The quest for a beautiful ghost: A revisited archetype in Toby Litt’s Launderama

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Authors writing on ghost stories like the case of Tom Litt in his short story Launerama have a unique and similar approach to prepare a scene which has an impressive power of a ghost revelation. The formula reveals the aspect argued by archetypal theories of literary criticism. The sole conviction of archetypal literary criticism stands on the basis that the ream of people’s experience expressed in myths and fantasy stories like ghost stories reveal more profound and intellectual thinking. Through the theories, it comes out that literature has endured appeal to individuals over centuries with the applause to writing that shows and reveals magical ream. The concept is right since many people express interest in fantasy stories rather than the current nonfiction stories which attract less audience. People love fiction with supernatural characters like Oedipus and other heroes whereas they know that such fantasies never exists. This essay provides an analysis of how Litt’s short story fits in these archetypes like quest and ritualistic archetypes. The author through his fiction falls in the arguments of archetypal literary critics as they highlight on both guest and ritualistic archetypes.

Archetypes form part of the inherited dispositions which make people react in a typical manner to fundamental human problems both from within and without. The aspect of having an outside force that influences what human beings partake of, what they think and what they feel and most likely similarly changing others is an example of an archetype (Varlaki, Nadai & Bokor 2008). The principle laid in this influence comes out in Litt’s fiction as we expect him to think in a particular way due to the regular purge to find a girlfriend. The issue of looking for a beautiful woman who lacks a dry cleaner or whose dry cleaner is broken makes him have one directional approach in looking for a suitor. When he finds Sarah after a long streak, he is near to engage in everything including marital affairs and looks forward to maintaining a long relationship with her although things do not work out in his favor. The same case repeats itself when he meets the ghost. His initial actions including abandoning a cup of coffee he had prepared some minutes back is a revelation of human behavior through the influence of what scholars term as archetypes. Therefore, archetypes express themselves through you and others through the clear learned patterns that influence most human actions.

Guest archetypes are situational archetypes that elaborate on what primary character in a literary piece has to accomplish to create fertility back to the scene. The primary purpose of such pattern is to bring or restore peace, normalcy, peace and other virtues to a different situation. From a literature perspective, for heroes in each work has to restore order after the author creates conflict and the attributes make many people predict the plot of a literary work (Gillespie, 2010). Through the Launerama short story, the author creates conflict where a successful person in the society is unable to acquire a beautiful woman of his desires as a wife. While the dream of his lifetime pops in, a further conflict occurs as an order in the drycleaners assists her in a suicidal mission. However, there are some incidences we can predict even as acknowledged by the narrator like upon opening the door to the dry cleaner; there was no lady inside. Myths, as they seem to many in such scenes, work at both metaphoric and symbolic level since such mysteries of life do not appear or grasped by the intellect alone.

Through the short story, Litt creates emotions and an influenced behavior as he formulates the instincts assume. The technique is similar in such fantasy stories where through the guest archetype, ones instruct resembles biological urges. People trigger an inclination in a typical situation which in turn activates unique patterns of behavior like how one can run a software program on a computer. As discussed earlier, most of some of the capabilities of archetypes and prominently guest archetype is to influence behavior and trigger emotions like the case presented by Litt. The author creates sentiments on how the beautiful woman tries a suicidal mission, and the only savior around ignores her to the extent of locking the woman in a drycleaning machine. Through this style, the writer tries to connect the peace of life itself with the creation of images integrally joined to the living personality through the bridge of emotions. The writer's utilization of this style is a revisit of archetypes as utilized in myths and traditional tales full of fables.

Ritualistic archetypes on the other hand gears at the occurrence of events propagated by societal or cultural rituals. An action of routine in literature comes from a developed theory that routine has an association with quality of any action rather than a definable category of notable events. The ritual archetypes reveal actual occasions that originate experiences leading to mark of primary characters rite into another stage an indication of a clear sign of the role of the character in the society (Humphrey & Laidlaw 2007). The prominence of such archetype comes out in the short story as the author explains his process of hunting until he met with Sarah for the second time before they married. The process where he encountered a series of ghost encounters provides questions of the rituals in the immediate society since in the early stages of the short story, Lit explains that he never encountered any ghost before. Ritualization in literature involves modification with attenuation though without elimination of the normal human action intentionality.

In conclusion, the story by Litt is an experience of revisiting Archetypes as depicted through guest and ritualistic archetypes that elicit human behavior, emotions, and reveals certain rites of passage for the main character. Through these illustrations, archetypal literary critics argue that they are universal and we can prove them as used by the author in this short story. Although commonly associated with myths and traditional tales, the same principle is applicable in the modern literature and poses a challenge for contemporary scholars to research on it. The short story Launerama falls as one of the prove to archetypes in literature.


Gillespie, T., 2010. Doing literary criticism: Helping students engage with challenging texts. Stenhouse Publishers.

Humphrey, C. and Laidlaw, J., 2007. Sacrifice and ritualization. The Archaeology of Ritual, 3, pp.255-276.

Várlaki, P., Nádai, L. and Bokor, J., 2008. Number archetypes and “background” control theory concerning the fine structure constant. Acta Polytechnica Hungarica, 5(2), pp.71-104.

December 12, 2023



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