Study Guide

Psycho 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 film opens with Marion in Phoenix, doing her job in real estate and without enough money to marry her lover Sam. That's the ordinary world—not much fun, is it?

Call To Adventure

And here comes the real estate client with tons and tons of money in cash, which is given right to Marion to take to the bank. There's her call to adventure (or to thievery, in this case).

Refusal Of The Call

Marion doesn't refuse. She grabs that money right off and heads out of town.

Meeting The Mentor

The film presents Norman initially as a mentor of sorts; talking to him leads Marion to decide to return the money. But of course, that doesn't work out.

Crossing The Threshold

Marion crosses the threshold of the shower and… gets stabbed to death.

Tests, Allies, Enemies

We switch protagonists here to Arbogast. He's searching for Marion, allying himself with Lila and Sam, and encountering the bad guy, Norman.

Approach To The Inmost Cave

Arbogast enters the Bates house to find the secret… and that's it for him.


Now we've got Lila and Sam as the main characters. Their ordeal is dealing with Norman… and his mother, the corpse.

Reward (Seizing The Sword)

The reward, such as it is, is capturing Norman and figuring out that he's the killer.

The Road Back/Resurrection/Return with the Elixir

None of this really applies to the ending, which is less a return than an explanation. And nobody gets resurrected; Marion at the end is as dead as she ever was.

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