Day 16: The Heroine’s Journey
Today, we will begin an exploration of the Heroine’s Journey. In researching the topic, I came across several models of the Heroine’s Journey. This was in stark contrast to the Hero’s Journey, where Campbell’s model dominates.
I thought about comparing and contrasting the various models of the Heroine’s Journey. But a nice compendium of these approaches already exists at the Word Hunter blog. One compelling model developed by Victoria Lane Schmidt in her book 45 Master Characters is summarized at Writing Hope. (Incidentally, that blog from 2013 is my inspiration for 31 Magic Days of NaNoWriMo prep… I used Amy Jane’s work to help me prepare for victory last year).
All the models I’ve found agree that the Heroine’s Journey differs from the Hero’s because it is more of an interior process. There is less to see of this inner journey.
Before I get too far, I want to be clear about terms. The use of ‘Feminine’ in this article is not meant to be synonymous with ‘female.’ Everyone, male and female, has a Feminine aspect. Likewise, ‘Masculine’ should not be taken to be synonymous with ‘male.’ The process of individuation described in Jungian psychology is the journey of integrating these aspects so that the person (whether male or female) can be whole.
It can be argued that in our contemporary Western culture, the Feminine has been devalued. As Nor Hall writes, “…the female void cannot be cured by conjunction with the male, but rather by an internal conjunction, by an integration of its own parts, by a remembering or a putting back together of the mother-daughter body.”
The model that I want to present today, that of Maureen Murdock, seems unique in that it addresses this rejection of the Feminine. As Murdock explains, her journey explores the uniquely Feminine wound of those who have embraced the Masculine hero’s journey—the outer journey of worldly successes—at the cost of their relationship with the Feminine. Thus, Murdock’s model of the Heroine’s Journey holds as its elixir the reintegration of the Feminine.
To assist the writer in the use of this model, I have sought to adapt the journey to the three-act structure.
Act I: Separation
- Separation from the Feminine
This stage involves the necessary separation from the Feminine. Only through this initial schism can the individual later reintegrate at a higher level of consciousness. The Feminine that is often rejected in this initial phase is the Mother. While this can literally be the character’s mother, I am referring to the Mother in the archetypal sense (hence the capitalization). So, it is a rejection of the maternal qualities both external and internal to the character. Motifs in this stage include rejection; embodiments of the Terrible Mother (often seen in the Evil Step Mother), including stasis, suffocation, and death; abandonment; betrayal; asserting independence from the Good Mother; and rejection of the female body.
Motifs in this stage include rejection; embodiments of the Terrible Mother (often seen in the Evil Step Mother), including stasis, suffocation, and death; abandonment; betrayal; asserting independence from the Good Mother; and rejection of the female body.
How does your character split off from and/or reject the Feminine?
- Identification with the Masculine and Gathering of Allies
Our culture values Masculine attributes over the Feminine. This is seen, for example, in our society’s inability to honor the economic contribution of caretaking. This can lead quite naturally to females identifying with the Masculine. In this stage, prominent themes include absorption in patriarchal values; allegiances with the Masculine; identification with the Father; embracing of the Daddy’s Girl archetype; and learning the rules of the game. Striving for perfection as defined by a patriarchal society can lead females into a syndrome
In this stage, prominent themes include absorption in patriarchal values; allegiances with the Masculine; identification with the Father; embracing of the Daddy’s Girl archetype; and learning the rules of the game. Striving for perfection as defined by a patriarchal society can lead females into a syndrome where, despite Herculean effort and achievement, they never feel ‘enough.’ There exists an underlying disconnect due to the feeling of ‘otherness.’
In what ways does your character identify with the Masculine?
Act II A: Departure
- Road of Trials: Meeting Ogres and Dragons
In this stage, the character must leave home. Home refers to the cloak of security. She sets off on a journey where she encounters trials through which she will get in touch with her true strengths and abilities. Here she will conquer dependencies and self-doubt. In this stage, themes include independence; accepting of help; awakening to how internalized values have controlled her; confronting myths of dependence, inferiority, and romantic love; finding her own voice; and taking responsibility.
What tests does your heroine encounter and what are the lessons she must learn along the way? How does this uncover the traits she will need for her final integration? How does she find her own voice?
- The Illusory Boon of Success
Murdock explains the lie of this stage: “The heroine’s reaction to her mother’s total dependence on husband and children for fulfillment has made her feel that she has to be more independent and more self-sufficient than any man in order to achieve anything at all.” And temporarily she may ascend to the heights of “having it all.” She may delude herself into thinking that she can be a Superwoman—succeeding in a man’s world while simultaneously fulfilling all the expectations of a traditional female role. Feminine values are relegated to second place. Meanwhile, she is still haunted by the feeling of never being enough. What she lacks is a relationship to the Feminine.
She has been entranced by the Illusory Boon of Success, something Murdock calls the betrayal of the Father—the internal Father, that is. According to Helen Luke, “Jung says that the creative process in a woman can never come to fruition if she is caught in an unconscious imitation of men or identifies with the inferior masculine in her unconscious. He defined the masculine as the ability to know one’s goal and to do what is necessary to achieve it.” The heroine’s goal will be to bring the Masculine identity to consciousness. But for now, she is unconsciously controlled by it.
How are your heroine’s victories in this stage hollow? How are feelings of not being enough manifested?
Act II: Descent
- Awakening to Feelings of Spiritual Aridity: Death of the King
In this stage, the King must die, meaning that the heroine finally finds the courage to say ‘no’ to the old order of things. With that death, the heroine will confront extreme discomfort. “She must be willing to hold the tension until the new form emerges,” Murdock writes.
The death of the old ways opens the heroine up for growth, but this is a painful stage to endure. For now, she is flung into a great void. Jean Shinoda Bolen explains that this period of transition demands, “a change by going through chaos, of losing the way, of being lost in the forest for some time before we get through and find our path again.”
This stage is characterized by a sense of betrayal; yearning for the Feminine; spiritual aridity; a dawning sense of what has been lost along the way.
How does your heroine usher in the death of the King? To what does she say ‘no’?
There are five more phases to walk through, but in the interest of brevity, I’m going to split our exploration of the Heroine’s Journey into two parts. So, we will pick up the investigation tomorrow.
Maureen Murdock, The Heroine’s Journey
Nor Hall, The Moon and the Virgin
Helen Luke, Woman, Earth, and Spirit
Jean Shinoda Bolen, Goddesses in Everywoman
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Table of contents for other articles in the series.
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I’m in awe at how much you’re doing. And how much you are giving. KNOW THIS: Your efforts are not in vain. You have an audience in ME. and I thank you. This is all amazing. Sending you blessings. Selma.
Thanks so much, Selma, for your comments and your readership. I really appreciate it! I’m learning a great deal in the process so this is my pleasure (and it’s a great warm up for NaNoWriMo : )