Study Guide

The Lost Weekend Hero's Journey

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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

Don's ordinary world involves sneaking booze behind his brother Wick's back, so that's where we begin. As the two bros pack their bags for a long weekend getaway in the country, Don is trying (and failing) to procure a bottle of whiskey he had hidden by hanging it on a rope outside his window.

Call To Adventure

Before he can, however, his girlfriend Helen arrives to say goodbye. In an attempt to score some alone time with his whiskey, Don convinces Wick to go to a show with Helen, which means that they'll have to take a later train. Wick discovers Don's hidden whiskey bottle, but decides to go to the show with Helen anyway.

Refusal Of The Call

For Don, the "call" is sobriety, and you can bet your bottom dollar that he refuses it. First, he tears apart the house looking for another hidden stash. No luck. He then steals the cleaning lady's ten dollar weekly paycheck and uses it to buy two fat bottles of rye whiskey.

Meeting The Mentor

Given that Don's a drunk, it only makes sense that his mentor's a bartender. After procuring his two bottles, Don heads to Nat's bar, his regular haunt. Although Nat encourages him to drink less, he'll keep pouring shots as long as Don keeps paying.

Crossing The Threshold

After a major drinking session, Don realizes that he's late for the train. D'oh.

He arrives at his apartment building just in time to hear Wick and Helen descending the stairs, so he hides in the back so they won't see him. Wick's going on the trip without Don, but Helen is planning to wait in front of the building until he arrives. In his shadiest move yet, Don sneaks past her, enters his apartment, hides one bottle, and promptly pounds down the other.

Tests, Allies, Enemies

By the next morning, Don's forgotten all about his hidden bottle, so he goes to Nat's bar. There, he makes a date with a young woman named Gloria (which he has no intention of upholding) before heading home to work on his novel.

Desperate for booze, however, he steals a purse at a fancy bar but gets caught and thrown out. Bummer. Luckily, he discovers his hidden bottle after returning home and gets hammered until he falls asleep.

Approach To The Inmost Cave

The next morning, Don is horrified to learn that the booze well has run dry. Even worse, he's out of money. He grabs his typewriter and tries to sell it at nearby pawnshops, but they're all close on account of the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur.

Desperate, he goes to Gloria's apartment and convinces her to give him money, though he trips and takes a nasty fall when descending her stairs…


Don wakes up in an alcoholic ward—he was brought there after the accident. He speaks to Bim, a nurse who casually talks about the hopelessness of curing his addiction, and witnesses several man go through the DTs, which is a painful and mind-melting part of the withdrawal process from alcohol.

Reward (Seizing The Sword)

Don escapes the ward while a man is having an attack of the DTs. Afterwards, he intimidates a liquor store shopkeeper into giving him some whiskey. To Don, freedom from the ward and a bottle of rye is the reward he's looking for, but we as the audience know that this story isn't finished.

The Road Back

After consuming half of the bottle, Don experiences the DTs and hallucinates a bat flying through the window and eating a mouse. It's pretty nuts. His landlady hears his pained cries and contacts Helen, who hustles over and calms Don down for the night.


The next morning, Don steals Helen's coat and runs to a pawnshop. She thinks that he's sold it for booze money, but she realizes after talking to the shopkeeper that he used it to get a gun—he's planning to kill himself.

Helen bursts into his apartment and tries to stop him, even offering him booze, but he manages to get ahold of the gun...

Return With The Elixir

Nat returns with Don's typewriter in hand—he'd picked it up after Don's fall. Suddenly, Don realizes that he can find purpose in his writing and, what's more, he can use his latest novel The Bottle to help others in a similar predicament.

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