A hero’s journey is a common narrative pattern in drama, storytelling, myth, religious ritual, and psychological development. This journey focuses on the search for success or reclaiming lost honor. Success often comes through an achievement in which the hero becomes more powerful or is recognized as a leader of their community. The archetypal hero ultimately triumphs over their challenge/adversity in some permanent sense, which is often what creates the “happily ever after” Hollywood feel. The book closes, the film ends, and the hero remains in their elevated, triumphant, changed status.
The hero’s journey was first identified by American scholar Joseph Campbell and described in 17 stages. Screenwriter Christopher Vogler later simplified the journey into 12 stages.
You can find explanations of both arcs by clicking on the menu bar or below.
The hero’s journey has been used to describe both men and women’s pursuit journeys. For examples of a female on a hero’s journey, see our posts on Willa Cather’s “Coming, Aphrodite!” and on Divergent. For stories with elements of both hero and heroine journeys, see our posts on Wonder Woman and Mulan. For a further explanation of how Christopher Vogler perceives his life through the hero’s journey, see our post here.