The Meaning of Archetype

Published: 2021-06-26 06:50:04
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Archetype is a fancy word for a common symbol, theme, pattern, or even character trait that is used to portray a deeper meaning in a piece of writing. These archetypes help to reinforce the plot and story line of the novel (which can also be archetypes themselves). I find that Jon Krakauer’s novel “Into Thin Air” explores many archetypes that reader’s may or may not notice at first glance. I think that this novel is fairly similar to the example we looked at in the slideshow from Unit One that discussed ‘The Fundamental Plot of “The Journey”‘. This slide states that the protagonist goes through a change, from innocence to experience.
The author, Jon Krakauer, is the protagonist in the novel, as it’s from his point of view. His goal in the novel is to ultimately climb Mount Everest, and although he already has experience as a mountain climber, he gains experience in near-death situations that could have changed his success and whether or not he survived. The slide also mentions a “descent into danger” and in Jon’s case, it’s more like an ascent into danger that presented risks with unforgiving consequences. Jon notes his awareness when he says, “The ratio of misery to pleasure was greater by an order of magnitude than any other mountain I’d been on; I quickly came to understand that climbing Everest was primarily about enduring pain” (Krakauer 136). Jon had climbed many mountains before, and even says that the experience of Everest was like no other. He’s aware of the dangers that involve mountain climbing such as losing footing, avalanches and falling debris, but by his diction it appears that no other mountain caused him such pain to summit.Since he lived to tell the tale by writing this novel, I definitely think this experience impacted and changed his perspective of life and who he is. I also think that he no doubt will feel grief, remorse, and even perhaps guilt for the loss of his fellow climbers on the ill-fated day. I think these feeling would impact anyone emotionally, mentally, and physically for a while after the disaster. Furthermore, I think several ‘characters’ that Jon comes across in this journey can also be archetypal figures. I could go on and on about the guides, clients and Sherpas representing mentors, innocent, and the wise man archetypes respectively. However, the most interesting archetype to me is that of the mountain and its nature being that of ‘the monster’ of the story. It seemed as though the mountain was on its own terms, the antagonist in the story making the climb that much more difficult for the others. In the novel the Sherpas are the main mountain guides and porters on the exhibitions up the mountain, and Rob Hall made note to his clients to be grateful for the Sherpas. They are also very religious, and after a Sherpa is diagnosed with an altitude sickness combined with something like tuberculosis, the Sherpas believe it to be brought on by something else. They believe the mountain, referred to by the Sherpas as,” Everest – Sagarmatha, goddess of the sky… had taken her revenge on Ngawang” (Krakauer 127).
Ngawang is the Sherpa that was struck with the severe illness, and the other Sherpas believe Sagarmatha was angered because Ngawang and a client had been involved in a relationship they referred to as “sauce-making”, which was ethically looked down upon. They (the Sherpas) explained the worsening status of the weather by pointing up at the moving clouds saying, “Somebody has been sauce-making. Make bad luck. Now storm is coming” (127). I think the fact that the Sherpas refer to Everest as a being that can be upset proves how the mountain will unleash fury on those that are disrespectful to it. Whether it’s myth or not, the disastrous storm that formed later resulted in the loss of many lives. I’m sure the Sherpas though, would blame those that were “sauce making”.

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