Overcoming the Monster

Have you ever wondered why we identify so much with the hero in a story?

It's part of the reason, I think, that J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series has been so popular – that despite your age, Harry represents something that we can identify with. In battling with the 'monster' of the story, the hero embodies something we wish we were. This goes for numerous other literary hero's and movie stars. Booker , in the Seven Basic Plots , has tapped into this wonderfully:

"One may sum up by saying that, physically, morally and psychologically, the monster in storytelling thus represents everything in human nature which is somehow twisted and less than perfect. Above all, and it is the supreme characteristic of every monster who has ever been portrayed in a story, he or she is egocentric. The monster is heartless; totally unable to feel for others, although this may sometimes be disguised beneath a deceptively charming, kindly or solicitious exterior; its only real concern is to look after its own interests at the expense of everyone else in the world.

Such is the nature of the figure against whom the hero is pitted, in a battle to the death. And we never have any doubt as to why the hero stands in opposition to such a centre of dark and destructive power: because the hero's own motivation and qualities are presented as so completely in contrast to those ascribed to the monster. We see the hero being drawn into the struggle not just on his own behalf but to save others: to save all those who are suffering in the monster's shadow; to free the community or the kingdom the monster is threatening; to liberate the 'Princess' it has imprisoned. The hero is always shown as acting selflessly and in some higher cause, in a way which shows him standing at the opposite pole to the monster's egocentricity."

I wonder to what extent the monsters are a shadow projection of the parts of our identity we can't bear to face up to. Maybe the monster represents all that we wish we could be, but can't.?

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