Nicole Bianchi

Writing, Copywriting, & Marketing Strategies

The Powerful Ingredient in ‘A Christmas Carol’ That Will Make Your Writing and Marketing Compelling

Published December 15, 2020 | Last Updated November 13, 2023 By Nicole Bianchi 15 Comments

Illustration of Scrooge and Marley's Ghost from the first edition of A Christmas Carol

Every Christmas Eve, my whole family gathers around the TV to watch the 1951 version of A Christmas Carol . It’s one of our favorite traditions.

(If you haven’t seen this version, you can watch it on YouTube here — I believe it’s the best film adaptation of Charles Dickens’s classic story.)

No matter how many times I watch it, my heart is always touched by each scene. I feel the happiness of the crowd at Fezziwig’s party. Tears come to my eyes when Bob Cratchit cries over his poor Tiny Tim.

But, most of all, I love Alastair Sim’s wonderful performance as Scrooge — how he convincingly portrays Scrooge’s change from heartless and tightfisted to kind and joyous.

You watch with delight as the once grim man can’t stop laughing and smiling and stunning all with his kindness, even while muttering to himself, “I don’t deserve to be so happy.”

What makes stories like A Christmas Carol so enthralling? Why do we love watching movies like these year after year?

In today’s post, let’s look at one ingredient that makes stories like A Christmas Carol so powerful and emotionally compelling. It’s an ingredient you can use to make any type of writing captivate your readers, whether you’re working on a short story, a blog post, or even a sales page.

Why We Love Stories Like A Christmas Carol

At its heart, A Christmas Carol is a story of transformation.

Scrooge is a bitter miser at the start of the story. Though he is wealthy, he lives in a drafty, sparsely furnished house.

He makes his clerk, Bob Cratchit, work for long hours at little pay and won’t even let him put a little more coal on the fire. He refuses to donate to help the poor, exclaiming that they should either go to the prisons or workhouses or die “to decrease the surplus population.” And you thought your boss was bad. 😉

But Scrooge is given a chance to reverse his life. Three spirits visit him on Christmas Eve and take him on a journey. They show him the past, present, and a possible future if he does not repent of his actions and become a new man.

Over the course of the journey, Scrooge gradually realizes the desperateness of his position and how he has destroyed the lives of others and his own life through his actions.

When the last spirit shows him a gravestone with Scrooge’s name written across it, Scrooge begs the spirit to help him sponge out the name. He says again and again that he’s repented, and he’s not the man he was.

He isn’t lying either. The final scenes of the movie show us just how much Scrooge has changed as he attempts to make up for all of the hurt he has caused.

In fiction writing, what happens to Scrooge is called a character arc . A character begins as one sort of person and transforms into a different sort of person by the end of the story.

Perhaps they are bitter at the start of the story, but, at the end of the story, they learn how to let go of the anger they have caged inside.

In some stories, a character might transform from good to bad. They are innocent and naive at the beginning of the story and gradually become worldly-wise and cruel.

Of course, those stories are usually bleak and depressing, so if you want your readers to feel positive at the end of the story, then you’ll want your character to transform from negative to positive.

How a Character Arc Makes Stories Compelling

Editor Shawn Coyne writes in The Story Grid (Amazon affiliate link),

You’ve probably heard a million times that a character must ‘arc.’ What that means…is that the lead character in a story cannot remain the same person he/she was at the end of the novel/movie as they are at the beginning…What the character arc is crucial for is to achieve a cathartic global story climax. When I say catharsis, I mean an overwhelming emotional reaction from the audience…tears, indescribable joy…the kind of experience that keeps us coming back to the movies, to books, to plays. If you’re a writer and you tell me you have no interest in bringing the audience to catharsis, you’re lying.

Essentially, the transformation of a character has an emotional effect upon the reader. If the story has a positive ending, it fills the reader with hope, encouragement, and a sense of inspiration.

It reassures us that there is the possibility that we too can change our own lives. Life might be dark now, but the clouds will eventually part.

There are stories where characters don’t experience an inner transformation. In many action movies (like James Bond films, for example), the characters remain the same at the beginning and end of the film, except for a few bruises and broken bones.

We watch those movies for the exciting action shots, but they don’t have the same lasting emotional effect on us as they would if the protagonist experienced a deep inner change.

Samwise Gamgee sums this up beautifully in his speech in the film adaptation of The Two Towers ,

It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why.

This is why the story of A Christmas Carol resonates with us. When Scrooge journeys with the “Spirit of Christmas Yet to Come”, we see a dark and dreadful world. But this darkness is but a fleeting shadow by the end of the story.

Of course, Dickens’s story of Scrooge was not revolutionary. The theme of transformation is timeless, weaving its way through countless stories down through the ages.

The Christmas story itself is about transformation. God became a child, the baby Jesus in the manger, who would grow up and die to take away the sins of all those who believe in him. Christians believe that in Jesus we can experience the same kind of radical transformation that Scrooge experienced.

How to Include the Theme of Transformation in Your Writing

How can we effectively include the theme of transformation in our own writing?

One of my favorite ways is to follow the outline of the hero’s journey. This is a term coined by American scholar Joseph Campbell to describe one of the most common storylines in literature. A Christmas Carol follows this outline to a T.

Here’s the basic outline:

  • A hero is called to go on an adventure to solve some kind of problem. (Every good story has some kind of conflict driving the plot forward.)
  • He may be reluctant to accept the call but eventually realizes that if he doesn’t solve the problem, his life will spiral out of control.
  • A mentor helps him prepare for the adventure.
  • After facing a series of challenges, the story reaches its climax. Will the hero overcome the problem or not?
  • The hero emerges victorious and returns home transformed.

If you’d like a deeper analysis of the hero’s journey, I recommend reading  The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler or watching my YouTube video .

Let’s look at how A Christmas Carol follows this outline.

At the beginning of the story, Scrooge is visited by the ghost of his deceased business partner, Jacob Marley. Marley is the mentor figure who brings Scrooge the call to adventure: Scrooge will be visited by three spirits who will give him a chance to repent and change his life.

Of course, Scrooge is reluctant. He insists that he’s too old for all of this, but he’s whisked away by each of the spirits nonetheless. Eventually, the climax of the story is reached — will Scrooge turn from his ways? He’s already seen what will happen if he does not.

The hero’s journey can be used for any type of writing.

For example, if you’re writing a blog post, you can use the body of your post to take your readers on a journey. Your hero is your blog reader. You are the mentor. Share the steps you took to overcome a problem that the reader is facing. Show what will happen if they don’t solve the problem, the consequences of not taking action. Then show how they will be transformed once they implement those steps.

Or maybe you’re writing the homepage of your website. Let’s say you’re a graphic designer so you explain on your homepage how businesses need to have a professionally designed logo. You paint a picture of the costs of not having a logo. And then you explain how the logo will transform the business and help them stand out from the competition.

That story of transformation will speak far more powerfully to your potential customers than just a list of the services you offer.

The Takeaway

In The Memoir Project (Amazon affiliate link), Marion Roach observes about our writing, “You have to give readers a reason for this thing to live on in their hearts and minds.”

The theme of transformation allows us to do just that. It elevates our writing to connect on an emotional level with our readers and make a lasting impression on them.

How will you incorporate the theme of transformation in your writing? Is there a movie or book that you love that has the theme of transformation? Let me know in the comments.

And if you are celebrating Christmas (or even if you are not!), I hope you are a having a wonderful holiday season. Merry Christmas!

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Phil Cobb says

February 4, 2020 at 9:47 pm

Nicole, after seeing a number of filmic versions of “A Christmas Carol” via movies and television, still I was never as emotionally transfixed by the tale as when I read the actual text. Absolutely stunning in its impact.

Christopher Watts says

December 19, 2019 at 7:43 pm

Thank you for bringing this excellent, timeless movie to readers’ attention. It is my favourite version, one that I’ve now seen more times than I can count. Alistair Sim brings so much to the role and captures the essence of Dickens’ message. This season my wife and I have also been listening to the audiobook version on our commutes into town, read by Jim Dale (the voice of all the Harry Potter books) . I’d recommend this to all your readers. Enjoy your posts immensely. Wishing you a terrific Christmas.

Nicole Bianchi says

January 3, 2020 at 1:28 pm

Thank you for your comment, Christopher! It’s nice to meet another fan of the 1951 version of ‘A Christmas Carol’. 🙂 I will have to look up at that audiobook. Thanks for the recommendation.

Anoop Abraham says

December 15, 2019 at 10:16 am

I just want to say I really enjoy reading your blog posts. There’s a flow to your writing that I am yet to find on any of the other blogs that I’ve visited. It also contains some great actionable insights. Thank you and Merry Christmas ! 🙂

December 19, 2019 at 4:04 pm

Thank you so much for your kind words, Anoop! 🙂 I’m so glad to hear you enjoy my posts and find them helpful. Hope you have a wonderful Christmas too.

Kate Findley says

December 23, 2018 at 11:03 pm

I love the specific examples and how you relate it both to fiction writing and blogging. Since I write in personal development, my posts usually follow that arc where I begin with a challenge and end with a resolution. In the novel I’m currently working on, I’m incorporating both the hero’s journey and trying to weave in archetypes as well. It seems like all the “Great American” novels as well as popular series like Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings as well have strong archetypal characters.

December 26, 2018 at 1:09 pm

Thank you, Kate! 🙂 Have you read The Writer’s Journey ? I’ve found it really helpful while plotting the novel I’m currently working on. I love how Vogler explains all of the archetypal characters.

Tarcisio Cardieri says

December 23, 2018 at 1:39 pm

Thank you for this engaging article. Really useful. I remembered another movie on the same theme and another favorite in Christmas season. It is “What a Wonderful Life”, directed by Frank Capra, starring James Stewart and Dona Reed. In this film, the protagonist is a good character who doesn’t realize the good he is doing for so many people and, in desperation, try suicide. He is rescued by an angel who shows him what his city would be if he was not alive. Really touching. Another transformation story we can watch in “The Doctor”, starring William Hurt. I think all these movies are very good examples of the story arc. Merry Christmas.

December 23, 2018 at 10:12 pm

Thank you, Tarcisio! Yes, that’s another fantastic Christmas movie about transformation. I think “A Christmas Carol” may have inspired some of those scenes where Jimmy Stewart sees what the town would be like if he had never been born. 🙂 I haven’t seen “The Doctor”! Thanks for the recommendation. I love discovering new movies.

John DiCarlo says

December 23, 2018 at 5:48 am

Excellent post Nicole. Nothing could be more timely as one year fades into another. Sometimes we need to look deep inside our own psyche to discover the spirits that haunted Scrooge. But if we look hard enough they will appear and we will learn. Thank you!

December 23, 2018 at 10:10 pm

Thanks so much, John! Yes, it’s true that we can examine our own lives like Scrooge did and learn from our experiences. Love the way you put it. Hope you have an amazing 2019! 🙂

December 23, 2018 at 4:37 am

Never thought about this that way, but seems to me it is a great way to make a post more tempting and to get the attention of the readers. Thanks for the great article and Merry Christmas and Happy and prosperous New Year!

December 23, 2018 at 10:08 pm

Thanks for reading and commenting, Ned! 🙂 Glad you enjoyed it. Merry Christmas to you as well! Hope you have a wonderful 2019.

Rhonda Marie Stalb says

December 22, 2018 at 10:16 pm

I love the story little women by Louisa May Alcott. Jo goes through a transformation. I get teared up every time I watch or read the story. I just watched the 2018 version today. It was awesome!!

December 23, 2018 at 10:07 pm

Yes, that is a wonderful story of transformation. 🙂 I have not seen the 2018 version yet — sounds like I should add it to my list of movies to watch. Coming of age stories usually are fantastic examples of the hero’s journey.

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A Christmas Carol

Table of contents, charles dickens.

A Christmas Carol , published in 1834, is the famous tale of a miserly old man named Ebenezer Scrooge. Over the course of the story, he is visited by the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future, who give him a new perspective on his life. Ultimately, these encounters teach him the importance of generosity, kindness, and the Christmas spirit.

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The Psychology of “A Christmas Carol”

  • on Dec 28, 2020
  • in Culture , History , Literature , Social Issues , The Mind

christmas carol hero's journey

A dear friend who is an American Sign Language interpreter recently shared with me a video of a virtual performance of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol that she helped interpret. I hadn’t read or seen a film version of A Christmas Carol in many years, and I’d forgotten what a touching and timeless story it is.

While A Christmas Carol , a novella written in 1843, was a story of its time, meant to promote understanding of and empathy for the industrial-age urban poor in England, its messages remain salient today. And, there are deeper meanings in its story.

christmas carol hero's journey

Layers of Meaning

In addition to its more obvious meaning as a story about compassion and charity, the story is also a powerful archetypal tale. It speaks to universal human needs for for meaning and community. What’s more, it illustrates the Jungian “hero’s journey”–Ebenezer Scrooge starts as a flawed, cold, and closed-off man who is transformed as he goes on an odyssey through his past, present, and future.

The Ghosts’ Lessons

The first of the three main motifs in the story, represented by the Spirit of the Past, is a Jungian battle between ignorance/repression (represented in the novella by fog, smog, dusk, and darkness) and awareness (represented by light from fires, candles, street lamps, and the ghost’s flaming crown). Scrooge must go through the pain of seeing his evolution from an innocent youth to a selfish and miserly adult. He begins to realize what he has lost in this process.

The Spirit of the Present brings the story’s second motif–want (represented in the novel by cold, ice, frost, and sleet) versus charity (represented by warmth, being well fed, and fine alcohol). The second spirit allows Scrooge to witness people coming together and bonding. Seeing this brings into the light his own loneliness and aloofness. As his journey continues, Scrooge must start facing his sins and their impact on others to become self-aware. The ghost also shows Scrooge two emaciated children called Ignorance and Want and warns him to avoid Ignorance at all costs.

The second spirit’s lessons help Scrooge bring his dark side further to the surface and begin to integrate his dark and light parts into a cohesive self. It is only after knowing himself that Scrooge would be able to more fully connect with others. The spirit also shows Scrooge Tiny Tim, a cheerful but ill child; this awakens some compassion in the miser. Tiny Tim represents youthful optimism and joy, love, and the promise of what life could be. Scrooge is saddened when the ghost tells him Tim will die.

When the third ghost, the Spirit of the Future, arrives, he is frightening and silent. He forces Scrooge to confront his mortality and the meaninglessness of his life–others don’t care that he dies, steal and sell his possessions, and have few kind words to say about him. The spirit also shows Scrooge that Tiny Tim has died, and people do mourn the loss of this pure little soul.

Scrooge learns that that for his life to have purpose, he must use the lessons learned through his odyssey: He must see all facets of himself and take responsibility for what he’s done to others, he must cultivate emotion and compassion for others, and he must use his wealth to help people. Scrooge has completed the hero’s journey and emerged as a new man.

Salient Lessons for Today

On the surface, we see the lessons Dickens intended for the capitalist upper classes of his time: Scrooge begins to run his business with mercy toward his debtors, give money to the needy, and treat his employees well. These are certainly messages that apply to our current world as well.

The deeper, and also timeless, lesson of Dickens’ tale is for us to live our lives seeking to really know and accept ourselves so that we can fully participate and contribute to the world around us. It is only by rejecting ignorance and denial that we can become integrated humans capable of empathy and connection.

My Wish for You

We’ve gone through a terrible journey of our own in 2020. My wish for anyone reading this post is for a peaceful holiday season and that 2021 brings good things for you, and for all of us. I also wish for you to be able to see and accept yourself as you are while striving to cultivate your higher self. Count your blessings, and share them.

christmas carol hero's journey

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A Christmas Carol

Charles dickens, everything you need for every book you read..

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A Christmas Carol – The Passage of Time Problem

I read this wonderful little book every couple of years in the run up to Christmas. Scrooge’s reclamation never fails to bring me a bit of cheer and hope that things aren’t really as bad as they seem. In 2016 I had the realization that A Christmas Carol is a classic hero journey (as described by Joseph Campbell).  I’ve always been troubled by the passage of time in this story and decided to pay more attention to that this year and now understand the time problem when set in the hero’s journey framework.

Marley visits Scrooge on Christmas Eve to tell him the three spirits will visit on three consecutive nights.

“‘Expect the first tomorrow when the bell tolls One.’ … ‘Expect the second on the next night at the same hour. The third upon the next night when the last stroke of Twelve has ceased to vibrate.'” Page 12

But when Scrooge wakes up after the three visits it is Christmas day. Knowing that Dickens was a serial writer I always explained it to myself that Dickens changed his mind midway through the story but the early pages had already been published. This just doesn’t hold up though. Going in, Dickens knows the story starts on Christmas Eve and will end on Christmas day. The solution to the time problem is wrapped up in the hero journey where the hero leaves the known world to enter an unknown one; one that doesn’t necessarily conform to our notions of time.

Let’s review a few other references to time in the novel. Scrooge first wakes up before the first ghost appears

“To his great astonishment the heavy bell went on from six to seven, and from seven to eight, and regularly up to twelve; then stopped. Twelve! It was past two when he went to bed.”

It is actually earlier than when he went to bed. Marley is the threshold guardian who has helped Scrooge enter the unknown world. 

Next, Scrooge is awake before the second ghost appears…

“Awaking in the middle of a prodigious tough snore, and sitting up in bed to get his thoughts together, Scrooge had no occasion to be told that the bell was again upon the stroke of One.” Page 27

He assumes it is one o’clock again; he waits

“Now being prepared for almost anything, he was not by any means prepared for nothing; and consequently, when the Bell struck One, and no shape appeared, he was taken with a violent fit of trembling. Five minutes, ten minutes, a quarter of an hour went by, yet nothing came. All this time, he lay upon his bed, the very core and centre of a blaze of ruddy light, which streamed upon it when the  clock proclaimed the hour.” Page 28

My understanding is that the second spirit shows up at two o’clock – an hour later than foretold. Scrooge is awake before one o’clock and waits more than an hour for the second spirit. The Ghost of Christmas Past appeared right on the stroke of one; so, if he woke up before one o’clock for the second ghost, Scrooge has either slept through the night, Christmas day, and another night, or he is living in a world separate from time. He certainly doesn’t seem concerned at this point that he has slept through the day. The cares of the known world are beyond his concern now.

“‘Spirit’, said Scrooge submissively ‘conduct me where you will. I went forth last night on compulsion… Tonight, if you have aught to teach me, let me profit by it.’” Page 29

At the end of the Spirit of Christmas Present’s visit, Scrooge is aware that things are not as they seem.

“It was a long night, if it were only a night; but Scrooge had his doubts of this, because the Christmas Holidays appeared to be condensed into the space of time they passed together.” Page 41

At the end, Scrooge has returned to the known world; only then does he begin to care about the passage of time.

“‘I don’t know what day of the month it is!’ said Scrooge. ‘I don’t know how long I’ve been among the Spirits.’ “ Page 54

When he learns it is Christmas Day from the boy passing beneath his window, Scrooge has his realization.

“‘It’s Christmas Day!’ said Scrooge to himself. ‘I haven’t missed it. The spirits have done it all in one night. They can do anything they like.” Page 55

When I first started thinking about this problem of time I did some research to see if others have tackled this problem. And of course they have. On May 6, 2019 Christian Sidney Dickinson (with that name you may have to become a Dickens scholar) of the Baptist College of Florida published an article on the Dickens Society website . Whereas my understanding is seen through the lens of the Hero Journey, Dickinson frames the issue in terms of Christianity.

“The necessity for a Christian understanding of linear time, ever-present and ever-active, is the message that Dickens wishes to communicate to readers through Scrooge’s experience of temporal reversal.” Linked above

Dickinson’s article helped me understand Dickens’ choices were intentional. Of course, Joseph Campbell didn’t publish his groundbreaking work on myth – The Hero with a Thousand Faces – until the mid 20th century, so it is unlikely (impossible) Dickens had the Hero Journey framework in mind. I imagine his intentions were closer to Dickinson’s understanding, However, that is exactly what Campbell proved: stories from all cultures from the beginning of recorded time follow this Hero Journey structure. Dickens upsetting the regular time flow is intentional. It both serves his theme of charity (Scrooge promises to live in the past, present, and future), it also fits into the hero’s journey motif. 

To finish the hero journey description, Scrooge is ushered into the unknown world by Jacob Marley’s ghost; once there he challenged by the three ghosts and ends up facing his own death (seeing his body on its deathbed and seeing his name on the gravestone). The experience transforms Scrooge. He atones for his errors with the men who came to collect for charity, with his nephew, and with Bob Cratchit. Scrooge then goes on to share his boon (money) with Cratchit and the community.

Finally, if you are like me and resisted A Christmas Carol for years because of the cloying “God bless us, everyone”, give it another chance; it is a short book and breaking it up over 5 nights leading up to Christmas is fun. Or watch the George C. Scott version on TV.

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A Christmas Carol (1978)

IMPORTANT: This is a very rough and general deconstruction that is meant to simply illustrate that this story follows the pattern described on the main page .

DO NOT attempt to write a story by following this deconstruction � it contains inaccuracies, critical stages have been omitted and it does not benefit from the latest insights; if you need an accurate deconstruction of this story, place an order at ../CustomServices.html#deconstructions

For other basic deconstructions, you may also want to do a search on our youtube channel .

You would be wise to gain a deep understanding of effective story structure by purchasing the complete 510+ stage Hero's Journey from ../ClassicHero.html and learning from our video lessons and tuition services at ../CustomServices.html

Good bye to the Old World: Marley dies.

Ordinary World: Period England.

Professional World: Scrooge's offices.

Devolved State: it's cold in here.

Catchphrase: Baaaa….humbug.

Devolved State: what's the value of Christmas?

Foreshadow of the Elixir: come to dinner.

Refusing the Journey: no I'm not coming; why did you get married?

Devolved State: Scrooge refuses to give to charity.

Devolved State: Scrooge admonishes the boy singing.

Time Pressure: the bell rings.

Goto the main web page

Buy the Complete 510+ stage Hero's Journey / Monomyth

Devolved State: I suppose you want the whole day off tomorrow.

Foreshadow of the Supernatural Aid: Scrooge sees the ghost.

The strange sounds.

Foreshadow of the Supernatural Aid: Scrooge sees the ghost again.

Catchphrase: humbug.

Supernatural Aid Physical Marker: the ghost comes up to the door.

Supernatural Aid: Marley's ghost arrives; mankind was my business; you will be visited by three spirits (i.e. you will be going on a journey).

The Ghost of Christmas Past arrives.

First Threshold Outer Cave: The Ghost of Christmas Past takes Scrooge to where he grew up.

Transformation: there was a boy singing at my door; I wish I'd given him something.

First Threshold Middle Cave: Scrooge's sister arrives.

Inner Cave: Scrooge's boss gives his staff a Christmas.

Transformation: I wish I could have had a word, that's all.

Belly of the Whale: Scrooge is released by his love; his love finds another; Scrooge is alone.

Road of Trials 1: The Ghost of Christmas Present arrives.

(a) Cratchet's Christmas table is being laid; Cratchet's Christmas.

(b) Transformation: Scrooge asks if Tiny Tim will live.

(c) Cratchet toasts Scrooge; his wife objects.

(d) Scrooge's nephew and friends make fun of him.

Warning: Scrooge is told of the children of man.

Night Sea Journey: The Ghost of the Future arrives.

Rebirth through Near Death Experience:

(a) People talk of Scrooge's death.

(b) People steal his things.

(c) Scrooge's debtors are happy.

(d) Cratchet cries at Scrooge's demise; Tiny Tim is dead.

Transformation: Scrooge sees his own grave; are these the shadows of things that will be or maybe.

Atonement with the Father: Scrooge is returned home; it all really happened.

Apotheosis: Scrooge is stingy no more; goes to his nephew's dinner.

Ultimate Boon: Scrooge raises Cratchet's salary; make up that fire; we'll talk about what we can do about Tiny Tim.

ELA A Christmas Carol Track the Hero's Journey Notes and Movie/Book Organizers

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This product is an engaging way to introduce the Hero's Journey to students by tasking them with tracking Scrooge's Hero's Journey in A Christmas Carol.

Before watching the film or reading the text, students can complete the Notes Organizer, which accompanies my free Editable Hero's Journey PPT , to get a general understanding of each stage. As students watch the film/read the text, they will complete the Hero's Journey Stages Movie Organizer. Each stage has a titled section containing guiding questions as to how each stage might pertain to the protagonist. At the end of the film/text, students will determine if the protagonist is a true hero and defend their position with evidence.

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Don't forget! You can access my FREE Editable Hero's Journey PPT here .

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Movie Reviews

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Nick Murphy ’s “A Christmas Carol” is not your community theater’s version of the Charles Dickens classic story, and it definitely has more images of death than "The Muppets Christmas Carol." Instead, this FX Original Movie (airing in its entirety Thursday, December 19) is the dark and gritty version of a holiday story that was already about a man’s cruelty. Whereas some stories seem to pull back on Ebenezer Scrooge’s destructive selfishness, this one goes all-in, and  it makes for approximately three joyless hours of watching an adaptation try to justify its edginess.

Adapted for the screen by Steven Knight (“ Locke ,” “Serenity”), “A Christmas Carol” offers a murkier, muddier journey down a familiar story path, and exists as this weird experiment to see if the rewards in Scrooge's can manage his more adult flaws. Guy Pearce plays this iteration of the holiday hater with plenty of cold stares, transforming Scrooge’s cold indifference to the holiday into downright villainy. People have died directly because of his distaste for people, this movie will talk about, and then show us. Pearce is formidable in the iconic role, but his performance, and his take on the character, is not in the least surprising. 

For good measure, Knight’s version starts off with someone pissing on the gravestone of Jacob Marley ( Stephen Graham ), Scrooge’s partner in creating a selfish enterprise that controls the lives of Bob Cratchit ( Joe Alwyn ) and his family, including his wife Mary ( Vinette Robinson ) and their son Tiny Tim ( Lenny Rush ). Marley’s pleas for redemption while stuck in purgatory are answered with the demand that Scrooge must repent, too; knowing that it’s impossible, Marley nonetheless appears (in chains) to tell Scrooge about the Christmas ghosts who will visit him as a type of reckoning.  

Knight’s script spends a lot of time with Scrooge and the Ghost of Christmas Past ( Andy Serkis ), who turns into important figures from Scrooge’s past, like his father Franklin ( Johnny Harris ) or his favorite literary character as a child, Ali Baba ( Kayvan Novak ). This makes for a scene that looks like it could give the story a sense of life—Scrooge meeting the childhood hero who filled his imagination for years—until it careens to a memory that involves child abuse, and Scrooge being rescued by his sister from a predatory boarding school master.  

This "Christmas Carol" has darker ideas for how Scrooge would maliciously dehumanize people, going so far as to get Scrooge verifiably canceled. One can’t help but think that a story involving him harassing Mary Cratchit was added in part because of a recent public reckoning with high-profile predators. It doesn’t feel out of place in terms of Murphy’s relentlessly bleak tone, but the execution is tone-deaf (as is the handling of Scrooge’s own history of abuse), especially with its place in a story of forgiveness. While this tangent does give Mary Cratchit a bigger presence than she’s had in other iterations, and makes for a stalwart performance from Vinette Robinson, it’s a recklessly half-baked concept.  

Unable to fill its oppressively bleak color palette with anything that’s particularly scary, (though there are a few good moments of nasty special effects, including a removed jaw) “A Christmas Carol” is preoccupied with pain as its edgy addition to the Dickens tale. But as harrowing as it may be to see victims of a Scrooge mine collapse, or a Scrooge factory fire, you know what classic realizations Scrooge will ultimately have when he sees such ornate suffering—and such familiarity feels anticlimactic for the grandiose statements this adaptation wants to make.  

There’s something strange about the adult factor of this movie too, a rare “Christmas Carol”   that is decidedly not family fare given some of its language and general content. An attempt to steer the story away from families seems relatively pointless, as moralizing stories always seem best when their aim involves kids. The everlasting idea behind "A Christmas Carol" is that its lessons can radio signal any person in progress, just like a monologue from Mr. Rogers is for all ages, without needing to use gravely serious language. Instead, this movie’s limits are obvious, in terms of its eloquence and its targeted audience.    

“A Christmas Carol” even seems to be thwarted by the very thing it’s about—any time the holiday is mentioned, it breaks the movie’s desired spell of being its own dangerous beast. Instead, you’re reminded that all of this is still about the not-so-deadly-serious holiday of Christmas. Yes, you’ve seen this story before, but you’ve undoubtedly had more fun watching someone else’s take on it.  

Nick Allen

Nick Allen is the former Senior Editor at RogerEbert.com and a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association.

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Film credits.

A Christmas Carol movie poster

A Christmas Carol (2019)

Guy Pearce as Ebenezer Scrooge

Andy Serkis as Ghost of Christmas Past

Stephen Graham as Jacob Marley

Charlotte Riley as Lottie / Ghost of Christmas Present

Joe Alwyn as Bob Cratchit

Vinette Robinson as Mary Cratchit

Jason Flemyng as Ghost of Christmas Future

Kayvan Novak as Ali Baba

Tiarna Williams as Belinda Cratchit

Lenny Rush as Tim Cratchit

Johnny Harris as Franklin Scrooge

  • Nick Murphy

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  • Charles Dickens
  • Steven Knight

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  • Volker Bertelmann
  • Dustin O'Halloran

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The Transformation of Scrooge as Highlighted in "A Christmas Carol"

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The Metamorphosis of the Hero: Principles, Processes, and Purpose

This article examines the phenomenon of heroic metamorphosis: what it is, how it unfolds, and why it is important. First, we describe six types of transformation of the hero: mental, moral, emotional, spiritual, physical, and motivational. We then argue that these metamorphoses serve five functions: they foster developmental growth, promote healing, cultivate social unity, advance society, and deepen cosmic understanding. Internal and external sources of transformation are discussed, with emphasis on the importance of mentorship in producing metamorphic growth. Next we describe the three arcs of heroic transformation: egocentricity to sociocentricity, dependence to autonomy, and stagnation to growth. We then discuss three activities that promote heroic metamorphosis as well as those that hinder it. Implications for research on human growth and development are discussed.

Introduction

One of the most revered deities in Hinduism is Ganesha, a god symbolizing great wisdom and enlightenment. Ganesha’s most striking attribute is his unusual appearance. In images throughout India and southeast Asia, he is shown to be a man with an ordinary human body and the head of an elephant. According to legend, when Ganesha was a boy, he behaved foolishly in preventing his father Shiva from entering his own home. Shiva realized that his son needed an entirely new way of thinking, a fresh way of seeing the world. To achieve this aim, Shiva cut off Ganesha’s human head and replaced it with that of an elephant, an animal representing unmatched wisdom, intelligence, reflection, and listening. Ganesha was transformed from a naïve boy operating with little conscious awareness into a strong, wise, and fully awakened individual.

This article is about how people undergo dramatic, positive change. We focus on heroic metamorphosis – what it is, how it comes about, and why it’s important. Unlike Ganesha, one need not undergo dramatic physical change to experience heroic transformation. One must engage in any of three types of activities that we describe in this article: (1) training regimens, (2) spiritual practices, and (3) the hero’s journey. Anyone who transforms as a result of these activities emerges a brand-new person, a much-improved version of one’s previous self. Metamorphosis and transformation are both defined as “changing form,” a process that precisely describes the massive alteration undergone by Ganesha. Having undergone the hero’s journey as the pathway to transformation, Ganesha sees the world with greater clarity and insight. The hero’s journey inevitably involves setback, suffering, and a death of some type. What dies is usually the former self, the untransformed version of oneself that sees the world “through a glass darkly” ( Bergman, 1961 ). Ganesha’s decapitation happens to us all metaphorically; the journey marks the death of a narrow, immature way of seeing the world and the birth of a wider, more enlightened way of viewing life.

Overview of Heroic Metamorphosis

Metamorphic change pervades the natural world, from the changing of the seasons to biological growth and decay ( Wade, 1998 ; Allison, 2015 ; Efthimiou, 2015 ). The universe itself is subject to immense transformation on both a microscopic scale as well as a trans -universal scale. Biological cells grow, mutate, and die, and on a much grander scale the galaxies of the universe are in a constant state of flux. Darwinian theory portrays all of life as engaged in an inescapable struggle to survive in response to ever-changing circumstances. Life presents an ultimatum to all organisms: change as all phenomena in the universe must change, or fall.

Heroic transformation appears to be a prized and universal phenomenon that is cherished and encouraged in all human societies ( Allison and Goethals, 2017 ; Efthimiou and Franco, 2017 ; Efthimiou et al., 2018a , b ). Surprisingly, until the past decade there has been almost no scholarship on the topic of heroic transformation. Two early seminal works in psychology offered hints about the processes involved in dramatic change and growth in human beings. In 1902, William James addressed the topic of spiritual conversion in his classic volume, The Varieties of Religious Experience . These conversion experiences bear a striking similarity to descriptions of the hero’s transformation as reported by famed mythologist Campbell (1949) . These experiences included feelings of peace, clarity, union with all of humanity, newness, happiness, generosity, and being part of something bigger than oneself. James emphasized the pragmatic side of religious conversion, noting that the mere belief and trust in a deity could bring about significant positive change independent of whether the deity actually exists. This pragmatic side of spirituality is emphasized today by Thich Nhat Hanh, who observes that transformation as a result of following Buddhist practices can occur in the absence of a belief in a supreme being. Millions of Buddhists have enjoyed the transformative benefits of religion described by James simply by practicing the four noble truths and the noble eightfold path ( Hanh, 1999 , p. 170).

The second early psychological treatment of human transformation was published in 1905 by Sigmund Freud. His Three Essays on the Theory of Sexuality described life-altering transformative stages in childhood involving oral, anal, phallic, and latent developmental patterns. None of these changes were particularly “heroic” but they did underscore Freud’s belief in the inevitability of immense psychological change. Although Freud suggested that people tend to resist change in adulthood, several subsequent schools of psychological thought have since proposed mechanisms for transformative change throughout the human lifespan. Humanistic theories, in particular, have embraced the idea that humans are capable of a long-term transformation into self-actualized individuals (e.g., Maslow, 1943 ). Developmental psychologists have also proposed models of transformative growth throughout human life (e.g., Erikson, 1994 ). Recent theories of self-processes portray humans as open to change and growth under some conditions ( Sedikides and Hepper, 2009 ) but resistant under others ( Swann, 2012 ). In the present day, positive psychologists are uncovering key mechanisms underlying healthy transformative growth in humans ( Lopez and Snyder, 2011 ; Seligman, 2011 ).

An important source of transformation resides in tales of heroism told and re-told to countless generations throughout the ages. These mythologies reflect humanity’s longing for transformative growth, and they are packed with wisdom and inspiration ( Allison and Goethals, 2014 ). Just reading, hearing, or observing stories of heroism can stir us and transform us.

According to Campbell (2004 , p. xvi), these hero tales “provide a field in which you can locate yourself” and they “carry the individual through the stages of life” (p. 9). The resultant transformations seen in heroic stories “are infinite in their revelation” ( Campbell, 1988 , p. 183). Rank (1909 , p. 153) observed that “everyone is a hero in birth, where he undergoes a tremendous psychological as well as physical transformation, from the condition of a little water creature living in a realm of amniotic fluid into an air-breathing mammal.” This transformation at birth foreshadows a lifetime of transformative journeys for human beings.

According to Allison and Goethals (2013 , 2017 ), hero stories reveal three different targets of heroic transformation: setting, self , and society . These three loci of transformations parallel Campbell’s (1949) three major stages of the hero’s journey: departure (or separation), initiation, and return. The departure from the hero’s familiar world represents a transformation of one’s normal, safe environment; the initiation stage is awash with challenge, suffering, mentoring, and transformative growth; and the final stage of return represents the hero’s opportunity to use her newfound gifts to transform the world. The sequence of these stages is critical, with each transformation essential for producing the next one.

Without a change in setting, the hero cannot change herself, and without a change in herself, the hero cannot change the world. Our focus here is on the hero’s transformation of the self, but this link in the chain necessarily requires some consideration of the links preceding and following it. The mythic hero must be cast out of her familiar world and into a different world, otherwise there can be no departure from her status quo. Once transformed, the hero must use her newly enriched state to better the world, otherwise the hero’s transformation lacks social significance.

The hero’s transformation plays a pivotal role in her ability to achieve her objectives on the journey. During the quest, “ineffable realizations are experienced” and “things that before had been mysterious are now fully understood” ( Campbell, 1972 , p. 219). The ineffability of these new insights stems from their unconscious origins. Jungian principles of the collective unconscious form the basis of Campbell’s theorizing about hero mythology. Le Grice (2013 , p. 153) notes that “myths are expressions of the imagination, shaped by the archetypal dynamics of the psyche.” As such, the many recurring elements of the mythic hero’s journey have their “inner, psychological correlates” ( Campbell, 1972 , p. 153). The hero’s journey is packed with social symbols and motifs that connect the hero to her deeper self, and these unconscious images must be encountered, and conflicts with them must be resolved, to bring about transformation ( Campbell, 2004 ). Overall, the hero’s outer journey is a representation of an inner, psychological journey that involves “leaving one condition and finding the source of life to bring you forth into a richer or mature condition” ( Campbell, 1988 , p. 152).

Allison and Smith (2015) identified five types of heroic transformation: physical, emotional, spiritual, mental, and moral. A sixth type, motivational transformation, was later proposed by Allison and Goethals (2017) . These six transformation types span two broad categories: physical transformation, which we call transmutation , and psychological transformation, which we call enlightenment . Physical transmutations are endemic to ancient mythologies that featured transforming humans into stars, statues, and animals. Today, transmutation pervades superhero tales of ordinary people succumbing to industrial accidents and spider bites that physically transform them into superheroes and supervillains. These ancient and modern tales of transmutation offer symbolism of the hidden powers residing within each of us, powers that emerge only after dramatic situations coax them out of hibernation. Efthimiou (2015 , 2017 ), Franco et al. (2016) , and Efthimiou and Allison (2017) have written at length about the power and potential of biological transmutation to change the world. The phenomenon of neurogenesis refers to the development of new brain cells in the hippocampus through exercise, diet, meditation, and learning. This transmutative healing and growing can occur even after catastrophic brain trauma. Efthimiou (2017) describes many examples of transmutation occurring as a result of regeneration or restoration processes that refer to an organism’s ability to grow, heal, and re-create itself.

Epigenetic changes in DNA and the science of human limb regeneration are two examples of modern day heroic transmutations ( Efthimiou, 2015 ).

The other five types of heroic transformation – moral, mental, emotional, spiritual, and motivational – comprise the second broad category of transformation that we call enlightenment. Emotional transformations refer to “changes of the heart” ( Allison and Smith, 2015 , p. 23) involving growth in empathic concern for others; we call this transformation compassion .

Spiritual transformations refer to changes in belief systems about the spiritual world and about the workings of life, the world, and the universe; we call this change transcendence . Mental transformations refer to leaps in intellectual growth and significant increases in illuminating insights about oneself and others; we label this wisdom . Moral transformations occur when heroes undergo a dramatic shift from immorality to morality; we call this redemption . Finally, a motivational transformation refers to a complete shift in one’s purpose or perceived direction in life; we label this change a calling (see also Dik et al., 2017 ).

Purpose of the Hero’s Transformation

The purpose of the hero’s journey is to provide a context or blueprint for human metamorphosis. Why do we need such life-changing growth? Allison and Setterberg (2016) argue that people are born “incomplete” psychologically and will remain incomplete until they encounter challenges that produce suffering and require sacrifice to resolve. Transcending life’s challenges enables the hero to “undergo a truly heroic transformation of consciousness,” requiring them “to think a different way” ( Campbell, 1988 , p. 155). This shift offers a new “map or picture of the universe and allows us to see ourselves in relationship to nature” ( Campbell, 1991 , p. 56). Buddhist traditions and twelve-step programs of recovery refer to transformation as an awakening. Using similar language, Campbell (2004 , p. 12) described the function of the journey as a necessary voyage designed to “wake you up.” The long-term survival of the human race may depend on such an awakening, as it becomes increasingly clear that the unawakened, pre-transformed state is unsustainable at the collective level. As individuals, transformation is necessary for our psychological, emotional, social, and spiritual well-being. Collectively, the survival of our planet may depend on broader, enlightened thinking from leaders who must be transformed themselves if they are to make wise decisions about human rights, climate change, peace and war, healthcare, education, and myriad other pressing issues. Nearly 50 years ago, Heschel (1973) opined that “the predicament of contemporary man is grave. We seem to be destined either for a new mutation or for destruction” (p. 176, italics added).

Allison and Goethals (2017) propose five reasons why transformation is such a key element in the hero’s journey, and why it is essential for promoting our own and others’ welfare. First, transformations foster developmental growth. Early human societies understood the usefulness of initiation rituals in promoting the transition from childhood to adulthood ( van Gennep, 1909 ). A number of scholars, including Campbell, have pointed to the failure of our postmodern society to appreciate the psychological value of rites and rituals ( Campbell, 1988 ; Rohr, 2011b ; Le Grice, 2013 ). Stories of young people “coming-of-age” are common in mythic hero tales about children “awakening to the new world that opens at adolescence” ( Campbell, 1988 , p. 167). The hero’s journey “helps us pass through and deal with the various stages of life from birth to death” ( Campbell, 1991 , p. 56).

The second function of heroic transformation is that it promotes healing. Allison and Goethals (2016) argue that sharing stories about hero transformations can offer many of the same benefits as group therapy ( Yalom and Leszcz, 2005 ). These benefits include the promotion of hope; the benefit of knowing that others share one’s emotional experiences; the fostering of self-awareness; the relief of stress; and the development of a sense of meaning about life. A growing number of clinical psychologists invoke hero transformations to help their clients acquire the heroic attributes of strength, resilience, and courage ( Grace, 2016 ). Recent research on post-traumatic growth demonstrates that people can overcome severe trauma and even use it to transform themselves into stronger, healthier persons than they were before the trauma ( Ramos and Leal, 2013 ).

The third function of transformations focuses on their ability to promote social unity.

According to Campbell (1972 , p. 57), hero transformations “drop or lift [heroes] out of themselves, so that their conduct is not their own but of the species, the society.” The transformed hero is “selfless, boundless, without ego.” The most meaningful transformations are a journey from egocentricity to sociocentricity, from elitism to egalitarianism ( Campbell, 1949 ; Wilber, 2007a , b ; Rohr, 2011b ). No longer psychologically isolated from the world, the transformed person enjoys a sense of communion with others. In his description of the hero’s journey, Campbell (1949 , p. 25) wrote, “where we had thought to be alone, we shall be with all the world.” Friedman (2017) has introduced the construct of self-expansiveness describing how boundaries between ourselves and others, and even between ourselves and the world, can be seen as permeable. As Friedman puts it, “viewing others as an alternate manifestation of oneself can promote heroism, as one’s individual life is not viewed as separate” (p. 15).

Fourth, transformations also advance society in meaningful ways. The apex of the hero’s journey is the hero’s boon, or gift, to society. It is this gift that separates the hero’s journey from simply being a test of personal survival. For the quest to be heroic, the classic heroic protagonist must put her newly acquired insights and gifts to use in order to better the world ( Campbell, 1949 ; Rohr, 2011b ). The heroic boon to society follows the successful completion of the individual journey, and so we can say that the social boon is entirely dependent upon the hero’s personal transformation that made the individual quest a success. Hero mythology, according to Campbell (1972 , p. 48), is designed to teach us that society is not a “perfectly static organization” but represents a “movement of the species forward.”

Finally, transformations contribute to a deepening of our spiritual and cosmic understanding of the universe. According to Campbell (1988 , p. 152), the hero’s transformation involves learning “to experience the supernormal range of human spiritual life.” Myths, he said, “bring us into a level of consciousness that is spiritual” (p. 19). In every hero tale, the hero must “die spiritually” and then be “reborn to a larger way of living” (p. 141), a process that is the enactment of a universal spiritual theme of death being the necessary experience for producing new life ( Campbell, 1991 , p. 102). Hero transformations supply cosmic wisdom. van Gennep (1909) observed that transformative rituals in early human tribes have “been linked to the celestial passages, the revolutions of the planets, and the phases of the moon. It is indeed a cosmic conception that relates the stages of human existence to those of plant and animal life and, by a sort of pre- scientific divination, joins them to the great rhythms of the universe” (p. 194).

Internal and External Sources of Transformation

Allison and Goethals (2017) distinguished between sources of transformative change that come from within the individual and sources that originate from outside the individual. There are several types of internal sources of transformation. For example, transformation can arise as a result of natural human development. An initial transformative event, a sperm cell fertilizing an egg, leads to a zygote transforming into an embryo, which then becomes a fetus, a baby, a toddler, a child, an adolescent, a young adult, a mid-life adult, and an elderly adult. Another internal source of change resides in people’s needs and goals. According to Maslow’s (1943) pyramid of needs, an individual is motivated to fulfill the needs at a particular level once lower level needs are satisfied. Once the needs at the four lower levels are satisfied, one is no longer concerned with them or driven by them. In effect, one transitions to higher levels and eventually achieves self-actualization, during which one might enjoy peak experiences of having discovered meaning, beauty, truth, and a sense of oneness with the world – a transformative state reminiscent of James’ (1902) description of the religiously converted individual.

A third internal source of transformative change is human transgression and failure. People often undergo significant change after being humbled by their “fallings and failings” ( Rohr, 2011b , p. xv). Campbell (2004 , p. 133) cautioned that not all heroic quests conclude with heroic triumph. “There is always the possibility for a fiasco,” he said. These occasional fiascos can inspire heroic transformations by producing the kind of suffering needed as impetus for a greater hero journey. It is a general truth that for substance abusers to be sufficiently motivated to seek recovery from their addictions, they must reach a profound level of pain and suffering, commonly referred to as “hitting rock bottom.” Suffering, according to Rohr (2011b , p. 68), “doesn’t accomplish anything tangible but creates space for learning and love.” This space has been called liminal space ( Turner, 1966 ; van Gennep, 1909 ), defined as the transitional time and space between one state of being and an entirely different state of being. In liminal space, one has been stripped of one’s previous life, humbled, and silenced.

Transgressions, and the liminal space that follows them, are the fertile soil from which heroic transformations bloom.

Another internal source of transformation is what Allison and Goethals (2017) call an enlightened dawning of responsibility. This dawning is captured in a simple phrase, composed of 10 two-letter words, “If it is to be, it is up to me” ( Phipps, 2011 ). There is a long history of social psychological work devoted to studying the forces at work that promote the dawning of responsibility in emergency settings ( Latane and Darley, 1969 ). Research has shown that in a crisis a small but courageous minority of people do step up to do the right thing even when there are strong pressures to avoid assuming responsibility. These fearless social aberrants, most of whom are ordinary citizens, are able to transcend their circumstances and transform from ordinary to extraordinary. For example, about one-third of the participants in Milgram’s (1963) obedience study defied the authority’s command to continue applying painful electric shocks to another participant. Whistleblowers are another notable example; they have the mettle to step up and do right thing at great potential cost to themselves ( Brown, 2017 ). Bystander training is now available to cultivate this dawning of responsibility in situations where transformative leadership is needed ( Heroic Imagination Project, 2018 ).

External situational forces can also evoke transformative change. Situations, for example, can trigger emotional responses that transform us. This idea is consistent with the wisdom of James (1902 , p. 77), who observed that “emotional occasions……are extremely potent in precipitating mental rearrangements.” Emotions need not be negative to induce change. Feelings of elevation can transform people psychologically and behaviorally ( Haidt, 2003 ). People become elevated after witnessing a morally beautiful act, and this elevated feeling has been shown to produce altruistic acts ( Thomson and Siegel, 2013 ). A second external source of transformation is the series of trials that all heroes must undergo during their journey. Suffering can be an internal cause of transformation when it results from self-destructive actions, but suffering caused by outside forces can serve as an external source of transformation. Campbell (1988 , p. 154) argued that “trials are designed to see to it that the intending hero should be really a hero. Is he really a match for this task?” The time of greatest peril for the hero occurs when she enters the belly of the whale ( Campbell, 1949 ). In stories of Jonah and Pinocchio, the belly can be entered literally, but typically the belly is symbolic of the hero’s deepest inner-demons which must be “disempowered, overcome, and controlled” (p. 180). According to Campbell (1988) , the hero’s journey consists of the psychological task of overcoming one’s fears and slaying one’s dragons. This transformative process has been explored by positive psychologists who refer to it as part of the journey of post-traumatic growth, during which people are able to transform tragedy into triumph ( Rendon, 2015 ).

A third external source of transformation is the vast hero literature and mythology to which we are exposed throughout our lives. Allison and Goethals (2014 , 2016 , 2017 ) have long argued that narratives about heroes, pervasive in all of storytelling from Gilgamesh to the present day, serve as a nourishing catalyst for transformative change. The central premise of the heroic leadership dynamic (HLD) is that our consumption of heroic tales takes place within an interactive system that is energetically in motion, and drawing us toward rising heroes and repelling us from falling ones. The HLD framework proposes two transformative functions of hero stories: an epistemic function and an energizing function. Hero narratives supply epistemic growth by offering mental schemas that describe prosocial action, reveal basic truths about human existence, unpack life paradoxes, and cultivate emotional intelligence. The epistemic value of hero tales is revealed in Campbell’s (1988) observation that hero mythology offers insights into “what can be known but not told” (p. 206) and that “mythology is the womb of mankind’s initiation to life and death” ( Campbell, 2002 , p. 34). Hero tales also offer energizing benefits, providing people with agency and efficacy. Narratives of heroism bring about moral elevation, repair psychic wounds, and promote psychological growth ( Kinsella et al., 2015 , 2017 ; Allison and Goethals, 2016 ).

The fourth external source of transformation is the social environment of the hero. In hero narratives and classic mythology, the hero’s journey is populated by numerous friends, companions, lovers, parent figures, and mentors who assist the hero on her quest ( Campbell, 1949 ). The hero is always helped along the journey by the actual, imagined, or implied presence of others. Campbell also discussed the importance of encounters with parental figures; male heroes seek atonement with father figures, and female heroes seek it with mother figures.

Campbell also described the hero’s brush with lovers and temptresses, who can either assist, distract, or do harm to the hero. Most people who are asked to identify their heroes describe a mentor or coach who exerted a transformative effect on them ( Allison and Goethals, 2011 ; Goethals and Allison, 2012 , 2014 ).

Campbell (1949) argued that the appearance of a mentor during the initiation stage of the hero’s journey is a critically important component of the quest. Mentors help heroes become transformed, and later, having succeeded on their journeys, these transformed heroes then assume the role of mentor for others who are at earlier stages of their quests. In short, “transformed people transform people” ( Rohr, 2014 , p. 263). Mentors can have a transformative effect with their words of advice, with their actions, or both. Words can fall on deaf ears but one’s actions, attitudes, and lifestyle can leave a lasting imprint. St. Francis of Assisi expressed it this way: “You must preach the Gospel at all times, and when necessary use words” ( Rohr, 2014 , p. 263). A mentor can be viewed as a type of hero who enhances the lives of others ( Kinsella et al., 2015 ).

The hero’s journey offers a transformative experience toward wisdom that can be shared later with others. In short, the journey prepares people for leadership roles. According to Burns (1978) , transforming leaders strive to satisfy followers’ lower needs (e.g., survival and safety) in preparation for elevating them to work together to produce significant higher-level changes. Burns portrayed transforming leadership as collaborative engagement “in such a way that leaders and followers raise one another to higher levels of motivation and morality” (p. 20). Followers are thus “elevated,” creating a “new cadre of leaders” (p. 20). This conceptualization is consistent with Campbell’s (1949) emphasis on the role of mentorship during the hero’s journey. The mentor elevates the hero and prepares her for her future role as a mentor to others. Burns’ framework also makes explicit a notion that is largely implicit in Maslow’s (1943) model, namely, that the self-actualized person has become an elder, a mentor figure, and a moral actor who wields transformative influence over others. Erikson’s (1994) theory of lifelong development makes the similar claim that older generative individuals, having been given so much early in life, are now in a position to give back to younger people.

Other theories also point to the transformative effect of mentoring and leadership.

Hollander (1995) proposed a two-way influence relationship between a leader and followers aimed primarily at attaining mutual goals. Hollander defined leadership as “a shared experience, a voyage through time” with the leader in partnership with followers to pursue common interests.

For Hollander, “a major component of the leader–follower relationship is the leader’s perception of his or herself relative to followers, and how they in turn perceive the leader” (p. 55). Tyler and Lind (1992) have shown that these perceptions are crucially important in cementing good follower loyalty. Followers will perceive a leader as a “legitimate” authority when she adheres to basic principles of procedural justice. Leaders who show fairness, respect, and concern for the needs of followers are able to build followers’ self-esteem, a central step in Maslow’s (1943) pyramid, thereby fostering followers’ transformative movement toward meeting higher-level needs.

Three Transformative Arcs of Heroism

Allison and Goethals (2017) identified three deficits of the hero at the initial stage of her journey. The untransformed hero is lacking (1) a sociocentric view of life; (2) an autonomy from societal norms that discourage transformation; and (3) a mindset of growth and change. Below we explain how the arc of heroic metamorphosis bends toward sociocentricity, autonomy, and growth.

Egocentricity to Sociocentricity

Campbell (2004 , p. 55) believed that one of the central functions of hero mythology is to “get a sense of everything – yourself, your society, the universe, and the mystery beyond – as one great unit.” He claimed that “when we quit thinking primarily about ourselves and our own self-preservation, we undergo a truly heroic transformation of consciousness” ( Campbell, 1988 , p. 155). In most hero narratives, the hero begins the journey disconnected from the world. She is a self-centered, prideful individual whose sole preoccupation is establishing her identity, her career, and her material world. The entire point of her hero journey is to awaken her to the broader goal of thinking beyond herself in achieving communion with the entire world and universe ( Friedman, 2017 ). To the extent that we spend the first stages of our lives selfishly building our personal identities and careers, we may be designed to awaken in later stages to our original predisposition toward sociocentricity ( Rohr, 2011b ). Campbell (2001) urged us all to cultivate this greater purpose of forming compassionate unification with all of humanity. He believed this awakening is the central function of hero mythology.

Dependency to Autonomy

A person’s willingness to deviate from the dominant cultural pattern is essential for heroic transformation. Heroes do the right thing, and do what they must do, regardless of authority, tradition, and consequence. Maslow (1943) called this characteristic autonomy . “There are the ‘strong’ people,” wrote Maslow, “who can easily weather disagreement or opposition, who can swim against the stream of public opinion and who can stand up for the truth at great personal cost” (p. 379). Fulfillment of the lower needs in the pyramid is essential for autonomy to develop in individuals. “People who have been made secure and strong in the earliest years tend to remain secure and strong thereafter in the face of whatever threatens” (p. 380). Zimbardo (2008) has championed the idea that heroes are people with the ability to resist social pressures that promote evil, and that such resistance requires the moral courage to be guided by one’s heart rather than by social cues. Zimbardo and other hero activists drive home the point that “the opposite of a hero isn’t a villain; it’s a bystander” ( Chakrabortty, 2010 ; Langdon, 2018 ). While the transformed hero enjoys “union with the world,” she remains an autonomous individual who can establish her own path in the world that is unfettered by pressures to conform to social pressures.

Stagnation to Growth

One can be autonomous but not necessarily growing and stretching toward realizing one’s full potential. The pre-transformed hero naturally resists change, and thus severe setbacks may be her only impetus to budge. Without a prod, she will remain comfortable in her stagnation, oblivious to the idea that anything needs changing. The hero’s journey marks the death of pretense and inauthenticity, and the birth of the person one is meant to be. Campbell (1988 , p. 168) described the process as “killing the infantile ego and bringing forth an adult.” Sperry (2011) has argued that people are so attached to their false selves that they fear the death of the false self even more than they fear the death of their physical self. Our growth can also be inhibited by a phenomenon called the crab bucket syndrome ( Simmons, 2012 ). This syndrome describes the consequences of our entrenchment with our families, our friends, and our communities, and they with us. Any attempt we make to crawl up and out of the bucket is met with failure as the crabs below us pull us back down. For most of us, the hero’s journey represents the best way, and perhaps the only way, to escape the bucket and discover our true selves. Campbell (1991) argued that a healthy, transformed individual accepts and embraces her growth and contradictions. “The psychological transformation,” wrote Campbell, “would be that whatever was formerly endured is now known, loved, and served” (p. 207).

Three Activities Promoting Transformation

Can anything be done to promote heroic transformation? We noted earlier that one cannot be in charge of one’s own heroic transformation. According to Rohr (2011a) , engineering our own personal metamorphosis on our own “is by definition not transformation. If we try to change our ego with the help of our ego, we only have a better-disguised ego” (p. 5). There are things we can do, however, to make transformation more likely. From our review of theory and research on heroism, developmental processes, leadership, and spiritual growth, we can identify three broad categories of activities that encourage transformation. These activities include participation in training and developmental programs, spiritual practices, and (of course) the hero’s journey. On the surface these activities appear dissimilar, yet engaging in these practices produces similar transformative results.

Training and Development Practices

In examining the characteristics of people who risked their lives to save others, Kohen et al. (2017) discovered several important commonalities. They found that these heroes “imagined situations where help was needed and considered how they would act; they had an expansive sense of empathy, not simply with those who might be considered ‘like them’ but also those who might be thought of as ‘other’ in some decisive respect; they regularly took action to help people, often in small ways; and they had some experience or skill that made them confident about undertaking the heroic action in question” (p. 1). With this observation, Kohen et al. (2017) raise four points about preparation for heroism. First, they note the importance of imagining oneself as ready and capable of heroic action when it is needed. This imagination component involves the development of mental scripts for helping, an idea central to Zimbardo’s Heroic Imagination Project (2018) hero training programs. Established a decade ago, the Heroic Imagination Project aims to encourage people to envision themselves as heroes and to “prepare heroes in training for everyday heroic action.” The group achieves this goal by training ordinary people to “master social and situational forces as well as their automatic human tendencies in order to act in ways that are kind, prosocial, and even heroic.” Participants are trained to improve their situational awareness, leadership skills, moral courage, and sense of efficacy in situations that require action to save or improve lives.

Second, Kohen et al. (2017) emphasize the importance of empathy, observing that heroes show empathic concern for both similar and dissimilar others. A growing body of research supports the idea that empathy can be enhanced through training, an idea corroborated by the proliferation of empathy training programs around the world ( Tenney, 2017 ). Svoboda (2013) even argues that empathy and compassion are muscles that can be strengthened with repeated use. Third, Kohen et al. (2017) note that heroes regularly take action to help people, often in small ways. Doing so may promote the self-perception that one has heroic attributes, thereby increasing one’s chances of intervening when a true emergency arises. Finally, Kohen et al. (2017) observe that heroes often have either formal or informal training in saving lives. These skills and experiences may be acquired from training for the military, law enforcement, or firefighting, or they may derive from emergency medical training, lifeguard training, and CPR classes ( Svoboda, 2013 ).

In a similar vein, Kramer (2017) has devised a methodology for helping people develop the courage to pursue their most heroic dreams and aspirations in life. He identifies such courage as existential courage , consisting of people’s identity aspirations and strivings for their lives to feel meaningful and consequential. Kramer’s technique involves fostering people’s willingness to take psychological and social risks in the pursuit of desired but challenging future identities. His “identity lab” is a setting where students work individually and collaboratively to (1) identify and research their desired future identities, (2) develop an inventory or assessment of identity- relevant attributes that support the realization of those desired future identities, (3) design behavioral experiments to explore and further develop those self-selected identity attributes, and, finally, (4) consolidate their learnings from their experiments through reflection and assessment. Kramer’s results show that his participants feel significantly more “powerful,” “transformative,” “impactful,” and “effective” in pursuing their identity aspirations. They also report increased self-efficacy and resilience.

Another example of training practices can be found in initial rituals and rites of passages found in many cultures throughout the world. Although modern Western cultures have eliminated the majority of these practices, most cultures throughout history did deem it necessary to require adolescents, particularly boys, to undergo rituals that signaled their transformation into maturity and adulthood ( Turner, 1966 ; van Gennep, 1909 ). In many African and Australian tribes, initiation requires initiates to experience pain, often involving circumcision or genital mutilation, and it is also not uncommon for rituals to include a challenging survival test in nature. These initiation tests are considered necessary for individuals to become full members of the tribe, allowing them participate in ceremonies or social rituals such as marriage. Initiations are often culminated with large elaborate ceremonies for adolescents to be recognized publicly as full-fledged adult members of their society.

Child-rearing can serve as another type of transformative training practice. A striking example can be seen in Fagin-Jones’s (2017) research on how parents raised the rescuers of Jews during the Holocaust. Fagin-Jones found that the parenting practices of rescuers differed significantly from the parenting of passive bystanders. Rescuers reported having loving, supportive relationships with parents, whereas bystanders reported relationships with parents as cold, negative, and avoidant. More rescuers than bystanders recalled their parents as affectionate and engaged in praising, hugging, kissing, joking, and smiling. These early cohesive family bonds encouraged other-oriented relationships based on tolerance, inclusion, and openness.

Rescuers reported that their family unit engendered traits of independence, potency, risk-taking, decisiveness, and tolerance. Bystanders, in contrast, recalled a lack of familial closeness that engendered impotence, indecisiveness, and passivity. Rescuers’ parents were less likely than bystanders’ parents to express negative Jewish stereotypes such as “dishonest,” “untrustworthy,” and “too powerful.” Overall, rescuers were raised to practice involvement in community, commitment to others’ welfare, and responsibility for the greater good. In contrast, bystanders’ parents assigned demonic qualities to Jews and promoted the idea that Jews deserved their fate.

Spiritual Practices

For millennia, spiritual gurus have extolled the benefits of engaging in a variety of spiritual practices aimed at improving one’s mental and emotional states. Recent research findings in cognitive neuroscience and positive psychology are now beginning to corroborate these benefits. Mindfulness in particular has attracted widespread popularity as well as considerable research about its implications for mental health. The key component of mindfulness as a mental state is its emphasis on focusing one’s awareness solely on the present moment. People who practice mindful meditation show significant decreases in stress, better coping skills, less depression, improved emotional regulation, and higher levels of resilience ( Hofmann et al., 2010 ). Mindful meditation quiets the mind and thus “wakes us up to what is happening,” allowing “contact with life” ( Hanh, 1999 , p. 81). Tolle (2005) argues that living in the present moment is a transformative experience avoided by most people because they habitually choose to clutter their minds with regrets about the past or fears about the future. He claims that “our entire life only happens in this moment. The present moment is life itself” (p. 99). Basking in the present moment is the basis of the psychological phenomenon of “flow” described by Csikszentmihalyi (2008) . When experiencing flow, people are “in the zone,” fully present, and completely “immersed in a feeling of energized focus” (p. 45).

Related to mindfulness is the process of non-dualistic thinking ( Loy, 1988 ) also called right thinking ( Hanh, 1999 ), contemplative thinking ( Rohr, 2009 ), third-force thinking, and the third eye ( Song, 2002 ). The Indian “tika” placed on the human forehead is more than decoration; it signifies a non-dual way of viewing the world. According to Rohr (2009) , non-dual thinking is deemed necessary for understanding phenomena that defy rational analysis: love, death, God, suffering, and eternity. The transcendent nature of mindful, non-dual thinking shares many of the characteristics of the heroically transformed mind that we have discussed in this article.

The spiritual attribute of humility can also be transformative. When asked to name four cardinal virtues, St. Bernard is reported to have answered: “Humility, humility, humility, and humility” ( Kurtz and Ketcham, 1992 ). Humility has been shown to be linked to increased altruism, forgiveness, generosity, and self-control ( Worthington et al., 2017 ). One can argue that humility cannot be practiced, as the idea of getting better at humility runs contrary to being humble. However, we suspect that one can practice humility by adopting the habit of admitting mistakes, acknowledging personal faults, avoiding bragging, and being generous in assigning credit to others.

Gratitude is another transformative spiritual practice validated by recent research. Algoe (2012) found that gratitude improves sleep, patience, depression, energy, optimism, and relationship quality. Practitioners have developed gratitude therapy as a way of helping clients become happier, more agreeable, more open, and less neurotic. Moreover, neuroscientists have found that gratitude is associated with activity in areas of the brain associated with morality, reward, and value judgment ( Emmons and Stern, 2013 ). Closely related to gratitude are experiences with wonder and awe, which have been shown to increase generosity and a greater sense of connection with the world ( Piff et al., 2015 ). Enjoying regular doses of wonder is a telltale trait of the self-actualized individual ( Maslow, 1943 ).

Another transformative spiritual practice is forgiveness. Research shows that people who are able to forgive others have improved relationships, better mental health, lower stress and hostility, improved blood pressure, less depression, and a healthier immune system ( Worthington, 2013 ). “Letting go” is another spiritual practice that can produce transformation. It has also been called release, acceptance, or surrender. Buddhist teach Hanh (1999 , p. 78) claims that “letting go give us freedom, and freedom is the only condition for happiness.” James (1902) also described the beneficial practice of letting go among religiously converted individuals: “Give up the feeling of responsibility, let go your hold, resign the care of your destiny to higher powers, be genuinely indifferent as to what becomes of it all, and you will find not only that you gain a perfect inward relief, but often also, in addition, the particular goods you sincerely thought you were renouncing” (p. 110).

Finally, we turn to the complex emotion of love as a transformative agent. In addition to starring in Casablanca , Humphrey Bogart played the lead role in Sabrina , another film demonstrating the transformative power of love. In Sabrina , Bogart played the role of Linus, a workaholic CEO who has no time for love. His underachieving brother David begins a romance with a young woman named Sabrina, and it becomes clear that this budding relationship jeopardizes a multi-million-dollar deal that the company is about to consummate. To undermine the relationship, Linus pretends to show romantic interest in Sabrina, and he succeeds in winning her heart. Despite the pretense, Linus falls in love for the first time in his life, resigns as CEO, and runs away with Sabrina to Paris. Love has completely transformed him from a cold, greedy businessman into a warm, enlightened individual. Similar transformations in film and literature are seen in Ebenezer Scrooge (in A Christmas Carol ), the Grinch (in How the Grinch Stole Christmas ), Phil Connors (in Groundhog Day ), and George Banks (in Mary Poppins ).

In Man’s Search for Meaning , Frankl (1946 , p. 37) wrote, “The salvation of man is through love and in love.” Hanh (1999 , p. 170), moreover, weighs in that “love, compassion, joy, and equanimity are the very nature of an enlightened person.” Loving kindness also transforms us biologically ( Keltner, 2009 ). People who make kindness a habit have significantly lower levels of stress hormones such as cortisol. Making an effort to help others can lead to decreased levels of anxiety in individuals who normally avoid social situations. Being kind and even witnessing kindness have also been found to increase levels of oxytocin, a hormone associated with lower blood pressure, more sound sleep, and reduced cravings for drugs such as alcohol and cocaine. Loving others lights up the motivation and reward circuits of the limbic system in the brain ( Esch and Stefano, 2011 ). Research also reveals that people who routinely show acts of love live longer compared to people who perform fewer loving actions ( Vaillant, 2012 ).

The Hero’s Journey

We opened this article by noting that the only way most of us undergo transformation is to embark on the hero’s journey. While we have complete control over whether we receive training that can facilitate a heroic metamorphosis, and over whether we engage in spiritual practices, we have far less control over our participation in the classic hero’s journey. We can only remain open and receptive to the ride that awaits us. As we have noted, our departure on the journey can be jarring – we often experience an accident, illness, transgression, death, divorce, or disaster. The best we can do is fasten our seatbelts and trust that the darkness of our lot will eventually transform into lightness. But we cannot remain passive. During the journey we must be diligent in doing our part to secure allies and mentors, and to take actions that cultivate strengths such as resilience, courage, and resourcefulness ( Williams, 2018 ). After being transformed ourselves, we feel the obligation to transform others in the role of mentor. Having traversed the heroic path, we may use our heroism to craft a newfound purpose for our existence, a purpose that drives us to spend our remaining years making a positive difference in people’s lives. Bronk and Riches (2017) call this process heroism-guided purpose .

Additional Issues Worth Pondering

Several unexplored issues involving heroic transformation deserve more thorough treatment than we can devote to them here. These issues focus on education, religion, gender, inclusive transcendence, and barriers to transformation. We give brief attention to these topics below.

Education and Transformation

On July 16, 2003, legendary President of South Africa Nelson Mandela delivered a speech in support of the Mindset Network, a non-profit organization designed to improve educational opportunities for children of all ages. “Education,” he said, “is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” This statement attracted widespread media attention and remains a highly recurring internet meme today. A Google search of “education can change the world” yields thousands of hits echoing Mandela’s claim and extending the idea to include education being the key “to success,” “to happiness,” “to freedom,” “to the world,” and “to the future.” Summing up our supreme collective confidence in education, United Nations Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock declared that “Education is the key to everything” ( Theirworld, 2017 ).

Are these claims true? We believe it is a mistake and perhaps even dangerous to equate education with transformation. Consider, for example, the link between education and crime. Some studies suggest that education mitigates crime ( Buonanno and Leonida, 2006 ; Machin et al., 2011 ) while other studies find that education either plays little or no role in preventing violence. Bergen and Pandey (2005) report that the vast majority of terrorists who perform violent acts are college educated. For example, all 12 men involved in the 1993 World Trade Center attack had a college education. All the pilots in the September 11 th terrorist attacks and their collaborators, as identified by the 9/11 commission, attended universities. The lead pilot, Mohamed Atta, was college-educated, and the operational planner, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, studied engineering in North Carolina. The chilling masked figure on many ISIS beheading videos was Mohammed Emwazi, who had a college degree in computer programming. In the same vein, Ramsland (2015) has found that some of the most notorious serial killers of our time were highly educated, including Ted Bundy and the “Unabomber” Ted Kaczynski.

We do not wish to undersell education’s positive consequences for individuals and societies. Improving educational opportunities for citizens no doubt helps people satisfy needs in Maslow’s (1943) hierarchy, especially those at the lower levels of the pyramid. Nelson Mandela was no doubt correct about education improving the quality of life for communities operating near subsistence levels. Our claim is that education is insufficient for meeting higher level needs of esteem and for cultivating social belongingness, self-transcendence, union with the world, and self-actualization. In short, education is a beginning step toward transformation but falls short in fully producing a truly awakened individual.

Religion and Transformation

As noted earlier, James (1902) described the psychological consequences of religious conversion as including feelings of peace, the ability to see clearly, the sense of union with all of humanity, a feeling of newness, the experience of happiness, the desire for generosity, and the sense of being part of something bigger than oneself. While these results of conversion are all signs of healthy religion, many of us are very well aware of “religious” individuals who preach war instead of peace, who exclude rather than include, who display anger in lieu of joy, and who show greed instead of generosity. In short, being “religious” and even engaging in religious practices such as attending church does not guarantee the kind of religious conversion experiences described by James. In fact, going through the motions of religion can heighten one’s sense of righteousness and arrogance, setting in motion a dark transformation toward principles that are antithetical to James’ observation of mature religion. Many people who are “holier than thou” end up holier than no one. Rohr (2010) argues that the litmus test for healthy spiritual transformation is whether one shows “a movement toward the edge, the outside, the lower, the suffering, and the simple. It’s never about climbing.”

Women as Transformers

In his studies of initiation rituals worldwide, Rohr (2005) observed that non-western cultures throughout history have been more likely to require males to participate in these rites of passage as compared to females. Underlying this gender difference is the widespread belief that young males require initiation rituals to transform them into men, whereas young females tend to be naturally capable of transforming into womanhood without formal rituals. Differences in biology and culturally assigned gender roles have been posited to explain this difference ( Rohr, 2005 ; Formica, 2009 ). For women, transformation is corporeal. Women personally undergo biological transformations in processes such as menstruation, pregnancy, labor, and breastfeeding. Throughout most of human history, women have also been assigned culturally mandated activities involving transformation. For example, child-rearing traditionally involved women transforming children into adults. Moreover, most human cultures have historically assigned women the task of preparing food for the family, during which women transformed wheat into bread and cream into butter.

If, as we have argued, transformation involves promoting unity and adopting a sociocentric mindset, then women may be agents of transformation. Throughout history, men have built things, fixed things, and defended us from things ( Rohr, 2005 ) – all in the service of satisfying lower level needs. True transformation, however, occurs at higher levels where women may have the advantage. Rohr has even boldly claimed that “transformation is deeply embedded in feminine consciousness” (see also Ross, 2017 ). In her review of research on gender differences in leadership effectiveness, Hoyt (2014) found convincing evidence that women may be more transformative as political leaders. Compared to men, women leaders are more likely to improve standards of living, education, and healthcare. They enjoy more success in peace negotiations and are more likely to reach across party lines. Women more so than men are likely to adopt democratic and participatory styles of leadership. Moreover, women are more likely to follow ethical guidelines, engage in philanthropy, and promote the welfare of women, children, and families. With all their accomplishments as leaders, women may also show more humility than men ( Fumham et al., 2001 ; Perry, 2017 ). Over 2500 years ago, the Tao Te Ching offered this wise description of women as humble, transformative leaders:

Can you play the role of woman? Understanding and being open to all things… Giving birth and nourishing, Bearing but not possessing, Working yet not taking credit, Leading yet not dominating, This is the Primal Virtue.

Transcend and Include

Central to the phenomenon of transformation is the principle of transcend and include ( Wilber, 2001 ). Higher stages of transformation do not discard the values of the lower stages; they include them. When we are young, we hold strong opinions that later seem naïve to us, yet we are not necessarily “wrong” at the time; we are merely incomplete. An illustration of this idea can be found in our musings about our childhood baseball heroes, Willie Mays (for George Goethals) and Willie Stargell (for Scott Allison). We both freely admit that our taste in heroes has evolved and matured since the 1950s and 1960s, yet if you ask us if that means that Mays and Stargell are no longer our heroes, we will quickly tell you that they remain our heroes to this very day. Maintaining this preference exemplifies the principle of transcend and include.

Transformation to a higher level of consciousness always transcends but also includes the lower levels ( Rohr, 2011b ). This does not mean that we equate Mays and Stargell with Gandhi and Mandela. It means that we appreciate their heroic influence on us during a crucial time in our development.

Campbell’s (1949) understanding of the transform and include principle is seen in his description of the transformed hero as the “master of both worlds.” At the end of their transformative journey, heroes are as comfortable navigating in their original world as in the new world that they now inhabit. There are implications of this principle for gender roles. Male- oriented activities of making, fixing, and protecting must be transcended by female-oriented activities of inclusion, participation, and harmony. But with transcendence must come inclusion, as we cannot expect to survive as a society without always leaving room for those so-called male activities.

Transformation Toward Psychopathology

Heroic transformation does not always lead to improvement in an individual’s well-being. Recent research has revealed that adopting a heroic self-concept can at times produce significant psychological maladjustment ( Shahar, 2013 ; Israeli et al., 2018 ). From this perspective, a heroic self-representation may develop when people experience personal threat, stress, and challenge, either in themselves or in others to whom they are close. These heroic self-representations can assume the form as the self-as-savior , the self-as-conqueror , or heroic identification . When confronting these psychological challenges, people may identify with the ideal heroic image of the person who can conquer any difficult obstacle or who can heroically remove those obstacles for suffering others. The consequences of taking on this role of a hero can be significant increases in perceived stress, self-criticism, lack of a sense of coherence, general psychopathology, maternal overprotection, dissociative depersonalization and absorption, transliminality, PTSD severity, and attachment anxiety.

Shahar (2013) and Israeli et al. (2018) have uncovered convincing evidence for this type of pathological heroic transformation. These scholars studied adults during a prolonged exposure ‘Operation Protective Edge,’ which occurred in Israel between July 8, 2014 and August 26, 2014 ( Israeli et al., 2018 ). The operation measured Israeli citizens’ emotional states while they were exposed to extensive air strikes, ground fighting in Gaza, and continuous large-scale rocket fire from Gaza to Israel. The results showed that participants’ heroic identification predicted increased anxious mood and negative affect. Moreover, participants who viewed themselves as self-as-savior showed an increased anxious mood under high levels of perceived-stress related to the missile attacks. Israeli et al. (2018 , p. 23) concluded that “under stress, heroic identification increases characterological self-blame/self-criticism and experiential avoidance, and decreases help-seeking.” These findings are fascinating in pointing toward the potential harm associated with undergoing a heroic transformation. Whereas we argue that heroic transformation is a necessary and positive step toward mature growth and achieving one’s full potential, it seems clear that taking one’s heroism to an extreme under stressful circumstances can lead to psychological harm. We believe that the research reported by Shahar (2013) and Israeli et al. (2018) is extremely important in identifying boundary or delimiting conditions of positive heroic transformation effects. Future research might productively be directed toward further establishing the circumstances under which adopting a heroic self-representation yields favorable versus unfavorable consequences for people.

Barriers to Transformation

We now turn to factors that can stand in the way of people undergoing a positive transformative experience in life. The largest barrier, of course, is a person’s unwillingness to heed the call to go on the hero’s journey. We all know people, including prominent world leaders, who are “stuck” in early stages of development. It would behoove the world to understand why so many people are stuck and what can be done to nudge more of us along the transformative journey. Earlier we reviewed activities that promote transformation, and one might argue that any barriers to change are merely the inverse of these promotional activities. While there may be some truth in this idea, it is also true that some barriers are less intuitive or obvious than one might suspect. The great Islamic poet Rumi once offered this advice to those seeking enlightenment: the task is sometimes not to pursue a transformative loving experience “but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it” ( Barks, 2005 , p. 18).

A major source of arrested development is the problem of self-ignorance. A recurring theme in psychological research is that people are unaware of much of their own psychological functioning ( Nisbett and Wilson, 1977 ; Wegner, 2002 ; Bargh and Morsella, 2008 ; Alicke, 2017 ). This lack of self-awareness may explain people’s resistance to transformative growth. Early psychoanalytic theories of Freud, Adler, and Horney were the first to point to the destructive effects of behaving unconsciously. Jung (1956) described the shadow as the dark, unknown aspects of our personalities that prevent us from transforming into our full potential. Building on Jung’s work, Campbell observed that all “the images of [hero] mythology are referring to something in you,” and that our shadow impedes our ability to make the best use of these images (p. 68).

A second barrier is found in impoverished environments that deny people opportunities for transformation. Maslow’s (1943) model of hierarchical needs suggests that people can get stuck at lower stages of the hierarchy that focus on satisfying basic biological and security needs. Heroic potential may be suppressed when individuals are afflicted by poverty or safety concerns that hinder their ability to progress upward in the hierarchy toward higher-level goals. Resolving this problem is easy in theory but extremely difficult in practice, as most world societies either lack the will or the means to eliminate poverty. Related to this idea is another barrier – exposure to traumatic events that can impede people’s ability to undergo transformative growth. Trauma disrupts people’s sense of safety and their ability to cope with the overwhelming threat and danger, damaging their physical, emotional, and cognitive functioning processes ( Keck et al., 2017 ). Safety and security needs become paramount to the traumatized individual, rendering higher level needs unimportant. The good news is that most people can show great progress in recovering from the deleterious effects of trauma. This healing is the basis of the hopeful phenomenon of post-traumatic growth ( Rendon, 2015 ).

A fourth barrier to transformation is people’s strong tendency to self-identify as victims.

Individuals who have been harmed and who derive their entire personal identity from being wronged by someone else, or by society, may find it difficult to grow and transcend their victimhood. We are not making the claim that there are no legitimate victims; there most certainly are people who have been harmed and have real grievances. Our argument is that adopting a strong and permanent victim identity is a sure way of avoiding growth and moving beyond the pain of having been harmed. A highly unfortunate consequence of harboring a victim mindset is the need to scapegoat. People tend to reason that if someone has harmed them, then that perpetrator must be punished. There is no doubt that scapegoating others has been the primary cause of most violence and warfare throughout human history. Until people learn to take individual responsibility for their lives and for their anger, the deadly duo of victimhood and scapegoating will continue to work in concert to thwart heroic transformation.

Another barrier to transformation lies in the absence of good mentorship. Social sources of wisdom, inspiration, and change are critical elements of the hero monomyth as described by Campbell (1949) . These social sources appear in the form of friends, mentors, peers, and allies, all of whom represent rich and essential sources of transformation. There are times, moreover, when people encounter the wrong mentor whose advice does more harm than good. Allison and Smith (2015) used the term dark mentors to describe these damaging guides who not only undermine people’s ability to walk the heroic path; they encourage us down the wrong path.

Severe mental and physical illness can also impede people’s ability to undergo heroic transformation. Most individuals facing severe mental or physical disability are unable to reap the benefits of the hero’s journey because they are preoccupied with managing their condition. Related to this problem is the prevalence of narcissism. Psychologists believe that roughly 6% of US adults are afflicted with narcissistic personality disorder ( Bressert, 2018 ), which means that at least 15 million Americans may be narcissists. The characteristics of narcissism are a heightened sense of importance, a drive for unlimited success, a belief in one’s special nature, exploitation of people, little empathy, and an arrogant attitude. Narcissists are unlikely to undergo heroic transformation because they don’t believe they need one and thus avoid it entirely ( Worthington and Allison, 2018 ). The narcissist assigns blame for his problems to others, leading the him to believe that other people need to change rather than the narcissist himself.

Finally, people may avoid heroic transformation because they lack psychological flexibility, defined as an individual’s ability to adapt to fluctuating situational demands. Those classified as low in psychological flexibility have been shown to experience less growth and development ( Kashdan and Rottenberg, 2010 ). To help people overcome inflexibility, Hayes et al. (2011) developed a therapeutic approach called acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT). The goal of ACT is to increase people’s ability to remain in the present moment as a conscious human being, and to learn new behaviors that serve desired goals. Psychological flexibility can be achieved through six core ACT processes, several of which sound like mindful pathways to Buddhist enlightenment. The six elements of ACT are acceptance, cognitive defusion, presence, seeing the self in context, values, and committed action. All of these processes reflect positive psychological and spiritual skills that enable people to grow and evolve into healthy adaptive human beings. They also resemble Franco et al. (2016) skillset of heroic eudaimonia, which includes mindfulness, autonomy, and efficacy (see also Jones, 2017 ).

This article has reviewed the functions, processes, and consequences of the hero’s transformation. William James once observed, “Whenever one aim grows so stable as to expel definitively its previous rivals from an individual’s life, we tend to speak of the phenomenon, and even wonder at it, as a transformation” ( James, 1902 , p. 70, italics added). James’ use of the word “wonder” implies that people are moved by the transformations they see in people, and also that these transformations are a rare occurrence. As did James, we suspect that many people spend their entire lives resisting change, denying the need for it, and suffering as a result of avoiding it. As Jung (1945) observed, “There is no coming to consciousness without pain. People will do anything, no matter how absurd, in order to avoid facing their own soul. One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious” (p. 335).

The transformed hero exemplifies the zenith of human development. Psychologists have called this state self-actualization ( Maslow, 1943 ), the condition of well-being that allows people to flourish ( Seligman, 2011 ), the achievement of “bliss” ( Campbell, 1988 ), and the experience eudaimonia ( Franco et al., 2016 ). From their journey, heroes accumulate wisdom about their place in the world; they acquire the courage to face their deepest fears; they connect with all of humanity; they seek justice no matter the cost to themselves; they show humility; and they embark on a journey that “opens the world so that it becomes transparent to something that is beyond speech, beyond words, in short, to what we call transcendence” ( Campbell, 2014 , p. 40; see also Friedman, 2017 ). The wisdom of writers and philosophers, from Homer in 800 BCE to Phil Zimbardo today, informs us that we are all called to lead a heroic life. Yet most people are unaware of this fact, or they face impediments that impede the realization of their heroic potential. If the ultimate goal of the hero’s journey is for the hero to bestow the world with transformative gifts, then one would think that the world would be doing everything possible to promote the hero’s journey for everyone. We hope that this article represents progress toward shedding light on why transformation is elusive and what can be done to promote it.

Author Contributions

All authors contributed equally to the development and expression of the ideas in this article.

Conflict of Interest Statement

The authors declare that the research was conducted in the absence of any commercial or financial relationships that could be construed as a potential conflict of interest.

Funding. This research was supported by Summer Research Fellowships awarded to SA, AM, SS, and MS.

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Finding Christ in the Hero’s Journey

In 1949, Joseph Campbell published his theory of the archetypal “monomyth” in The Hero With a Thousand Faces. His claim was that all stories follow one general plot in which the hero “ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won.” After his life-changing journey, the hero returns back to the old world, equipped to “bestow boons on his fellow man.” 1

The so-called “hero’s journey” is a seventeen-step arc that Campbell enumerated based on his familiarity with ancient myths from many cultures, and especially with the stories of the Bible in mind. Star Wars, Harry Potter, the Odyssey, and the Epic of Gilgamesh all exemplify this pattern. In the Bible, the stories of Jonah, Adam and Eve, Moses, Samson, and Jesus follow the hero’s journey structure as well.

Given these striking similarities with so many mythical stories, how are we to see the truth of Christianity? Do these similarities lump the Bible with other, usually false, stories and religions?

Many critique Campbell’s theory for its extreme generality. The hero’s journey really describes every challenge, and every progression. These narrative “archetypes” are so ubiquitous because encountering and overcoming uncertain and unexpected difficulty are fundamental to human life. We all go through struggles, and we all, usually, come out the other side new and improved. If the hero’s journey is so general, of course the Bible embodies aspects of it.

This critique does not refute the fact that Christianity shares elements and motifs with many other stories, besides the hero’s journey. In Egypt, we have striking similarities of the life of the sky god Horus to that of Jesus. There is further evidence of “resurrection cults” in Egypt, and in Greek mythology we have the resurrections of Dionysus and Persephone. Zoroaster and Buddha display similar penchants for moralistic teaching.

English writer G.K. Chesterton makes a devastating response to this argument: “The story of a Christ is very common in legend and literature. So is the story of two lovers parted by Fate. So is the story of two friends killing each other for a woman. But will it be seriously maintained that, because these two stories are common as legends, therefore no two friends were ever separated by love or no two lovers by circumstances?” 2

At its core, this is a probabilistic argument against Christianity: because most religions and cultural myths are clearly false, and Christianity resembles many religions and cultural myths, Christianity is false. Though most would agree this argument is not air-tight, it does seem quite convincing. If every myth we have examined so far is false, why should we assume that the myth of Christianity is any different?

On any amount of investigation, Christianity sticks out glaringly from other religions. Christianity leans not on following the proper rules and rituals—orthopraxis—but on repentance and faith: orthodoxy. The goal of Christian religion is not to appease God, but to commune with him. Most religions champion an immanent, anthropomorphized deity, or else an unknowable, transcendent one; the Christian God is at once transcendent and immanent (through the incarnation). Other religions are nationalistic; Christianity is universal. Other gods demand sacrifice; God sacrificed his own son. 

Most importantly of all these differences, Christianity differentiates itself in its profound accordance with reality. In every aspect of life—morality, justice, the afterlife—it resonates with how we live in a more profound way than can be expressed in terms of “factual accuracies.”

This is why C.S. Lewis argues compellingly that Christianity is the “true myth.” It accomplishes all of the cultural framing of a myth, and still retains its historical verity. Here, Lewis is using the word “myth” differently from common parlance. Colloquially, at least since the Enlightenment, a myth is a false story whose narrative serves to unify a culture or worldview under a common past and shared goals for the future. Campbell concurs with the historical inaccuracy of myth. For him, however, myths are made up of symbols and motifs, like the hero’s journey, that point to some truth about human psychology. The symbols are “spontaneous productions of the psyche, and each bears within it, undamaged, the germ power of its source.” Unlike his Enlightenment predecessors, Campbell finds value in myths for people today, as they communicate timeless truths about mankind. Campbell’s position is thus often summarized by, “All religions are true, but none is literal.” 3

Another alternative is that the symbols are ubiquitous because they point to something true about the world. Since humans are made in the image of God, whatever humans create not only shows something about themselves, but something about God. God planted a seed of his story of redemption inside each human, so that they would be prepared for belief when the real thing took place. As C.S. Lewis sees it, “Myth in general is not misunderstood history…nor diabolical illusion…not priestly lying…but at its best, a real unfocused gleam of divine truth on human imagination.” 4 This is a variation of the idea, expressed by St. Augustine, that we are programmed innately to desire God and salvation. As a later poet put it, “The world is charged with the grandeur of God.” 5

The fact that many people share variations of stories about God does not imply either that all of them are perfectly true or that all are fully false. Many of Campbell’s school fall naturally into a subjective pantheism or a cynical nihilism. One could conclude that all these stories’ different, contradictory gods are true at once, or simply that God’s character is reflected in all things, in many different ways. Christianity avoids the irresponsible binary between pantheism and materialism, professing that God created the universe with love, imbuing it, and us, with traces of Him, so that He would not be fully alien to us.

That said, why did God present the story of mankind’s redemption to us in the form of myth? Here, an analogy will be useful. Without fail, I find that I never fully appreciate a song I am shown the first time I listen through it. It requires a second, third, or fifth listen for the harmony to resound with me, for the melody to become catchy, for the lyrics to get stuck in my head. This coincides with the fact of human nature that we love that with which we are familiar. When the echoes of a song are still reverberating in our minds, then we are truly receptive to appreciating it. To learn something consciously, we have to feel like we have always already known it. It is new, but also very familiar.

Similarly, no straightforward description of God’s character is possible or even advisable. Because of our innate tendency to sin, we are inclined towards rebellion against God. Other stories resembling Christianity’s act as bread-crumbs of reconciliation, placed by God to draw us through their beauty unwittingly to Him. A prerequisite for believing in God is wanting to believe in God. Stories are particularly effective for this.

Additionally, Christianity must retain its status as myth, or its transcendent truth would inevitably be disenchanted by the narrow scientism of the materialists. The truths that Christianity presents are ultimate ones; we cannot fully grasp them. Stories, what Campbell would call myths, circumvent our stubborn, prideful rationality and grab hold of our faculties of desire. Accordingly, they do not fit into the frame of a scientific study or a historical narrative. We see this elusiveness in the Old Testament when God reveals himself as a burning bush, cloud, pillar of fire, and even a whisper to the prophet Elijah. Emily Dickinson’s poetry expresses God’s potential motivation behind this exactly:

Tell all the truth but tell it slant Success in circuit lies Too bright for our infirm Delight The Truth’s superb surprise As Lightning to the Children eased With explanation kind The Truth must dazzle gradually Or every man be blind.

We are not prepared to handle all of the truth at once, so God feeds it to us a little at a time. What does this all of this say about how we should present the Gospel? It shows that it is handicapping ourselves to refuse to engage people on the level of narrative and meaningful story. People are so attracted to myth, and “hero’s journey” myths in particular, that it is only natural to frame Christianity as the “true myth,” as C.S. Lewis describes it.

Thus, the Christian need not reject offhand Campbell’s theory of the hero’s journey. Campbell, in an interview with PBS, calls the resurrection of Christ, “a clown act, really.” This position is not inherent in his theory, but Campbell, like Jung and the literary theorists before him, is most comfortable with a truth that exists abstractly, none too personal or visceral. He is, in short, a Platonist. In the end, this aversion to physical historicity is more dogmatic than any religion.

Christianity is so powerful as an existential and philosophical system because it uniquely balances the scientific materialism of the Enlightenment and the idealism of Plato. Christianity retains the common-sense practicality of Aristotle and Bacon, and the imaginative inspiration of the Platonists. This fact is best summarized by Lewis: “For this is the marriage of heaven and earth: Perfect Myth and Perfect Fact: claiming not only our love and obedience, but also our wonder and delight, addressed to the savage, the child, and the poet in each one of us no less than to the moralist, the scholar, and the philosopher.”

Bryce McDonald ‘21 is a joint Classics and Philosophy concentrator in Leverett House.

References [ + ]

IMAGES

  1. The Hero’s Journey

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  2. A Christmas Carol Infographic

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  3. Hero's Journey Diagram

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  4. A Christmas Carol Characters Storyboard by beckyharvey

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  5. A Christmas Carol 1984 Characters

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  6. Key Events In Stave 1 Of A Christmas Carol

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VIDEO

  1. Behind the scene heroes of Christmas Day

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  3. CHRISTMAS CAROL 2023 || THEME: JOURNEY OF THE KING

COMMENTS

  1. A Christmas Carol

    Return Scrooge wakes up in his own bed and is overjoyed for his second chance at life. He immediately starts to bestow boons on his fellow man. He give a generous tip to the boy who fetches the poultry man; delivers a huge turkey to the Cratchit family and finds the men seeking donations and gives a generous amount and ask them to come visit him.

  2. Heros Journey- A Christmas Carol by Leah Otillar on Prezi Next

    A Christmas Carol Scrooges Heroes Journey Scrooge in his ordinary world Topic 1 Scrooge was a cruel and ruthless boss. He never let Bob Cratchit take off for Christmas and did not give him the raise he so very deserved. He had a plentiful amount of money but never donated any to

  3. The Powerful Ingredient in 'A Christmas Carol' That Will Make Your

    One of my favorite ways is to follow the outline of the hero's journey. This is a term coined by American scholar Joseph Campbell to describe one of the most common storylines in literature. A Christmas Carol follows this outline to a T. Here's the basic outline: A hero is called to go on an adventure to solve some kind of problem.

  4. The Hero's Journey In A Christmas Carol By Charles Dickens

    The Hero's Journey In A Christmas Carol By Charles Dickens 744 Words3 Pages The Hero's Journey is a cyclical journey commonly used in literature. Joseph Campbell was the first to realize this pattern is frequently used in stories, movies, and fairytales.

  5. A Christmas Carol

    Summary Chapter Summaries Themes Characters Symbols Quotes A Christmas Carol, published in 1834, is the famous tale of a miserly old man named Ebenezer Scrooge. Over the course of the story, he is visited by the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future, who give him a new perspective on his life.

  6. The Psychology of "A Christmas Carol"

    Scrooge has completed the hero's journey and emerged as a new man. Salient Lessons for Today On the surface, we see the lessons Dickens intended for the capitalist upper classes of his time: Scrooge begins to run his business with mercy toward his debtors, give money to the needy, and treat his employees well.

  7. A Christmas Carol: Study Guide

    A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, published in 1843, is a timeless novella that has become a classic of the Christmas season.While it reflects how many people think about Christmas, it is also a key source for popular Christmas traditions. The story follows Ebenezer Scrooge, a miserly and cold-hearted old man, as he undergoes a transformative journey on Christmas Eve.

  8. A Christmas Carol

    A Christmas Carol. In Prose. Being a Ghost Story of Christmas, commonly known as A Christmas Carol, is a novella by Charles Dickens, first published in London by Chapman & Hall in 1843 and illustrated by John Leech.It recounts the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, an elderly miser who is visited by the ghost of his former business partner Jacob Marley and the spirits of Christmas Past, Present and ...

  9. The plot

    A synopsis of the story of Scrooge and Tiny Tim, a festive tale of redemption and compassion. A Christmas Carol is a play about a mean-spirited and selfish old man, Ebenezer Scrooge, who hates Christmas. One cold Christmas Eve, Scrooge is unkind to the people who work for him, then refuses to give to charity, and then is rude to his nephew when ...

  10. A Christmas Carol Stave 4 Summary & Analysis

    Scrooge begs him to show one person who feels emotion at the death of the man. They are instantly transported to the home of a young family. The husband comes home, burdened by bad news, but he says there is hope. He tells his wife that the man they are indebted to is dead. His wife can't help but be thankful.

  11. A Christmas Carol: 6 Lessons for Fiction Writers from Charles Dickens

    Dec 24, 2021 8 Image: Courtesy of The British Library. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons I grew up with Dickens ' famous Christmas classic about the grumpy, mean-spirited Ebeneezer Scrooge and his transformation into a generous, warm-hearted benefactor.

  12. PDF Joseph Campbell's The Hero's Journey A Christmas Carol

    The Hero's Journey can be seen in ancient Greek, Egyptian, Chinese and Native American myths. It is also present in modern stories, including Star Wars, Lion King and Harry Potter. As you've guessed, it is also evident in A Christmas Carol. Instructions: As you read A Christmas Carol, think about The Hero's Journey of Ebenezer Scrooge.

  13. A Christmas Carol Study Guide

    1843 Type Novella Genre Allegory Perspective and Narrator A Christmas Carol is told in third-person narration from the omniscient perspective of an unnamed narrator. Tense A Christmas Carol is narrated in past tense. About the Title A Christmas carol is a joyful song about the Christmas season.

  14. A Christmas Carol Stave 2 Summary & Analysis

    Analysis. Scrooge awakes and finds his room as dark as when he fell asleep at two o'clock. He listens for the church bell but when it comes, it strikes twelve. He must have slept through a whole day and half a night. He doesn't believe it, but when he goes to the window, the street is deserted and dark as nighttime.

  15. ACC Hero's Journey

    Heros Journey Introduction The novel, A Christmas Carol, written by Charles Dickens during the time of the Industrial Revolution, centers around a cruel man named Ebenezer Scrooge. Scrooge is a heartless person who loans money to people in need, and when they cannot pay the money back

  16. A Christmas Carol

    The Hero's Journey Marley visits Scrooge on Christmas Eve to tell him the three spirits will visit on three consecutive nights. "'Expect the first tomorrow when the bell tolls One.' … 'Expect the second on the next night at the same hour. The third upon the next night when the last stroke of Twelve has ceased to vibrate.'" Page 12

  17. SCREEN WRITING: HERO'S JOURNEY (MONOMYTH): A Christmas Carol (1978)

    Buy the Complete 510+ stage Hero's Journey / Monomyth Devolved State: I suppose you want the whole day off tomorrow. Foreshadow of the Supernatural Aid: Scrooge sees the ghost. The strange sounds. Foreshadow of the Supernatural Aid: Scrooge sees the ghost again. Catchphrase: humbug. Supernatural Aid Physical Marker: the ghost comes up to the door.

  18. ELA A Christmas Carol Track the Hero's Journey Notes and Movie ...

    60 Followers Follow Also included in ELA A Christmas Carol Lesson, Project, and Activities Bundle- Vocab & Analysis This bundle features: Historical Context ProjectAllow your students to immerse themselves in the historical context of 1850's London to allow for a better understanding of A Christmas Carol.

  19. A Christmas Carol movie review (2019)

    Adapted for the screen by Steven Knight ("Locke," "Serenity"), "A Christmas Carol" offers a murkier, muddier journey down a familiar story path, and exists as this weird experiment to see if the rewards in Scrooge's can manage his more adult flaws. Guy Pearce plays this iteration of the holiday hater with plenty of cold stares, transforming Scrooge's cold indifference to the ...

  20. The Transformation of Scrooge as Highlighted in "A Christmas Carol

    A Christmas Carol details the events of one night in which Ebeneezer Scrooge transitions from an immensely dislikable old miser to a generous, joyous friend to many. Setting aside the individual steps, a hero's journey is set in both a normal world and a special world, as Scrooge has London and the world of time with the spirits.

  21. LA Christmas Carol: Scrooge Hero's Journey Flashcards

    ☆The ghost of Christmas Past flies him into the Past. ☆The ghost of Christmas present takes him by touch his robe ☆ The ghost of Christmas Future floats and glides while he takes Scrooge Trials ☆Scrooge seeing himself young and alone in his school ☆Scrooge realizes Tiny TIm is going to die because of his illness ☆Scrooge sees the ...

  22. The Metamorphosis of the Hero: Principles, Processes, and Purpose

    The apex of the hero's journey is the hero's boon, or gift, to society. It is this gift that separates the hero's journey from simply being a test of personal survival. For the quest to be heroic, the classic heroic protagonist must put her newly acquired insights and gifts to use in order to better the world ( Campbell, 1949 ; Rohr, 2011b ).

  23. Finding Christ in the Hero's Journey

    The so-called "hero's journey" is a seventeen-step arc that Campbell enumerated based on his familiarity with ancient myths from many cultures, and especially with the stories of the Bible in mind. Star Wars, Harry Potter, the Odyssey, and the Epic of Gilgamesh all exemplify this pattern. In the Bible, the stories of Jonah, Adam and Eve ...