What are the archetypes used in the movie The Matrix?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Thomas Anderson/Neo represents each of us as a potential archetypal hero seeking to discover truth and purpose on the archetypal hero's journey of self-discovery.

Morpheus is the archetype of the mentor guide (think Obi-Wan to Luke Skywalker). He awakens Neo to the latent powers of his mind to influence and counteract the Matrix (the archetypal Maya or illusion). This power is Neo's archetypal magic talisman (equivalent to the force for Luke Skywalker).

Choi represents the archetype of the Herald of the journey. Choi as the Herald knocks on Neo's door. Neo was instructed by Morpheus to follow the white rabbit. Neo hesitates at first, but on seeing Choi's white rabbit tattoo decides to go with him and start the hero's journey.

The archetype of initiation often involves the ingestion of a substance. Here it is the red pill that initiates Neo into a new, higher reality. His initiatory realization is that this material world is an illusion known as the Matrix.

Trinity represents the archetype of the Divine Feminine that Neo must incorporate within himself to become fully evolved.

The agents or men in black represent archetypes of the guardians of the threshold that challenge the hero to give up his quest as too dangerous.

For further reading on mythical archetypes see Joseph Cambell's classic The Hero with a Thousand Faces.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Literary archetypes abound in movies as well as traditional print literature. The Matrix is no exception.

In addition to the hero archetype as portrayed in Neo, there are several other archetypes within the film.

The mentor archetype is portrayed in the character of Morpheus. As the leader of the rebels who try to dismantle the Matrix, Morpheus recruits Neo into the group through Trinity. Morpheus is who offers Neo the red pill, causing him to awaken to the reality of his existence and the bioelectric harvesting of humans. Morpheus deems Neo “The One” and trains his protégée in virtual combat in order to prepare him to fulfill his destiny.

Another archetype in the film is the shadow, a Jungian archetype that represents the dark side of human nature. Agent Smith is an obvious villain in the story, but one could argue that Cypher is the shadow archetype. Because he betrays his own kind (humans) in service of evil as represented by the Agents, Cypher most clearly chooses the wrong side. He is willing to kill defenseless human beings so that he can live a comfortable life. This shows his ruthlessness and sadistic nature.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The Matrix possesses many archetypes that can be analyzed.  One of these archetypes is the hero.  Neo is an example of the heroic archetype, the anomaly who is outside of his social order, yet is also the only person capabale of saving it.  The heroic journey is also present.  The archetypal journey in which the hero must strive to fully understand their capacity as a hero and whether or not they are "the one" is something that is developed in great detail in the film.  Neo spends much of the film continually wondering if he is "the one" and how he will be able to be "the one."  The archetype of an advisor or counseling figure for the hero is embodied in the role of Morpheus, who never wavers in his belief that Neo is "the one."

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial