Project 2, Exercise 1: The Hero's Journey

A. Mapping the Stages of the Hero's Journey

For this exercise I've chosen to apply Vogler's grid of the stages of the hero's journey to the Norman Jewison 1987 film Moonstruck. Written by playwright John Patrick Shanley, the movie straddles several genres -- romance, comedy and drama -- and I thought it would be interesting to analyse the film through the lens of a heroic quest, since that is almost certainly not the way it would normally be viewed.

Act I (Beginning = the hero’s decision to act)

1. Ordinary World — Loretta Castorini is a widow working in her family's store and engaged to Johnny Cammerari. Her life is predictable and lackluster. Johnny tells Loretta he must visit his dying mother in Sicily; while he is gone he wants Loretta to invite his estranged brother Ronny to their wedding.

2. Call to Adventure — Loretta meets Ronny and is caught up in his passion. Ronny tells Loretta that he loves her.

3. Refusal of the Call — Loretta rejects Ronny's declaration of love by slapping him and telling him to "Snap out of it!"

4. Meeting with the Mentor — Ronny agrees to leave Loretta alone if she will come with him to the opera, his other love.

5. Crossing the First Threshold — Loretta agrees to see Ronny again and attend the opera with him.

Act II (Middle = the action)

6. Tests, Allies, Enemies — Loretta feels guilt for her relationship with Ronny behind Johnny's back, so she goes to confession. She meets her mother there, who tells Loretta that he father is also having an affair.

7. Approach to the Inmost Cave — Loretta and Ronny go to a production of Puccini's La bohème at New York's Lincoln Center. Loretta is deeply moved by the love story.

8. Ordeal — During intermission at the opera, Loretta bumps into her father and realizes her mother is correct: her father is having an affair. Both Loretta and her father are exposed. Nevertheless, Loretta spends the night with Ronny at his place after the opera.

9. Reward — Loretta leaves Ronny's early in the morning and realizes that she has found love.

Act III (End = the consequences of action)

10. The Road Back — The family gathers in the kitchen of the Castorini household, where Loretta's and her father's secrets come to light.

11. Resurrection — Johnny Cammerari's mother has made a miraculous recovery from her deathbed (a resurrection!) and Johnny, superstitiously fearing that his mother might have a relapse, ends his engagement with Loretta.

12. Return with the Elixir — Now that Loretta has been released, Ronny proposes to her in front of the family and she accepts. Loretta has found love, the family is reunited and its traditions continue (as seen in the closing shots of framed portraits of the Castorini ancestors).


B. Using the Hero's Journey as a Template


Act I (Beginning = the hero’s decision to act)

1. Ordinary World — orphaned teen in an African refugee camp

2. Call to Adventure — hero witnesses a young man being beaten by a gang in the camp

3. Refusal of the Call — won’t speak up for fear of reprisal and is afraid to leave the camp

4. Meeting with the Mentor — meets an older teen in the camp who tells him that orphans are being sold as child soldiers

5. Crossing the First Threshold — the two decide to flee the camp but the mentor is captured and the hero escapes alone at night as the slavers pursue

Act II (Middle = the action)

6. Tests, Allies, Enemies — others are callous or take advantage of him as he continues his flight, hungry and penniless

7. Approach to the Inmost Cave — the hero learns where the slavers camp is and seeks out the place

8. Ordeal — the hero is discovered and is wounded as escapes with stolen papers

9. Reward — the hero is able to identify those leading the slave trade

Act III (End = the consequences of action)

10. The Road Back — threats are made against the hero's life and efforts made to discredit him, but he produces the evidence of the slavers’ identities

11. Resurrection — the child soldiers are released, including the mentor

12. Return with the Elixir — the two are taken to safety, where they are able to draw more attention to the plight of children orphaned by war