Greek myth and America
: the hero and family dynamics in 'Percy Jackson and the Olympians' by Rick Riordan

  • Bethany J Williams

Student thesis: Master's ThesisMaster of Philosophy (MPhil)


For the study of the Classics and its relationship with childhood, Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson and the Olympians series provides a plethora of invaluable material, not just due to the increasing popularity of the series for young audiences, scholars and students alike, but for the compelling narrative that covertly, and sometimes overtly, propagates a critique of Western society. Riordan’s books focus explicitly on an American identification and relationship with the ancient world. In this way, Riordan identifies the changes in Western society’s thinking, whilst exploring modern society’s relationship with the past, specifically through mythology parallels. By redefining the concept of ‘hero’, and exploring the hero’s family dynamics, Riordan offers a dual commentary that challenges society’s structure and mores from both modern Western and ancient mythical viewpoints. The specific methodology set up by Riordan is the drawing of templates from ancient myth, and developing them into analogous and relatable experiences for the young reader. Riordan turns the divine parent into the recognisable absent parent in American society, the venerated mother of a Greek hero into a treasured American mother, the mythical teacher Chiron into a surrogate parent, heroic camaraderie into the modern notion of the ‘chosen family’, and finally, the Greek hero into a relatable young American. This thesis draws on the ongoing discussions about the relevance of myth in society today, and the particular use of young adult and children’s fiction as the medium for communicating the significance of the Classics today.
Date of Award12 May 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bristol
SupervisorVanda D Zajko (Supervisor) & Kurt W Lampe (Supervisor)


  • Greek mythology
  • Percy Jackson
  • Rick Riordan
  • Reception
  • Literature
  • Family
  • Classical Reception
  • Classics
  • Mythology
  • Children's fiction
  • YA Fiction

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