Beyond the Hero’s Journey

Exodus

LORD OF THE FLIES 1963

From Exodus come our most terrifying tales.

The covenant with nature, creation or the divine has been broken. Abandonment. Diaspora. An individual or crippled group has been thrust out of the social hive, an early attempt at civilization is unreachable or in ruins behind them. The new clan must establish an identity and fend for itself in an alien, resource deprived and hostile world. They often fail.

The Expulsion from the Garden, Moses in the Sinai, Noah’s Flood, “Paradise Lost”  – all templates of the form in the west.

Since Coleridge, Poe and Melville most Horror, much Science Fiction and all Post Apocalyptic stories have been predicated on stories of Exodus – the total loss of home and civilization, a descent into solitude, alienation and chaos. “The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner”, “Moby Dick”.

More recently the writers of “Lord of the Flies”, “Catcher in the Rye” and the French existentialists (extending their tribe to include Beckett), provided pronounced and terrifying Exodus stories after the war, “The Stranger,” “No Exit,” “The Plague,” “Waiting for Godot,” “A Perfect Day for Bananafish.” Civilization has perished, individuals are confused, lost.

In our time, apart from the legion of Zombie tales shuffling through the culture at present (without much to add beyond illustrating our immediate fear of, and compulsive desire for, total conformity), Exodus stories are rare. Witness the genuine strangeness of Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road” and its uncomfortable reception. A masterpiece, yes – but are we really prepared to hear what it has to say?

Be warned, there may be an omen in our reticence – perhaps some real Exodus is eminent, one whose midnight echo has crept too close for us to tempt it with stories around the fire.

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