What is a transgressor archetype

Archetypes in Literature

What is an archetype?

Archetype definition:

a general character, image, symbol, or situation that appears in literature and life and that is considered universal in most cultures


Examples of archetypes can be found every day in the world around us: in our speech, beliefs, media, sports, video games, psychology, art, and even our dreams. Archetypes are universal; That is, they occur in all cultures, religions and parts of history. Psychotherapist Carl Jung theorized that many of these ideas are inherent and come from our "collective unconscious" derived from early human experiences that have followed our species since our inception. Jung's hypothesis is similar to Plato's Theory of Forms, according to which Forms or Ideas are present in our souls, and we create things in life to copy the Forms already present in our immortal souls.

Dr. Carol S. Pearson has written several books on discovering our own personal archetypes and has created a guide to finding our own inner archetypes. Students might be interested in finding their inner archetypes on their website and then comparing their descriptions with some well-known fictional characters.

A brief breakdown of Pearson's research, which can be used to describe or categorize various literary figures and their archetypes, can be found through the university's Interscholastic League.

Author Jill Williamson has compiled a comprehensive list of character archetypes on her website along with brief descriptions of film, television, or literary characters that illustrate the archetype.


In literature, archetypes often appear in the form of

  • Symbols or motifs
  • Situations or forms of action
  • Themes
  • Animals
  • Settings or locations
  • character

An example of an archetypal situation or plot form can be found in The Heroic Journey. In the odyssey Odysseus faces many dangers in returning to Ithaca, the subject of longing to return home.

Common archetypes in literature

Archetype Analysis Activity

Many classic literary works use common characters, situational and symbolic archetypes. You can track and analyze some of these popular archetypes with a storyboard. As you read, have students track the various character, situational, and symbolic archetypes that appear throughout the work. The following activity is for use with The Scarlet Letter definitely , but use the template to adapt it to any literature work you study with your students!


Example rubric