The Hero's Journey Beowulf Analysis

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All sentient beings are in some way shaped by the ideas that surround them. It is impossible for any thinking creature to ignore the philosophies held by their parents, friends acquaintances, and their society. Children, for example, have their personal worldviews profoundly affected by their parents, friends, and teachers. They typically follow the ideas of their parents and integrate the prevalent ideas of their friends and teachers. There is a phrase that describes the predominant swirl of philosophies that surround a thinking being: the philosophical environment. By extension, the philosophical environment is the source of meaning we bring to life, as Joseph Campbell states in “The Hero’s Journey”: “Life is without meaning. You bring…show more content…
Accordingly, characters in fiction are defined by whatever philosophies the author envelops the character in. This develops them and opens the door for a change in characterization purely through the vehicle of a philosophical environment. John Gardner’s Grendel exemplifies this method of change by surrounding Grendel, the ostracized monster who acts as the main character, with an array of disparate philosophies. From this list, Grendel chooses those to integrate into his own philosophy. The progression of philosophies from Christian thought to nihilism to empiricism throughout the novel shows how the meaning Grendel gives to life changes as the philosophical environment crafted by Gardner changes. This idea is also present in both modern and classical psychology. Psychology attempts to explain the actions and thoughts of humans, which are tied to the meaning they ascribe to life. That meaning is in turn shaped by the philosophical environments. Plato’s “Allegory Of The Cave” and John Campbell’s “Myth And The Modern World” demonstrate how the effects of a philosophical environment on meaning extend to psychology and the actions of people in a society. Plato gives a discourse on the enlightenment of an individual and how that changes their perspective, while Campbell discusses the real world effects of mythologies, which help shape philosophical…show more content…
For instance, Campbell discusses how America lacks mythology and what little mythology there is focuses around efficiency and getting ahead (Campbell 11-12). Because we lack cultural nuances and have a dogma centered around success, we see the meaning of life as being successful and making money or having fame. That lack of nuances and dogma is what defines our philosophical environment and accordingly, Americans do everything they can to get into a good college, get a good job, and be successful. Our idols are successful people, while unsuccessful people view themselves as temporarily embarrassed millionaires. The meaning we bring to life, then, is materialistic and success-focused because our national philosophical environment espouses those values. Campbell also calls upon another major myth that forms a large part of the philosophical environment of many children: religion. Campbell recalls his Roman Catholic upbringing, in which he was “taught to take myth seriously and to let it operate [his] life and to live in terms of these mythic motifs” (Campbell 12). His statement provides a clear example of how a philosophical environment affects meaning. After all, religion is a part of the philosophical environment; in Campbell’s experience it is the main part. He directly admits that he operated his life around
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