What's an Archetype?
In this lesson, students will learn about archetypes in literature. Archetypical characters are characters which may fit a stereotype and have character traits which are repeated time and again in stories. Students should be able to recognize archetypical characters and understand that they are a part of our culture.
Archetypical characters provide readers with a common denominator for understanding characters and their traits. This accepted understanding allows readers to interpret a story based, largely, on prior experience or knowledge of the established character traits. Writers also rely on these established character traits to aid in story interpretation and to give stories a sense of familiarity.
Teach the word characterization. Tell students characterization is a major part of any novel. Writers give characters personality traits to help us identify with the characters and understand the plot. We not only learn about the characters’ appearance, but we also learn about the characters’ likes, dislikes, personality, and how the character reacts in certain situations. Read a popular children’s fairy tale, Cinderella and list the following characters from the fairy tale: Cinderella, the stepmother, the father, and the stepsisters.
Write the word archetypal characters on the board and the definition. Next, write the definition of an archetypal character on the board and list some examples: the hero, the good mother, the sidekick, the villain. Ask the students to name some additional archetypal characters and write them on the board.