The Ramayana (Mythology)

Using The Monomyth, a.k.a. the hero cycle developed by Joseph Campbell, to analyze The Ramayana

1. Write and introduction and thesis.  You need to tell me why you choose the character, either Sita or Rama, in The Ramayana to be an example of the hero.  This can be a matter of personal taste, but there are obviously characters that would not be adequate for this exercise.  You also should make mention this structure is known as the Monomyth and that this structure was developed by Joseph Campbell.  You should decide how you will construct your thesis.  If you decide to use a three-prong thesis statement, then you could use Departure, Initiation, and Return as your three aspects which you will then mirror in the body of the assignment.  You also must list the eight steps you are using in the order that you will discuss these steps in the body. You may choose not to use the three part division, but you must list your eight steps.  It is up to you how you construct this arrangement, but it needs to be in the same order in the body that it is in the thesis. You need to keep in mind our classroom discussions.  If you make a radical choice then you are required to produce radical proof. Failure to list these steps, or failure to list them in the correct order in which you discuss them is an automatic letter grade deduction. A discussion of the steps next.

2. You need to list the steps you are going to illustrate and discuss…you must use at least eight steps. Of those eight you must use the call, crossing the threshold, the apotheosis, and crossing the second threshold simply as a matter of necessity.  You need to line your steps in the correct order, reflecting your character’s development through the cycle in a linear fashion.  Other steps you may consider…extraordinary birth, divine aid typically by wise guide (person, god, etc.), helpers (this step is mobile and can occur in more than one place.  You may only use it once.), road of trials (there may be many versions of this in a myth, you can choose more than one, but it will still only be one step.), meeting with the goddess, meeting with temptress (the goddess and temptress may be the same entity in the story…also, if the hero is a female then this can then be male in gender.  Rather than temptress it may be tempter, rather than goddess it may be god.), the belly of the whale or the descent into the dark (this can be a cave, a forest, etc.  This is not the threshold barrier per se, but rather the most dark and challenging moment in the hero story for a particular cycle.  This can often be the moment of apotheosis, therefore the same step.  Sometimes though, the apotheosis, while produced by this moment in the cycle, is realized later by the hero…the realization is itself apotheosis.), atonement with the father (This step can occur right before the apotheosis, can be a product of the apotheosis, or itself can be apotheosis.  The nature of atonement with the father is typically ordered in a way that is in relation to the type of deed the hero is doing in relation to the society that produced the hero.), the boon, also known as the elixir theft (the theft or gain of a material object or a spiritual concept is typically what is referred to here.  This can sometimes be separated from the outcome of the boon.  For instance, in Gilgamesh the boon is the plant of eternal life.  Utnapishtim, the father figure, allows Gilgamesh to find the plant, though Gilgamesh is fated to lose the plant.  The boon or elixir is the plant, but the ultimate boon is the realization that losing immortality brings about acceptance of mortality.), refusal to return, magical flight, reign, exile, extraordinary death.
Some of these steps can indeed be flexible within reason, like helpers, the nature of apotheosis, etc.  It is ultimately important how you analyze using this material.  It is also important to note that the order of these steps has a built in requirement that comes along with the Monomyth mirroring the many processes of development Campbell used in formulating his structure. Among these the three most important would be the process of individuation, the initiation ritual, and the biological process of life.  In philosophy it can be said this structure takes into account both being and becoming.

3. The body can be in outline form, bulleted, numbered, or in traditional essay form.  If you would like to follow the five paragraph essay structure you must identify the steps you choose within the context of the three divisions of the cycle: departure, initiation and return for example.  These three divisions would then constitute the three body paragraphs…this is a matter of your personal taste. In the body, however you construct it, you must go through each step in the order mentioned in your thesis statement.  You must tell me the step, or in other words you must name it, and then explain how the part of the story fits the profile of this step, using a short quote if you want, but not required.  Keep any summary to a minimum, and then put the page number(s) that corresponds to the section to which you refer. The page number is not optional. Rather than summary what I want you to focus on is your justification for a particular step occurring at a particular time in the plot.  If you merely do plot summary you will lose a letter grade, as plot summary is not critical thinking.  Also, you will lose a letter grade if you do not mirror your thesis or use page numbers.  These are all required.

4. You will then need a conclusion.  This is both a reflection of what you have done with your thesis and support as well as a meaningful conclusion about what is implied if your argument is true. You have done it, “so what?” What does it matter?  Do you remember why it matters to Campbell?

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