Publication Date


Document Type


First Advisor

Breen, Myles, 1939-

Degree Name

M.A. (Master of Arts)

Legacy Department

Department of Communication Studies


Close Encounters of the Third Kind (Moving-picture); Myth in literature; Symbolism in literature; Motion pictures--Plots; themes; etc


Myth is reinforced by literature, film and other forms of mass-media. In this study, the film Close Encounters of the Third Kind is examined for some of the myths that pervade American culture. Within every culture there is a hero myth, and in the American culture, the hero myth is coupled to the American myth of success. The hero is engaged in the various elements of the success myth. These elements include the self-made-man image, classlessness and upward mobility. In accordance with Jean Jacques Rousseau's "The Social Contract," there is an archetype of story that includes a hero, a form of the City in which the hero lives, and the special crime that the hero can commit against that City. In the American culture, the hero myth is influenced by capitalistic standards and the free enterprise system. The American myth, also known as the American Dream, reinforced the principles of capitalism and free enterprise by providing the required atmosphere: classlessness, freedom to choose one's fate, and the opportunity for social mobility. The American myth of success, the hero myth and the myth of progress were some of the myths included in the study of the film, Close Encounters. While the film exhibited these myths, it also described how myths were possibly generated. The film utilized two opposing elements, reality and imagination, to tell its story and it suggested that all stories, especially myths, included these elements: reality to give it substance and identity, and imagination to give it life. It also referred to established symbols of American culture. The film director, Steven Spielberg, used religious implications, Disney references and other such symbol-makers and symbol-users throughout the film. They expressed the power and influences that myth has on a culture. The film, Close Encounters pointed out the manipulative effect that myths have when projected by mass-media.


Includes bibliographical references.||Includes illustrations.


92 pages




Northern Illinois University

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