Literary Critics on Fairy Tales
Bettelheim, Bruno. The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales. (NY: Vintage Books, 1975, 1977).
This selection is an excellent example of advanced
parallel constructions. In it, Bettelheim is trying to make the case
for the importance of fairy tales in children's lives. One of the problems
in using this passage is that the students may not be familiar with some
of the terms. Because of that problem, I have decided not to list this
exercise in the workbooks.
In order to master the psychological problems of growing up -- overcoming narcissistic disappointments, oedipal dilemmas, sibling rivalries; becoming able to relinguish childhood dependencies; gaining a feeling of selfhood and of self-worth, and a sense of moral obligation -- a child needs to understand what is going on within his conscious self so that he can also cope with that which goes on in his unconscious. He can achieve this understanding, and with it the ability to cope, not through rational comprehension of the nature and content of his unconscious, but by becoming familiar with it through spinning out daydreams -- ruminating, rearranging, and fantasizing about suitable story elements in response to unconscious pressures. (6-7)
We grow, we find meaning in life, and security in ourselves by having understood and solved personal problems on our own, not by having them explained to us by others. (19) [Note the splice, but the second main clause can also be considered an appositive to the first.]
When all the child's wishful thinking gets embodied in a good fairy; all his destructive wishes in an evil witch; all his fears in a voracious wolf; all the demands of his conscience in a wise man encountered on an adventure; all his jealous anger in some animal that pecks out the eyes of his archrivals -- then the child can finally begin to sort out his contradictory tendencies. Once this starts, the child will be less and less engulfed by unmanageable chaos. (66) [Note the semicolons separating subordinate clauses.]
When we are young, whatever we feel at the moment fills our entire existence. Becoming aware that he feels two ways about something at the same time -- for example, when the child wants to grab the cookie, but also wants to obey Mother's order not to -- confuses the child. Understanding this duality requires a cognizance of inner processes which is greatly facilitated by fairy tales illustrating our dual nature. (78-79) [Note the parenthetical insertion.]
Further, threatening as the parent may seem at some time, it is always the child who wins out in the long run, and it is the parent who is defeated, as the ending of all these tales makes amply clear. (99) [Explanation of "threatening"?]
If, as we tell the story, the agonies of sibling rivalry do not reverberate in us, as well as the desperate feeling of rejection the child has when he doesn't feel he is thought the best; his feelings of inferiorrity when his body fails him; his dismal sense of inadequacy if he or others expect the performance of tasks that seem Herculean; his anxiety about the "animal" aspects of sex; and how all this and so much more can be transcended -- then we fail the child. (156) [Note the semicolons and dash.]
All the stories considered so far convey that if one wishes to gain selfhood, achieve integrity, and secure one's identity, difficult developments must be undergone: hardships suffered, dangers met, victories won. (278) [Semicolon plus ellipsed verbs]
This border is based on an illustration by Ben Kutcher for "Hansel and Gretel"
in Andrew Lang's The Blue Fairy Book (N.Y.: David McKay, 1948)