Hero and Villain: A Similar Journey


The Hero’s Journey theorized by Joseph Campbell has place itself as a cannon to writing fiction. A character arch starting from the “Call to Action” and ending to the eventual “Mastery” is a staple that many writers use in order to create an engaging story. However, with close analysis, the similarities between a hero and it’s ultimate challenge the villain can be discovered at the polar opposite.

Firstly, a brief characterization of the hero’s journey need to be understood before analyzing these similarities. The hero is a build of a few stages in definition: the call to action, the threshold, the dragon, atonement, boon, and mastery. The call to action is setting the premise to a hero’s journey. It can be something dramatic that pushes the hero out into the vast world. The threshold is the challenge before the challenge. By crossing the threshold, the hero is introduced into a darker world and moves forward in the character development. The dragon can be the first encounter with the villain, but must symbolize great danger in one way or another for the hero–it can sometimes lead to symbolic death. The atonement is generally the midway point for the hero’s journey as the hero finds forgiveness and motivation to complete the quest. The boon is an entity that gives the hero power to defeat the villain. Mastery is at the completion of the quest–and hopefully right before or after defeating the villain. The mastery is what the hero brings back from the quest.

These pieces of a essential map for the hero are necessary to create a arch hero with depth. It can only make sense that a good villain carries the same traits but at a different angle. To begin, the villain starts the journey at mastery–the villain believes to be better than other people and therefore feels the need to conquer (such as the Joker in The Dark Knight). From there the villain seeks his boon (which he is missing) in order to gain complete power (the Joker does not know what he wants, but seeks to find some meaning). Next, the villain defines the morals and codes that he abides by–such as the hero’s atonement with the morals the hero holds to–and uses them against society (the Joker repeatedly shares his codes by explaining the scars on his face). This generates a villain/hero collision course as the two meet during the same “dragon” stage–which this time leaves the villain with false victory(The first Joker/Batman fight in Dark Knight). Finally, the villain is compromised, or foiled, crossing the villain into its own “dark world” and eventual defeat (before the Joker’s death we witness this foiled behavior). What is left of the villain is taken by the hero, and, in return, is given to the hero for the hero’s own mastery (Batman’s self awareness).


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