Study Guide

Groundhog Day Hero's Journey

Hero's Journey

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.)

Ordinary World

The ordinary world of Phil Connors is one where he acts like a total jerk to just about everyone he meets. He's a selfish dude who wants to climb the showbiz ladder until he's a weather channel star. In the meantime, he doesn't have much time for all the people around him—he sees them as mediocre.

Call To Adventure

Phil's adventure begins when he and his news team head to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania to cover the Groundhog Day festivities. Phil figures that this will be the most boring day of his life, but little does he know that the day may never end.

He wakes up the following morning in Punxsutawney only to realize that he is reliving Groundhog Day all over again. The same thing happens again the next morning, and Phil realizes he has no clue on how to get himself unstuck from this time loop.

Refusal Of The Call

Phil's first response to his situation (as you can imagine) is total annoyance. Even three days into his adventure, he's ready to get up and quit. He doesn't want to keep doing his Groundhog Day TV spot anymore and he just sits around and pouts.

It's only when he realizes what he can do with this new-found power that he begins to enjoy himself. He eats whatever he wants and steals money from a bank, to name a few things. If the point of Groundhog Day was to make Phil a better person, it looks like it's achieved just the opposite.

Meeting The Mentor

Early in the movie, Phil meets his new TV producer Rita. Rita is basically the opposite of Phil. She's kind, caring, and generous to others even when those people are kind of annoying. She has way more patience than Phil, and Phil's first response to her is to think she's naïve and ordinary. It's only when he fails to seduce her that Phil realizes there's something essentially different about Rita… and it might be her goodness.

Crossing The Threshold

It's only after realizing that Rita is incorruptible that Phil takes a step back and reevaluates his approach to life. But rather than simply become a better person, Phil decides to end his misery by killing himself. He even kills himself a half dozen times before realizing that he'll just wake up on 6 a.m. on Groundhog Day no matter what he does. It's only after Phil has undergone this symbolic "killing of the ego" that he makes a genuine effort to be better.

Tests, Allies, Enemies

Once he has made the decision to be better, Phil starts acting nicely to Rita and his cameraman Larry. He also tries to help out an old homeless man he meets in the street. But Phil quickly realizes that no matter how many times he tries to save the man, there are some things in Groundhog Day that are beyond his power to change.

Approach To The Inmost Cave

Eventually, Phil devotes himself to his newfound love for Rita. In realizing that he loves her, Phil also realizes that the thing that attracts her to him is her moral goodness. Phil decides that even if he's stuck in Groundhog Day for eternity, he wants to spend his time being as much like Rita as he possibly can.

Ordeal

Phil does such a good job of acting like Rita that she sees the goodness in him and agrees to spend the night in his B&B room. It looks like Phil has finally succeeded in making Rita love him and we hope that they'll wake up in bed together the next day. But alas, Phil wakes up the next morning and Rita is gone. Time has reset and he has to start Groundhog Day all over again. At this point, Phil has to be wondering, "What's a guy gotta do?"

Reward (Seizing The Sword)

Instead of falling into despair again, Phil devotes himself to personal development. He learns to play the piano really well and to ice sculpt. But instead of just using these skills for personal gain, he uses them to make the people around him happy.

He also uses his new-found knowledge of literature to make a beautiful speech about Groundhog Day and the people of Punxsutawney. By the end of the night, he has saved several people's lives and helped many others out in a bunch of different ways.

The Road Back

In the movie's climactic scene, Rita sees the goodness in Phil and spends every cent she has to win him in a bachelor auction. She basically owns him for the rest of the night and Phil is happy to be owned. The two of them leave the Groundhog Day party and spend the rest of the evening together. As they fall asleep in each other's arms, Rita says that she has had a perfect day. Phil answers that he feels the same way.

Resurrection

Phil wakes up and realizes that Rita is still sleeping next to him. It's 6 a.m. on the morning of February 3rd! Phil has finally broken whatever spell had trapped him in Groundhog Day. We can only assume that he broke the time loop by becoming a genuinely good person and by using his powers to make the people around him happy. Phil jumps out of bed with a new outlook on life.

Return With The Elixir

Now that he has escaped Groundhog Day, Phil wants to focus on his new relationship with Rita. Even though they've technically only been together for one evening, Phil wants to talk about them living together and getting a place in Punxsutawney. He has escaped Groundhog Day as a much better person than when he starts, and now he has the love of Rita.

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