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When we talk about archetypes we are refering to what Jung called an original or fundamental imaginative pattern that is repeated again and again throughout the ages. In literature, we use this word to refer to the kinds of stories, events, objects, characters and settings that appear and reappear in many different stories from different periods of history and from different cultures and contexts. Just to think of a few examples, the archetype of the journey or quest as a plot is something that occurs in many different forms of literature, from the ancient in The Odyssey and Galahad's search for the Holy Grail, to more modern-day examples in The Road by Cormac McCarthy. Another example would be the story of an arrogant man who sells his soul to the devil for unlimited power and knowledge. We see this archetype echoed in the story of Faust by Goethe, in Dr. Faustus by Marlowe and also in "The Devil and Tom Walker," which gives this old tale a particularly American twist. Although the different manifestations of such archetypes may have different elements and end in a different way, we see the central core idea is the same.
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