NOTE: For a history and breakdown of the Hero’s Journey concept see my prologue article, The Hero’s Path.
This examination of Rey’s Journey will mainly follow Christopher Vogler’s outline of the Hero’s Journey—with several of Campbell’s steps mentioned. It will also follow the chronological plot of the film, rather than a strictly linear outline of the steps.
The Steps and Archetypes of the Journey will be highlighted in BOLD UPPERCASE, a style used by Vogler in examining the chronological plots of several films in his book, The Writer’s Journey.
Stage 1: Rey’s Separation / Departure
“A hero ventures forth from the world of common day into a region of supernatural wonder: fabulous forces are there encountered and a decisive victory is won: the hero comes back from this mysterious adventure with the power to bestow boons on his fellow man.” — Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a Thousand Faces
SEPARATION / DEPARTURE
Rey’s ORDINARY WORLD is her life as a scavenger on the harsh planet of Jakku, eking out a living by picking over the bones of a previous age. She is literally living inside the wreckage of the Galactic Civil War in the form of a fallen AT-AT.
However, Rey desires more in life, as seen in her sad gaze at the old women at the scrap cleaning station (a realization of what she may become on her current path) and the rebel pilot helmet she wears (an identification with the now legendary heroes of the Rebellion) while watching a ship leave Jakku. But she is reluctant to leave, held back by the fear that her family won’t find her when they finally return (her INNER PROBLEM).
Rey is already well-prepared for an adventure. She is a self-reliant survivalist, a capable fighter, and a gifted pilot, but she is lacking something important in her life—a sense of belonging, which she believes will come with the return of her family. While she has the desire to leave Jakku, Rey lacks a strong enough motivation to move beyond her fears, requiring a push to start her on the journey.
At a moment when Rey is daydreaming of adventure (watching the ship fly away), she suddenly hears a cry for help and springs into action.
Here Rey receives what I call a PREMONITION OF ADVENTURE in saving BB-8 from another scavenger. It isn’t a direct CALL TO ADVENTURE yet (though it is an emotional call, relating to her Inner Problem, to connect with others), but it is a sign that the call is near. BB-8 is a HERALD (more so to the audience than to Rey at this point), drawing Rey towards her destiny, but she turns him away when he tries to follow her (a REFUSAL OF THE CALL). After he expresses sadness at her rejection (touching on her own fear of abandonment), she reluctantly allows the droid to stay with her till morning—an act of compassion that will set her on the path to adventure.
The next morning, Rey almost abandons the path again, this time being tempted to sell the droid to Unkar Plutt (who knows of the droid’s worth) for a large payment of rations, but she turns the offer down, choosing to stay loyal to her new friend and ALLY.
This turns Plutt into an active ENEMY and he sends his thugs after her to steal the droid. Rey shows her fighting prowess as she takes out the thugs single-handedly. This is an important setup for later when she uses these skills, enhanced by the Force, in a deadlier battle against a much stronger foe. Unlike Anakin and Luke, Rey must directly fight her dark side adversary in face-to-face combat on her first adventure.
After a briefly antagonistic first meeting with Finn (who is a SHAPESHIFTER, thought at first to be an ENEMY thief before using the mask of a Resistance fighter), Rey finds out that BB-8 is indeed on a secret mission: he is carrying a map leading to Luke Skywalker (finding Luke being the OUTER PROBLEM of the plot), someone she thought was just a myth.
Rey is excited by these revelations and that Finn is with the Resistance. She feels the pull towards adventure, but before she can be issued a direct CALL TO ADVENTURE, they are spotted and attacked by First Order troopers and must flee. As Volger points out, sometimes the call manifests as the hero having no other options and being forced onto the path.
Rey’s piloting skills are put to the test when she is forced to use the “piece of garbage” Millennium Falcon (another relic of the past). This is SUPERNATURAL AID from the Force helping them to escape and leading them to Han. As Obi-Wan once said, “there is no such thing as luck.”
Rey and Finn work well together as ALLIES, and Rey shows surprising skill with the Falcon as she outmaneuvers the TIE fighters chasing them, luring them into a Star Destroyer graveyard. After an expertly controlled stall maneuver to place Finn in position to take out the last TIE, they escape into the abyss of space and Rey CROSSES THE FIRST THRESHOLD into the unknown.
Rey and Finn excitedly congratulate each other on their escape (Rey not knowing how she pulled it off—a sign of her “awakening” in the Force), and Rey shows that she is willing to help BB-8 return “home” (a mirror of her own desire), but only to the point of getting them to “Ponemah Terminal,” much like Luke only offering to take Obi-Wan to Anchorhead. Rey REFUSES THE CALL, insisting that she must return to Jakku as soon as possible. Finn can’t understand why she would want to go back to Jakku since she can go anywhere else as a pilot, but she is unwilling to reveal her reasons for wanting to go back.
In contrast to Luke and Anakin before her, Rey has a prolonged REFUSAL OF THE CALL that lasts the majority of the film. Her INNER GOAL (finding a sense of belonging) and OUTER GOAL (getting the droid to the Resistance so they can find Luke) are seemingly at odds. However, as Maz will later reveal, Rey’s search for belonging rests with the fate of Luke Skywalker.
Unbeknownst to Rey, Kylo Ren, the SHADOW, becomes aware of her involvement with the droid and the deserter, making her a direct threat to his mission to find and destroy Luke. Her journey has become much more dangerous than she is aware.
Before crossing fully into the SPECIAL WORLD, Rey and Finn are swallowed by what Finn believes to be a First Order ship, a perfect visual example of the BELLY OF THE WHALE motif, a symbol of the sacrifice of entering the Special World. Rey won’t take the Journey willingly, so she is symbolically consumed by the Special World rather than eased into it. As Campbell says, “The hero, instead of conquering or conciliating the power of the threshold, is swallowed into the unknown, and would appear to have died.”
Though the “Whale” is later revealed as benign, and is indeed more SUPERNATURAL AID from the Force, Finn’s fear (transferred over to Rey) transforms it into a negative image. Campbell notes that the seemingly monstrous depictions of GUARDIAN figures found at the threshold of many temples are there to represent the dangers of self-sacrifice found within: “Anyone unable to understand a god sees it as a devil…” The Journey within is a “life renewing act” with death coming before rebirth.
To be continued in PART 2 – Stage 2: Rey’s Initiation.
Campbell, Joseph. The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1973. Print.
Vogler, Christopher. “The Memo That Started It All.” Storytech Literary Consulting. GODADDY (dot) COM, LLC, n.d. Web. 11 July 2016.
Vogler, Christopher. The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers. 3rd ed. Studio City, CA: Michael Wiese Productions, 2007. Print.Powered by Sidelines