The original model or pattern from which copies are made or from which something develops. It is also a symbol, theme, setting, or character that is thought to have some universal meaning and recurs in different times and places in myth, literature, folklore, dreams, and rituals.
The term is from the Greek archetupon, meaning “pattern” or “model.”
The psychologist Carl Jung identified the archetype in the collective unconscious of mankind: the ideas or modes of thought derived from the experiences of a race—such as birth, death, love, family life, struggles—inherited in the subconscious of an individual from ancestors and expressed in myths, dreams, and literature.
How is this useful?
Archetypes are found most helpful in Epics. In, A Handbook to Literature edited by William Harmon and C. Hugh Holman, it is “believed to evoke profound emotions because it touches the unconscious memory and thus calls into play illogical but strong responses (Harmon and Holman).”