Exploring the Hero’s Journey: Aragorn’s Transformation in “The Lord of the Rings”

Introduction

The concept of a hero has long fascinated storytellers and audiences alike. Joseph Campbell’s theory of the “monomyth,” outlined in his seminal work “The Hero with a Thousand Faces,” has provided a framework for understanding the universal journey of a hero across various cultures and narratives (Campbell, 2008). This essay delves into the notion of a hero by analyzing the journey of Aragorn, a favorite character from J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, without revealing any major plot details. Through the lens of Campbell’s monomyth, we will examine Aragorn’s call to adventure, trials, transformation, and eventual return, shedding light on the timeless aspects that define heroic narratives.

Call to Adventure and Departure

In the realm of literature and beyond, Aragorn exemplifies the hero’s journey as outlined by Joseph Campbell. He receives a distinct call to adventure, setting him on a path to fulfill his destiny (Tolkien, 2014). Aragorn starts his journey as a humble ranger, concealing his true identity as the rightful heir to the throne of Gondor. This call to adventure propels Aragorn into the world of heroism, encouraging him to embrace his lineage and destiny.

As Campbell suggests, the hero often encounters supernatural aid, and Aragorn is no exception. He receives guidance from mentors such as Gandalf and Elrond, who help him understand the significance of his role in the unfolding events (Campbell, 2008). These mentors provide Aragorn with valuable wisdom and insights, aiding him in his transformation from a wandering ranger to a leader capable of uniting nations against a common enemy. The hero’s departure from his ordinary world marks the beginning of a transformative journey, wherein he faces numerous trials that challenge his abilities, beliefs, and values.

Trials and Transformation

Aragorn’s journey is replete with trials that test his resilience, courage, and leadership (Tolkien, 2014). These trials mirror the various stages of Campbell’s monomyth, such as tests, allies, and enemies. The hero faces physical and psychological challenges that force him to confront his limitations, but also to harness his inner strengths. Along his path, he forms alliances with diverse characters, each contributing to his growth and development (Smith, 2018). These allies stand as the embodiment of Campbell’s theory that the hero is aided by companions and supernatural forces.

Furthermore, Aragorn’s transformation is exemplified by his acquisition of valuable tools and knowledge, enabling him to become a more capable and self-assured leader (Campbell, 2008). His journey includes moments of self-discovery and realization of his true potential, echoing Campbell’s concept of apotheosis. Through these experiences, Aragorn evolves from a reluctant hero into a figure of inspiration for those around him, highlighting the archetypal nature of his journey.

The Road Back and Return

As Aragorn’s journey progresses, he faces the arduous task of deciding whether to return to his ordinary world or continue fighting for the greater good (Tolkien, 2014). This critical juncture in his journey aligns with the monomyth’s stage known as “The Road Back.” Here, the hero must navigate the final challenges and internal conflicts before fully embracing his transformation and assuming the role he was destined for (Campbell, 2008).

Aragorn’s internal struggle during this phase mirrors the complexities of the hero’s decision-making process. He must grapple with his own doubts and fears, questioning his worthiness to fulfill the prophecy that hangs over his head (Tolkien, 2014). The uncertainty he faces is emblematic of the hero’s need to overcome self-doubt and gather the courage required to confront his final trials. This moment encapsulates Campbell’s assertion that the hero’s journey is not merely a physical adventure, but also an internal quest for self-discovery and growth.

The hero’s return, as envisioned by Campbell, encompasses a triumphant culmination of the challenges faced throughout the journey (Campbell, 2008). Aragorn’s return to his realm is more than a personal achievement; it becomes a symbolic victory for the entire land of Middle-earth. His transformation from a humble ranger to a powerful and noble king represents the fulfillment of his heroic potential and his commitment to a higher purpose (Tolkien, 2014).

The concept of the hero’s return is deeply rooted in the idea of sharing newfound wisdom and insights with the community he sought to protect. In Aragorn’s case, his return is characterized by his ability to unite various factions and races under his leadership (Tolkien, 2014). This unity serves as a testament to his personal growth and the embodiment of his journey’s challenges and lessons. The hero’s return signifies not only the physical return to his ordinary world but also a spiritual and emotional return, where he imparts the knowledge gained on his journey to inspire others to rise above adversity.

Furthermore, the hero’s return often involves a transformation in how others perceive and relate to him. Aragorn’s transition from a mysterious ranger to a recognized and revered king exemplifies this transformation (Smith, 2018). His journey of self-discovery and growth becomes a source of inspiration and hope for the people he leads. This transformation aligns with Campbell’s idea that the hero’s journey serves as a blueprint for personal and collective transformation, illuminating the potential for positive change.

The stages of “The Road Back” and “Return” within the hero’s journey are crucial in understanding the depth and complexity of Aragorn’s transformation in J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy. Aragorn’s internal conflicts, his decision to embrace his destiny, and his triumphant return underscore the hero’s multidimensional nature. The hero’s journey, as outlined by Joseph Campbell, transcends mere physical challenges, delving into the realm of psychological and emotional growth. Aragorn’s journey is a testament to the enduring relevance of the monomyth and its ability to capture the essence of heroism across cultures and narratives.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Joseph Campbell’s monomyth provides a comprehensive framework for understanding the essence of a hero’s journey. Through the lens of this theory, the character of Aragorn from J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy emerges as a prime example of the hero archetype (Campbell, 2008; Tolkien, 2014). Aragorn’s call to adventure, trials, transformation, and eventual return closely align with the stages outlined by Campbell, highlighting the universality and timeless appeal of the heroic narrative. By exploring Aragorn’s journey, we gain insights into the intrinsic qualities that define heroes across various forms of entertainment, bridging cultures and generations through the shared understanding of the hero’s path.

References

Campbell, J. (2008). The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Princeton University Press.

Smith, K. E. (2018). Heroic archetypes in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Middle-earth. Journal of Popular Culture, 51(1), 199-213.

Tolkien, J. R. R. (2014). The Lord of the Rings. HarperCollins.

Trifles by Susan Glaspell: The Transformative Journey of Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters in a Male-Dominated Society

Introduction

Susan Glaspell’s one-act play, “Trifles,” delves into the transformative journey of two women, Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters, as they investigate a crime scene involving Mrs. Wright. In the process, their perceptions of men, each other, Mrs. Wright, and the crime scene undergo significant changes, offering profound insights into gender roles, empathy, and societal expectations. This essay examines the evolution of Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters’ attitudes, as they challenge established gender norms, find solidarity in shared experiences, and ultimately uncover the significance of seemingly insignificant details that lead to empathy and empowerment.

 The Perceptions of Men

At the beginning of the play, Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters appear submissive and deferential to the male characters, such as the County Attorney and the Sheriff (Glaspell 772). Their initial reactions to the men’s dismissive attitudes towards their presence at the crime scene indicate their adherence to the prevailing gender norms of the time. Mrs. Hale, in particular, seems to accept her role as a dutiful wife and neighbor without question, while Mrs. Peters remains meek and passive. However, as they delve deeper into the investigation, they begin to question their compliance with these gender norms and the male-dominated hierarchy. This realization marks the beginning of their transformative journey.

Attitudes Towards Each Other

Initially, Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters maintain a certain distance in their interactions, merely acknowledging their shared connection to Mrs. Wright (Glaspell 773). As they examine the crime scene together, their conversations remain guarded, and they avoid discussing personal matters. However, the shared experience of exploring Mrs. Wright’s home and personal belongings gradually breaks down the barriers between them. The discovery of small details, such as a half-finished quilt and broken preserves, prompts them to reflect on the emotional burden placed on women in their roles as wives and homemakers. This shared understanding leads to a deepening sense of camaraderie and solidarity, forging a stronger bond between the two women.

 Perception of Mrs. Wright

At first, Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters view Mrs. Wright through the lens of societal expectations, characterizing her as a submissive and obedient housewife (Glaspell 774). However, as they uncover evidence of her harsh living conditions and isolation, their perception of her begins to shift. The state of her preserves, once seen as mere neglect, reveals the emotional toll of her constrained life. Similarly, the unfinished quilt becomes a powerful symbol of her unfulfilled dreams and aspirations, reflecting the suppression of her individuality in the face of male dominance. As they delve deeper into Mrs. Wright’s life, their preconceived notions about her character are challenged, and they come to empathize with the struggles she endured.

 Attitudes Towards the Crime Scene

Initially, both women perceive the kitchen as an ordinary and mundane space, in line with the men’s condescending view of women’s domestic concerns as mere “trifles” (Glaspell 775). However, as Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters continue their investigation, they notice small but significant details that the men overlook. These seemingly insignificant objects, such as the broken birdcage and the state of the kitchen, take on deeper meaning as they uncover the truth about Mrs. Wright’s life. The kitchen, once dismissed as trivial, becomes a poignant symbol of her confinement and isolation in a male-dominated society. Through their keen observations and analysis, the women challenge the men’s oversight, showcasing their ability to interpret the subtle clues that reveal profound truths.

 Empowerment Through Shared Experience

The shared experience of investigating the crime scene becomes a transformative catalyst for Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters (Glaspell 777). As they delve into Mrs. Wright’s life, they find parallels with their own experiences as wives and homemakers, which deeply resonates with them (Glaspell 777). Mrs. Hale, who once accepted her role without question, begins to question the limitations placed on her ambitions and individuality by societal expectations (Glaspell 777). She reflects on her own sacrifices for the sake of her family and the compromises she made in her marriage, realizing the weight of her unfulfilled aspirations (Glaspell 777). Similarly, Mrs. Peters, previously portrayed as passive, starts to assert herself and challenge patriarchal norms that dictated her passive role as a woman (Glaspell 777). The experience of investigating the crime scene becomes a turning point for her, igniting a newfound sense of agency and purpose (Glaspell 777).

Through their shared understanding, they find strength in solidarity, empowering each other to defy the status quo and assert their voices in a male-dominated world (Glaspell 777). Their conversations become more open and honest, allowing them to express their frustrations and discontentment with the roles assigned to them as women in their society (Glaspell 777). They confide in each other, finding solace and support in shared experiences of oppression and marginalization (Glaspell 777). The camaraderie they build reflects the importance of female solidarity in navigating the challenges of a male-dominated society (Glaspell 777).

Moreover, their shared experiences encourage them to reevaluate their perceptions of themselves and other women. Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters grow to admire Mrs. Wright’s strength and resilience in the face of adversity, seeing her not as a criminal but as a woman driven to the brink by her oppressive circumstances (Glaspell 778). This newfound empathy extends to their own lives, as they gain a deeper understanding of the burdens women carry and the emotional toll of societal expectations (Glaspell 778).

As the play progresses, the women’s empowerment is evident in their actions and decisions. They come to realize that they hold crucial knowledge about the crime that the men overlook due to their preconceived notions about women’s domestic concerns (Glaspell 778). This realization gives them a sense of agency and control over the situation, leading them to protect Mrs. Wright from potential incrimination (Glaspell 778). They choose to conceal the evidence of Mrs. Wright’s motive, thus challenging the authority and judgment of the male investigators (Glaspell 778). Their act of solidarity is not just about protecting one woman but about taking a stand against the systemic oppression that countless women like Mrs. Wright face (Glaspell 778).

Uncovering the Significance of “Trifles”

The title of the play, “Trifles,” takes on a deeper meaning as the investigation progresses (Glaspell 777). Initially, the men dismiss the women’s concerns and observations as insignificant details, trivializing their presence at the crime scene. However, as Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters meticulously gather evidence and unravel the truth, they demonstrate the profound significance of these seemingly trivial objects. The quilt, preserves, and birdcage each reveal important facets of Mrs. Wright’s life and emotional state, offering profound insights into her struggle for autonomy and freedom. Through their meticulous analysis of the “trifles,” the women challenge the male investigators’ oversight, emphasizing the importance of paying attention to subtle details that uncover the truth.

Conclusion

Susan Glaspell’s “Trifles” captures the transformative journey of Mrs. Hale and Mrs. Peters as they navigate a male-dominated society. Through their evolving attitudes towards men, each other, Mrs. Wright, and the crime scene, the play delves into themes of empathy, solidarity, and the power of women’s perspectives. The shared experience of investigating the crime scene leads to a profound shift in their perceptions, challenging established gender norms and empowering them to assert their voices. As they uncover the significance of seemingly insignificant details, they find strength in unity and demonstrate the power of empathy and understanding. Glaspell’s thought-provoking play invites audiences to question societal expectations and recognize the complexities of human experiences, shedding light on the importance of empathy and collective empowerment in the pursuit of justice and equality.

Works Cited

Glaspell, Susan. “Trifles.” Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing, edited by X.J. Kennedy et al., 8th ed., Pearson, 2016, pp. 772-779.