Bettelheim Essay, Research Paper
In Bruno Bettelheim?s essay, The Uses of Enchantment, he explains the fairy tale of Snow White in a way which makes the reader think critically. He makes the reader explore their mind to better understand a tale in a way, which they have not explored.
This essay begins with Bettelheim talking about ?Narcissus, who was a Greek god who loved only himself, so much that he became swallowed up by his self-love.? (Bettelheim p202) With this statement Bettelheim begins to explain his reasoning with his Freudian or oedipal perspective with this story. He explains this using Snow White and the wicked stepmother. The wicked stepmother becomes jealous when Snow White begins her transcend into a women. Snow White is becoming a beautiful woman and the wicked stepmother is becoming older and older, making her less attractive. Snow White is becoming older, more attractive and noticed. This sets up a competition for the fathers? love between stepmother and daughter, creating what Bettelheim says is the oedipal complex. With this it helped me to better understand what was going on in the tale. The tale was not just about a wicked stepmother believing she is the most beautiful of the land. It is a complicated tale that involves critical reasoning between two people. One-person feels threatened by the other, in this case the wicked stepmother is feeling threatened by the young beauty of Snow White. So much in fact that the stepmother wants Snow White dead.
When jealousy arises between a parent and child especially a parent being jealous of the child, Bettelheim believes creates a superiority complex for the child. The child sees that the parent envies the qualities that the child possesses and the child begins to believe that they are superior to the parent. With this Bettelheim goes on to explain why the wicked stepmother wants Snow White dead. ?Competition between a parent and the child makes life unbearable for the parent and the child. Under such conditions the child wants to free him self and be rid of the parent, who forces him either to compete or to buckle under. The wish to be rid of the parent arouses great guilt, justified though it may be when the situation is viewed objectively. So in a reversal which eliminates the guilt feeling, the wish, too, is projected onto the parent. Thus, in fairy tales there are parents who try to rid themselves of their child, as happens in Snow White.? (Bettelheim p204) With this statement Bettelheim goes into great detail of why parents want their child dead in fairy tales. But with is statement you begin to understand why that is. You begin to understand that in most fairy tales parents are jealous of their child?s beauty and create a competition between the two, which creates feelings of anger and distrust. Here I begin to really understand that Bettelheim perspective is valid. In a real marriage, a stepmother tries to take the attention away from the child to her self in order for the husband to love her. This creates competition, which creates hate and hostility between the new mother and child.
Bettelheim goes on to explain, how the mirror on the wall is also an example of jealousy between parent and child. Bettelheim explains that the voice in the mirror is the daughter talking to the stepmother. As children, girls believe that their mothers are the most beautiful women in the world. As they grow up, they start to look at themselves and see their beauty and see that they are more beautiful than their mothers are. Bettelheim uses this by saying that the mirror is the voice of the daughter. As the stepmother looks into the mirror the daughter exclaims that the stepmother is the most beautiful of the land. But as the daughter begins to grow up, the stepmother looks into the mirror and the daughter says that she is now the most beautiful of the land. This statement is valid because this is part of life. As a girl grows up they see themselves as more beautiful than their aging mothers.
Whether jealousy within a family occurred yesterday or it occurs today, a child will often times feel as though his parents do not love him. When this occurs, children begin to wish that they had parents that are better than their own. The children often times wish that they had someone else?s parents. Bettelheim shows that fairy tales show the child that often times wishing that you had different parents or you just wanted to run away from home was not a good idea. As in the fairy tale of Snow White, she runs away to stay with the dwarfs but they are unable to protect her from the evils of the land. Bettelheim has a valid perspective here, he shows that fairy tales help children to deal with their problems where the problems occur. Also illustrating that running away from your problems may not prove to be a good choice.
Bettelheim illustrates many valid perspectives in his essay. He showed that by analyzing the relationship between mother and daughter in terms of Snow White, help to better understand the fairy tale. He showed how the relationship between Snow White and her stepmother deteriorated into a death sentence because of a Freudian view of oedipal complex. Bettelheim showed his perspective on who the voice in the mirror was which helped to better understand why the mirror was so content on telling the stepmother she was beautiful and then later telling her she was no longer the most beautiful of the land. Bettelheim also showed that fairy tales help children to deal with their problems where they occur. He showed how the tales illustrate to children that running away from their problems is not always the best idea. That sends a great example to children everywhere. Bettelheim explanations and illustrations help to better understand the true meaning a fairy tales in a way that most people have not explored.