The Innocent Archetype

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Literature has been used as an avenue for expressing occurrences within society in a bid to redefine and shape mindsets. There are five different kinds of archetypes namely; the hero, the mentor, the everyman, the innocent and the villain (Edinger 35). Each of these archetypes is supposed to convey a message to the reader. Specifically, the innocent archetype is not only an idealist but also an optimist, making the readers and audience feel that there are some good people in the world. This archetype is faithful, trustworthy and exudes high levels of hope and optimism. High ideals and aspirations play a huge role in ensuring that the innocent archetype keeps the story going (Edinger 40). These individuals often think that when they work hard enough and do things in a manner that is considered right, then they shall be rewarded commensurately and might soon be able to change the world. The innocents believe that they have a specific contribution to make in the world. These characters often inspire confidence in the reader of the literature. This paper shall look at three innocent archetypes in literature; one before 1900s and the others after 1900. The folklore Little Red Riding Hood, Mr. Brown from Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe and Prim from Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins are the characters which will be used to demystify the innocent archetype.

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Little Red Riding Hood

There are numerous versions of this folklore written in the 17th Century but in all the stories, there is a big bad wolf and a small vulnerable little girl who is always wearing a cape or a cloak. It is important to note that the cape/cloak is not always red, although in most cases it is red. Just like other folklores, people retell the story and add their own flare to it depending on their audience. The innocent archetype in the story is the little Red Riding hood whose only mission is to take some food to her grandmother who is ailing. Just like other innocent archetypes, she is brave enough to enter the forest since she is determined to fulfill her obligation. It is not indicated in the story whether the grandmother asked for food or if the girl decided to take it to her of the kindness of her heart. When she encounters the wolf, she is not afraid of him at first and was determined to accomplish her mission. “Of course, you aren’t scared of me. I’m not the wolf. You are.”  She said (Hood, 13). Even when she goes into the house and suspects that it was not her grandmother in bed, she is still naïve enough to keep asking about the teeth, eyes and ears. At this point she gets swallowed by the wolf that had previously eaten up her grandmother. The story has a positive ending however, since a huntsman opens the belly of the wolf and manages to retrieve the red riding hood and her grandmother. This gives hope to all her fans in that good will always win over evil.

This story is relevant in terms of showcasing that good will always triumph over evil in all situations. However, most innocent archetypes are often put in dangerous situations such that the reader is forced to sympathize with them. While sometimes, the innocent entity is able to overcome this situation, many times they are defeated by the evil one. This shows that evil is present in our society and might win at times. The folklore was specifically designed to teach people to see the good in other people even when it seems hidden. It was also meant to teach that while good will always triumph over evil, there are several hurdles that the good person is supposed to overcome.

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Mr. Brown in Things Fall Apart

In the acclaimed novel, Things Fall Apart, Umuofia is trying to preserve its culture even as the missionaries bring their Christianity and the seeds of colonialism take root. Mr. Brown is the first missionary to enter the village where he came across their leader, Okwonko. Okwonko is a tough leader who follows the Igbo culture strictly. The missionary is unlike other white people who are portrayed in the novel since he is understanding, calm and intelligent. He works hard to understand the culture of the Igbo in order to connect better with the people of Umuofia. He engages in respectful and peaceful discussions with many men in the village. He does not impose the western culture and religion on the villagers. Mr. Brown is generally considered a reasonable person and does not judge the villagers for living in the manner that they lived. At first, when he arrived at the village, he, along with other missionaries, he is ridiculed because of the strange manner in which he speaks and worships. However, Mr. Brown manages to win many of the villagers over with his charm and kindness. ‘He (Mr. Brown) had just send Okonkwo’s son, Nwoye, who was now called Isaac, to the new training college for teachers in Umuru’ (Achebe 74). It would seem that Mr. Brown is eager to help the people of Umuofia through Christianity (Achebe 56). At one point in the book, a sacred python is killed and there is a rumor being spread that the new church had done it, Mr. Brown encourages them to be calm. He encourages the church members to be loving and cautious as opposed to violent and arrogant.

He establishes a church in the village as well as a school in order to educate the people of Umuofia. He urges the people of Igbo to send their children to the school in order to be literate. His kindness is expressed when he gives gifts to the children such as towels and vests when they go the school. He also gives the same to adults who attend the school later on. He is particularly concerned about the erosion of the culture of the Igbo people. He advises the people of Umuofia that it is necessary for them to get an education since in the future all the leaders that they have will be educated. He desires for the people to lead themselves in future so that they can preserve their culture. Just like other innocent archetypes, he only wants the best for those around him and tries to make everyone comfortable. He is an idealist and a purist, a trait that is particularly common among the people of this archetype.

Prim from The Hunger Games

In the book Hunger Games, Primrose Everdeen is the younger sister of Katniss Everdeen. However, these two are the opposite of each other in terms of both character and looks. Prim has a gentle personality just like her mother and often helps the people around her. Prim also has the gift of healing, which she uses quite often. This is compared to the gift that Katniss has of hunting, which means that she has to be aggressive and sharp. Prim has a goat named Lady and a cat whose name was Buttercup. It is evident that Prim cares about all beings that surrounded her, particularly animals. This is unlike Katniss who would hunt those animals and kill them without mercy. Unlike other works of art in which the innocent character lasts throughout the book, Prim is eventually murdered in Mockinjay, an event that leaves Katniss so angry that she temporarily loses her voice.

It is important to note that the nurturing nature of Prim is brought out when she cares for the goat. Katniss bought Prim the sickly and wounded as a present after war (Collins 85). Katniss expects that the goat would die eventually, but due to the tender loving care that Prim and her mother had given it, combined with the home remedies, the goat is actually healed. The sustenance that the goat provides through milk helps the family to survive in the region of District of the Seam which was poor.

In addition to taking care of animals, it is emergent that Prim also takes charge of various household chores, which she does explicably well. From a young age, Prim had developed healing skills that she seems to have innately acquired (Collins 101).  She also helps her mother take care of various patients who are brought in for healing. It is noteworthy to indicate here that Prim’s mother is a well-known healer across the land. Later, when Prim’s sister, Katniss, managed to escape from Quarter Quell, Prim proved her healing skills. During the war, Prim is able to work as a skilled doctor in the hospital to save patients who are dying of injuries. During the hunger games, it is actually Prim’s name that is pulled out of the reaping bowl for the girls. Her sister decides to take Prim’s place, greatly annoying Prim. Katniss would pursue justice since she believes that it was her duty to protect her small sister. This portrays Prim as weak and vulnerable and an individual who could not possibly defend herself. ‘You saved my life, you gave me a chance’ (Collins 130). These are Prim’s words to her older sister who had saved her life yet again since it is evident that her life is dependent on the sister.

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Conclusion

Many people often find the innocent archetypes in history both endearing and lovable. This character is known by several other names such as utopian, the youth, the child, mystic and naïve, all which embody holiness and purity, a refuge from the harsh world. The greatest craving of the innocent archetype is to be happy and to ensure that everyone else is happy as well (Edinger 132). Their desires are paradise not only for themselves but for the society in general. The motivations of this archetype are always sincere as he is driven by love for all. As is depicted in the above stories, this archetype is often helpless and looks forward to being rescued. The innocent nature of this archetype prompts readers to be generally sympathetic with the character. Each of the entities discussed in the paper shows the depth of this character, which many people often take for granted. As shown in the paper, these characters have no faults. As a matter of fact, the great flaw they have would be that they are too nice. These characters are used as an inspiration to people to always choose the good side over the bad one in order to live a proper life.

Did you like this sample?
  1. Achebe, Chinua. The African Trilogy: Things Fall Apart; No Longer at Ease, [and] Arrow of God. Vol. 327. Everyman’s Library, 2010.
  2. Collins, Suzanne. The hunger games trilogy. Scholastic Australia, 2012.
  3. Edinger, Edward F. Ego and archetype. Shambhala Publications, 2017.
  4. Hood, Little Red Riding. Little Red Riding Hood. JS Pub. & stationery Company, 1837.
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