Archetype is defined as the first original model of which all other similar persons, objects, or concepts are merely derivative, copied, patterned, or emulated. The term is often used in literature, architecture, and the arts to refer to something that goes back to the fundamental origins of style, method, gold standard, or physical construct. Shakespeare, for example, is epitomized for popularizing many archetypal characters, not because he was the first that we know of to write them, but because he defined those roles amongst the backdrop of a complex, social literary landscape. Thus, the characters stand out as original by contrast, even though many of his characters were based on previously-garnered archetypes (Shakespeare often borrowed from fables, myths and magic to construct and embellish his plays).
The imitation process of an archetype or prototype itself is called a pastiche, in which one who mimicks pays homage to the original creator.
The archetype is also a concept of psychologist Carl Gustav Jung. In this context, archetypes are innate prototypes for ideas, which may subsequently become involved in the interpretation of observed phenomena. A group of memories and interpretations closely associated with an archetype is called a complex, and may be named for its central archetype (e.g. "mother complex"). Jung often seemed to view the archetypes as sort of psychological organs, directly analogous to our physical, bodily organs: both being morphological givens for the species; both arising at least partially through evolutionary processes. There are four famous forms of archetypes numbered by Jung:
The symbols of the unconscious abound in Jungian psychology:
- The Syzygy (Divine Couple, e.g. Aeons)
- The Child (examples: Linus van Pelt, Arnold Shortman)
- The Superman (the Omnipotent)
- The Hero (examples: Heracles, Siegfried, Beowulf, Doc Savage, Luke Skywalker, Thomas A. Anderson ("Neo"))
- The Great Mother (manifested either as the Good Mother or the Terrible Mother)
- The Wise Old Man (examples: Obi-Wan Kenobi, Gandalf)
- The Trickster or Ape (examples: Brer Rabbit, Otto Rocket, Bart Simpson, Bugs Bunny, Loki, Eris, Eshu)
"Archetype" is sometimes broadly and misleadingly used as a substitute for such other words as prototype, stereotype, and epitome.
Archetypes in Cultural Analysis
As with other psychologies which have infiltrated mass thought, archetypes are now incorporated into discourses on cultural analysis.
- Wikipedia (2005). Archetype (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Archetype). Retrieved March 3, 2005.