The Feminine Journey


As mentioned in my last post, I’m going through 45 Master Characters by Victoria Lynn Schmidt. In addition to the list of character archetypes the book contains what might be considered two plot archetypes, based on the stories of two Sumerian gods, Inanna and Gilgamesh. These are referred to as the Feminine Journey and the Masculine Journey.

The Feminine Journey is modeled around the story of Inanna’s descent to the underworld, one of the oldest recorded myths in history. In it the hero gathers the courage to face death and endure the transformation toward being reborn as a complete being in charge of her own life. (Compare this to the Masculine Journey, discussed in a forthcoming post, which is based on the epic of Inanna’s husband Gilgamesh.)

The basic outline of the Feminine Journey is given as this:

Act I: Containment

  1. The Illusion of a Perfect World
  2. The Betrayal or Realization (The Inciting Incident)
  3. The Awakening — Preparing for the Journey

Act II: Transformation

  1. The Descent — Passing the Gates of Judgment
  2.  The Eye of the Storm
  3. Death — All Is Lost

Act III: Emergence

  1.  Support
  2.  Rebirth — The Moment of Truth
  3.  Full Circle — Return to the Perfect World

I find a few things interesting about this journey:

  • The hero (or, more usually, heroine) starts out believing that her world is “perfect”, at least for her. The dissatisfaction (in the form of the inciting incident) is always something external to her. It’s not that she wants to achieve something, but rather that circumstances force her.
  • The transformation that the hero undergoes involves stripping off the accretions that have molded her character, reducing her to her essential being. Much has to be lost before anything is gained.
  • At the end the hero winds up back where she started, with the addition of self-knowledge that makes her more powerful and/or resilient. She hasn’t changed her world — she’s changed herself.

I also find it interesting that Ms. Schmidt overlays this structure with that of a three-act play. Wasn’t that invented by the Greeks a few years (centuries) after the Sumerians?

In addition to the Inanna myth the author uses several well-known stories to illustrate the Feminine Journey, including The Wizard of Oz and Titanic.

To me this focus on the inner struggle, while important to story development, is rather boring. Perhaps unexciting would be a better word. Maybe it’s a guy thing, but I want stories where the hero struggles with something greater than himself. I’ll go into that more in my post about the Masculine Journey.

What do you think? Do you know of good examples of the Feminine Journey? Is this the type of story you prefer? Why or why not?

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About Kurt Schweitzer

A former vampire logistics facilitator, past purveyor of Italian-style transportation, and Y2K disaster preventer, I'm currently creating websites, novels and other fictions while reinventing myself. Again.
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2 Responses to The Feminine Journey

  1. Pingback: The Masculine Journey « Working Title

  2. James@Master_Stories says:

    Hi Kurt.

    I’ve also used Victoria’s book quite a bit myself, and I too found her distinction between the masculine and feminine journeys intriguing. You asked for an example of a “good” feminine journey, and I thought I would point out one of the best known hero-quests of the past century: The Hobbit. While Bilbo certainly experiences the masculine journey, he also experiences the feminine journey. If you recall, Bilbo’s notion of the “Perfect World” in the shire and Gandalf’s attempt to disrupt that notion comprises the first part of the story. And Bilbo certainly undergoes “the awakening” as he lies there listening to the Dwarves singing of gold and adventure.

    My impression of Victoria’s book is that it is overly simplistic. Most of the “better” stories I know of, at least in fiction, involve heroes experiencing both the masculine *and* the feminine journey. In fact, I consider both journeys necessary elements of any good story.

    Enjoyed the post! Thanks for it.

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