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Young Adult Lit WebQuests

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available for download in MS Word by clicking here

Created by Arizona State University English Department Graduate Students:
Marcela Bettini, Bryan Gillis, Megan Hoover, Caitlin Horrocks, Patricia Jimenez, David Pegram, Rebecca Sandhoff

Studying children’s and adolescent literature through archetypes makes good sense:

  • Archetypes are a fun new, stimulating and thought provoking way to look at literature.
  • Archetypes effectively bridge popular culture and literature. Students are familiar with the common archetypes.
  • Archetypes give us an effective means to communicate about literature with young people – without having to preach or teach a moral.
  • Archetypes are a new way of thinking about children’s and adolescent literature and leave room for original thinking and analysis.

Archetypes are deeply rooted in our collective unconscious, the inherent knowledge human beings have. People accept them without questioning their validity. They refer to the deepest, most fundamental parts of our lives like death, fear, love, family, and the unknown. Unlike stereotypes, which can be created instantly, archetypes have been developed over centuries through myth, religion, drama, fantasy and literature.

A few common archetypes commonly found in literature for young people are:

  • The Journey
    In this most archetypal of all stories, an innocent embarks on a journey and is challenged but eventually succeeds. Examples from children’s literature include Huckleberry Finn, Alice in Wonderland and Wizard of Oz.
  • The Seeker
    The Seeker is a refinement of The Journey archetype. The seeker is the character who sets out to find something important, usually gaining wisdom of some kind. Peter Rabbit, Frodo in Lord of the Rings and Nora in The Doll House are seekers.
  • Junex vs. Senex
    The Junex vs. Senex portrays the conflicts between young and old. Young people do not like feeling powerless, so this archetype is commonly found in children’s and adolescent literature. The Cat in the Hat, Holes and Summer of my German Soldier are examples of the Junex vs. Senex archetype.
  • The Innocent
    The Innocent is usually a character who lacks power, who feels small and insignificant. The Innocent frequently embarks on a journey or is portrayed as a fool. Alice in Wonderland, Peter Pan and Little Red Riding Hood are literary Innocents.
  • The Orphan
    Because they do not have parents to take care of them, orphans must be both seekers and warriors. The orphan character can be a literal orphan who has neither parent, a partial orphan who has only one parent, a temporary orphan or someone who has parents but is neglected or abused. Famous literary orphans are Little Orphan Annie, PippiLongstockings and Harry Potter.
  • The Caregiver
    The foremost caregiver is a child’s mother, but other characters can take on the caregiver role. Charlotte in Charlotte’s Web is a caregiver. The move from orphan to caregiver is a common theme, e.g. Wendy in Peter Pan.
  • The Friend
    The Friend is a common archetype in children’s and young adult literature. After first receiving love form their caregivers, making friends among their peers occupies a major role in the lives of most young people. The books about Frog and Toad and the Sweet Valley High series are good examples of the friend archetype.
  • The Fool
    The Innocent Fool can either be a happy and carefree comedian that makes people laugh or, in more serious books, a character who makes the kinds of mistakes the reader should avoid. Toad of Toad Hall in The Wind in the Willows and the young men in The Outsiders are innocent fools.
  • The Hero Warrior
    The character willing and able to fight for good is The Hero Warrior. Superman, Spiderman and Wonder Woman are all hero warriors.
  • The Destroyer Warrior
    The Destroyer Warrior has the same skills as The Hero Warrior, but makes wrong choices and fights for evil. The character Luke Skywalker was once a Hero Warrior but turned into a Destroyer Warrior.

A shadow archetype is not successful because he/she either displays too much or not enough of the archetypal qualities and characteristics.

Taken from:

  • Nilsen, Alleen Pace. “Symbols and Archetypes in Children’s Literature.” Course packet for ENG 470A “Symbols and Archetypes in Children’s Literature” and ENG 504A “Cross Cultural Studies.” Arizona State University , Fall, 2005
  • Donelson, Kenneth L., Alleen Pace Nilsen. “Literature for Today’s Young Adults.” Boston : Pearson Education, Inc., 2005, Chapter 3

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updated: February 14, 2007