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

Rose's ordinary world is a pretty bleak one: she's going back to America with her mother and her crummy boyfriend, whom she's being forced to marry in order to save her family from financial ruin.

While everyone else is excited about getting on Titanic, she's anything but—she dreads what comes at the end of the journey.

Call to Adventure

When she meets Jack Dawson, however, all that changes for Rose. As an artist traveling in steerage, Jack doesn't seem like an obvious friend to the well-heeled Rose—however, they're thrown together when Jack comes upon her trying to kill herself and prevents that from happening.

Having established their unlikely friendship, Jack immediately sets to work trying to get Rose to break free from her controlling mother and horrible fiancé.

Refusal of the Call

Rose is a well-bred girl, so she initially tries to keep her distance from Jack. For example, she bristles at his personal questions about her feelings for Cal.

However, given that she clearly endures (rather than enjoys) the company of her fellow Richie Riches and has trouble keeping her less appropriate thoughts to herself, it's not hard for Jack to coax her into some adventures aboard the ship…

Meeting the Mentor

This stage is already covered in "Call to Adventure." Jack is clearly Rose's mentor throughout the film, consistently pushing her to realize and acknowledge her own strength and ability to break free from everything that is holding her back, from family ties to social conventions.

Crossing the Threshold

Rose ends up just giving in to Jack and heading down to party in steerage, where she has a significantly better time than she was having with the folks in first class. After drinking and dancing for a while, Rose and Jack run around the ship getting into all kinds of trouble/adventures.

Rose lets her guard down entirely when she asks Jack to draw her in the nude (except for the giant diamond necklace Cal had given her), and they later get busy in the cargo hold in a stored car.

Tests, Allies, Enemies

Unfortunately, Cal and his valet, Lovejoy, quickly realize that Rose is off carousing with Jack—and they don't approve. Lovejoy spends a lot of time chasing them around the ship and trying to keep Jack away from Rose.

Then, everyone ends up with a much bigger problem: the ship hits an iceberg.

Rose and Jack decide to stop screwing around long enough to go warn the others that the ship's in big trouble. Rather than appreciating the heads-up, though, Cal just focuses on getting Jack away from Rose. To do that, he frames Jack for theft, ensuring that he'll be detained below decks…which, of course, is where water is busily flowing into the boat.

Approach to the Inmost Cave

Although she's initially distracted by the whole "boat sinking" thing and kinda/sorta seems to doubt Jack's innocence, Rose quickly realizes that Jack has been framed and sets about finding and freeing him before the boat sinks.

When Jack asks how she figured out he wasn't a thief, she says that she realized she always knew. Aww.


Now Rose and Jack have the teensy problem of getting themselves off the boat. Jack (and Cal) both try to convince Rose to take one of the lifeboats alone, but she jumps off at the last minute.

They end up going down with the ship.

Jack coaches Rose through surviving the entry into the water and then gets her aboard a piece of floating debris (a door). They wait for the other lifeboats to come back to rescue at least some of them. As they linger there in the cold water and Rose seems to be preparing for death, Jack makes Rose promise never to give up, no matter how tough things get.

Reward (Seizing the Sword)

Some time later, Rose is nearly frozen to death when she realizes a lifeboat has come back looking for survivors. She tries to get Jack's attention to let him know they're going to be rescued, but unfortunately he's frozen to death in the water.

She's distraught, but she hasn't forgotten her promise to keep on going no matter what, and so she gets the attention of the lifeboat and is rescued.

The Road Back

Rose boards the Carpathia, the ship sent to help the Titanic survivors, and heads to New York City. She manages to avoid Cal, who's also on the boat looking for her.


As the Carpathia arrives in New York City, a man is going around collecting passenger names. Rose reinvents herself, giving her name as Rose Dawson…in honor of Jack.

Return With the Elixir

At the end of the movie, as we see Rose dying warm in her bed (as Jack had hoped), we see pictures of all the adventures Rose ended up having—adventures that never would have been possible if Rose hadn't met Jack and realized she had the power to live a life that broke the mold her mother and Cal had set out for her.

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