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The Impact of the Archetypes on the Modern Society


The age of humanitarian sciences indeed seems to retreat precipitously and the literature blossom is nowadays at its dawn. Although the number of authors has increased dramatically within the latest decade, the common scholarly opinion is that the quality of their writing is very far from the works of classics like Plato, Da Vinci, Shakespeare and others. Moreover, it is becoming more and more evident that the age of technology and profound scientific explorations give secondary positions to the development of literature.

However, the impact that literature has on the way the humankind is developing is still tremendous. Zolla (1981) encapsulated the convergent scholarly opinion that the civilization is still influenced by literature and there is no reasonable grounds to consider that this influence is likely to vanish in the upcoming future. Considering the fact that the majority of the contemporary earth population is not familiar with world’s classic literature, Widmen (1991) asserts that development and rise of the civilization is affected not by the literature itself, but by the archetypes produced by the literature, folklore, and other creative elements.

Critics and scholars express different opinions concerning the impact of the archetypes on the contemporary community, especially in the context of recent technological advancements and the role of the scientific explorations. The first groups of researchers are convinced that the way civilization evolves is in no way connected with the influence that literature has and folklore in general and the common archetypes in particular. While culture is definitely influenced and channeled by those determinants, the main elements of civilizational rise and formation are defined by other factors mostly of technological and scientific nature. However, the second group of scholars is strongly opinionated that civilization is heavily impacted by the archetypes indirectly (Zolla, 1981). To be more exact, the archetypes are among the most important factors which determine the ways in which people behave. Since the scientific demeanor is defined by them as well, civilization’s development is, therefore, heavily affected by the classically formed archetypes.

Overall, the aim of this paper is to outline historical formation of the archetypes and the reasons why they become so important. The paper also elucidates major types of the existing archetypes, their evolutional development, and scientific solidification. The spheres of their application are analyzed, and the areas of influence are identified. The ultimate goal of the paper is to demonstrate that although technology has become a predominant part of contemporary generations, the archetypes formed by folklore and literature endeavors of the writers are still among the most important and decisive determinants of human behavior and, therefore, the development of our civilization. Final paragraphs of the paper conclude whether the newly formulated and traditionally employed literature and folklore archetypes need to be modified in any way.

Literature Review

This chapter of the paper defines the main scholarly sources, which have been used to address the needs of this essay and the reasons why these sources are important and apt thereof.

 Ele%u0301mire, Z. Archetypes. London: George Allen & Unwin, 1981. Print.

The book serves as one of the primary sources for the needs of this essay due to the fact that the study encapsulates basic information about the archetypes and their historical development. The book greatly succors in providing methodological and conceptual framework for this paper and defines fundamental structural elements thereof. The main message of this book is the understanding of the world of archetypes and their significance. Moreover, the book is exuberant with major archetype patterns and archetype illustrations, broadly referencing current, classical, and neoclassical literature pieces.

Tami, C., La Fever. C., & Viders S. The Complete Writer's Guide to Heroes and Heroines: Sixteen Master Archetypes. Hollywood, CA: Lone Eage Pub., 2000. Print.

This literature guide has been composed specifically to address the needs of writers, with accent made on the illustration (heroes and heroines) of the archetypes. Among the analyzed sources, this one is the most specific and professionally related to writers’ lore. The book provides different approaches to concepts interpretation and application as well as it profoundly discusses how the archetypes can be applied in the composition of literature works. The most common types of archetypes are identified, their peculiarities are accentuated and spheres of application are offered for future prolific authors.

Overall, this book is indeed one of the most supportive sources for the needs of this paper since it claims that development of literature is heavily dependent on the archetypes. Similarly, the book is replete with the illustrations on how the archetypes and the related concepts are connected to the development of civilization and the way the humanity behaves.

Mark, Margaret, & Pearson C. S. The Hero and the Outlaw: Building Extraordinary Brands through the Power of Archetypes. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2001. Print.

This study manifests how positive and negative archetypes determine social models of individuals. In particular, the book demonstrates how the negative “archetypes” contribute to the formation of socially negative proclivities of the individuals. To be more exact, the focus is made on the fact that among social, economic, political, and psychological factors, the archetypes occupy important positions. The book depicts positive archetypes and related concepts breed “the heroes” of our community whereas villainous archetypes really contribute to the rise of the “the bad guys” of the social composition.

Wildmen, P. M. Warriors and Kings: Masculine Spirituality and the Bible. New York: Crossroad. 1991. Print.

This study can be indisputably attributed to the section of secondary sources for this paper. The book is indirectly analyzing the archetypes since the bigger portion of the heed is laid on the religious aspect of the archetypes and how religion, beliefs, faiths, and superstitions contribute to the development of the archetypes. The impact exercised by the abovementioned factors on the rise and acknowledgement of real historical characters is analyzed in this book.

Harrison, C. Art in Theory, 1900 - 2000: An Anthology of Changing Ideas. Blackwell Publishing. 2003. Print.

In contrast to the rest of sources used in this paper, this book is rather theoretical in its nature. The book is too broad in its contents and is sooner aimed to outline major literature fundamental concepts than to concentrate on the archetypes and their impact on the way humanity behaves and whether this influence is positive in its pith.

Neil, P. Mythology. New York: A. Knopf. 1999. Print.

The book is among secondary sources used for the research of this report. Since it does not focus on the archetypes and their positive or negative effect on our demeanor but on the major embodiments of the archetypes (i.e. the heroes of the ancient and the middle aged myths), the book is of secondary importance for the substantiation or the confutation of the thesis statement of this paper. However, the book contains a vast set of historical examples illustrating how the imitation of the godly actions affected the deeds of human beings.

Definition of the Concept and its Origins

Various literature and folklore analysts offer different definitions of the reviewed concept. The most relevant and conceptually informative definition really seems to be the one proposed by professor Harrison (2003), who stated that archetype is the motherly symbol, prototype, pattern or construction, upon which the rest are replicated. Among the major scholarly misalignments is the dispute whether the concept spans living and non-living creatures equally well (Neil, 1999). Concerning this essay the assumption that archetypes are applicable for both groups will be followed.

Since this essay is fully focused on the positive influence of the archetypes on the demeanor of human beings or absence thereof, the non-living patterns will not be discussed in the subsequent sections of it. Regarding the living personages, the main archetypes include the Warrior, the Hero, the Guardian, the Old Wise Man , the Scarecrow, the Mentor and other popular types.

With regard to the origins of the most popular archetypes, their roots can be traced to ancient mythology, middle aged poetry, and folklore. It is an incontestable assumption on the basis of which the ancient divine, godly creatures and middle-aged folklore main characters the patterns for the living creatures in general and humans in particular have been formed. Zeus serves as a prototype of the Wise Man, Ulysses is a Hero or a Warrior, while Athena is the Great Mother. Hades is nothing, but the objectification of the Evil Man archetype and so on. Hermes and Siegfried are the Guardians and Martyrs. Hereby, it becomes evident that almost all masterpieces of ancient mythology and middle-aged literature and folklore was based on the archetypes.

The Impact of the Archetypes on the Ancient, Middle Aged and New Era Civilizations

Before it is revealed whether positive influence on the technological society is really exercised, it appears to be relevant to discuss whether this influence was brought when the international community was more prone to the humanitarian evolutional model (Widmen, 1991).

The ancient scripts expose that when Alexander the Great imagined himself as if he was Achilles when he led his troops against the innumerable hordes of Darius and the Holy Roman Empire emperors equated themselves to the Wise Men in the image of Zeus or Plato while taking important decisions affecting international geopolitical situation. It is known for sure nowadays that when Christopher Columbus was sailing the Atlantics on his way to America, his was fully immersed into the Songs of Nibelungs. Further, it can be logically inferred that the exemplary exploits of the brave Siegfried urged him to continue his geographical endeavors.

Sir Winston Churchill’s spectacular image clearly suggests that he often equated himself to the Wise Man archetype, whose decisions shall be carefully weighted and analyzed before put into actions since their implementation may determine the fate and destiny of the entire nation. No wonder that when Churchill was a college student ancient mythology and literature were among his mostly favored academic disciplines.

The Role of the Archetypes in the Modern Society

Peculiarities of the Modern Society

The previous chapter of the essay demonstrated that archetypes played important roles in different historical epochs our community. However, with the advent of technological era, fundamental structural changes have been made to our society (Neil, 1999). First and foremost, leadership positions in the community are no longer occupied by warriors and politicians, but rather by the scientific elite of the world. The wars are no longer waged with the swords, battleaxes pikes or arrows. Instead of this, commandos of cyber special forces and contaminating chemical weapons are of use. Therefore, the main determinants of the successful military campaign are technological preparedness and sophistication of the arsenal, but not the audacity, bravery and strategic thinking, all the virtues that are cultivated by the traditional stereotypes.

Traditional Archetypes Still Matter

Regardless of how fundamental the changes of the society may appear to be, both empirical findings and the opinion of scholars explicitly manifest that the modern society is still very susceptible to the influence of traditional archetypes (Harrison, 2003). Politicians carefully consider the opinion of ancient thinkers and philosophers before the war is launched. To illustrate, when George Bush was formally declaring the commencement of the military invasion to Iraq, his actions, gestures, and demeanor clearly suggested that he equated himself with the Wise Man Archetype, the same situation Winston Churchill once was in.

Moreover, traditionally formed archetypes still encourage further evolution of our generation and sometimes they even serve as deterrents of the uncontrolled violent application of modern technological achievements. To illustrate, the provision encapsulated in the Bible, which may be definitely viewed as one of the most informative encapsulations of the archetypes, were copied into several momentous declarations of the United Nations Organization.  

Educational programs of the leading educational international schools, albeit they may be purely technical in their natures, are still providing obligatory literature courses. These courses guide and direct future careers of the most technically accomplished professionals (Cowden & Viders, 2000). The motives of personal revenge, which led Hamlet in his deeds and the desire to return home at any cost, which encouraged and animated tireless Ulysses, are still driving our generation.

The impact of traditional archetypes on our lifestyles has been widely, albeit a bit indirectly, discussed in the Full Body Burden: Growing Up in the Nuclear Shadow of Rocky Flats written by Kristen Iversen and published in 2012. The book depicts childhood of the author in the period of the Cold War in one of the most polluted sites of the USA – Colorado. The author insinuated that namely noble motives inherent to Zeus or Hamlet motivated John Kennedy to call Russian authorities and persuade them not to unleash a fatal for all humanity conflict. Besides, the author profoundly speculated over the contamination of the Colorado area, and her implicit message is that the activity of USA powers, which sanctioned the construction of the nuclear plant there, can be equated to the Evil Man actions, in the “archetypes” parlance.

The Prospective Changes

Considering the importance of the impact, which is exercised by the archetypes to the positive course of development of our civilization, it must be highlighted that no structural change is relevant. The only remark that can be made is that critics recommend updating the images to make them more recognizable and perspicuous for growing generations.


Having summarized the main points of this research paper, several inferential conclusions can be drawn. First and foremost, whatever peculiarities of the modern civilization may be, the archetypes, or in other words, the models of human behavior that have been formed many years ago are still important and they still influence the development of the humankind in a positive way (Margaret & Pearson, 2001). They serve as deterrent factors since all technological decisions are ultimately taken by humans, whose interior motives are still affected by the same factors as ten thousand years ago. As long as these motives and factors that determine these motives remain unchanged, it can be reasonably stipulated that the significance of the traditional archetypes will not be reduced. The only possible improvement that can be made is the increase in their application. While nowadays they affect the mankind unintentionally, intensified use of these models can really make their influence intended.

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