“The Hero’s Bloody Journey”

What Female Characters Encounter in Menopausal Narratives


  • Soledad Marambio




Menopause Narratives, Hero’s Journey, Gender and Identity, Female Coming-of-Age, Menopause, Transition


This work employs the basic narrative structure of Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey to analyse female protagonists in various menopause narratives found in both fiction and non-fiction books. The article focuses on the study of four texts: Darcey Steinke’s Flash Count Diary (2019), Colette's Break of Day (1928), Dana Spiotta’s Wayward (2021), and Deborah Levy’s Living Autobiography Series (2018-2021). In his classic work, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Campbell outlines three major stages of the hero’s journey: departure from the familiar daily world, initiation in a new, challenging world, and return to the former world with the gains obtained during the initiation. I argue that this framework is a useful tool for interpreting female characters dealing with menopause and its consequences. The daily known world of these protagonists is shaped by their pre-menopause lives and their bodies. Menopause can be viewed as the “other world” where the heroine’s initiation takes place. There, she confronts unknown forces that transform her, as she returns, changed, to her body and her daily life. I propose that in these works, this change marks both a new beginning and a continuity that the protagonists confront with a sense of rage, new places to inhabit, and fresh approaches to their bodies.


Bond, Sarah E. and Joel Christensen. “The Man Behind the Myth: Should We Question the Hero’s Journey?” Los Angeles Review of Books, 20 Aug. 2021. www.lareviewofbooks.org/article/the-man-behind-the-myth-should-we-question-theheros-journey

Brown, Mark. “The Saturday Interview: Tracey Emin”. The Guardian. May 26, 2012. https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2012/may/26/tracey-emin-saturday-interview

Campbell, Joseph. The Hero with a Thousand Faces. New World Library, 2008.

Carriger, Gail. The Heroine’s Journey: For Writers, Readers, and Fans of Pop Culture. Gail Carriger LLC, 2020.

Colette, Enid McLeod, and Judith Thurman. Break of day. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2001.

de Salis, Isabel., et al. “Experiencing menopause in the UK: The interrelated narratives of normality, distress, and transformation”. Women Aging, vol. 30, no. 6, 2018, pp. 520–540. doi: 10.1080/08952841.2018.1396783

Grebe, Coralee. “Bashing Joseph Campbell: Is He Now the Hero of a Thousand Spaces?” Mythlore: A Journal of J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Charles Williams, and Mythopoeic Literature, vol. 18, no. 1, 1991, pp. 50-52. https://dc.swosu.edu/mythlore/vol18/iss1/9.

Greer, Germaine. The Change: Women, Ageing, and the Menopause. Bloomsbury, 2018.

Lazin-Ryder, Matthew. “How mythologist Joseph Campbell made Luke Skywalker a hero.”

CBC:Radio. September 3, 2019. www.cbc.ca/radio/ideas/how-mythologist-josephcampbell-made-luke-skywalker-a-hero-1.5262649.

Linn, Will. “Joseph Campbell is the Hidden Link Between ‘2001,’ ‘Star Wars,’ and ‘Mad Max: Fury Road.’” IndieWire. March 12, 2018. www.indiewire.com/2018/03/josephcampbell-heros-journey-2001-star-wars-1201937470/.

Levy, Deborah. The Cost of Living. Hamish Hamilton, 2018.

Manning, Lydia K. “Experiences from Pagan Women: A Closer Look at Croning Rituals”. Journal of Aging Studies, vol. 26, no. 1, 2012, pp. 102–108. doi: 10.1016/j.jaging.2011.08.004

Murdock, Maureen. The Heroine’s Journey: Woman’s Quest for Wholeness. Shambala Publications, 2020.

Needham, Alex. “Tracey Emin: 'The stone I married is beautiful and dignified – it will never let me down.'” The Guardian. May 24, 2016. www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2016/may/24/tracey-emin-the-stone-i-married-is-beautiful-and-dignified-it-will-never-let-me-down.

Northup, Leslie A. “Pass-Aging: Women, Jiezhu, and Life Circle Rituals”. Journal of Ritual Studies, vol. 27, p. 2, 2013. https://www.jstor.org/stable/44368892

Spiotta, Dana. Wayward. Alfred A. Knopf, 2021.

Steinke, Darcey. Flash Count Diary: Menopause and the Vindication of Natural Life. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2019.

Tatar, Maria. The Heroine with 1001 Faces. Liveright, 2021.

World Health Organization. Menopause. October 17, 2022. https://www.who.int/newsroom/fact sheets/detail/menopause.

Woodward, Kathleen, ed. Aging and Its Discontents: Freud and Other Fictions. Indiana UP, 1991




How to Cite

Marambio, S. “‘The Hero’s Bloody Journey’: What Female Characters Encounter in Menopausal Narratives”. Age, Culture, Humanities: An Interdisciplinary Journal, vol. 7, Mar. 2024, doi:10.7146/ageculturehumanities.v7i.141640.