AP English Literature and Composition

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Compare and Contrast Essay on Luis Alberto Urrea’s Into the Beautiful North and William Shakespeare’s The Tempest

Joseph Campbell once said, “[A] hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.” I agree that heroes usually prioritize others above themselves. Oftentimes, heroes are individuals who’ve overcome significant and formidable obstacles in their lives. They are perceived as courageous, humble, mature, and compassionate. A hero is someone that people look up to, someone with qualities we feel we lack in ourselves.

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These individuals push for the best for everyone, instilling positivity, and encouraging others to improve. Growing up, I considered my father a hero, even though Joseph Campbell didn’t provide any criteria that validated him as one. Despite our strained relationship, I am certain that my father endured numerous challenges to reach his current position. This leads me to question: Is my father actually a hero?

Examing Joseph Campbell’s “Hero’s Journey,” made up of twelve stages: The Ordinary World, The Call to Adventure, Refusal of the Call, Meeting the Mentor, Crossing the Threshold, Test, Allies, Enemies, Approach to the Inmost Cave, Ordeal, Reward, The Road Back, Resurrection, and the Return with Elixir. Aristotle proposes six attributes of a ‘Tragic Figure:’ Hamartia, Hubris, Peripeteia, Anagnorisis, Nemesis, and Catharsis. Campbell and Aristotle’s criteria imply that if a person fulfills all these qualities, they may be a hero, or in Aristotle’s case, a tragic figure. However, given that I cannot travel back in time to benchmark these potential heroic traits, I won’t answer this question. Instead, I will examine whether Campbell or Aristotle would classify the protagonists from “Into the Beautiful North” by Luis Alberto Urrea and “The Tempest” by William Shakespeare as heroes. Throughout these twelve stages or six attributes, we will explore the true strengths and weaknesses of Nayeli and Prospero. I believe at the end of this exploration, there can only be one historical hero.

Into The Beautiful North

Luis Alberto Urrea’s novel, Into the Beautiful North, is about a nineteen-year-old girl, Nayeli, who comes from a small village in Mexico. She is set to go to the United States with a few friends because of an event that happened to her family. Throughout the story, Nayeli is faced with many obstacles that describe the twelve progressions of a “Hero’s Journey.”

The Ordinary World is the hero’s normal life at the start of a story. In the story Into the Beautiful North, Luis Alberto Urrea sets Nayeli’s “ordinary world” in a small village called Los Tres Camarones, located in Mexico. Her hometown is very dangerous and somewhat poor, overrun with drugs. Nayeli is introduced as a waitress at Tacho’s Bar, La Mano Caida. The usual people in Nayeli’s life are her mother and her Tia Irma. Her father, Don Pepe, isn’t in the picture but she wishes that he was. Don Pepe had gone to the United States to live in a town called Kankakee, Illinois. As Nayeli was growing up, her father had her join a soccer team and take karate classes. She believed that her father actually wanted a son instead of a daughter.

Joseph Campbell’s second step that will consider you a hero is the Call to Adventure.

The Call to Adventure is a deviation from normality in which some information is received that acts as an incentive to head off into the unknown. In this case, the protagonist, Nayeli, begins her Call to Adventure when she attends Garcia Garcia’s film festival one night. The small group that Nayeli was with saw the movie The Magnificent Seven. The movie is about seven amazing and fit men risking their lives to save their town from villains who are trying to take over. As Nayeli was watching the movie, she became excited and thrilled, so she began to plan her own journey to find seven strong men from the United States to bring back to her town to save her village. It wasn’t until one day when someone was evicted and they wrecked their home, beating up the homeowner.

I say this because at that time, her village was being overpowered and controlled by the Bandidos and corrupt police officers. Nayeli and the rest of the inhabitants of Los Tres Camarones started to believe that there were no real men left to protect the village. Realizing that the best way to save her village was to go to the United States and find her “magnificent seven” whom she can bring back to Mexico to defend the people. The biggest motivation and driving force she has for this grand adventure is because her father is already in the United States, and she believes that she will be able to find him too.

As we are now moving forward to the next step, it will be “Refusal of the Call.” “Refusal of the Call” is when the hero is often given a call, but she/he/they refuse to cross the obstacle, mainly because of the fear and concerns they have. Nayeli has faced many obstacles throughout her journey, but none of them made her think that she should stop and go back home. Although there were times when she would get nervous and concerned. One moment from the story is when she was heading to the border so she could cross into the United States. Nayeli thought that the Americans would like them and be proud that they were going to save the village. She realized that crossing the border wasn’t as easy as she thought it was going to be. She saw so many people and officers protecting the border; many of these officers laughed at her and thought she was crazy when she told them the reason she was going to the United States.

Another setback was refusing everyone who tried to help her and her friends. They were betrayed by a group of strangers whom they met during the journey. I say this because there was a moment when Nayeli and her crew were trying to find a place to sleep in Tijuana. They met two strangers who led them to a motel to sleep. The two strangers presented themselves as innocent men, but all they wanted was to sleep with the female members of the crew, including Nayeli. This caused them to rely on minimal resources and left them with no safe place to sleep. Having the feeling where you can’t trust anyone anymore is difficult, because she had to learn the hard way that some things in life don’t go the way you want them to. These types of moments will help her understand what she can or cannot do. Throughout this journey, she will face many more obstacles, but these will only make her stronger and more motivated to prove people wrong.

“Meeting the Mentor” is the next, fourth step of Campbell’s progression. A “mentor” is someone who guides or teaches the protagonist new knowledge about things in any situation. It’s somewhat like having a fairy godmother who is always there to give you advice about life. One of the biggest mentors Nayeli has met is her Tia Irma. Tia Irma was the first female ever to become mayor in Los Tres Camarones, and also a Mexican nationalist. I say this because Tia Irma supported her in everything she has done. This includes the time when Nayeli was planning her journey to the United States; Tia Irma helped them organize and finance it. This woman encouraged Nayeli’s love for the sport of soccer and helped her defend herself under any circumstances. Even when Nayeli and her mother struggled with money and needed a home, Tia Irma was there to help them.

Another mentor that Nayeli came across is Atomiko. Atomiko is a boy who calls himself the King of Dompe and believes he’s a samurai. He offered Nayeli assistance in crossing the border when they met at the junkyard, a place where two nefarious men attempted to rob and harass Nayeli. When Atomiko realized she was in danger, he rushed down the hill of trash to protect her with his six-foot bamboo “sword”. Nayeli did get angry at him, insisting she did not need anyone to save her. She tried many times to convince him to leave, but Nayeli’s friends wanted him to stay.

Despite Nayeli’s skepticism, Atomiko remained loyal and humble to her throughout the entire journey. Even though Nayeli didn’t trust him initially, his respect for her speaks volumes. He kept his promises, helping Nayeli cross the border and journey to the United States. He also supported her in finding her “magnificent seven” and escorting them back to Los Tres Camarones to enrich her town. The King of Dompe gave up everything to help Nayeli complete her journey. Loyalty and trust are rare commodities, and the way Tia Irma and Atomiko displayed theirs for Nayeli is testament to their strong characters.

“Crossing the Threshold” is the fifth step in the “Hero’s Journey” outlined by Joseph Campbell. This stage marks the point when the protagonist exits their ordinary world, crossing the threshold into a world of adventure. For Nayeli, her hero, her threshold came when she finally crossed the border and entered the United States. Atomiko led Nayeli through numerous deserted places and an underground tunnel at the border, all in order for her to complete her journey. This threshold represents Nayeli’s entry into a new world, very unlike her hometown. Upon arrival in the United States, Nayeli quickly realized that her new surroundings bore little resemblance to her expectations. She had to contend with hostility, disrespect, and racism from people she encountered. Her successful completion of the journey hinged on her ability to adapt to unfamiliar circumstances and an entirely new life.

The sixth step is “Tests, Allies, Enemies”. The meaning of test, allies, enemies lies in the contrast between the Original World and the new Special World that the hero has just entered. In the story “Into the Beautiful North”, Nayeli was the one most tested as a hero and was able to recognize who was actually there for her. She was primarily facing betrayal because everyone she thought would help her, did her wrong. She ended up losing her resources and was sexually harassed. Essentially, she gained some, lost some, as people say, “they come and go”. Further into the story, she was tested by the hardships of surviving and crossing the border without resources. From the beginning, Nayeli’s allies were her Tia Irma, Tacho, Vampi, and Yolo because they accompanied her to the United States. The allies she met during the journey included Atomiko because he was loyal and trustworthy to her in many ways. He helped her find a way to cross the border and to find the seven men who would help to save her village, Los Tres Camarones. Another ally was Agent Arnold. He found her story very interesting and felt empathetic towards the things they’d been through. This prompted him to give them a ride to San Diego. As for the enemies that Nayeli and her friends faced, they included Atomiko, who catcalled Nayeli, strangers who harassed Nayeli, and white racists who disliked them simply because they weren’t American.

The seventh step of Joseph Campbell’s progressions is “Approach to Inmost Cave”. This represents where the ultimate goal lies for the hero. The Inmost cave signifies the proximity of the hero to the objective. The part where Nayeli approaches the inmost cave occurs when she tries to enter the United States for the second time, failing during her first attempt. She decides to try a second time, entering a tunnel by a shop. As she returns to the United States without facing any obstacle, she finally resolves that finding her seven men must happen quickly so they can go back home and save the village. She is close to achieving her journey’s objective and has no intentions of stopping because she can almost taste victory.

Another progression is the “Ordeal.” The “Ordeal” is when the hero faces a significant obstacle that could culminate in a life-or-death situation. If the hero lives, they earn their reward or achieve their journey’s goal. Nayeli realized that she hadn’t seen her dad even once since she set foot in the United States. She expected to see him as soon as she got there, but this expectation was dashed. She had started her journey believing she would see her father in the United States and that he would help her find her seven men. This belief formed the crux of her journey and was her motivation—her hope—fuelled by a postcard he had once sent her. However, her excitement, joy, and hope vanished when she finally saw him. She went to the place where her father was staying, but she encountered an unexpected situation. Her father emerged from a truck, accompanied by a woman, who I presume is his girlfriend or wife, and a young child. The sight devastated Nayeli so much that she broke down crying. As she started to calm down, she decided to leave the postcard by the truck and leave. I infer that she did this to finally let go of her past, to acknowledge that she does not need his help in life. Despite the risk she took to see her father, she remained unfazed in her determination to complete her mission.

“Reward (Seizing the Sword)” is the ninth step of the “Hero’s Journey.” This phase is when the hero finally accomplishes the journey and receives the award, but it is not the end of the journey. As Nayeli confides in Tia Irma about her quest for the seven men, she receives great news. Tia Irma tells Nayeli that there are approximately 27 men willing to join the “Magnificent Seven.” When she finally identifies her “Magnificent Seven,” they are ready to return home to Los Tres Camarones and save the village. They have successfully completed their mission and are prepared to go back home. Despite not meeting her father, this failure pushed her even more to find the seven men. When she realized that meeting her father would not eventuate, she persevered. Her ability to let go of her father and move on from that part of her life fortified her character and made her a stronger hero because she knew she had to put her personal issues aside to save the village.

The tenth step is the “Road Back,” representing the hero’s return to their ordinary world. Since Nayeli found her “Magnificent Seven,” she can finally return to Los Tres Camarones. Unexpectedly, her ally Agent Arnold promises not to deport Nayeli and her friends. Instead, he offers them a ride to San Diego so they can cross the border back into Mexico.

“Resurrection” is the eleventh step of Joseph Campbell’s progressions. Resurrection can be seen when Nayeli found out about her father. She realized that he was a happy man and didn’t think about Nayeli in the way she had assumed. As they were heading to Kankakee, Illinois with Tacho, most of them got carsick, but Nayeli was very excited to see her father for the first time. Once they got there, Nayeli didn’t expect to see what she saw and felt so ashamed because she did all this for him. She saw her father getting off a truck with his wife or girlfriend and a young child, realizing that he had a family and had forgotten about his old one. Perhaps that’s why he stopped sending postcards. Numerous thoughts were running through her mind, but the one thing she didn’t do was confront her father. Nayeli reacted swiftly, deciding to leave the postcard on the truck’s window. She chose to let go of her dreams relating to her father and continue the mission she had previously sacrificed her personal life for – to save her village, and protect her people from the danger and violence rampant in Los Tres Camarones.

The final step of the “Hero’s Journey” is “Return with the Elixir”. This is when the hero brings acquired knowledge back to the ordinary world, applying it to assist all who remain there. By using the twelve-step progression of the “Hero’s Journey” conceived by Joseph Campbell, I realize that Luis Alberto Urrea has perfectly shown that Nayeli is a true hero. Throughout this journey, Nayeli and her friends made several sacrifices, and went through numerous trials in order to find her “Magnificent Seven” in the United States and bring them back to Los Tres Camarones, thereby restoring peace in her ordinary world. She returned home and lied to her mother about not seeing her father. Later, she came in contact with a friend to whom she revealed everything that transpired during her journey.

Joseph Campbell’s twelve-step progression of a “Hero’s Journey” illustrated that Nayeli successfully navigated through all the stages, asserting herself as a hero. This, however, does not undermine Aristotle’s six “Tragic Figures”. Both paradigms simply emphasize that stories can be told through the lenses of “Hero’s Journey” or “Tragic Figure”. In the forthcoming analysis, I will be substantiating the six “Tragic Figures” in William Shakespeare’s play, “The Tempest”.

The Tempest

The Tempest is about a storm that strikes a ship carrying people from Duke Of Milan. This storm is created by a brother who was betrayed by his own people. He seeks revenge on whoever wronged him. This scenario clearly portrays the six “Tragic Figures” described by Aristotle.

Hamartia is the first element. Hamartia refers to a fatal flaw leading to the downfall of a tragic hero or heroine. A man named Prospero, the Duke of Milan and a wizard, was dethroned by his brother Antonio who promised better plans for the kingdom. Antonio convinced the King of Naples, Alonso, to exile Prospero and his daughter Miranda, believing they would die in solitude. Upon learning about his brother’s betrayal, Prospero experienced his downfall.

Hubris is the second “Tragic Figure” element. Hubris signifies excessive pride or self-confidence. Prospero became exceedingly prideful after his betrayal, believing he was superior and could rule over everyone. This pride possibly led to his disconnect from his identity as a king. Power took control of him. This trait grew, driving him to reclaim his throne through revenge.

The third tragic element is Peripeteia, a sudden reversal of fortune or change in circumstances, particularly in a narrative context. Prospero, too trusting in his brother Antonio, paid the price for his naïveté. If he had been more cautious, he would’ve avoided his predicament. His series of actions led to the capture of Ferdinand which, in turn, incited the love story between Miranda and Ferdinand.

Anagnorisis is the next feature of a “Tragic Figure”. Anagnorisis refers to the point in a play or similar work when a character makes a critical discovery. As Prospero executes his revenge by producing a storm that wrecks the ship, it becomes trapped on a deserted island where Prospero and Miranda reside. Prospero captures Ferdinand whose subsequent solitary time with Miranda evolves into love. Prospero disapproves upon discovering their romance.

Nemesis is the final tragic figure. Nemesis denotes unavoidable punishment, usually a result of the protagonist’s hubris. As Prospero consistently fails in his endeavours to rectify his situation, he grows angrier and more eager for revenge. Prospero, having lost his title of Duke of Milan along with all its privileges and his daughter to his enemy’s son, becomes desperate. Miranda’s profound love for Ferdinand makes her indifferent to her father’s feelings.

Catharsis is the last element as a “tragic figure.” Catharsis is the process of releasing, and thereby providing relief from, strong or repressed emotions. Prospero hit rock bottom because, in one moment, he had everything that everyone wanted. However, since he was betrayed by his own blood and people, he lost his title and also lost his daughter, Miranda, to the enemy’s son, Ferdinand. He went from happiness to sadness rapidly. And at this moment, he had to go back to Naples because they were going to get married. Even though he had to return, he didn’t forgive everything that had happened to him. He went to be with his daughter and support her.

Reading both “Into the Beautiful North” by Luis Alberto Urrea and “The Tempest” by William Shakespeare, I came to the conclusion that Nayeli is the bigger hero than Prospero. I say this because Prospero was selfish and angry about how events transpired. He put his people in danger by wrecking the ship, whereas Nayeli thought of a plan to save her village by going to the United States to find her own “Magnificent Seven” to bring back to Los Tres Camarones. Even though Nayeli was still embarking on this journey for her personal reasons, like meeting her father, that doesn’t make her selfish because the journey she faced was fraught with risk and danger. All Prospero wanted was revenge, and he was unable to think beyond his desire for payback. Even though his daughter fell in love with the enemy, he still became angry at her. I think that’s wrong because a parent should support their child in any circumstance. By contrast, Nayeli allowed many people into her life who eventually betrayed her, yet she didn’t once seek revenge. She let it go and moved on to achieve her goal. Refering back to the quote, Joseph Campbell states, “[A] hero is someone who has given his or her life to something bigger than oneself.” As I mentioned previously, this quote means to me that no matter what happens in your life, you should prioritize helping others who need assistance. A hero is someone who others look up to; someone who possesses qualities that we feel we lack within ourselves. I believe Nayeli is the real hero because, when faced with the truth about her father, she dismissed her personal feelings to continue the mission, save her village, and ensure everyone’s safety. Additionally, she managed to make new friends along the journey. Thus, a hero isn’t a fictional character you see in movies, it’s someone who can master Joseph Campbell’s twelve steps of a “Hero’s Journey” or Aristotle’s six “Tragic Figures.”

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AP English Literature and Composition. (2021, Jul 05). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/ap-english-literature-and-composition/