Why Soldiers Crave a ‘Hero’s Journey’

The notion that war is individually transformative is rooted in mythology, literature, and Hollywood war movies. Transformation in these mediums typically follows a similar pattern frequently referred to as the “hero’s journey.” A departure, initiation, and return sequence is made manifest as an individual undertakes a journey or a rite of passage, experiences a defining moment rooted in crisis, emerges victorious, and then returns home positively transformed by the adventure.

In 2010, the average age of those deployed was 33.4. Taking a look at the portrayal of war during the early, formative years of that population yields major films such as Full Metal Jacket, Glory, and Born on the Fourth of July. Of these three, however, only one frequently appears in contemporary conversation: Full Metal Jacket. The birthplace of modern-day memes, social media posts, and Animal Mother worship, this movie is part of the collective conscious of many in the Global War on Terror (GWOT) generation of veterans.

Moreover, it provides a convenient medium through which we can examine those denied their own hero’s journey. Equally beautiful and profane, Full Metal Jacket powerfully portrays the transformation of uninitiated, soft boys into experienced, hard men. Death of the old, weak self and rebirth as a stronger and more powerful self is expressed as the actual death of Private Pyle and the rise of Animal Mother.

Joseph Campbell, the man who developed and researched the concept of the monomyth (one story) and studied the “hero’s journey,” is also the author of Primitive Mythology (1968), in which the necessity of an “animal mother” for a shaman is established. The mother animal is a type of spirit that remains hidden until the snow melts in Spring—the literal death of a season reveals something formidable.


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Source: Psychology Today



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