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Monomyth: Hero and Family Versus Loyalty

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Monomyth: Fact or Fiction? Does every story truly follow the common stages of monomyth? Joseph Campbell first describes the monomyth in his book “The Hero With a Thousand Faces” written in 1949. In William Faulkner’s story “Barn Burning” one can look close enough and see the stages of monomyth. In “Barn Burning” the loyalty to family versus loyalty to the law is tested.

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The basic structure of a hero’s journey, in this case Sarty, is shown through the three stages Campbell explains.

Campbell’s monomyth starts with a departure, initiation, and return. Sarty is faced with all three. Sarty is given a call to adventure, refusal to call, and a crossing of the first threshold. His call to Adventure was while the family had to go to a new place. He and his family were forced to leave by the Justice, he said to them, “This case is closed. I can’t find against you, Snopes, but I can give you advice. Leave this country and don’t come back to it” (504). Sarty’s refusal to call is when he hopes it’s all over.

All the running and breaking the law with his father he gets so sick of having to take up for his father. After they left town his father asks, “You were fixing to tell them. You would have told them. ” Sarty answered in a whisper, “yes” (505). The family was living on DeSpain’s land and that is Sarty’s crossing of the first threshold. The initiation in the story is when the hero is initiated into true heroic stature. Sarty faces the road of trials, atonement with the father, and the ultimate boom. The trial he faces of not knowing if he should keep helping his family.

His father tells him to go get oil and as he’s going he’s thinking, “ I could keep on, I could run on and on and never look back, never need to see his face again. Only I can’t. I can’t. ” (512). The father figure that the family has to answer to is DeSpain because they are on is land. The ultimate boom is when Sarty actually tells DeSpain what his father is doing to the barn. Sarty cried, panted. “Where’s…” “Barn! ” he cried. “Barn! ” “What” the white man said. “Barn? ” “Yes! ” the boy cried. “Barn! ” “Catch him! ” the white man shouted (513).

He’s so shook up he can’t even speak clear sentences. After initiation the hero can return in triumph to deserved recognition, although this in itself may not be without trials and tribulations. Sarty refuses to return, takes a magic flight, is rescued from without, and given freedom to live. He takes the magic flight and runs away after telling DeSpain about the barn. He made the decision to run and to not look back, his refusal to return. He made a bold choice to turn away from his family. While running he hears a gunshot, and that rescues him from without.

The narrator says,”…a long, swirling roar incredible and soundless, blotting the stars, and he springing up and into the road again, running again knowing it was too late yet still running even after he heard the shot and, an instant later, two shots, pausing now without knowing he had ceased to run, crying “Pap! Pap! ”…” (514). The relief of not having to answer to his father was enough for Sarty, he had his won life to live with any of the people he chose. With that, he was given the freedom to live. One could say that yes, most stories do follow Campbell’s monomyth.

Sarty had a hard choice to make in this story but still came out to be the hero according to monomyth. Monomyth is interesting to those who take the time to learn about it. It does apply to stories and movies in modern day. An example would be The Matrix, Star Wars, Lord of The Rings, and even Hangover. There is a fair share of critics, typically saying that not all stories are like this. Some may even say this leads to safe movie and book making, thus leading to boring repeats. The same was said about Shakespeare, and his works are famous.