Joseph Campbell, in The Hero with a Thousand Faces, worked to identify “the standard path of the mythological adventure,” dividing the stages of the hero’s journey into up to eleven different stages (Campbell, n.d.). These stages consist of: “birth, (the) call to adventure, helpers/amulet, crossing the threshold, tests, helpers, climax/the final battle, flight, return, elixir, (and) home” (Campbell, n.d.). It has been argued that the monomyth, or hero’s journey, may be applied to all tales, fiction and non-fiction alike, and by reviewing Waiting to Be Heard by Amanda Knox, it will be possible to clearly identify each of the different stages of the journey, as indicated throughout the book.
Waiting to Be Heard details the story of Amanda Knox as told through her own eyes. Her story starts with her life in Washington, growing up as a normal suburban teenager going to school at the University of Washington in Seattle (Knox, 2013). It is here, within the first chapter of her tale that the reader hears about her birth, her siblings, her divorced parents, her relatives, her step-parents, and her half siblings, and it is here that the reader learns at the start of this tale that she is nineteen years old (Knox, 2013); this first chapter correlates to the birth of hero, stage one of Campbell’s monomyth. The call to adventure follows shortly, also in the first chapter, wherein Amanda sits down her mother and her father at the same time, something that she states indicates their “monumental love” for her, to tell them about her decision to study for a year abroad in Italy; she sees it as her calling to go (Knox, p. 5). Her parents agree with her decision and give her their blessing, and her sister Deanna serves as her helper at the start of her journey “taking the train with her from Milan to Florence,” and following her as far as Perugia, the location where Amanda will be residing; Deanna continues her journey to visit relatives after seeing Amanda safely placed in the city that will become her home abroad (Knox, p. 17). Her English to Italian dictionary may be seen as her primary weapon on her journey.
Stage four, crossing the threshold occurs when Amanda experiences temporary difficulties in locating a place to live, and to a larger degree several months later when her roommate, Meredith, is found murdered within their shared villa (Knox, 2013). The tests come next, wherein Amanda must face the tribulations of the police, the challenges of being incarcerated as a suspect, and the difficulties of being accused of the murder of her friend (Knox, 2013). The helpers at this stage in her journey, stage 6, consist of her parents who are supportive throughout her ordeal, and her lawyers Ghirga and Vedova (Knox, 2013). Though the first trial resulted in a verdict of guilty, her acquittal indicated that she was not guilty of any crime other than slander, a sentence that carried the weight of three years, time already served; the acquittal could be seen as her final battle, wherein she emerged from the system that held her without conviction for years (Knox, 2013). As soon as the verdict was reached, Knox and her family immediately took flight, literally returning to America by plane the day following the verdict, prompting her return home, safe and sound to her friends and her old life (Knox, 2013).
Through a simple analysis, it is easy to see how the tale of a seemingly mundane teenager may too fit into the monomyth cycle, one that could even be said to have reached mythic proportions due to the media coverage sparked by the tale. Any story, fiction or non-fiction alike, may be seen as a potential application of the monomyth, and parceled out to indicate the stages of the hero’s journey that is followed.
Author’s note: Please note that Amanda Knox is not a hero in a traditional sense; many of the mistakes that she made that led to the events detailed in the book could have been easily avoided with a basic knowledge of the legal system and the basic rights granted to any individual, coupled with a basic knowledge of the city that she was moving to. Please further note that this does not serve as a promotion of the work within the book, or an indication that the book could be considered well written in any way.
- Campbell, Joseph. “The Journey Stages.” The Journey Stages. Berkley, n.d. Web. 4 Feb. 2014. http://orias.berkeley.edu/hero/journeystages.pdf.
- Knox, Amanda. Waiting to Be Heard: A Memoir. NY, NY: Harper, 2013. Print.