Joseph Campbell's Technique Used in The Father

Joseph Campbell (March 26, 1904 – October 30, 1987) was an American writer and lecturer, known for his work in comparative mythology and religion. Williams employed Joseph Campbell’s “hero journey” method in his writing of The Father, as have others in their creative work including George Lucas in his Star Wars film series. While this method was commonly used by the ancients in their story telling, the concept was revived and systemized by Campbell, notably in his book The Hero With A Thousand Faces. Joseph Campbell

Campbell became widely known thanks to the Bill Moyer’s, PBS series The Power Of Myth broadcast in 1988 (the most watched PBS series up to that time). The Joseph Campbell Foundation continues his work, and the OPUS Archives And Research Center preserves many of his original papers. More on the PBS series, The Power Of Myth can be found on Wikipedia.

Joseph Campbell's hero journey formula graphic

The method is shown graphically at left. This process can be seen repeated in ancient stories from around the world. The hero hears the call, usually triggered by some imbalance or crisis, often seen in a dream. He or she gets some direction along the way, typically from some supernatural source. Generally the hero is reluctant or resistant to unsettle the current order but finds they have no choice. At a boundary to the unknown they begin their adventure. They meet challenges and tests of their mettle along the way revealing their character. Finally a revelation is reached when the hero dies to their old nature and is reborn with a new sense. They are transformed and provide or deliver atonement for their people when they return to share their discovery.

But why did the author choose to use this method in The Father? As the author puts it, “I use Campbell’s method for the same reason others do – to communicate something beyond a direct observation of the facts. Appealing to a side of us that - given cave paintings of Lascaux and other similar findings - was apparently hardwired into us from the beginning. One might say it plants in the mind a sense about the story that telling or showing cannot. I use Campbell’s method in an overarching manner throughout the book, but I use it sparingly. Those would be the supernatural events in the past and the future. In our modern era we tend to read things literally or factually in a way quite different from the ancients. So to satisfy this skepticism the reader is always given a rational option for events that would otherwise strain plausibility. It’s the same stuff legends are made of. What Campbell sometimes called a metaphor representative of something deeper.”