The Hero's Journey: Refusing The Call to Adventure

From Christopher Vogler's "The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure"

Clara Blandick, Judy Garland, Margaret Hamilton and Charley Grapewin in 'The Wizard of Oz'

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In the second part of the hero's journey, the hero is presented with a problem or challenge. For readers to be involved and to care about the hero, they need to know early on exactly what the stakes are, and the higher the better, says Christopher Vogler, author of The Writer's Journey: Mythic Structure. What price will the hero pay if he or she accepts the challenge, or doesn't?

The Call to Adventure can come in the form of a message, letter, phone call, dream, temptation, last straw, or loss of something precious. It is usually delivered by a herald.

In The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy’s call to adventure comes when Toto, representing her intuition, is captured by Miss Gulch, escapes, and Dorothy follows her instincts (Toto) and runs away from home with him.

Refusal of the Call

Almost always, the hero initially balks at the call. He or she is being asked to face the greatest of all fears, the terrible unknown. This hesitation signals the reader that the adventure is risky, the stakes are high, and the hero could lose fortune or life, Vogler writes.

There is charm and satisfaction in seeing the hero overcome this reluctance. The stiffer the refusal, the more the reader enjoys seeing it worn down. How is your hero resisting the call to adventure?

The hero’s doubt also serves to warn the reader that he may not succeed on this adventure, which is always more interesting than a sure thing, and it is often a threshold guardian who sounds the alarm and cautions the hero not to go, according to Vogler.

Dorothy encounters Professor Marvel who convinces her to return home because the road ahead is too dangerous. She goes home, but powerful forces have already been set in motion, and there is no going back. She’s alone in the empty house (a common dream symbol for an old personality structure) with only her intuition. Her refusal is pointless.