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Joseph O'Brien and Steven White

Subject Psychology

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405161251.2009.x


The meaning of hero is shaped by one's culture, personal experience, the time in which one lives, and the reasons why a figure is chosen as a hero. The ancient Greeks considered a hero as a person with divine association that made a decision to pursue a quest, exhibited courage and strength often in the face of adversity, and represented what the culture considered good and noble. Joseph Campbell advanced a modern idea of a hero, most notably in The Hero with a Thousand Faces , that not only was rooted in his study of myths worldwide, but that also drew upon analytical or Jungian psychology. Campbell portrayed a hero as an individual on a journey who increasingly gained self-awareness while examining the personal feelings and behaviors exhibited on the quest. A hero leaves the ordinary life on an extraordinary quest against almost insurmountable odds, yet achieves a decisive victory and returns with the power to better the ordinary life. Erikson suggested that cultural heroes or reference idols exert profound influence on individuals and cultures. For children, heroes, with their accompanying myths and legends, are part of the material from which their dreams and dramas are derived. Playing out hero themes is one way children come to understand their society, their role in it, and their potential for positive impact on it. As representations of a larger culture, cultural heroes ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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