Ever notice that every blockbuster movie has the same fundamental pieces? A hero, a journey, some conflicts to muck it all up, a reward, and the hero returning home and everybody applauding his or her swag? Yeah, scholar Joseph Campbell noticed first—in 1949. He wrote The Hero with a Thousand Faces, in which he outlined the 17 stages of a mythological hero's journey.
About half a century later, Christopher Vogler condensed those stages down to 12 in an attempt to show Hollywood how every story ever written should—and, uh, does—follow Campbell's pattern. We're working with those 12 stages, so take a look. (P.S. Want more? We have an entire Online Course devoted to the hero's journey.)
Prewitt left behind a decent soldiering-gig back on the mainland. He was irritated when he was passed over and someone else was made the company's "First Bugler." So he requested a transfer and shipped out to the Pacific, to Oahu, Hawaii.
Prewitt probably thinks he's in for a typical gig—bugling in the sun and surf. Plus, he runs into his old friend, Angelo Maggio, as soon as he arrives. How bad can it really be?
Call to Adventure
Pretty bad, it turns out. Immediately after his arrival, the Captain in charge of Prewitt—Captain Holmes—tries to get him to participate in a military boxing tournament.
Prewitt explains that he swore off boxing after he accidentally blinded a friend in the ring. Holmes is insistent, but there's no rule that says he can force Prewitt to box.
Refusal of the Call
Prewitt never refuses the call, because the call to adventure, in his case, is a call to disobey the Captain. He's not supposed to listen, and his real adventure is enduring the hellish torment that Colonel Holmes is going to force on him. Holmes piles on immediately, getting his goonish soldiers and certain sergeants to single out Prewitt for harassment and punishment.
Meeting the Mentor
Prewitt doesn't really have a mentor per se, but he does have friends who help him. Maggio supports Prewitt, and once he meets Lorene/Alma, she's helpful and comforting too. For the most part, however, he has to rely on his own resources to endure "The Treatment"—no one is giving him any special or pointed advice on how to do it.
Crossing the Threshold
Prewitt really does resist Holmes. At one point, one of Holmes' toadies, Sgt. Galovitch, unreasonably bullies Prewitt and gives him an unfair order. Prewitt refuses to obey, and Holmes wants to court-martial Prewitt. But Sgt. Warden recommends doubling up on company punishment instead.
Tests, Allies, Enemies
Prewitt runs into more problems—mainly involving his friends. Lorene, the hostess he's been seeing from The New Congress Club, reveals that she (supposedly) doesn't love him when he says he wants to marry her, but that she still wants him to be her boyfriend for the time being.
Meanwhile, Maggio decides to skip watchman duty and winds up being court-martialed and sent to the stockade, where he's viciously beaten by another soldier, Sgt. Judson, with whom he's had a beef in the past.
However, there is one positive thing that happens—when Sgt. Galovitch picks a fight with Prewitt, Prewitt beats him. Holmes won't punish Galovitch, but the base commander, General Slater, sees this, and forces Holmes to resign. But this is just the calm before the storm.
Approach to the Inmost Cave
Maggio escapes the stockade but dies of the wounds he's received from Judson. Outraged at what happened to his friend, Prewitt tracks Judson down and challenges him to a fight in an alley. When Judson pulls a knife on him, Prewitt does the same. He ends up murdering Judson and receiving a painful stab wound himself. Injured, and now AWOL from the army, Prewitt hides with Lorene.
While lying in bed and recovering from his wound, Prewitt hears on the radio that the Japanese military has launched a sneak attack on Pearl Harbor. Actually, he doesn't even need the radio, since he can hear the attack from where he's lying.
Since he's committed a murder and is AWOL, he should probably stay put. But his loyalty to the Army is so great that he feels impelled to go, even though Lorene/Alma begs him not to.
Reward (Seizing the Sword)
Prewitt staggers out to try to join his fellow soldiers and help avoid any potential Japanese invasion (which didn't end up happening). He's fully demonstrating his courage in the face of terrible circumstances, participating in the flow of historical events. But, unfortunately, he gets shot by a soldier who mistakes him for a potential Japanese invader.
The Road Back
There's no road back for Prewitt—he's dead. But Sgt. Warden pays tribute to him, standing over Prewitt's dead body, saying that he loved the army more than any soldier he ever knew.
Prewitt doesn't get resurrected in any literal or metaphorical way—this is the kind of movie where the hero dies. But he lives on in the hearts of those who remember him, like Warden and Alma, who reminisces about him to Karen Holmes as they leave Hawaii on a ship.
Return with the Elixir
Prewitt doesn't return with any elixir either, except maybe in a metaphorical sense. The courage he demonstrates and the devotion to the army demonstrate the kind of qualities that will help the American army win the Second World War. Prewitt proves that he's got the kind of mettle and determination needed to defeat Japan and Germany.