What is an example of an archetypal character from literature or popular culture.

Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

An archetype is a symbol that is representative of all human experience and is embedded in what Carl Jung calls the collective conscious, or the shared experience of a race or culture or of all of humankind. Traditional archetypes are the following:

  • the Child
  • the Hero
  • the Great Mother
  • the Wise Old Man
  • the Trickster or Fox
  • the Devil or Satan
  • the Scarecrow
  • the Mentor

In modern literature that may be some modifications upon these archetypes, but they remain instrinsically similar to the classical ones.  In Flannery O'Connor's Southern Gotihic short story, "Good Country People," for instance, Manley Pointer fits the archetypal Trickster. A door-to-door Bible salesman, Pointer is no Christian, who later confesses to Hulga that he, too, believes in nothing.  Deceiving Hulga, he tricks her into taking off her artificial leg after they climb to the hayloft to engage in carnal pleasure.  He steals this leg and runs off, leaving Hulga bereft.

In addition to being an archetypal trickster, Manley Pointer also acts as the Devil.  For, he lures Helga to sin and exploits her naivete, stealing not only her leg, but her dignity.  That author O'Connor presents him as a devil who, ironically, effects Helga's salvation from her nihilism is demonstrated as Helga observes him,

his blue figure struggling successfully over the green speckled lake.

According to enotes,

O’Connor conveys his ambiguous position as savior and devil ...as this man who believes in nothing seems, like Jesus, to walk on water, tinged with the color of a serpent.