The Hero’s journey – Atonement with the father

Atonement with the father

The hero must reconcile with the ultimate authority figure in his life. Reconciliation means to end the conflict. The authority figure needs to hand over approval or respect or the hero comes to the realization that the authority figure was right. In the same way sons rebel against their fathers when young but when they get older they understand their father was only trying to help him, they come to understand that the father was right.

The act of atonement brings with it a new level of maturity or understanding to the hero of himself. The hero may need to defeat or gain some sort of mastery over the authority figure or completely submit to it to complete this stage.

Sons have a conflicting relationship with their father, they are desperate for their father’s approval but at the same time they are trying to assert their own manhood over their father. When the child is ready to reconcile with his father he has proved he is ready to make a man out of himself. The atonement marks the end of being a child.

The story of the prodigal son.

A young man asks his father to give him his inheritance before his father has died so that he may enjoy it now. The father agrees and the son travels to a distant land and wastes all the money on extravagant living. He is forced through poverty to take to working as a swineherd, a filthy job, and eventually begins to envy the pigs. He decides to return home, expected to be treated like a servant in the eyes of his father. However his father runs to him and they embrace. All is forgiven.

This is what Joseph Campbell writes about this stage;

“Atonement consists in no more than the abandonment of that self-generated double monster—the dragon thought to be God (superego) and the dragon thought to be Sin (repressed id). But this requires an abandonment of the attachment to ego itself, and that is what is difficult. One must have a faith that the father is merciful, and then a reliance on that mercy. Therewith, the center of belief is transferred outside of the bedeviling god’s tight scaly ring, and the dreadful ogres dissolve. It is in this ordeal that the hero may derive hope and assurance from the helpful female figure, by whose magic (pollen charms or power of intercession) he is protected through all the frightening experiences of the father’s ego-shattering initiation. For if it is impossible to trust the terrifying father-face, then one’s faith must be centered elsewhere (Spider Woman, Blessed Mother); and with that reliance for support, one endures the crisis—only to find, in the end, that the father and mother reflect each other, and are in essence the same. The problem of the hero going to meet the father is to open his soul beyond terror to such a degree that he will be ripe to understand how the sickening and insane tragedies of this vast and ruthless cosmos are completely validated in the majesty of Being. The hero transcends life with its peculiar blind spot and for a moment rises to a glimpse of the source. He beholds the face of the father, understands—and the two are atoned.”


Atonement with the father Silence of the Lambs

She completely bares her soul to Hannibal in this scene and earns his gratitude. This is the wound she’s been carrying with her since she was a child, the reason she became an FBI agent in the first place, to silence the lambs. This is what has held power over her, all her life, by acknowledging this incident she is able to overcome it.

The authority figure could be a father, mother, god, system of laws, an ideal, an event that has power over the hero.


Whether or not the hero is aware of it, the journey has been leading to this moment. Once this new level of enlightenment has been achieved, the hero is able to complete the journey.


Reconcile – Cause to coexist in harmony, make or show compatible.

Conciliate, accommodate, conform, resolve, settle, bring together, bury the hatchet


How to use in your writing

What is the ultimate power in your character’s life?

What is the ultimate power in this adventure?

How is conquering, accepting, or submitting to this power going to lead to a new level of understanding for the hero?

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