It’s the book that pretty much everyone has some familiarity with, and perhaps like a lot of people, I have not read this one before. If you can imagine the huge circular diagram of the hero’s journey, not the simplified version, but the more detailed one with more archaic language, this is the book that illustrates that idea.
The book itself is structured like a kind of macro ethnography. What this means to me is rather than telling a community’s story through a discussion of its rituals and people, this is the rendering of a meta-theory by the constantly shifting use of myths around the world. What this looks like in practice is a long opening chapter detailing the basic idea of a “mono myth” or one world story. IE that every culture tells the same basic story about themselves — their founding, their presentation of values, and their presentation of a meaningful life. The details change but the goals of the story generally do the same thing. It’s not all that dissimilar to the ways in which most languages refers to the culture they represent as “the people” and other similar forms.
From there, Campbell details the individual steps of the hero’s journey, what he considers to be the most concise rendering of the story. This has about two dozen steps and each step gets its own chapter exploring many different versions of it through exploring different cultural stories.
The last section looks at the ways the story has a whole contributes to the wider culture.
The book mostly holds up, especially at the theoretical level. There’s plenty of Eurocentric/American issues for the book being 75 years old, but that’s to be expected.