Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Inescapable Quest

The first chapter of Thomas C. Foster's How to Read Literature Like a Professor is entitled "Every Trip is a Quest (Except When It's Not). In this section of the book, the author describes the ancient archetype of the quest. He explains that "the real reason for a quest is always self-knowledge." There are five elements to every quest: a quester, a place to go, a stated reason to go there, challenges and trials, and a real reason to go. After reading this explanation and discussing it in my AP English Literature class, I realized that this pattern applies to practically every story I've ever come across.
At first, this appeared to me to be a good thing, helpful in writing stories of my own. However, the more time I spent pondering the subject, the more frustrated I became. I tried and tried to come up with a tale that did not fit this mold. I failed. In some form or fashion, every worthwhile story tells of a character doing something for some reason, encountering an obstacle, and learning something in the process. The thought crossed my mind, "How stupid are we humans if every one of our stories follows the exact same pattern?"
After some more pondering, I decided that perhaps I was being too cynical. Maybe the fact that our stories can be dissected into similar parts is evidence of our perpetual journey for self-revelation and higher knowledge. Or maybe it's just evidence that we tend to over-analyze our actions to give them greater significance. There I go with the cynicism again. Regardless of whether this model reveals human simple-mindedness or insightfulness, it was an interesting revelation to me.

No comments: