Posted by: Alastair Rosie | October 28, 2012

Part 11 The Resurrection


Back in 1988 I helped organise the first International Vietnam Veterans march in Melbourne, Australia. I was too young for Vietnam, Australian troops left in 1973 when I was ten, but I recognised years later the importance of acknowledging the men who fought, even if the dark political objectives of the war went against my conscience. In his book, The Writer’s Journey, Christopher Vogler mentions the lack of victory parades after the Vietnam War and compares it to earlier conflicts where returning veterans were treated to a victory parade. Vogler ponders if this lack of acknowledgement has been a factor in the recurring post traumatic stress so symptomatic of Vietnam veterans. In Western countries especially we seem to have lost that resurrection factor. In the ‘Good War’ our grandfathers returned from Europe and the Pacific to a ticker-tape parade and a general feeling of well being. It was a resurrection after six years of global war.
The Resurrection is a vital part of the Hero’s Journey and one we’re going to explore today. In fiction it’s also called the final climax or a second death. This can be confusing if you’ve followed this series because our hero did experience some kind of death back in the Ordeal but now they’re facing death yet again? Think of it as tying up loose ends. Your villain is still out there, your hero has returned with the sword or the boon and the villain is going to try one last time to steal it back and kill your hero.
It’s a time when your hero shows that they really have changed. Remember Sarah Connor in The Terminator? At the very beginning she’s a sweet loveable ‘Girl Next Door.’ In the forge after she’s survived numerous attempts on her life, recognised the important role she plays in the future; it’s incumbent on the writer to show that Sarah really has changed. And how does she do that? Firstly she hauls a badly wounded Rhys to his feet and says, “on your feet soldier” and leads him further into the forge. Secondly when he dies, she leads the terminator through a big press, risking death herself to entice the terminator into the press, she then presses the button and crushes it. Sarah Connor has experienced her own resurrection. The old ‘apple pie girl’ Sarah Connor is now dead and a new Sarah Connor has risen from the ashes to become the mother of the future leader of the resistance. If you watch that scene again you’ll have shots of the light at the other side. This is a symbol of death, going through a long dark tunnel towards a bright light.
Other resurrections may not be as dramatic. In Notting Hill, William bursts into the press conference and for a minute or two we think the old William is still alive and well, but then he gingerly puts up his hand and asks the question as a reporter from Horse and Hound, a reference to an earlier scene. He wants to know if there’s a chance that she might get together with this William and when she says no, he hesitates one last time and then asks, “but what if this William realised he had been a daft prick and got down on his knees and begged you to reconsider, would you in fact reconsider?”
It’s a powerful line delivered in front of the voracious British press. William has sacrificed his old self to a merciless death and emerged as a new William. When she says she would reconsider we see it on his face and it’s a study in facial expressions to see the change in William. It’s also a replaying of an earlier scene where Anna confronts William in his shop with the same question and is rebuffed. The fact that he has actually realised that Anna Scott for all her fame and fortune really is, “just a girl standing in front of a boy asking him to love her,” proves to Anna that he has been reborn. He now understands that what’s at stake is fundamental to all humans regardless of class or social standing, it’s a universal longing for love. William is now ready to become her husband and she his wife in what Jung called the ‘Sacred Marriage.’
There are many many variations between these two extreme examples, the villain in the Bond movies has to die, the Bond villains always die because they’re threatening to destroy not just James Bond but all of us. So there’s always a fight to the death, a last ditch attempt to turn the tables on the hero super spy. Birdee in Hope Floats has the final confrontation with Bill and prior to that while she has argued over the phone with him, we haven’t seen her do it. Now she’s facing off against him and telling him “you were lucky to have me… but I got the best part of you and she’s waiting right out there.” Just then her daughter races in determined to retrieve her belongings and go with her father and we see Birdee has indeed changed because she sits on the porch watching the final confrontation between father and daughter. He pleads with Birdee to help him and she refuses, she knows she’s won the battle for her dignity and the love of her daughter. After Bill drives off down the street she picks her daughter up and carries her inside and notice that Justin is not present at this final confrontation. We need to see that Birdee can stand on her own two feet without a man being around, especially now that she’s just buried her mother. In short we see she has changed from the agreeable, pliant people pleaser to a woman who can stand her ground and make her own way in the world.
In Sleeping With the Enemy, Laura confronts her worst nightmare when Martin bursts into the house to kill her. She does the unthinkable and shoots him, something she would never have been able to do before. She then calmly calls 911 to report she’s just killed a burglar. Laura has gone from a frightened, brow beaten wife to a hero who faced her worst nightmare and killed it, in her case literally.
Change, metamorphosis, it’s all grist for the mill. Your hero has to show they’ve changed. Vogler goes further in this chapter and warns against bringing in the cavalry to rescue the hero and I tend to side with him on that matter. Your hero has to have changed, they experience their death and are reborn as something new. It’s a ritual as old as time, from the ticker-tape parades of old to the act of saying “I do” at a wedding, we die to the old and are reborn to the new. It’s the final frontier and your hero has to make good on all they’ve learned or we’re going to feel let down. Some writers may feel the need to bring in the cavalry or a helper because in the real world that’s what might happen, but this isn’t the real world, it’s fiction. We want to see your hero has changed, it’s a cathartic experience and if we don’t see it then all the hard work you’ve done in the past is forgotten and I’ve read some books and seen movies just like that where I felt cheated.
So what is your final conflict and can we see that your hero has changed? Are they now ready to return to the old world with the reward? This part is the most important if you want your reader to put down your book with a smile on their face.

Other examples of the Resurrection.

Discovering Sophie’s true ancestry in Rosslyn Chapel, in The Da Vinci Code.
In The Brave One, Erika being confronted by Detective Sean Mercer, a man she respects. She is about to kill the bad guy when he stops her and hands her his gun. “If you’re going to do it, then do it right.” She shoots the bad guy and then is forced to wound Mercer to make it right. Erika has killed the villains who murdered her fiance but is forced to confront the dark creature she has become, the vigilante killer. She leaves a dark world and returns to the old world.
Frodo and Sam in Lord of the Rings where the Ring is finally destroyed along with Mount Doom and they are forced to take shelter on a rock believing they are about to die, only to be rescued by the Eagles. Here the cavalry do rescue our heroes but we don’t feel cheated because they have destroyed the Ring and Sam has gone from fool hero to true hero. Frodo has finally realised that the Ring really did have more power over him than he wanted to admit.
The death of Commodus and Maximus in Gladiator and here we find the true hero, which is much less tangible, the Republic of Rome and democracy. It’s harder to accomplish because we want Maximus to live but in the movie he dies in order that a better world might be reborn.
The court summation in A Time To Kill where Jake Brigance pleads with the jury to see the case through the eyes of a father and not just a black man.
Another court summation in JFK where Garrison pleads with the jury to reconsider the mythology of the Kennedy assassination and by extension, Stone is pleading with us to also revisit that fateful day in Dallas.


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