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The concept of an archetype appears in areas relating to behavior, historical psychological theory, and literary analysis. An archetype can be:

  1. a statement, pattern of behavior, a prototype, a “first” form or a main model which other statements, patterns of behavior, and objects copy, emulate or “merge” into. (Frequently used informal synonyms for this usage include “standard example”, “basic example”, and the longer form “archetypal example”. Mathematical archetypes often appear as “canonical examples”.)
  2. a Platonic philosophical idea referring to pure forms which embody the fundamental characteristics of a thing in Platonism
  3. a collectively-inherited unconscious idea, pattern of thought, image, etc., that is universally present, in individual psyches, as in Jungian psychology
  4. a constantly recurring symbol or motif in literature, painting, or mythology (this usage of the term draws from both comparative anthropology and from Jungian archetypal theory). In various seemingly unrelated cases in classic storytelling, media, etc., characters or ideas sharing similar traits recur.

Archetypes are also very close analogies to instincts in the sense that its impersonal and inherited traits that present and motivate human behavior long before any consciousness develops. They also continue to influence feelings and behavior even after some degree of consciousness developed later on.

Archetypes are mostly related to linear thinking in its creation process, but can be; from a philosophical point of view a non-linear process. Albert Einstein’s; everything is relative opens for this idea as a concept of creation.

The word archetype, “original pattern from which copies are made”, first entered into English usage in the 1540s and derives from the Latin noun archetypum, latinisation of the Greek noun ἀρχέτυπον (archétypon), whose adjective form is ἀρχέτυπος (archétypos), which means “first-molded”, which is a compound of ἀρχή archḗ, “beginning, origin”, and τύπος týpos, which can mean, amongst other things, “pattern”, “model”, or “type”. It, thus, referred to the beginning or origin of the pattern, model or type.

Usage of archetypes in specific pieces of writing is a holistic approach, which can help the writing win universal acceptance. This is because readers can relate to and identify with the characters and the situation, both socially and culturally. By deploying common archetypes contextually, a writer aims to impart realism to their work. According to many literary critics, archetypes have a standard and recurring depiction in a particular human culture and/or the whole human race that ultimately lays concrete pillars and can shape the whole structure in a literary work. There is also the position that the use of archetypes in different ways is possible because every archetype has multiple manifestations, with each one featuring different attributes. For instance, there is the position that the function of the archetype must be approached according to the context of biological sciences and is accomplished through the concept of the ultimate function. This pertains to the organism’s response to those pressures in terms of biological trait.

The origins of the archetypal hypothesis date as far back as Plato. Plato’s ideas or the so-called Platonic eidos were pure mental forms that were imprinted in the soul before it was born into the world. Some philosophers also translate the archetype as “essence” in order to avoid confusion with respect to Plato’s conceptualization of Forms. While it is tempting to think of Forms as mental entities (ideas) that exist only in our mind, the philosopher insisted that they are independent of any minds (real). Eidos were collective in the sense that they embodied the fundamental characteristics of a thing rather than its specific peculiarities. In the seventeenth century, Sir Thomas Browne and Francis Bacon both employ the word ‘archetype’ in their writings; Browne in The Garden of Cyrus (1658) attempted to depict archetypes in his usage of symbolic proper-names.

The concept of psychological archetypes was advanced by the Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung, c. 1919. Jung has acknowledged that his conceptualization of archetype is influenced by Plato’s eidos, which he described as “the formulated meaning of a primordial image by which it was represented symbolically.” According to Jung, the term archetype is an explanatory paraphrase of the Platonic eidos, also believed to represent the word “form”. He maintained that Platonic archetypes are metaphysical ideas, paradigms or models and that real things are held to be only copies of these model ideas. However, archetypes are not easily recognizable in Plato’s works in the way in which Jung meant them.

In Jung’s psychological framework, archetypes are innate, universal prototypes for ideas and may be used to interpret observations. A group of memories and interpretations associated with an archetype is a complex ( e.g. a mother complex associated with the mother archetype). Jung treated the archetypes as psychological organs, analogous to physical ones in that both are morphological constructs that arose through evolution. At the same time, it has also been observed that evolution can itself be considered an archetypal construct.

Jung states in part one of Man And His Symbols that:

My views about the ‘archaic remnants’, which I call ‘archetypes’ or ‘primordial images,’ have been constantly criticized by people who lack sufficient knowledge of the psychology of dreams and of mythology. The term ‘archetype’ is often misunderstood as meaning certain definite mythological images or motifs, but these are nothing more than conscious representations. Such variable representations cannot be inherited. The archetype is a tendency to form such representations of a motif—representations that can vary a great deal in detail without losing their basic pattern.

While there are a variety of categorizations of archetypes, Jung’s configuration is perhaps the most well known and serves as the foundation for many other models. The four major archetypes to emerge from his work, which Jung originally terms primordial images, include the anima/animus, the self, the shadow, and the persona. Additionally, Jung referred to images of the wise old man, the child, the mother, and the maiden.[15] He believed that each human mind retains these basic unconscious understandings of the human condition and the collective knowledge of our species in the construct of the collective unconscious.

Other authors have attributed 12 different archetypes to Jung, organized in three overarching categories, based on a fundamental driving force. These include:[16]

  • The Ego Types
    1. The Innocent
    2. The Orphan/Regular Guy or Gal
    3. The Hero
    4. The Caregiver
  • The Soul Types
    1. The Explorer
    2. The Rebel
    3. The Lover
    4. The Creator
  • The Self Types
    1. The Jester
    2. The Sage
    3. The Magician
    4. The Ruler

Later in the 1900s, a Viennese psychologist named Dr. Ernest Dichter took these psychological constructs and applied them to marketing. Dichter moved to New York around 1939 and sent every ad agency on Madison Avenue a letter boasting of his new discovery. He found that applying these universal themes to products promoted easier discovery and stronger loyalty for brands.

Christopher Booker, author of The Seven Basic Plots: Why We Tell Stories, argues that the following basic archetypes underlie all stories:

  1. Overcoming the Monster
  2. Rags to Riches
  3. The Quest
  4. Voyage and Return
  5. Comedy
  6. Tragedy
  7. Rebirth

These themes coincide with the characters of Jung’s archetypes.


The Essential Dialectic of Archetype is:

{Pattern-Prototype ⇆ Prototype-Pattern ⇅ Pattern-Pattern} ↻ Prototype-Prototype


The Complete Dialectic of Archetype is:

{Original-Prototype ⇆ Organizing-Pattern ⇅ Instinctual-Imprint} ↻ Recurring-Motif



The Equivalency Dialectic of Archetype is:

{Idea ⇆ Archetype ⇅ Sign} ↻ Symbol