I like this movie for this writing technique because the hero’s journey does not follow a set order. I have listed the traditional hero’s journey here, but usually the order of things is mixed up. Like this, the timeline of Big Fish is not consistent. His son, Will Bloom (Billy Crudup), even points this out during the movie.
For more information about the different pieces of the Hero’s journey, check out this site. I also used Wikipedia as a reference.
This discussion will look at young Edward Bloom (Ewan McGregor) specifically and his journey through life. The story jumps around a bit in my analysis, but I think this is the best way to show the hero's journey in the traditional order without getting too confusing.
The Call to Adventure: This is in the beginning when he meets “the witch” (Helena Bonham Carter).
Refusal of the Call: There really isn’t a refusal of the call for Edward. He is brave throughout the movie. The closes thing to it is when his friends have to tell him to “go in and get that eye”. But he does it without fear.
Supernatural Aid: Karl (Matthew McGrory) is his supernatural aid. He is a very strong giant who helps Edward many times.
The Crossing of the First Threshold: The witch showing him how he will die is the first threshold. Because he knows how he will die, it is like he is crossing into another world. Now he can fear nothing. Also, he had to go up to the witch’s house to see his death. He had to cross the threshold of her property.
The Belly of the Whale: When he “had to stay in the bed for three years”, he couldn't go anywhere. This is when he decides he “was intended for larger things”.
The Road of Trials: This is when Edward faces the fork in the road and chooses the unpaved road. He faces darkness, bees/wasps (unclear), and “jumping spiders”.
The Meeting with the Goddess: When Edward goes to the circus, he sees the love of his life, Sandra (Alison Lohman). He marries her later and loves her dearly his whole life.
Woman as the Temptress: This is represented when he sees the naked woman in the water. However, the little girl says,”It’s not a woman. It’s a fish. No one ever catches her.” Edward is captivated and tempted by the big fish throughout the movie.
Atonement with the Father: Amos Calloway (Danny DeVito), the circus ring leader, is the supernatural power that holds life and death, since he’s a werewolf. He holds power over Edward in that he is his boss and he knows the name of Edward’s love. Also, when Edward learns he is a werewolf and her name, it is the middle of the movie.
Apotheosis: When he wanders into Spectre, he experiences his apotheosis, his bliss. There is great food, friendly people, and perfect weather. It is a heaven-like place. He also “dies” in the army. He’s really just trying to get back to his love, but the U.S. army thought he had died. Either of these would fit the apotheosis part.
The Ultimate Boon: I believe this is getting the love of his life. When he returns from the war, he marries Sandra and begins his life as a husband and salesman. Although we do not see this story, it is his boon.
Refusal of the Return: I think Edward’s mission to bring back Spectre could be seen as a refusal of the return. He does love his wife and wants to be with her so I think this is grasping a bit. But it is a blissful place to him and he does have temptation to stay.
The Magic Flight: This is when Edward robs the bank with Norther Winslow (Steve Buscemi). Again, I do think this is a bit of a stretch, but it is dangerous and they do get away with some money.
Rescue from Without: When he was in the war, he wanted to go home. So, he confided in two Asian twins Ping (Ada Tai) and Jing (Arlene Tai) to get him home.
The Crossing of the Return Threshold: This is when he enters and fixes Jenny’s (Helena Bonham Carter) house, the old, crooked one by the swamp.
Master of the Two Worlds: I would say this is how he tells his stories. There is the real world (what really happened), like the army actually thinking he was dead and meeting an abnormally tall man. Then there is his story world (the exaggerated tales), like battling a fish for a ring or seeing his death in a witches eye.
Freedom to Live: The freedom is literally the when he sees his death in the beginning. However, in this story, I think it is his death. He swims away in the river as a “very big fish”. “The man tells his stories so many times that he becomes the stories. They live on after him. And in that way, he becomes immortal.”
While there are a lot of fun things going on with water throughout this movie, I find it to be one of the less thought of and more interesting representations of the hero’s journey.
Come back next week for a look at an anti-hero!