A Modern Heroic Journey: An Exploration of Stanley Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut

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Arts and Humanities | English Language and Literature | Film and Media Studies


Scott Richardson


The Heroic Journey is an archetypal pattern found in myths and folktales all over the world. The universality of the journey has allowed for its widespread use of both literary and film narratives as a way for writers and filmmakers to explore human nature. The journey the hero embarks on is a process of separation, initiation, and return that ultimately will produce a revelation that will better the hero's life. This paper examines the pattern of the Heroic Journey and its archetypes, in an effort to demonstrate along with an in-depth analytical approach that Stanley Kubrick's final film, Eyes Wide Shut, follows the process of the Heroic Journey. I propose to show that the film's protagonist, Dr. Bill Harford, is a hero who undergoes a separation from the world he knows, faces challenges and temptations in a night-time world of the unknown, and finally emerges with an awakened consciousness to confront a reality which his eyes were previously closed to; and in effect manages to challenge the idea of the traditional hero.