Writing Prompt: Why are archetypes important and what function do they serve in society?
The concept of archetypes can be traced back to the ancient Greeks, to Plato and his doctrine of forms. They saw the world at large or of everyday things as having archetypes. This gave their world meaning as they gave everyday objects archetypal expression. Carl Jung’s idea of archetypes was close to the concept of the ancient Greeks, however his idea had a major difference. Jung saw the archetypes in human psyche, not in the material items that make up the world. This lead to a huge advancement in identifying peoples personality types. In David McCarthy, “Carl Jung and the collective unconscious”, he states, “This idea of psychological archetypes is among Jung’s most important contributions to western thought” (2). Everyone has archetypes and these are added to, stripped away or changed as ones circumstances change and they grow with age. It is because everyone has at least one or more archetypes that helps society function by allowing people to instinctually categorize others and that is important to understand who people are at a base level.
Jung believed that we do not see archetypes directly but one instinctually or subconsciously recognizes them in others and that shapes our behavior and opinion toward others. One sees it in the actions and behaviors of others and one bases their decisions on the kind of archetype one sees in the other person. Jung thought that people see these archetypes subconsciously or with the unconscious mind and by recognizing these archetypes in others that allows one to instinctually make decisions upon base concepts of things. One then can decide upon that information if one can trust someone or not. Without thinking about it we see people and correlate those into a trust not trust category by assigning them a base archetype. An example of this is, when most see a doctor they see a healer and put them into a trust category, the soldier as a warrior archetype, a mother with her children, the nurturer. This list could go on and on for everyone we come into contact with.
People and corporations use archetypes to promote or serve themselves and add meaning to the messages they are trying to send. Politicians use them all the time, in their campaign ads and in their public performances. They have specific archetypes for every purpose. When campaigning they put forth the archetypes of the caregiver, the ruler, the creator, the sage and even the innocent. When they talk of foreign policy they go for the magician, the warrior, or as in the case of enemies, the destroyer. However, most people instinctually see politicians as the archetypes of the trickster or the scumbag. Corporations use archetypes as well, in marketing and making the public see them as being something they are not.
We see archetypes in everyone real or imagined. In literature every character has archetypes. Take for example, Allen Moore’s, “V for Vendetta”, one could go through the novel and assign archetypes to every character however this will focus on a just a few. First and foremost is the lead character, V who has several archetypes. The character known as V is seen throughout the story as the destroyer, the magician, the anti-hero and the mentor, however the most important archetype seen is that of, the shadow. One example of V being the mentor archetype is when V captures Evey and places her into a faux prison setting (142). V does this as he states in the novel, “because I love you, because I want to set you free” (167). This is V’s way to teach Evey to live without fear. V does of course teach Evey other lessons throughout the novel however this is perhaps the clearest example of V being a mentor.
Throughout “V for Vendetta”, V’s character stays fairly consistent. Evey Hammond’s archetypes on the other hand, another main character in “V for Vendetta”, undergoes a series of changes in her archetypal…