their journey and is an early sign that it will it is morally just due to their selflessness. Furthermore, Katherine offers the final and greatest sacrifice by giving her life to spare Hester, an individual she did not even know and had
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Heroes must be able to abstain from wanton lusts for revenge. Mortal Engines features young Hester who originally is consumed by a desire to kill the murderer of her parents, Valentine, but changes her mind when the opportunity presents itself. While this murderous desire had consumed her entire life, she is able to overcome it and attempt to form a truce. Instead of striking Valentine at this vulnerable moment, she instead “felt nothing” and helped him attend to his wounded daughter (Reeve 284). Hester’s ability to set aside her impulse to seek retribution is what defines her character as heroic. In contrast, Shelley’s character Victor Frankenstein is never able to conquer his immense desire for vengeance. When his creation slaughters his whole family due to Frankenstein’s negligence, Frankenstein does not attempt to resolve the core issue but rather seeks to kill the monster in cold blood. He chases his creation to the ends of the earth, at the detriment of his own health, and this pursuit leads to his tragic death. Even before dying, Frankenstein retains his vengeful wishes and tells spectators to complete his quest for him, imploring them “to undertake [his] unfinished work” by slaying the monster (Shelley 193). Frankenstein’s inability to put aside his vengeance-induced fury further diminishes his heroism.