that all literature (perhaps all of life) participates in this overarching monomyth, which
mimics the cycle of the yearly seasons. He suggests that all stories are somewhere
along this cycle.
It seems to me that there
are a number of problems with Frye's system of archetypal classification, not the least of
which is the problem of how we can isolate these few elements as what undergirds all
literature. Nonetheless, they do offer suggestive entry points in discussing the
mythic or symbolic qualities of some literature, such as Cather's. Cather, after all,
holds that there are essentially only a few basic plots in the human story, and she also
attaches a certain amount of power to mythic and symbolic expression. Which of the
following are present in My Antonia?
-- A hero leaves the security of home and undertakes an
ordeal that tests his or her powers. Temporarily defeated, the obstacles are overcome, and
either the hero returns in triumph or in a new state of understanding.
-- A hero endures death/danger to
return to life/security
-- A hero is thrown from an ideal situation in order to
undergo tests that result in a passage from ignorance to maturity.
-- A hero moves through tests that result in character
5. Fall from Innocence
-- A hero begins in bliss but ends in brokenness.
-- A story that moves from prosperity through a fall
and a return to joy and success
7. Crime and Punishment
-- Social order is threatened and restored.
-- An innocent becomes the victim of seduction
-- A hero undergoes life-threatening circumstances and
-- A hero overcomes social ostracism and/or poverty
-- Someone must dies for the larger society in order
for it to return to prosperity.