The Heroine's Journey, Towards a Feminist Storycraft
by Heather Jo Flores
“The mystery of human destiny is not that we are fated, but that we have the freedom to fulfill or not fulfill our fate: realization of our fated destiny depends on us. While inhuman beings like the cockroach realize the entire cycle without going astray, because they make no choices.”
The Passion According to G.H. p. 129
“It may be that the human race is not ready for freedom. The air of liberty may be too rarefied for us to breathe...The paradox seems to be, as Socrates demonstrated long ago, that the truly free individual is free only to the extent of his own self-mastery. While those who will not govern themselves are condemned to find masters to govern over them.”
--Steven Pressfield, The War of Art, p. 37
The Hero's Journey
Most of us have heard of the hero's journey, and many of us have used the formula for our work. From storytellers to salespeople, the classic archetype of the hero, as he travels from catalyst to climax and conclusion, is a metaphor for the transformation that most people want to achieve. We all want to improve our lives, to become better people, to succeed. But what about the Heroine's Journey? Here I present an analysis of the classic formula, through a feminist lens. My intention is not to negate the archetype, but rather to enhance it and to offer an alternative for myself and others to use as we forge our stories and, by extension, our lives. My purpose is to present some questions, many of which do not have concrete answers. I ask the reader to be okay with this, to let the questions just be questions, and to allow this atmosphere of inquiry to shape the journey. Let us begin.
For as long as I can remember, I have identified as a writer, but for many years I eschewed formal training. I proudly displayed my autodidactism like a trophy, believing that if I read enough books and saw enough films that I could someday write them. This was partially true, and I wrote my entire book, Food Not Lawns, without having ever taking a single writing course. Later, when I was ready to write novels and screenplays, I realized that I needed to learn more about putting a story together. I had a mountain of ideas, but I needed was a structure that would help me pull them together. So I enrolled in a screenwriting workshop.
The first thing we learned in the workshop was the hero's journey, sometimes called “three-act structure.” We discussed Shakespeare, Greek tragedies, and blockbuster films, and analyzed them to discover common patterns. First we looked for the pattern used in Greek mythology, as follows: