Daniel Suelo, Cheryl Strayed, and Joseph Campbell
In class this semester we have followed the unorthodox and pious life of Daniel Shellaberger (nee’ Daniel Suelo) through Mark Sundeen’s biography The Man Who Quit Money. We have discussed how Sundeen’s book analyzes Suelo’s life through Joseph Campbell’s theory about the hero’s journey and how Sundeen argues that a character like Suelo is best understood according to mythological criteria—which emphasize change, growth, and the development of potential—rather than modern ones, which emphasize money, power, and comfort. Among other things, Sundeen notes how the blunder of eating a poisonous cactus (and later morideros) functioned similar to what Campbell would see as the call to adventure; how a failed suicide was an attempt to shun or refuse that call; how a failed relationship with a younger Matthew was a meeting with a Temptress; and finally, how these events resulted in Suelo’s decision to live completely without money.
More recently, we have begun to learn about the perambulations of the at-the-time-young Cheryl Strayed in her 2012 memoir Wild. While we are still in the process of reading her account of hiking the Pacific Crest Trail (while carrying the heavy burden of her mother’s death, her splintering marriage, and perhaps the heaviest backpack ever to be carried from California to Oregon), we can also glimpse how her story is similarly flecked with mythological elements: from the blunder that opened up the journey, to the trials and difficulties that she undergoes while on the trail, and eventually to her return back to the world.
Assignment Write a 5 to 7 page essay that synthesizes these three sources and that demonstrates how Daniel Suelo and Cheryl Strayed do or do not correspond to Joseph Campbell’s theory. Would Joseph Campbell think that Strayed and Suelo’s stories are hero myths? Be sure to support your answer by using Campbell’s schema of separation, initiation, and return. When applying the components of Strayed and Suelo’s story to Campbell’s thesis, be as specific as possible.
Important: it is not enough to identify the separation–initiation–return elements of these books; these components are rather obvious. Instead, you should give a deeper analysis that looks closely at how these stories fit into the following list of subcategories. Let me stress this point: The more you analyze and develop your answer according to the following subcategories, the more persuasive it will be. Recall the following from Campbell:
Phase 1. Departure. The Call to Adventure. Refusal of the Call. Supernatural Aid. The Crossing of the First Threshold. The Belly of the Whale.
Phase 2. Initiation. The Road of Trials. The Meeting with the Goddess. Woman as the Temptress. Atonement with the Father. Apotheosis. The Ultimate Boon.
Phase 3. Return. Refusal of the Return. The Magic Flight. Rescue from Without. The Crossing of the Return Threshold. Master of the Two Worlds. Freedom to Live.
Also important: It is not necessary to analyze every single one of these subcategories. In fact, many of them do no even apply to the Suelo/Strayed narratives. As we have discussed in class, Campbell’s theory—like all theories—is a schema of the general and not of any particular, which means that you should focus on the categories and sub-categories that seem to be the most present and instrumental in the stories; likewise, it means that you should eliminate or outright ignore the ones that are not present or are de-emphasized. Also, the sub-categories may not appear in the linear sequence that Campbell has them in (for example, you may find that The Belly of the Whale category occurs in the Initiation phase) so try not to get stuck on making things fit into the neat, first-to-last order that Campbell has them in. A balanced paper would focus on at least two of the subcategories from each phase.
More Details For the 8 am Monday/Wednesday class, the essay is due promptly at the beginning of class on Wednesday, October 23rd.
For the 3:55 pm Tuesday/Thursday class, the essay is due promptly at the beginning of class on Thursday, October 24th.
There are no excuses for late essays. Make sure to staple your essay in the top left corner (unstapled papers are not finished papers). Give it an original title. Meticulously follow the following formatting instructions: 12 point Times New Roman font; Standard 1.25 inch margins; name, date, instructor name and class at top left of page one; no cover pages. All citations should be in MLA format, and should reference the page numbers from the Strayed, Sundeen, and Campbell texts as given to you in class. A Works Cited page is not necessary unless you incorporate other sources, in which case you should include an accurate Works Cited. Good luck.
Final note: you will need to quote from Campbell in this essay repeatedly, and I recommend that you read beyond the excerpt we read in class; specifically, I recommend you reading to find out what Campbell says about each of these subcategories. One way to start is to try to find a choice quote about each subcategory that illustrates what Campbell thinks about it and, then, to use that quote to explain the moment Suelo/Strayed is going through. For example, Campbell describes the “call to adventure” with the following: “A blunder–apparently the merest chance–reveals an unsuspected world, and the individual is drawn into a relationship with forces that are not rightly understood….and no matter what the stage or grade of life, the call rings up the curtain, always, on a mystery of transfiguration–a rite, or moment, of spiritual passage, which, when complete, amounts to a dying and a rebirth.” I recommend you finding a quote of this sort for each of the subcategories. There are several copies of The Hero With a Thousand Faces in the City College library. Also, the entire book is available as a PDF online; simply google the phrase “The Hero With a Thousand Faces pdf” or go to the following address: