Modern literature often provides an adventure in place of the quest. One example is The Hobbit by J.R.R Tolkien, published in 1937, in which the protagonist, Bilbo, is disturbed from his peaceful routines in order to embark on a voyage to regain treasure from the savage dragon, Smaug. It exemplifies the journey plot structure, otherwise known as the adventure archetype, for the protagonist attempts to fill his gradually gain heroism through. Most notably, the quest is developed through the elements of character, imagery, and plot in the novel. The development of the protagonist, Bilbo, portrays maturation and personal growth, signifying that the quest is not only for physical possession, but for a fulfillment. Through the development of the quest, the overview of benevolence versus evil emerges through imagery, demonstrating the effectiveness of the novel. In addition, the quest follows a linear plot in the adventure archetype, gradually showing the development of the quest. The novel is successful in achieving its purpose of the quest not only existing to obtain the physical object through journey, but also to find one’s personal self.
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The maturation of the protagonist, Bilbo, is crucial in the re-discovering of himself. Bilbo at first embarks on the quest as a reluctant, common hobbit, wanting to do nothing with Gandalf’s request. Nevertheless, as the novel progresses, Bilbo prevails in the face of danger and adversity, a threat to the status quo. Much of this has to do with fate and destiny. Out of the numerous people in their group, Bilbo is the one who is left unconscious to retrieve the ring that grants invisibility. Another instance is which shows evidence of the maturation of Bilbo is when Bilbo confronts Smaug, the antagonist, solely through sheer luck and chance.
Let’s have no more argument. I have chose Mr. Baggins and that ought to be enough for all of you. If I say he is a burglar, a burglar he is, or will be when time comes. There is a lot in him than you guess, and a deal more than he has any idea of himself…” (J.R.R Tolkien, 24)
Therefore, it can be assumed that a supernatural force or power aids Bilbo on his quest. In this scenario, the fate ruler would be Gandalf, his mentor. There are many instances throughout the quest in which Gandalf “disappeared” from the group due to an arcane call, leaving Bilbo to lead the dwarves. Therefore, one could also say that fate and self-will controlled the development of the quest. This quest also serves as a metaphor for Bilbo’s personal growth. Originally, the call to adventure is purely for a physical purpose of retrieving the stolen gold and possessions from Smaug. However, he builds more confidence and resourcefulness through confronting the trolls, escaping with Gollum’s ring, rescuing the dwarves in Mirkwood, and speaking face-to-face with the great dragon. These conflicts each give him an opportunity to prove himself and his bravery as a burglar. As well, through each of these mischief, he is able to fulfill his personal destiny. The hobbits are generally known for their timid peaceful way of living. Yet, Bilbo’s lineage of the Took is known for being adventurous. Without the quest, Bilbo would yet still be in his hobbit hole. He would not have developed into the hero he becomes at the end of his quest. To explain, during the lonesome time in the cave with Gollum, the quest becomes Bilbo’s own, not of the dwarves’ physical possession. Through his solo act, Bilbo attempts to fill his “personal” quest in rediscovering himself. In addition, he hesitates and worries whether or not leaving home was a good idea in many instances throughout the quest. “To go in quest means to look for something of which one has, as yet, no experience; one can imagine what it will be like but whether one’s picture is true or false will be known only when one has found it.” (Fantasy, 99.) By the end of his quest, not only does he regain the Took’s side of his lineage, but also he is very confident and well developed as a hero. This is exemplified through the robbery of the Arkenstone in order to stop the fury of the dwarves. Therefore, the quest is derived from the protagonist. Bilbo is the purpose and existence for the quest. Therefore, the adventure archetype revolves around Bilbo. Once the adventure is awakened, it unfolds and presents all the possibilities for the character to take leading the character into something greater later on into the story. Belly of the whale gives a series of tests for Bilbo in which he must overcome and develop through. Through his physical journey, one can view the purpose of the quest is for the protagonist to look for something that may or not be a physical possession, however rather a new found self. As we become more familiar with the development of Bilbo, imagery in quest becomes more apparent.
Adversaries and tone-differentiating settings present clear perception and imagery. Imagery refers to words that trigger the mind of a reader to recall images or mental pictures. One example of this is in the confrontation with the enemy. Through Bilbo squaring off against enemies, such as the goblins, spiders, and Gollum, one can notice the reoccurring idea of good versus evil. While the good creatures strive for peaceful existence, the sinister figures exist to cause suffering. Even a reluctant hobbit such as Bilbo gets involved in the hassle between good and evil, for he ultimately believed it for a noble cause. On the other hand, sinister creatures constantly threaten such forces of good. The mighty dragon Smaug destroys and kills the towns of humans. One will notice the clear division between good and evil. Race and family lineage also comes into play as the good confronts the evil. As mentioned previously, the evil is not one specific creature, yet many groups of creatures formed together to create a frightening force. The confrontation of the enemy is when the different races of good unite in order to defeat the hordes of evil. Therefore, there is an image of clashing hordes of creatures battling, also known as the Battle of the Five armies. In addition, Bilbo’s thoughts and feelings often relate to the types of imagery tone established in the setting. For instance, in Gollum’s cave, Bilbo is simply devastated and frightened at the fact that he was left behind in an unknown, wretched cave. Not only is Bilbo’s feelings fearful and frightening, but the tone of the setting is set to match his emotions, for the cave is dark and ominous. Imagery exemplifies visualization of any image through words. Yet, The Hobbit shows the process of going through the quest and an overview of quest as a whole. Therefore, imagery shows the effectiveness of quest. “As imagery is simply descriptive language that evokes sensory experience, it can appeal to any of the sense, and not just the standard five.” (Wikipedia) Through imagery, one is able to understand the quest’s true implications and whether or not they grasped the basis of its knowledge. In essence, imagery shows the effectiveness of the quest, however does not show the development of the quest as the plot.
The plot gradually allows for the development of the quest. The adventure archetype begins off as a jolly adventure with no threat to the status quo, yet ends up in a quest with crucial and decisive matters. Bilbo is disturbed from his routine by an unexpected visit and finds himself on a voyage. “It is true that what begins in adventure may end in a quest. Tolkien’s The Hobbit appears at first to be adventure.” (Fantasy, 101). Not until the graver implications of the novel emerge, does the adventure become more significant. Then Bilbo longs for the common life of the hobbits, yet he also realizes that he cannot regain such life without completing the quest. Each part in the adventure archetype plays a role in the development of Bilbo and the quest. Leaving home is the root of his maturation process as he embarks on the voyage, and the call to adventure signifies essentially the reason for questing. Through the belly of the whale, Bilbo is tested through various confrontations and obstacles, in which he develops more accordingly in his growth as a hero. As well, the confrontation with the enemy is the resolution of the conflict, as the battle against evil. Therefore, the plot moves in such a linear fashion due to the adventure archetype; scene -by-scene, confrontations after confrontations. The plot also shows the development of quest through the systematic process of the adventure archetype; hence, the quest is developed throughout each part. Therefore, the structure of the quest directly relates to the plot.
Nevertheless, each element of the novel derives from the quest. The character emphasizes on the purpose of quest, for it is the protagonist’s journey, spiritual and physical. Imagery demonstrates the effectiveness of the quest due to the overview image one is able to establish through it. Moreover, the plot exemplifies the development of the quest because of the adventure archetype, which follows a linear patter in sync with the plot, and quest. The dominance of the quest is clear through the development of each elements of the novel. So, why would one need to undertake a personal journey? Is the purpose of a quest truly and simply to gain wealth? Quests are experienced as a sentimental reminder of one’s authentic values in life. The personal growth and maturation is what makes each quest unique. “The quest is always toward final solution. Moreover, it is toward a joy which may transcend individual sacrifice in the sense that things are, by virtue of a completion of the quest, well with the world.” (Fantasy, 104)
Tolkien, J.R.R. The Hobbit. Great Britain: HarperCollinsPublisher, 1937.
Fantasy. Canada: greenhaven, 2002.
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