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    The Child Savior Myth and Literary Archetypes
    -- An Introduction Using "Man on Fire"

    Subject:     ELA: Archetypes; Child Savior Myth;

    Ages:          14+

    Length:       Snippet: 22 minutes; Lesson: one 45 - 55 minute class period.

    Learner Outcomes/Objectives:     Students will be able to recognize and analyze the child savior myth, a recurring element in literature and film. Students will be introduced to the concept of literary archetypes.

    Rationale:     Images of children are important in literature and are used to sell products, win elections, and encourage religious devotion. The child as savior, through whom people find truth, the answer to their problems, or salvation is an important feature of many works of fiction. An understanding of the literary archetype of the child savior will help students analyze and appreciate works of fiction. An understanding of the use of images of children in advertising and the media will help students make informed decisions. Finally, this lesson can be used to introduce students to the concept of literary archetypes, an important element in most works of fiction.

    Description of the Snippet:     "Man on Fire" is an action film in which a former Special Forces operative named Creasy is employed as a bodyguard to protect the young daughter of a wealthy Mexican businessman. Creasy is suffering from remorse for savage deeds committed when he was working in counter-insurgency. As the snippet opens, Creasy is shown drunk, guilt-ridden, and puzzled by a failed attempt to kill himself. Standing in the rain, a clear symbol of purification, he looks up to see the child watching him from the window. Thereafter, Creasy begins tutoring the girl and coaching her efforts to become a better swimmer. He grows increasingly fond of her unrelenting innocence. At the snippet's end, Creasy reaches for a bottle of liquor, uncaps it, recaps it, puts it down, and picks up the Bible. He is saved.


Learner Outcomes/Objectives
Description of the Snippet
Using the Snippet in Class:
      Step by Step
      Supplemental Materials
           -- Child Savior Archetype
      Concluding Activity/Assessment

Location: The snippet starts at DVD scene 7 and runs for 22 minutes until Creasy caps the bottle and picks up the Bible.

Possible Problems with this Snippet: None. The remainder of the movie is violent and well deserves its R rating. DO NOT ALLOW THE MOVIE TO RUN BEYOND THE SNIPPET, SINCE IT QUICKLY BECOMES VERY VIOLENT.

Set-Up-the-Sub: For instructions to a substitute about using this lesson, see Using "Man on Fire" to Set-Up-the-Sub -- Introducing the Child Savior Myth.

What about showing the whole movie? TWM does not recommend showing the entire film in class. This R-rated movie is too violent for adults to show to children. The snippet alone adequately conveys what is needed for the lesson.

Teachers may want to reference works of literature, such as "A Child Went Forth," by Walt Whitman or some of the writings of Ralph Waldo Emerson, to supplement their students' understanding of the theme. In A Raisin in the Sun, Walter cannot accept the white neighbors' money in front of his son. He is unwilling to destroy the child's innocence by selling his principles.

The handout consists of the Supplemental Materials in a word processing file. Teachers can modify or supplement this information to adapt the lesson to the abilities and needs of their classes.

Students can benefit from the study of both literary and psychological archetypes. The information learned from the snippet taken from "Man on Fire" can be transformed into a serious study of patterns of personality, situations, symbols, motifs and ideas. Assignments can involve in-depth research into the archetypes such as those associated with Greek mythology. The Greeks looked at goddesses such as Hera, Artemis, Aphrodite and Athena, to name just a few, as patterns of personality that served to inform the whole of womanhood. Hera was the jealous, domineering mother and wife; Artemis represented the hunter; Aphrodite, the lover; and Athena, the warrior. A similar analysis can be made of the male gods of Greek mythology.

Other than the writings of Carl Jung and the study of Greek mythology, an excellent source for exploration of ideas involving archetypes can be The Golden Bough, by Sir James Frazer. The 1922 edition is easily accessed by students and will open their minds to ideas and archetypes they have never thought possible.

Reminder: Obtain all required permissions from school administrators before showing this snippet.

This film is available from Amazon.com.

Teachers who want parental permission to show this snippet can use TWM's Movie Permission Slip.

    Concluding Activity/Assessment:      This assessment also includes elements of independent practice in that students will be asked to apply what they have learned to new situations.

    Students can be assigned the following projects either in class or as homework. Specify the length and complexity of the assignment depending on available time, skill levels of the students and how this lesson fits into the curriculum.

    • Look for print advertising or advertising on the Internet that uses images of children and bring at least three examples to share with the class. Have volunteers share their examples with the class and describe why they think the advertiser used the image of a child to assist in selling the product. In the discussion stress the attributes of childhood: innocence, purity, inexperience, vulnerability, the promise of a future, etc. This exercise should not take more than ten minutes.
    • Write an essay describing the use of the child savior myth in the "Man on Fire" snippet, including a description of the attributes of Pita that helped Creasy to heal. The essay should refer to action, dialogue and imagery.
    • Write an essay describing the use of the child savior myth in a movie that you have seen or a book that you have read. The essay should refer to action, dialogue and imagery.
    • Write a persuasive essay describing what you believe to be the reason that child saviors are important in stories: spoken, written or filmed. Argue your point.
  Essays are to be written according to the essay rubric established in class. When paragraphs are called for, they should be written according to the rubric for paragraphs established in class.


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