The second phase of the unit consists of analyzing historical heroes according to the monomyth. There is an astonishing amount of crossover and adherence to the monomyth cycle when historical figures are analyzed in this way. Student and teacher analyses at this point may diverge to varying degrees. Some points of the journey may not be present, or readily apparent to the eye, or may not "fit" quite right. This is to be desired, and will lead to lively discussion. Students should also be encouraged to do their own research to help fill in some of the blanks, and offer their own interpretive assessments of their findings.
The following is but one example of a historic hero analysis, that of Martin Luther King Jr, a figure who has been mythologized, almost canonized, in the great American Mythos;
1. The "ordinary world" that Martin Luther King Jr was born and grew up in was one of oppressive racism in the United States. Racial segregation was a way of life, part of the natural order of society in the south with the institution of Jim Crow laws.
2. The "Call to Adventure" occurred in December of 1955 when Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a bus in Montgomery Alabama. Rosa's appearance was the catalyst for all the adventures to follow.
3. In March 1955, before the arrest of Rosa Parks, a fifteen year old girl by the name of Claudette Colvin refused to give up her seat in the same manner. But because she was unmarried and pregnant, no action was taken to boycott the system, which amounted to an initial "Refusal of the Call." Claudette has been nearly forgotten to history, but ultimately, King and others answered the call with the coming of Rosa Parks.
4. It was Ghandi's example in fighting the imperial British Empire that inspired MLK Jr. and armed him with his most powerful weapon, nonviolence, in a "Meeting with the Mentor" for his fight against racism in America. Bayard Rustin was also a close advisor and mentor to King, who counseled him to dedicate himself to the methods of non violence.
5. The Boycott of the Montgomery bus system propelled King headfirst in "Crossing the Threshold" into the realm of fear and the unknown.
6. "Tests, Allies, and Enemies." King embarked on a lengthy series of talk, marches, and demonstrations against the racism of the country, which tested him greatly, being arrested nearly thirty times and even narrowly escaping death during these trials. He was aided by a great number of people, and made a great number of enemies, including J. Edgar Hoover and "Bull" Conner to name two.
7. The Approach. The 1963 March on Washington which drew a quarter of a million people, and where King delivered his famous speech "I Have a Dream," helped put Civil Rights at the top of the political agenda and paved the way for new legislation a year later.
8. The Final Ordeal, Death, and Rebirth. On April 4, 1968 Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. For King there would be no literal rebirth, however, as his final ordeal was a confrontation with death, the speech he gave one day prior has mythic resonances. In this speech he seems to have reached a psychological position of knowledge and transcendence of his impending doom.
9-12. Reward, Resurrection, and the Ultimate Boon. At this point the comparisons between the fictional and the historical hero reach a stark contrast. The literal minded student will point out that life is not a fantasy adventure with a happy ending; MLK Jr was assassinated, end of story, there is no return home. But of course this is not the end of the story. His life's work was carried forward, and the man himself has been resurrected in a very real sense as an iconic figure of the Civil Rights movement. And ultimately, despite his death, his adventure must, in the final analysis, be considered a resounding success, for the elixir of great value he brought back to the society would help heal the tremendous rifts of a sick country at war with itself.