Literature and Film as Modern Mythology

By William K. Ferrell | Go to book overview

Chapter 3
Hope Springs Eternal
"Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption" by Stephen King

Possibly, this story, from beginning to end, is one most directly associated with mythopoeia. It has to do with survival. Humans are not the strongest or the swiftest in nature, yet they have been able not only to survive but, acting collectively, to dominate all other forms of life. In fact, humanity has "progressed" to the point that we now possess the means of our own destruction. From a literary perspective, this concept treats humanity as a single entity, and when writers attempt to deal with it, the stories tend toward broad symbolism and allegory. Writers such as H. G. Wells ( The Island of Dr. Moreau), Isaac Asimov ( Nightfall), Mary Shelley ( Frankenstein), and, to a certain extent, Michael Crichton ( Jurassic Park) draw a broad picture of human arrogance, far beyond what would be considered reality. The unique characters are not intended to deal with ordinary problems or ordinary people.

Most contemporary writers prefer to focus more on the ordinary individual. This variation in perspective can be seen in how we view the Bible's first narrative story. Consider for a moment that first man, Adam, who was exiled from the Garden and forced to make his way in what was probably a very hostile world. How he dealt with his daily problems of food and shelter were never explained. We simply see Adam as a very broad symbol representing the fall of man, an obvious allegory conveyed to us in myth or parable form. We can neither sympathize nor empathize with Adam. Except for artists' renderings, we have no idea about his appearance, and the content of the story does not reveal any details regarding his skills,

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