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Into Thin Air: The Monomyth

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The monomyth, a story arc template introduced by Joseph Campbell in 1949, describes the “hero’s journey” as seventeen stages, but it can be simplified into three parts: a main character goes on an adventure, faces a crisis, and returns, notably changed. Though used in fictitious outlines, this narrative can occur in real life too. John Krakauer, the author of the memoir Into Thin Air, underwent a horrific experience on Mount Everest, when he was present for the May 10, 1996 disaster. Even though Krakauer’s account is nonfiction, it parallels the monomyth structure. Campbell’s first section is departure: a stage where the hero, Krakauer, lives in the normal world and receives an opportunity to take an extraordinary adventure. Krakauer explains…show more content…
Initiation is described as the stage in which the hero “faces tasks or trials”, and the hardships Krakauer ends up facing more than qualify.He immediately realizes that the altitude is down right awful, making a point to note that “[t]he ration of misery to pleasure was greater by an order of magnitude than any other mountain I'd been on.”(157). He and his teammates get almost instantaneous altitude sickness, leaving them deeply uncomfortable at the best, and “delirious, stumbling like a drunk, and coughing up pink, blood-laced froth ”(125) at the worst. This is only the beginning, though- during the descent, his teammates start dying off.
Instead of horror and inability to continue, Krakauer’s lack of oxygen and shocked state leaves him “dull and unresponsive” (133) and unable to process how truly awful things are. This is how the last stage, return, manifests for him. In many stories, the hero receives a powerful token or a trophy of some variety. Unfortunately for Krakauer, his trophy or token is major PTSD and trauma. He goes on to write his book, shares his experiences and lessons he has learned, but he ultimately does not see his time on the mountain as positive or a prize
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